Sermon: 1 John 1:1-2:2
Easter 3 - April 15, 2018 - Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
I want you to imagine for a moment that you were one of Jesus’ disciples. You had the opportunity to see him face to face, hear his preaching and teaching, and witness his ministry for about three years. Just think of some of the events you would have seen, some of those Sunday school lessons you remember. If you would have been one of Jesus’ early disciples you would have been at Cana with him at a wedding where he miraculously produced wine for the wedding couple’s reception. You would have been stunned when he stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee. You would have seen almost countless miracles of healing, Lazarus’ resurrection, and of course you would have been a witness to Jesus risen from the dead. You would have been able to touch his nail-pierced hands and feet.
But we were not one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples. We didn’t see Jesus face to face. We didn’t witness any of his miracles or see him risen from the dead. We haven’t touched his feet or his hands or his side like the disciples did, especially Thomas. But we have the next best thing. We have the words of one of those disciples written down for us. Today we are considering the words of John the disciple who did see Jesus and followed him for three years. He literally touched Jesus. John leaned back on Jesus as they reclined at the Passover table to find out who would betray Jesus. And no doubt John embraced Jesus in joy after his resurrection.
John has left a written witness for us about who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Today John says to us
I REALLY SAW AND TOUCHED JESUS
The disciple John wrote five New Testament books, probably the last five that were written. John lived to be an old man, probably dying at around 100 years old, around the year A.D. 100. He wrote the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. He also wrote three short letters. Our text today comes from the first of those three letters.
It had been about sixty or sixty-five years since Jesus had risen and ascended into heaven. Already in that first generation of the New Testament church there were very serious false doctrines and teachings circulating about Jesus. One of the worst of those false teachings was that Jesus Christ was not a real human being. This odd and foolish teaching undermined the whole truth about Jesus as the world’s Savior from sin. It destroyed the faith and spiritual life of far too many Christians.
John wrote his first letter to a large extent to combat this kind of false teaching. John wanted his readers to know immediately at the beginning of his letter, and he wants us to know, that Jesus was in fact the divine Son of God. But he was also the Son of Man. He was a real human being whom John and the other disciples saw, heard, and literally touched.
You and I know and believe that Jesus is God and Man in the same person. But what if you had to write a letter to someone to explain what it meant, what it was like, that Jesus was both God and Man. That’s a pretty lofty and majestic, divine, teaching. The words might be hard to find. John begins to explain the Person of Jesus in this way: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
Can you explain what John means by these words? John’s word here in his 1st letter sound very similar to the opening words of his gospel where he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” In simple words this is what John was saying: Jesus is the Word. He is God’s message to us. He is in fact God the Son who was with God the Father from the very beginning, before time began, from eternity. But Jesus is also a real human being. The disciples and I saw him with our own eyes. We heard him speak. We touched him with our own hands.”
But John wrote these words for more reasons than to refute some false teaching about Jesus’ human nature. He wrote these words so that his readers and we could believe in Jesus and join in the fellowship of others who believed in Jesus. And that fellowship or unity was doubly important because it also united them in fellowship with God himself, with God the Father and Jesus Christ. “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Are you glad that you have fellowship with other Christians? I sure am. There are many people who say they’re Christians, but they never really join together in fellowship with other Christians. They don’t worship with them. They don’t share any mutual encouragement. They don’t study the word of God together. They don’t work together to build the kingdom of God. I can’t imagine being that kind of Christian, if in fact that is being a Christian. In a society and world that’s rapidly becoming quite hostile to Jesus Christ and the gospel I don’t want to be alone. It would be way too easy to just drift away from the gospel message, to be indifferent, to spiritually die.
Are you glad that you have fellowship with God? Maybe you don’t think about that too much. Maybe you take fellowship with God for granted. Maybe you don’t really know what it means to have fellowship with God. To have fellowship with God means to have a relationship with him. Fellowship with God means that we can stand in his presence and worship him. It means we can pray to him. It means we can trust him to protect us provide for us. It means that God blesses us with forgiveness and life, including eternal life.
You might say, “I know all that.” But I would say don’t take fellowship with God for granted. It took a lot for us to have fellowship with God. We were born into this world with sin that separated from God. We were born not in fellowship with God.
That’s why John writes to us in these words. He wants us to know how to have fellowship with God. And our fellowship with God rests squarely on Jesus Christ. John writes, “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
For us to have fellowship with God our sin had to be paid for. There had to be atonement for sin. We could atone for our sins in the eternal judgment of God in hell. In hell there is no fellowship with God. Hell is eternal separation, non-fellowship, from God. But God loved us enough to send his Son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And Jesus didn’t just die for your sins and my sins. He died and atoned for the sins of the whole world. No matter who you are, no matter who is sitting here today, no matter whoever you or I may meet in life or know, we can say Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for their sins.
So John says confess your sins to God and receive his forgiveness and have fellowship with God. John gives us a warning: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Do any of you claim to be without sin? I doubt any of you would say that. But claiming to be without sin can be more subtle, more deceptive, than literally claiming you’re without sin. We claim to be without sin when we don’t really take our sin seriously, when our sins don’t really bother us, when we don’t ever have any plans to change sinful behavior. We claim to be without sin when we don’t take admonition from God or from fellow Christians very well. It’s easy to stand here today in this congregation and confess your sins, but what if someone personally confronted you on your sin? Would you get angry? Would you deny your sin? Would you tell them to mind their own business and not to judge? We claim to be without sin when we’re apathetic about Jesus and just assume that we have faith in him. It’s easy to say, “I believe in Jesus.” Real faith in Jesus comes from a heart genuinely contrite and sorry for sin. Real faith in Jesus demonstrates itself in love for God and love for people.
That’s why John writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God’s amazing mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ is what urges us to confess our sins to God. He forgives us and draws us into his fellowship. He is our eternal Father. We are his children.
And John urges us to live like God’s children, to live in fellowship with God. John reminds us that God is light. He’s holy. He gives life. There’s no darkness associated with him. He’s not sinful. Death is not a part of God. Sin and death was never meant to be a part of God’s world.
That’s why John gives us a warning. “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” It doesn’t work to say, “I believe in Jesus” and still live carelessly in sinful behavior. It doesn’t work to say, “I believe in Jesus” and not take sin seriously, not try to change sinful behavior. It doesn’t work to say, “I believe in Jesus” and not hear his word or live according to it.
If you say, “I believe in Jesus” then confess your sin and know that the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies you from all sin. It took the blood of Jesus to atone for our sins. It took the blood of a real human being to forgive our sins. John is telling us that he saw that real human being Jesus. John literally saw Jesus’ blood flow from his body on the cross. He heard his words. He touched him.
Some day we will also see Jesus face to face. We will hear his words of welcome to heaven. We will hold his hand, embrace him, and touch him. But until that day comes, we have John’s inspired words: “I really saw him and touched him.” Amen.