Judah Smith is a delightful, young Pentecostal pastor from Seattle, Washington. He is one of the best communicators that I have ever heard – especially to young people. When listening to others, his favourite expression is ‘Wow!’ For him it is an expression of respect, awe and reverence.
There are many blessings to living in Western Europe in the twenty-first century. However, we live in a society in which respect, awe and reverence do not seem to be as valued as they once were.
A culture of respect underlies the book of Proverbs. We see three examples in this passage:
- Respect for the Lord
‘An honest life shows respect for God’ (14:2, MSG). The word ‘fear’ (NIV) is probably best understood as ‘respect’. Respect for the Lord is the starting point for respect in all our other relationships.
- Respect for the wise
Choose carefully whom you spend time with. ‘Whoever walks with the wise grows wise’ (13:20). ‘Wise speech evokes nothing but respect’ (14:3, MSG). Our society increasingly devalues the wisdom that comes with age. Wisdom often (though not always) comes through the experience of a long life. There is a huge amount of untapped wisdom in older people.
- Respect in the home
‘A refusal to correct is a refusal to love; love your children by disciplining them’ (13:24, MSG). This teaching has sometimes been abused by an over-literal interpretation. What the book of Proverbs is encouraging is a culture of respect in the family – respect for parents and also respect for children, which involves loving discipline.
Lord, help us to gain wisdom and to model good family life, combining love and respect.
Jesus really was raised from the dead. The tomb really was empty on Easter morning. Jesus’ followers really did meet him alive again. The resurrection did happen. The best historical explanation for the origin of Christianity is that it really is true. Jesus is alive today!
John records four resurrection appearances of Jesus – the first three of which are in this passage. In these appearances, we see not only some of the evidence but also some of the results of the resurrection.
- Awe and amazement
There is something indefinably first-hand about the account of Jesus’s appearance to Mary. There is nothing quite like it in all ancient literature.
In the culture of the day, a woman’s testimony would not have been considered as weighty as that of a man. If the disciples had been making this up, they would not have devised the first appearance as being to Mary Magdalene.
Jesus does not make a triumphant appearance to signify his victory. He appears to Mary – the loved one, the forgiven one – alone in a garden, with gentle love.
This shows a huge amount about Jesus’ respect for women. By this act, and others during his life on earth, he laid the foundation for a revolution in the world’s attitude to women. Sadly, it has taken 2,000 years and we are still not there yet.
Jesus does not ask Mary what she is looking for. He asks, ‘Who is it you are you looking for?’ (v.15).
Mary’s response is one of awe and amazement. As she realised it was Jesus, she cried out in Aramaic, ‘“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher)’ (v.16).
He explains to her that she must not try to hold on to him (v.17). She must begin a new, more internal relationship with the risen Jesus, he in her and she in him (which will be fulfilled with the gift of the Spirit).
It is not enough to know the evidence of the facts of the resurrection. We need a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
- Joy and peace
The world is desperately searching for happiness and peace of mind. The supreme source of joy and peace is a relationship with Jesus.
Mary rushed off to tell the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v.18). Jesus’ appearance to the disciples brought them overwhelming joy (v.20). Three times he says to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ (vv.19,21,26) – the inner peace that flows from his presence.
Faith in Jesus brings joy and peace to all who believe. Jesus said to Thomas, ‘Blessed and happy and to be envied are those who have never seen me and yet have believed’ (v.29, AMP).
In this short encounter, Jesus transformed the group of frightened, confused individuals into a community of love, joy and peace.
- Purpose and power
Jesus gives them a new sense of purpose: ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (v.21). The resurrection is the message of hope for the world. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. There is life beyond the grave. This gives your life on earth a whole new meaning and purpose. You are sent out by Jesus to proclaim this message to the world.
Finally, he also gave them power. He ‘breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”’ (vv.22–23). The Holy Spirit provides the strength and authority to forgive.
The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to you. He gives you the power of his Holy Spirit and the power of his word to declare the message of God’s forgiveness to human beings. This is the message that brings eternal life.
- Respect and reverence
Thomas was a cynic; sceptical and full of doubt. I think I would probably have had the same response as him when he said, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it’ (v.25).
He must have felt so humbled when Jesus appeared to him and said, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’ (v.27).
The wounds of Jesus are there for all time to reveal the humble and forgiving love of Jesus. Jesus accepts Thomas just as he is. He accepts his challenge without complaint or criticism.
Do not feel guilty about having doubts. Like Thomas, be honest about your doubts and bring them to Jesus. When Jesus answered his doubts, Thomas’ response was the pinnacle of respect, reverence and awe. He said, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (v.28). From a place of having doubted, Thomas makes perhaps the strongest statement of Jesus’ divinity in all of the Gospels. He is the first person to look at Jesus and call him ‘God’. He said, in effect, ‘Wow!’
Jesus went on to tell him that belief leads to blessing (v.29). In fact, it leads to life. Belief and life go hand in hand in John’s Gospel (v.31), because, if you believe in Jesus you have life. This is real life of high quality, an abundant life (10:10) that goes on for ever (3:16).
John’s whole reason for writing his Gospel was so that ‘you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (20:31). The resurrection is the basis of our hope for life before death, as well as beyond it.
Jesus, my Lord and my God, today I worship you with awe and reverence.
Reverence2 Samuel 1:1-2:7
David’s attitude to Saul is a wonderful example of how to respond to those who try to do you harm. David did not seek revenge. He was not bitter. He treated Saul with the utmost respect. After all, God had used Saul greatly in the past. The fact that Saul had gone off the rails did not erase David’s respect.
His attitude to Saul was quite extraordinary. He said to the Amalekite who claimed to have finished off Saul, ‘Why were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’ (1:14). The Amalekite may well have been trying to benefit from what would have been a perversion of the facts. He may have been a human vulture, who took the royal insignia from Saul to gain favour with David. In any event, it did him no good because of David’s reverence for Saul.
David grieved over the death of his great friend Jonathan and over Saul (vv.19–27). Grief is a natural, necessary and healthy response to the death of those we love.
Supremely, David reverenced God. He ‘enquired of the Lord’ (2:1). He asked, ‘Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?’ The Lord answered, ‘Go up.’ He then asked, ‘Where shall I go?’ The Lord answered, ‘To Hebron.’ David obeyed and was anointed king over the house of Judah.
Lord, help me to love and respect all those you have anointed in leadership roles, whether they support us or whether they don’t. Help me to live a life of reverence, respect and awe.
I am so interested that, of all the people he could have appeared to, Jesus chose to appear first to Mary Magdalene. He did not go to his senior disciple (or even his mother!), but rather to a woman whom no one in the world rated as important.
Verse of the Day
‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”’ (John 20:19).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.