Monthly Message Apr 2018

Last month I wrote about the two disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. It must have been exciting to listen to Jesus as he opened up the Scriptures as they walked (even though they didn’t know it was Jesus!). Indeed, they later remarked how their hearts had “burned within” them as he spoke to them. But all the while he had been pointing to himself; he presented no philosophy, no ideology, no fad or fashion. He presented a person, the person of the Son of the living God. We can talk and discuss, and it is good to do so, but in so doing it is possible to fail to realize that the Christian faith is a relationship with a person, Jesus.

When the three arrived at Emmaus it was late and so the two disciples invited Jesus in to stay the night. They still had not recognized him but during the meal, as he broke the bread,“ their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight”. A few hours ago they had been deeply dejected and disillusioned but now, in a simple, familiar act, they recognized him. Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. Those four elements of taking, breaking, giving thanks for, and giving bread form the same structure in the gospel stories of the feeding of the four thousand, the feeding of the five thousand and the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room before his death. They may very well have observed Jesus feeding the crowds and possibly even presiding over other meals when he followed the same formula. In any event, God enabled them to recognize Jesus at this point, following a familiar procedure in a familiar setting. The more familiar we become with the character and person of Jesus the more readily we shall recognize him in those times of disappointment, reversal and perplexity when everything seems to suggest his absence rather than his presence.

They now discovered that the truth was the opposite of what they had supposed. Not only was Jesus not dead but very much alive, but also he had not let them down nor failed to deliver on his promises. He was who he said he was, he had done what he said he would do and, far from having abandoned them, he was there for them. Now they had something to share with love, urgency and joy in fellowship with other believers and seekers after the truth.

• They had something to share with love because, as Jesus had been speaking with them their hearts had been burning within them.

• They had something to share with urgency because they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.

• They had something to share with joy and fellowship because on arriving at Jerusalem they found the other disciples had made the same discovery: Jesus was alive and had appeared to Simon. Adding their own testimonial evidence must have intensified the joy and celebration even further.

The Emmaus story is a story of encouragement within a context of disappointment, and is further evidence of how, despite the worst take we may have on a situation, we can discover that God has a better plan and a more glorious revelation to make than ever we could have dreamed of. So often we are disappointed because we are looking in the wrong direction, just as those two men, after the events of Good Friday, set off in the wrong direction. Even so, the Lord is well able to meet us on the wrong road and set us on the right one – and that’s encouragement!

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus

Monthly Message Mar 2018

An Easter encouragement – part one

Two disciples were walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead.  They were dejected, disillusioned, disappointed.  They had invested a lot in following the man whom they had believed to be the Messiah. He had been quite unique, so wonderful, so hopeful, so promising, so mighty, so effective.  But the chief priests and rulers had handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he had been crucified.  So here were two disillusioned men who had lost faith in their object of hope, for they had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.

That’s despair for you, that’s abject disappointment and there are many today who suffer like that.  Maybe some of us can identify with those two on their way home to Emmaus.  If so, there is a glimmer of hope.  There was for them for they had heard rumours! They had heard reports that Jesus was alive. Was what they had heard actually true, or perhaps too good to be true, or too true to be ignored?  No doubt they wanted to believe what they were hearing but as yet they had nothing to encourage them to do so. What of us today? Maybe there is hope after all, maybe Jesus is real, even actually alive today.

Then amazingly “Jesus himself came up and walked along with them”. As they got into conversation with this ‘stranger’ they told him what had happened to their Master in Jerusalem, and then gently, but firmly, Jesus rebuked their slowness to believe everything the prophets had said about the Messiah and then he showed them from the Scriptures the things about himself they should have known.

Jesus came to these two disciples at the point of their extremity.  They had nowhere to go and no-one to hope in. Jesus is not an additive to life, another satisfaction to place alongside other rival satisfactions. He is life itself, he is satisfaction itself, and it is only when he is allowed to mean everything that he can mean anything at all.  He challenged their slowness to believe by drawing their attention to the prophecies about himself in all the Prophets and in all the Scriptures. They had been among his followers and yet their understanding of him was so shallow.  This challenges us to ask if we play with our faith, picking and choosing the aspects we like or find comfortable, or do we have hearts and minds that are open to receive everything that he wants to give us of his truth, his power, his life?

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

 

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus

Monthly Message Feb 2018

Can there be anything more encouraging than to know that, in our weakness, in our sin, in our struggle with temptation, in our doubt or despair, none other than Jesus Christ himself intercedes for us, and that that intercession really is effective?  Moreover, Christ is not pleading passionately before a stony, reluctant God.  Not a bit of it!  He is the enthroned Priest-King whose will is exactly in line with the Father’s. So he asks whatever he wills from his heavenly Father (and ours) who always hears and always grants his request.  He and the Father are one, so what he asks is what the Father is willing and wanting to grant. In fact, as has been said, “Our Lord’s life in heaven is His prayer.”

But what is the nature and content of this intercessory prayer, made on our behalf?  We have a clue from two instances of Christ’s prayers when on earth, both of which took place on the same night, the night of his betrayal.  To Simon Peter he said, “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus had prayed for Simon Peter that his faith would be strong, that he would repent when he fell, and that consequently he would strengthen and encourage his brothers.  Then John 17 gives us the prayer that is commonly called Christ’s high priestly prayer, where he prays for his disciples and for those who would believe through them.  (That includes us!)  He prays:

  • for our protection from the evil one, and the full measure of his joy in us.
  • that we may be “set apart” by the truth of God’s word.
  • for a oneness that testifies to the incarnate Christ, and God’s love for the world.
  • for us ultimately to share his glory, and continually experience God’s love.

So, by his intercession, “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him.”  His work of salvation was completed on the Cross, but it is being continually applied from the Throne. F.F. Bruce wrote: “His once-completed self-offering is utterly acceptable and efficacious; his contact with the Father is immediate and unbroken; his priestly ministry on his people’s behalf is never-ending, and therefore the salvation which he secures to them is absolute.”

Warmest greetings in Christ,

Tony Mason

 

Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus