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The Lord Made a Covenant

Genesis 15:17-21

At the start of Genesis 15, it has been about 10 years since Abram and Sarai left their home, believing that the LORD is going to make them into the ancestors of a great nation. But they are still without child, and Abram is starting to be afraid that maybe the LORD was not going to keep His promise, or that Abram had misunderstood the promise. The LORD speaks to Abram, telling him not to be afraid, and that Abram will indeed have an heir of his own. The LORD then makes Abram look into the night sky, and Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD reckoned him as righteous.

The LORD then instructs Abram to bring a 3-year-old heifer, a 3-year-old female goat, a 3-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. He was to leave the birds whole but was to cut the animals in half and place the halves facing each other. When it got dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

People making covenants would use this ritual to make it a serious agreement. The meaning was that if either of them broke the covenant, then the other could do to the one who broke it, what they had done to the animals.

This ritual was initiated by the LORD in response to Abram’s question about how he will know that his descendants will actually possess the promised land. Included in this question is a question about having heirs. And as verse 18 states, “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram”. As long as Abram continues to follow the LORD’s directions, he will become the father of a great nation, which will be a blessing to the rest of the world.

At the beginning of the chapter, Abram is afraid, since although he left his home in faith, there is still no child. By the time he reaffirms that he believes in the LORD’s promise in verse 6, his situation has not changed – He is still far from home, and he is still childless. So, nothing has really changed, but Abram goes from doubt to belief. The only thing that happened between the two states is that the LORD had Abram look up into the night sky to look at the stars.

When Abram was reminded that it was the same God that created the heavens who was promising him to be the father of a great nation, Abram must have realized that such a powerful God was certainly able to give him an heir. What is impossible for mortals is possible for God. So, he reaffirms his faith in the LORD. And because of this, God considers Abram as righteous – In the right relationship with God.

We too, need to be reminded of God’s greatness from time to time. We find ourselves in situations that we don’t like, and we wonder why God is not doing something about it. But God, who created the heavens and earth, has the power to do whatever needs to be done. It is a matter of whether it is His will to do something at that particular time. Often, we cannot know the mind of God, but just trust that He knows what He is doing.

As far as the covenant ritual is concerned, it is interesting to note that even though the LORD is making a covenant with Abram, Abram does not pass through the animal pieces. Instead, the LORD is representing both himself and Abram with the smoking fire pot and the flaming torch.

Since God will not break the covenant and Abram and/or his descendants will, this means that God is willing to pay the penalty of death for man’s sins.  This is the same basic premise that is behind Jesus’ death on the cross. God will never sin, but He is willing to pay for the sins of mankind.

The Son of God was the only person in the history of mankind that was without sin. So, He is able to die for others, and Jesus did so willingly so that whoever believes in Him and accepts Him as lord and savior will have their sins forgiven and gain eternal life.

Would we be willing to make an agreement with someone that we know for a fact will not be able to honor it? We would, if it was someone we loved, like a child or a grandchild. We would be willing to give all the benefit, while knowing that we will not get anything that was promised to us. That’s what God did with Abram in this situation, and with us through the cross of Christ.

Today is Pentecost Sunday, when we remember the day when the Holy Spirit came down with power onto the disciples and enabled them to boldly witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus had promised as He was returning to heaven after His resurrection. After teaching his disciple for forty days, he ascended into heaven, promising that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes, to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Jesus kept His promise. Will we keep our promise to be His witnesses? Hopefully some of the time. But we all fail to keep that promise at times. When the situation and the person we’re talking to is ideal, we are able and willing. But when the situation doesn’t feel ideal, or if we’re not feeling love for others, or if we are not in the mood, we often fail to be effective witnesses.

But Jesus already knew beforehand that we would often fail, and yet, He gives us the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus as our lord and savior. He will never fail us, even though we often fail Him. That’s why a human never walked through those animal pieces – It was just God. God walking through to represent Himself, as well as to represent us. And our failures were already paid by God, through His Son’s death on the cross.

So, when we are feeling inadequate, or after failing to be good witnesses, look up into the starry sky and be reminded that God created those, and if He can do that, He can empower us to be His witnesses. He will give us the words to boldly witness, just like He did on that Pentecost Sunday some two thousand years ago.

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano with us during worship pm May 28, 2023)

Do Not Leave Jerusalem…But Wait!

Acts 1:6-14

Acts begins as a continuation of the gospel of Luke. Luke states that following the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has now appeared to the disciples and many others for a period of 40 days, teaching them, and showing them that he was really alive. So today, we are remembering what it was like for the disciples …. 40 days after the resurrection!

In today’s account, they are gathered on the Mount of Olives. With so much anticipation and expectation for what Jesus will do…..the disciples ask him “Is this the time that you’ll restore the Kingdom to Israel?” He says in so many words “It’s not important for you to know that.” And continues…“But you WILL receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you’ll be my witnesses, here in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. “

And then we’re told that he disappeared from their sight….into the clouds.The disciples are left gazing into the sky. Two men dressed in white ask them “Why are you gazing up into the sky?” And finally, we are told that they walk back to Jerusalem and the entire group – disciples, women including Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the brothers of Jesus – all wait, earnestly spending time together in prayer.

What Should be our takeaway…our lesson for today?


  • “It’s not important for you to know that.”
  • “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Don’t look back, or stare up… look forward. Focus on the task ahead. Focusing too much on heaven, end times, etc. may keep us from working hard for the kingdom today. Jesus is NOT disappearing. He will be with you as the Holy Spirit….this will be a new chapter of kingdom work.


“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus does not command, ask, encourage, or instruct us to witness. He simply states what will be happening in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. You WILL receive power when the Holy Spirit comes and you WILL be my witnesses.


4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

In this text Jesus only gives one command: “Don’t leave Jerusalem…but wait for the Holy Spirit.”

With all of the anticipation, and possible fear and excitement… isn’t it unusual that the first task to be done by the disciples…. is to WAIT. Why do you think that was?

Perhaps it was to teach them that they were to be responsive to the Holy Spirit, listening to the Holy spirit, aware of the Holy Spirit…not working on their own, or under their own strength?

How could this command to “WAIT!” be applied in our lives today?


Genesis 14:17-20

After Abram and Sarai returned from their adventure in Egypt very wealthy, their flocks got so huge that the land couldn’t support them, and animosity started to build between Abram’s people and Lot’s. So they decide to separate. Abram, although he had the right to first choice, deferred to Lot. Abram told Lot to go wherever he thinks is good, and Abram will go the opposite direction. Lot chose to settle near Sodom, and Abram settled in Hebron.

Then a war broke out involving nine kingdoms, and Lot was captured, along with his family and possessions. Upon hearing this news, Abram takes a private army of 318 men and rescues Lot, his family and possessions.

This is when Melchizedek makes his appearance. He is a mysterious figure. He only appears in two other books of the Bible. He appears in Psalm 110, which prophesies about the coming Messiah, and then in Hebrews 5-7, where the writer describes the eternal aspect of Jesus’ priesthood. Jesus is not a descendant of Melchizedek, but He is a priest like Melchizedek.

So let us look at what we know of this person.

This is what we learn from this Genesis passage. The fact that Abram is blessed by Melchizedek and that Abram tithes Melchizedek, this would imply that Melchizedek is greater than Abram. Melchizedek serves the God Most High (El Elyon). Melchizedek is the king of Salem, and he brings out bread and wine.

From Psalm 110:4, we learn that the priestly order of Melchizedek is forever, unlike the priestly order of Aaron.

In Hebrews 5-7, the writer explains the nature of Christ and uses Melchizedek to do so. Christ’s priesthood is forever, just like it was for Melchizedek. Also, human priests have sins so that they must offer sacrifice for their own sins as well as for those of the people. This is not so for Christ, who had no sin. Christ offering Himself as the sacrifice for the atonement of humanity’s sins was only possible because Jesus had no sins.

The writer continues in Hebrews 7 that King Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and king of Salem means “king of peace”. The line of priests for Israel was supposed to come from the line of Levi, specifically from the descendants of Aaron, Moses’ brother. And yet, Melchizedek is a priest of God, who collects tithe from Abram, even though he has no relationship to the tribe of Levi. Likewise, even though Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi – He belonged to the tribe of Judah – He is our eternal priest. This means that Jesus did not become a priest through blood, but by direct appointment from God the Father. The human priests were many, since they were mortal and died, but Christ is eternal as is His priesthood.

The human priests worked under the law and had to keep offering sacrifices to their contemporaries. However, Christ was able to offer Himself as sacrifice for all time and for all humankind.

The writer of Hebrews summarizes this section by writing:

26For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.   27Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.   28For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

The reason the writer of Hebrews explains these things about the priesthood of Christ is because he desires his readers to go beyond the basic knowledge of Christ. He wants his readers to be able to go beyond the basic truths – Salvation based on faith rather than works, baptism, resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment – He wants his readers to go beyond “milk” and into “solid food”. He wants his readers to become mature in faith. He wants his readers to be able to teach.

Of course, the basics of salvation – that accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior will give us forgiveness of our sins, salvation and eternal life – are sufficient. However, if we are to teach, we ought to have a firmer foundation than just the basics.

We might think that we are not teachers – but there are always those around us that need to hear about Jesus Christ. So, although we may not play the role of a teacher on a regular basis, there are times that we are called to play that role.

Occasionally, someone will ask me how to study the Bible in a way that goes beyond just scratching the surface. I can only answer from my experience, and the times I am able to really dig into a passage for deeper understanding is when I am asked to either teach or preach. Those are the times when I know that I cannot just read it once and have a vague notion of what the Bible says. One suggestion I can give is to approach a Bible passage as if you had to teach from it. If the passage is not clear to you, study it, look up references, discuss it with someone knowledgeable.

In the Old Testament, King Melchizedek is only mentioned in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110 – a total of four verses. Yet, the writer of Hebrews uses him in three chapters to teach us the deeper knowledge of Christ’s priesthood. Let us use this as an encouragement to grow deeper in our knowledge and faith.

(the above is a summary of the message shared with us by Shun Takano during our worship together on May 14, 2023.)

Nakamura April Newsletter

(Hi all, sorry to be a bit late posting Rich and Keri’s April newsletter. I always have a bit of a hard time formatting the document and photos….but this time I just took two screenshots and uploaded them. Hopefully you can read this update from them…..however, be aware that the hyperlinks will not be active as they were screenshot…Tim)


Not what…or why…but WHO?

John 14:1-14

Even though we are now starting the fifth week of Easter, the lectionary scripture text for this week places us back during Holy Week, prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.

In John 14, we are at the last supper, where Jesus is giving his farewell talk to his disciples.

  • He has already washed their feet and explained why…
  • He has pointed out that one of them would betray him….and Judas has left.
  • He is about to tell them about the Holy Spirit who would come in new ways because he would no longer be with them in person.

First, Jesus offers words of comfort and encouragement:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions. I’m going to prepare a place for you.”

Jesus knows he is soon to die. He must end this daily existence with his disciples. He offers here words of comfort and encouragement.  Yet, the disciples do not seem comforted or encouraged. When he states in v. 4 – “You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas objects – “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way??”


To this Jesus responds “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

When Jesus says in verse 7: “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

But Philip responds “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”


Jesus answers him: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

“My whole life among you has been an attempt to reveal the Father. To explain my Father. To show you God. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God.”

In each case, Jesus offers himself.

“You want to know the way? I AM THE WAY. You want to see the Father? Look at me. If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.”

To each question the disciples had, he offered a relationship. A relationship with himself.

We have questions too, don’t we?

  • In verse 12 Jesus says to his disciples (and of course to us) – that if we have faith, we will do the same things that he has done. In fact, we will do greater things than these…… what does that mean?  The disciples were confused…..and so am I. What did Jesus mean?
  • In verse 14 Jesus says “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Really? What does that mean? I’ve experienced many times that I prayed for something in Jesus’ name and didn’t receive it.

Of course, we have other questions as well:

  • Why am I struggling with cancer?
  • Why is this happening?
  • Why did she die so young?
  • Why don’t you love me anymore?

And the questions could go on and on. What are your questions today? Sometimes God DOES give us clear answers and tells us the details. But often, not.

But just like in this passage – we are ALWAYS offered a relationship. God’s presence. He doesn’t whisk us out of our problems. Or quickly give us satisfactory answers to every question. But he DOES offer his presence, friendship, and support. In short – a relationship – that we can depend on.

“Trust in God. Trust also in me.”

(the above is a summary of the message shared during worship on May 7, 2023.)

What Do WE Do NOW?

John 21:1-14

This is the question that the disciples appeared to have in our text for this morning. Here is a brief review of the past few days in their lives:

  • Jesus is killed on a cross and they all flee.
  • Yet 3 days later, on Sunday morning Jesus appears to Mary, though no one believes her.
  • Yet, that night Jesus appears again to the disciples in the upper room.
  • A week later, Jesus appears again, this time to the disciples including Thomas.
  • Yes, they were joyful…..but also scared.
  • Jesus had told them to go to Galilee….he would meet them there.
  • But no real explanation… and it may have been many days since Jesus last appeared.
  • They were still perhaps scared of the Jewish leaders.
  • What could all of this mean? What should they be doing???

Our text finds 7 of the disciples (5 of them named) at the Sea of Galilee. They are no doubt feeling as though they are at a dead end. What has the past three years been all about? So much disappointment. Despite their promises to always stick with Jesus they had all fled in the hour of trouble.  They had all failed him. It’s true that following his death and burial he had miraculously appeared to them on two different occasions – and while they expressed joy, they were also afraid. What did this all mean? What were they to do now??

So Peter decides to go fishing and the others agree to come along. They fish all night long with no luck, not even a single fish caught. In the morning, Jesus – who they don’t recognize – calls to them from the shore. “Any luck? Any fish?” “No”, they answer. “Throw your nets down on the right side of the boat, and you’ll find some.” When they do that, sure enough, they experience a catch so large they can’t even haul it in. Did this scene remind them of their original call by Jesus recorded back in Luke chapter 5? Did something seem unusual and yet similar? We don’t know….but John appears to have recognized the man on the shore as “the Lord”. Peter jumps in to hurry ashore. The others follow with the boat, net, and fish. Jesus waits for them, having already prepared a fire and some food. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught. Let’s have breakfast.” The disciples know it’s Jesus but are too hesitant to confirm it with questions.

In the remaining portion of chapter 21 we read the important conversation between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter answers, with rising consternation “Lord, you know that I do.” “Then feed my sheep. Take care of my lambs” Jesus tells him. It seems clear that Jesus is recommissioning Peter for more work – despite having denied Jesus and failing him three times prior to the crucifixion. While Peter and the others had all deserted the Lord in his hour of trial, he yet intends to send them out again, just as he had three years prior. He had already breathed the Holy Spirit on them and offered special peace. We will soon see that Jesus instructs them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes on them with special power. Then their true calling would be more deeply understood and accomplished.

While this account begins with the disciples sensing a dead end and confusion about their future, we find the story ending with a doorway. The disciples (and especially Peter) are invited back in…. are re-commissioned for fishing. They are not only forgiven but given meaningful work. Take care of my sheep. Follow Me. And so what began as a disaster, ends with an open door for continued fishing / service.

How about us…..personally…..and as a church? Have we ever felt like we were facing a dead end? Have we ever felt a lack of clarity… not sure what was next?

The days and months following the great earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown in Tohoku, Japan on March 11th of 2011 brought such a time to all of us. How should we function as churches? How could we bring relief to the hardest hit areas? What did God want us to be doing? How could we best coordinate our efforts and steward our limited resources? While NOTHING we did could ever take away the grief, the sorrow, the terror that so many had gone through….yet, as the months and years of relief work continued it became clear that over and over, what had appeared to be a total dead end…..was in many cases a door that God opened for new ministry. The Holy Spirit was indeed working through many weak and often fallible servants to bring about kingdom fruit.

As I’ve read this account this week, the following points remain in my mind for further reflection:

  1. Keep fishing! (don’t give up, just because we fail)
  2. Try something different. (try the right side of the boat!)
  3. Bring some of the fish that you’ve just caught. (God will work with us, but desires to use our gifts and abilities.)
  4. It might feel like a dead end at times. But God may be opening new doors!

Holy Spirit, help us to apply these wonderful examples to our own life together here at JCC!

(the above is a summary of the message shared during our worship time on April 30, 2023.)

The Call of Abram

Genesis 11:27-12:9

When we study biographies of people who left their footprints in history, we can often see their potential early on in their lives. This often gets augmented by experiences, knowledge and skills they gain. We can see the seeds of greatness to come.

When we think about great men of faith like Paul, we see a similar pattern. He had fervor for God and Israel, had a great theological education, studied under the best rabbi, and was considered one of the elite religious leaders. He was one of those cases where people would think that “He is one of the greatest enemies of Christianity but imagine what kind of champion of Christianity he would be if the Lord turned him around.”

There is another method that God can use to raise greatness in a person. The first real “hero” of the Bible didn’t show any potential greatness. In fact, his life was practically done as far as contribution to society and to history. Yet God in His greatness, made greatness out of nothing. This should give us hope for our own lives, as well as for those who come behind us.

It is said that the whole of the Bible is sort of in the shape of an hourglass with a long waist. Genesis 1-11 deals with universal things, then starting with Abram and Sarai, it narrows the focus to Israel, and then from Acts 2, the focus broadens back to the universal. In this narrative, we are introduced to Abram and Sarai (who will later be renamed Abraham and Sarah), whose descendants will become the nation of Israel, from which the savior of the world will be born.

We are told that Abram is seventy-five years old. We later learn that his wife, Sarai, is ten years younger, which would put her at sixty-five years old. We also learn that Sarai is barren, and they have no child, nor any hopes of one. They probably are resigned to living out their remaining days quietly with no children nor grandchildren and would start thinking about to whom they should leave their possessions once they are gone. Considering their time and culture, they probably would give anything to start over and have a family.

So, when the LORD tells Abram that if they are willing to leave their home and go where He directs, He would make Abram the ancestor of a great nation, Abram is ready to take a chance and move. So, Abram, along with Sarai and Lot, his nephew, and all their possessions, move to the land of Canaan.

In the second half of the chapter, they encounter their first dilemma – famine. Abram decides to leave the promised land and move to Egypt. Before they enter, Abram instructs Sarai to lie to the Egyptians and tell them that she was his sister. Sarai complies and is soon taken into the Pharaoh’s house and Abram is given servants and animals as payment. To protect Sarai, the LORD afflicts the land with a great plague. Pharaoh reprimands Abram for lying about Sarai but spares his life and orders them to leave Egypt with all their possessions.

On the surface, it seems that Abram, the chosen one, does not leave a good impression. Apparently without consultation or directions from God, he decides to move away from the promised land and move to Egypt to deal with the famine. He shows cowardice by being concerned only for his safety, putting Sarai at risk of not only angering the Egyptians but having their marriage violated. Also, instead of being a blessing to the Egyptians, he brings a plague upon them.

At the same time, we can see that God is protecting Abram and even increasing his possessions through this episode, to help with the nation building process.

If we were to imagine the sort of person who we would choose to be the ancestor of a great nation, we would probably choose a couple who were young and could bear many children. They would need to be courageous and wise and strong to meet all the challenges they would face. They would also need to be sensitive to God’s leading and faithful to follow where the LORD leads them.

So far, we are not impressed. They did move into the promised land, but when trouble hit, they left without consulting the LORD. Abram showed his non-heroic side by trying to ensure his own safety by putting his wife at risk by getting her to agree to lie to the Egyptians.

In defense of Abram’s actions, he does not yet have a long history of dealing with the LORD. Therefore, Abram does not know how the LORD operates, His infinite powers, nor how true to His promises He is. Abram will learn as he travels on this journey.

Most of us have had more experience with the LORD than Abram and Sarai at this stage of their lives. We also have the benefit of the Bible stories that teaches us about how the LORD operates in this world and with His people. So, in many ways, we should be making less mistakes in our walk of faith than Abram and Sarai at this point of their journey.

We often think that God chooses people for their potential, and certainly He can do so. However, in the case of Abram and Sarai, we see a situation where they were not chosen for their potential, since they had none. They were advanced in age and unable to have offspring – They were not qualified candidates. God does not need potential. He can make something out of nothing. He can make the impossible possible.

So, when God calls us to do what we know we cannot do, we need to be reminded that God can work with someone with no potential. We should also avoid thinking too well of ourselves in terms of skills, experience or potential to do the LORD’s work, since He doesn’t necessarily need those things to get His work accomplished through us. Abram and Sarai remind us that God can make a great nation out of an elderly, barren couple.

Through the recorded stories about the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, we will see them acting in great faith and with little faith. We will see them acting wisely and foolishly. We will see them acting bravely and cowardly. And we will see how God is there with them every step along the way – Just as He will be with us every step along the way in our journey of faith.

Due to the greatness of God, there is always a chance that great acts of faith can come, even through us.

(The above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano during our worship on April 23, 2023.)

A Poem from Jon

To my friends at JCC,

While going through some of my old poems I found this one that I don’t think I showed to anyone, but since it’s a small way of saying thanks to all of you I thought I should send it along. I hope you are all doing well, I miss very much not being able to make it to services, and I miss the loving companionship we shared over many years. Though my memory is fading, I remember those times clearly. They were the best days of my life. Please keep me in your prayers, as you are always in mine. Take care, and may God bless you now and always! Remember me, as I remember you, with love,

Your friend and brother in our Lord Jesus, Jon Honeycutt

Every time I arrived at church, it became a little victory

around the mountain I could search to find its here I’d rather be

Though events conspire to keep me from the high point of my waning week

God’s grace enables me to come, His fellowship and truth to seek

And whatever stick gets in my spokes, He pulls it out that I may go

To laugh and learn and love you folks whose graces in this garden grow

What’ere the world that looms ahead, whatever obstacles defy

I shall, through them be safely led, and join you in the by and by

What’ere the reasons, cause or call, a love for God was shown to me

A new beginning, all in all, a soul re-born at J.C.C.

Believing Thomas

John 20:19-31

Seeing is believing……a phrase we often use….. Throughout the gospel of John, examples of people who needed to “see” before they could “believe” are plentiful. In fact, as we saw a few weeks ago in our study of John chapter 1, the invitation to “come and see” was offered by many, including Jesus himself, as a means of producing faith and belief.

“Come and See” pattern in the gospel of John:

  • In the first chapter of John, Jesus says “Come and see” to the two disciples of John the Baptist who ask him “Where are you staying?”
  • In verse 41 of the same chapter, Andrew – one of the first two disciples – goes and finds his brother Simon (Peter) and says “We’ve found the Messiah…. Come ….and see..”
  • In the passage directly after this one, Philip becomes a follower of Jesus and immediately tells his friend Nathaniel about Jesus….using the same words as Jesus…”come and see” – verse 1:46.
  • In John chapter 4 the Samaritan woman does the same thing. She encounters Jesus deeply, his identity is revealed to her, and she receives eternal life. She immediately goes and testifies about Jesus to the people of her town saying…. “come and see”.

In each of these cases the messenger was saying…..come and see for yourself. Come and meet Jesus. Then you can decide for yourself. Come, see, and then you’ll believe.

In our text for today, Thomas also wants proof of what the other disciples tell him. But he’s not the only one:

  • The first disciples who hear what Mary tells them – Jesus’ body is gone! – want proof  too, so they run to the tomb…. and find it empty. (20:3)
  • Later, when Mary comes back to them after talking to Jesus (who she had thought was the gardener) announces that she has seen the Lord…we still aren’t told whether the disciples believe her or not. Probably not, since they haven’t seen Jesus yet for themselves. (20:18)
  • And finally, Thomas, when he hears from the others that Jesus visited them in the upper room and spoke with them says “unless I see…… I won’t believe.” (20:25)

And of course, this makes sense. Because, seeing IS often the impetus for believing.

Thomas is often described as “doubting Thomas” but it’s clear that it’s not so much a problem of doubting, but that he simply wants confirmation in the same way that the others did, and that each of us do.

When Jesus reappears a week later, Thomas is there. Jesus addresses him directly, telling him to put his finger in the nail holes, and his hand in his side. “Don’t be unbelieving, but believe” says the Lord. Thomas then becomes “believing Thomas” confessing “My Lord and my God” (v. 24ff)

Then Jesus says an interesting thing: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Wait… believing is not ALWAYS based on seeing??

What an encouraging thing to read…..since that includes all of us doesn’t it? We can’t “see” the resurrected Jesus physically.  We have never met him in the same manner that his disciples did. Yet, we’ve come to believe through encountering the resurrected Jesus. It’s the same resurrected Lord, and we too, proclaim, “My Lord, and my God!” So we know that yes, it’s not only possible, but rather normal to believe without seeing….proof and confirmation can come from “spiritual seeing” and many other experiences as well as from physical sight.

Here are two “take-away”, important phrases of Jesus from today’s text:

  1. “Don’t be unbelieving…..but believe”
  2. “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Just as Jesus was sent by His Father to earth….to show us the way, to teach of the Kingdom, to proclaim freedom and salvation to the world….we are being sent by Jesus (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to be involved in the same work – kingdom work – loving people, serving people, announcing the arrival of the kingdom, freedom, and salvation.

Dear Lord, please help us in our unbelief….and work through us today. Amen.

“Doubts can drive us further into Scripture and closer to God as we seek answers for our questions. If you have doubts, pursue God until they are resolved.” David Jeremiah

Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy.
Henry Drummond


I Corinthians 15:17-26

Today, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Typically, we look at one of the famous passages in the gospels about that Sunday morning. We are all familiar with that narrative about the women going to the tomb where they find the boulder that was covering the entrance miraculously rolled away, Jesus’ graveclothes still there but not the body, and the angel telling the women that Jesus has risen and is no longer in the grave.

Instead of rehashing this story, let us look at what the resurrection means, as well as what it would mean if it did not happen.

When I first heard the story about Jesus, it stood out to me that two miracles were claimed for Him – One at the beginning of His life, and one at the end of His life. The first was the miracle of the virgin birth, where Mary becomes pregnant without having sexual relations with a man. The second was the resurrection. Back then, it was easier for me to believe the miraculous birth than the resurrection.

After all, there have been documented asexual births in nature, but no other instances of someone dying on Friday and coming back to life on Sunday. There have been occurrences where someone dies for a few minutes and comes back to life, but that is more like a revival than a resurrection.

It turns out, the resurrection is the key to Christianity. Without the resurrection of Jesus, Christianity falls apart.

A few times during His ministry, Jesus told His disciples that He will be captured, tried and executed, and then rise on the third day. If Jesus stayed dead and was not resurrected, then this would mean either Jesus was lying, wrong or crazy. It also could mean that somehow, Jesus failed in His mission and God abandoned Him in death.  If Christ did not rise from the dead, then there is no resurrection for us either.  This would mean that there is no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, no eternal life in fellowship with God and our Christian brothers and sisters.

There are many who believe that our spirit is bound in our imperfect bodies, and that we only reach our spiritual potential when we are freed from it. It is understandable that people come to this view, since our bodies, especially when we are injured or riddled with disease or old age, limit us in living the way we would like. Also, when we sin, it is often to satisfy the needs of our bodies. So, we come to the conclusion that when we die, our spirits are finally freed from the limits of our bodies and now we can reach our potential and can come close to God.

However, this is not what the Bible teaches us. God created humans to have both body and soul. If that were not the case, He would not have created a body for us to start with. The Bible also tells us that when the time comes, we will go meet our Lord not just in spirit, but also with a resurrected body. In eternity, we are not going to be some bodiless spirit, but we will have a physical body. But this body will be not the imperfect body that we are/were used to, but a glorified body, similar to what the resurrected Christ has.

So, when this age ends and a new earth and a new heavens are created, we who died in faith will be there with our new bodies. This is the hope that the Lord has given us on that Easter morning when He rose from the dead.

This is why we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are grateful for what He went through on Good Friday, but that would have been meaningless had He not risen. Because He has risen, we now know that our sins are forgiven due to the good works of Christ on the cross. And by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we too will rise in the end, with our souls and our new bodies, and be in eternity with our Lord, as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

(the above is a summary of the message shared by Shun Takano with us at our Easter worship on April 9, 2023.)