Thursday, February 27, 2014

The End of Rev Tong Sermon Summaries

Dear Readers

Thank you for visiting this blog.

This is to inform you that with the conclusion of the gospel of John, there will be no further sermon summaries.  Rev Tong is still coming to Singapore to start the book of Romans, however it will no longer under STEMI banner, it will be done as pulpit preaching in local church context.

The team members involved in this sermon summary are also refocusing on other commitments. We hope the summaries the past 9 years have been helpful in some way.  God bless you.

The Gospel of John did not Record Many Things (Jn. 21:20-25)

Passage: John 21:20-25

At the end of the Gospel of John, there is mention of the author, the testimony, and the truth.  It also says Jesus did many other things as well which were not recorded in the book.

The gospel of John did not record the birth and the ascension of Jesus.   For 3.5 years on earth, Jesus did many things and John recorded the important ones.  He did not repeat most passages which Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded.  The only miracle all 4 gospels recorded is the feeding of the 5000 people using 5 loaves and two fishes.  In comparison, John recorded more of the dialogues, debates and teaching than incidents. 

When he was old, there was an assault on the gospel from the gnostics.  God preserved John to fight the false teaching.  By the end of the first century after the birth of Christ, the four gospels were already written.  It took about 50 years from Matthew to John.  Humanity can understand the plan of salvation through these recorded gospels.  However, there were many false gospels written in the name of Jesus’ disciples.  The churches were confused.  The gospel of John written at the end of the first century became the foundation to deny all other false gospels.

John also stated that the whole world would not have room for the books to be written if everything Jesus did was to be recorded (21:25).

If we only view Jesus as a human being, surely it is possible to record everything He did.  But He is infinite.  Did He just work during the 33.5 years on earth?  In John 5:17 Jesus said “My Father has been at work till now, I too am working”  What was He doing?  He was working from the time of creation.  He prepared for redemption before creation.  The work of God cannot be constrained in finite existence.  The Son has been working with the Father.

In infinite realm, God has been working.  When Jesus entered finite world, the Spirit entered the flesh, He worked for 33.5 years in physical time and space.   But He is not the finite one, He is the Son of God from all eternity not bounded by space and time created by God at creation point.    Christ is the contact point between man and God, between time and eternity, between visible and invisible.  The contact point appears 3 times, at creation point, at incarnation time (Christ’s first coming), and at consummation point (Christ’s second coming). 

From this point of view, created world is too small.  Finite paper write finite things.  Thus the things that Jesus did, in creation, salvation and revelation, cannot all be contained by the small finite world.  

Jesus Prophesied of Peter's Death (Jn. 21:18-23)

Passage: John 21:18-23

Only Jesus said “Follow Me” because He is the Son of God. Other religious leaders never said so.  When Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me”, Peter left everything and followed Jesus.  But after Jesus’ resurrection, disciples could not follow Jesus physically the way they used to. 

So they went back to fishing.  God showed them that without Him they could do nothing.  They caught nothing all night but at Jesus’ command they caught many fish.  And coming to the shore, Jesus already prepared everything without using any of the fish they caught.

After reinstating Peter, Jesus prophesied of Peter’s death (v.18-19).  Following Christ involve denying oneself and taking up the cross.  Jesus was frank about this.  Those who are determined to live a holy life will be persecuted.  We will face a lot of sufferings to enter the kingdom of God.  Christianity is not a religion with empty promises.  It is completely honest and faithful. 

There are sufferings for Christians but our Lord has suffered more.  When we follow the Lord, we need to obey and suffer for Him.  The Lord never promised a smooth journey.  The faith of Christianity is demostrated in its steadfastness in the midst of sufferings.  This is due to the love of Christ.  When Christians suffer for their faith, they are closest to God.  So Jesus said to Peter that he would die persecuted for his faith.  Is this God’s blessings?  What kind of God is this, so cold and cruel?  Why should I follow Him?

John said Jesus said this to show the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Within 30 years after Jesus said this, Peter was crucified, and at his request, he was crucified upside down as he saw himself unworthy to die like the Lord.  Is this a death that glorifies God? 

Following the Lord, there may be persecution.  Peter wrote in his epistles that the glory of God is manifested in Christian sufferings.  The Spirit of God rests on them.  When you are persecuted you display the glory of God. 

Thinking of what Jesus said about his old days, Peter turned and asked what would happen to John.  Jesus said it had nothing to do with Peter.  Our spirituality fails when we compare ourselves with others.  Comparing ourselves with others is the source of unnecessary sufferings.  We should compare ourselves with Jesus.  He suffered more than anyone else.  We should compare our obedience with Christ’s. 

The first sentence Jesus said to Peter is “Follow Me”. His last sentence to Peter is also, “Follow Me.”  It is because of the Lord’s enabling that we can follow Him.  Without His protection, we will not stand to the end.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jesus Appears to Thomas (John 20:24-21:3)

This is a personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 12 January 2014 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 20:24-21:4

When Thomas was gathered with the other disciples for the second time, Jesus appeared again – not because of Thomas, but because God had mercy on him. When you don’t come for gatherings, you’re not aware that you have lost the grace of God. Perhaps God will give you another opportunity – not because you deserve it, but because of God’s mercy, so as to give you another chance.

The Lord knew Thomas had said he had to touch the marks of the nails and the side of his ribs, otherwise he would not believe. The evening of the second Sunday, as the disciples gathered, Thomas was present. Jesus came among them and said: “Peace be with you!” Then he came before Thomas and said: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

This is a message directed at the individual. Sometimes we think our Lord doesn’t know we doubt him. We mix among many people and think God can see the body but not the individual. The Psalmist says: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Psalm 147:4) Surely God will know what you are thinking in your heart and understand how much you doubt Him and believe Him.

The gospel is directed at the individual. The relationship between God and us must be individual. You cannot think because the Lord loves the church and you are in the church, so He must love you. The Lord loves the church because He loves every individual. He is certain of your heart – every single one of you. Jesus said: “Peace be with you!” Then he especially said to Thomas: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” If it were you, when Jesus said that, and you realised He knew what you were thinking about, will you be afraid? I would.

Thomas spoke behind the back of Jesus, but was confronted by him. Thomas said: “My Lord and my God!” This is the only place in the Bible where the words “Lord” and “God” come out from the same mouth. Thomas was the first person who linked lordship with divinity. The Bible did not record that Thomas touched Jesus, because Thomas did not need to touch Jesus. The reality was before him. The fact is better than the argument. This is our Lord’s method. He manifested the truth. Your faith will compel you to speak words of faith. What did Jesus do to him? He said: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Here is a great truth: Faith is not by sight. Faith gives you sight in your spirit. The Apostle Paul says: “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) What we see is temporal. What we cannot see is eternal. What we receive are temporal sufferings, in exchange for the ultimate goal. This passage tells us faith itself is sight. When you see it, it is too late, for you have equated physical sight with spiritual sight. A true man of faith will see first what his eyes cannot see. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Today we want evidence and seek it. But the Bible says no: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” A photographer looking at the negative already knows the picture that is to come. Why do we call to the Lord: “Show me and then I’ll believe?” Because we first assume that faith is the result of seeing. This is a problem of sinners: “If I know, surely I believe. If I see, surely I believe. If you give me the evidence, I believe. If I experience this, I believe.” These four pre-suppositions do not follow the Bible and they come from the fallen nature. Jesus Christ did not say see and believe. Jesus said: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” (John 11:40b) Faith comes before seeing. Faith in itself is a form of seeing.

Jesus came to Thomas and told him: “Because you have seen me, you have believed.” You see first, then you believe. This is wrong. You need to believe, then you will see. With faith you can see what others cannot. With faith you enjoy the grace of God. Thomas learnt a great lesson. This is the fundamental concept of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul and Peter said it, so did the entire Bible. Because of faith, we can see glory. Because of faith, we can see the future. Because Jesus saw the joy before him, he despised the suffering he had.

The Apostle John talked about the most important purpose of Jesus’ coming. “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.” The gospel of John is not a complete record. John knew and saw much more than he wrote. Why did he select this and not that? He wanted to write things for a purpose.  Miracles are signs of God. Miracles are performed to show God is here. He is doing His work with this sign. These are not recorded. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

There are thousands of ways to know Jesus Christ. Why are these two most important - Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God? Because these two identities are the central focus and basis of Christology. The Christ you know is the Christ, the anointed one of God, the Son of God. These two alone are sufficient for you to receive eternal life.

The first understanding of Christology came from Peter. Before Peter, at least two people recognised Jesus as the Son of God. Nathanael proclaimed Jesus is the Son of God. (John 1:49) Jesus said: “I saw you while you were sitting under the fig tree.” (John 1:48b) He said: “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”  (John 1:47) Jesus appreciated Nathanael’s integrity. He was an intelligent man. Among all the prophecies of thousands of years, he knew immediately that Jesus was the Son of God. He was fast in recognising the truth. Only people who can identify things accurately can properly testify to God.

The second was John the Baptist. John said: “The one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33) This is a command. Many people were baptised by John the Baptist. Baptism was a mark of repentance. God did not tell him which one, except on the one whom the Spirit comes down. Jesus said: “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34) To believe Jesus is the Christ and He is the Son of God is the most important foundation of truth.

Peter joined the two together. Jesus asked: “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27) “Some people say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8:28) Jesus didn’t care about these things. He said: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 1:29) When Jesus sought after what people knew of him, what they claimed about their faith in Jesus Christ, Peter said: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”(Matthew 16:16) Jesus said: “This was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17a) The genuine Christology is by revelation. Our understanding of Christ does not come from our study of theology. It comes about when we recognise that He is revealed by God. If your knowledge is not based on revealed truth from God, if your theological research and conclusion is not from the revelation of God, if your cognitive understanding of theology is not based on the revelation of God in the Bible, you will never understand that Jesus is the Christ.

When you know the Christ based on the Holy Spirit’s revelation in the Bible, then you can have true faith and you will proclaim that Lord, you are the Christ, the Son of God. For Jesus to be the Christ, is it because you recognise Him? No. Jesus is the Christ because He is. Christ means “the anointed one”. When God anointed him, God selected and affirmed him, and with the Holy Spirit anointed him, so he is called the Christ.

“The anointed one” is most clearly recorded in Psalm 2. “He said to me: ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’” (Psalm 2:7b) God anointed his Son to tell the whole world that Christ is sent by God and is begotten of God. In Jewish tradition, there are three anointed offices: a king, a priest and a prophet. All kings and priests are anointed. But there is only one case of a prophet being anointed. God told Elijah to look for Elisha and anoint him as prophet to continue Elijah’s work. You can’t anoint a person with all three types of anointing. If you are anointed as king, you have to be in the tribe of Judah. If you are anointed as priest, you must be a Levite.

But the Bible tells us there is a king who is also a priest. Before David and Moses and Aaron, in the era of Abraham, Melchizedek was both king and priest. He was the king of Salem and the priest of God Most High. (Genesis 14:18) No one knows where he started and when he died: He had no father, no mother, no beginning, no end, no genealogy. Other than Adam, everyone has a father. Adam and Eve had no mother. This person is not Adam or Eve. Who can anoint him? Why anoint him as king and priest? Abraham lived way before David and Aaron. Abraham was the father of Isaac.  Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of the 12 tribes. Melchizedek did not need the tribes because he existed before the tribes. He is bigger than Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. Abraham gave him a tithe of the loot, for he is the priest of God. The Bible says in Hebrews that Jesus Christ is priest not by the order of Aaron, but by the priestly order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 7:11) Jesus Christ is the one that is anointed by God. He is king, priest and prophet. Because He is king, He has the kingdom of God. Because He is priest, his sacrifice enabled all of us sinners to be forgiven by God. Because He is prophet, He preached the word of God so we hear it. This is Christ. When Peter confessed Him as Christ, he proclaimed a very profound title. Jesus was most pleased.

If you do not believe Jesus as Christ and Son of God, your Christology will be in error. Who do we know Jesus as? A philanthropist who did good things to help people?  A moralist who lived a moral and holy life? A revolutionary who overturned the Roman empire to build the kingdom of God on earth? A religious leader who established Christianity after Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucius? Not only was Jesus a moralist and taught morality, He saved those who had no morals. Who is the Christ? The Bible says Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The Son of God was revealed to remove the work of Satan. He far surpasses the moralist or the politician. Peter said: “You are the Christ”, the anointed One, “the Son of God” who manifested His divinity. Jesus said: “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.” (John 12:44-45)

John understood that when a person has such faith in Jesus, through the name of Jesus, he gets eternal life. God sent His Son to the world not to cause people to have morality, but to have eternal life. Christ is Christ not because of the recognition of the masses, but because it is set in the eternal will of God and anointed by God on the throne of Mount Zion. There is only one Christ. Christ was not created. He is the eternal Christ and came as a historical Christ taking on flesh.

At that time, many people were named Jesus. It was a common name. Bar-Jesus refers to the son of Jesus. But this Jesus is special. He is the holy one of God, the anointed one of God, completely different from anybody else. The Jews now know that when you talk about the Christ, you are referring to the unique anointed one. Before Jesus came to the world, within 200 years, many people were proclaiming themselves to be the Christ – about 200 people. People worshipped them but discovered they were not the Christ. This Christ was born in Bethlehem and died upon the cross. People did not recognise Him. When you believe Jesus is the Christ, you believe God has sent Him. When you believe Jesus is the Son of God, you believe in the manifestation of God, or Christ has manifested Himself.

John 21 is different from the other three gospels. Why was this chapter added? There were some issues to be resolved. It is for people who are called to serve God, when they are not focused, how do they resolve their relationship with God and how does the Lord treat these things?

Jesus appeared to seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, which is the Sea of Galilee, in the north. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and died at Golgotha, near Jerusalem. He was resurrected near Jerusalem. His ascension was on the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. Twice it was recorded He appeared in Galilee. Once was by the sea, to reveal himself to these seven disciples. Another time was on a mountain when the Great Commission was given. The resurrected Jesus had to walk two days and one night from Jerusalem to Galilee, because the disciples had gone there first.

They did not believe Jesus would lead them anymore. While they had seen him resurrected, there was no guarantee or instruction on how they are to live. Jesus said: “Peace be with you.” It’s good to have peace, but you need food. He did not say how they were to sustain their life. Peter had a wife and a mother-in-law. He had a family to feed.  Jesus had told him to give up everything to be a fisher of man. He followed Jesus three and a half years without a worry because the women who gave offerings to Jesus. After three and a half years, Jesus was crucified and resurrected without giving out anything except to say: “Peace be with you.” These disciples believed Jesus was to establish the kingdom, re-establish the throne of David and the tent of Judah, get rid of the pagans and the glory of God will be manifested, so they followed Him. Yet He died and said: “Peace be with you.”

The thought came in to Peter to go back to Galilee to fish. He was a leader. If the leader is not following God, he has no qualification to ask people to follow him. If you are a gifted leader, your leadership skills could harm others. Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples followed him. Out of 11 disciples who were still living, seven left and went back to their old job, gave up their ministry and lost their position. Christianity would be lost. That’s why Chapter 21 must be written. It is crucial for the survival of Christianity.

There are two types of people who serve the Lord. One says he will serve full time and give up everything. Another one says he will do it part-time by working and preaching, as a lay preacher. For the past 20 years, the Chinese church has developed a trend of having lay preachers. Many people are not willing to do it full time, only part time and making money the rest of the time. Everybody will welcome this. Church deacons look down on preachers because they are paid staff. The Bible says “those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14) and “do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” (1 Timothy 5:18) There is nothing wrong to pay your preacher. If you don’t like to be a preacher, you don’t have to be a preacher. But if you want to be a preacher, you need to be focused. Can Christians be lay preachers? Yes, if God did not call you to be a full-time preacher. But if God is clearly calling you to be a full-time preacher, you cannot be a lay preacher. If you are supposed to be a lay person, you cannot be full-time. But if you are called to be full-time, you cannot do it part-time.

Peter was called and he said he had given up everything to follow Jesus. Why did he go back to his own job? Because he faced difficulties. Was the Lord satisfied? Not so. In Chapter 21, He wanted to be clear: “Do you love me more than these?” Do you love me more than your job, your partners, your salary? Dear brothers and sisters, you only live once. We want to live for the Lord and die for Him, then there is meaning for our life.

When the disciples went back to fish, Jesus had to walk two days and one night to meet them at the Sea of Tiberias to let these experienced fisherman miss their catch that night. You have already given your life to the Lord. Do you want to go back to the world? God may allow you to make a lot of money but abandon you forever. God may allow you to fail so that you may repent and return to Him. This is a crucial point of the church. In my almost 57 years of service, not a second have I thought of turning back. I only think of one thing: Have I done my best? Have I pleased the Lord?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Do You Love Me More than These? (Jn. 21:15-19)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 26 January 2014 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 21:15-19

Servants of God sometimes lose direction.  This is the situation of the disciples in this passage.  Jesus died on the cross.  Can such a Lord lead us?  How can we place our future into His hands?  But the Lord’s plan is beyond our thoughts.  The Bible tells us that with man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.  In our short-sightedness we cannot see the guidance of God and thus cannot persist in following our Lord.  Thus, the disciples went back fishing.

The Lord appeared and said peace be with them but they still did not know what to do with their lives.   The Lord died and resurrected in Jerusalem but appeared to the disciples in Galilee as they had gone back to their old job.  God caused them to catch nothing at night.  At Jesus’ command, they cast the net and caught many fish, and despite the many fish the net did not break.  It speaks of the preservation grace of God.

When they came onshore, Jesus shared with them the food He had prepared.  Some people think the church and preachers will suffer without their contribution.  It is not the case.  Jesus did not take a single fish from the disciples.  He was already preparing breakfast for them with fire, bread and fish.  God does not need anything from us.  It is the other way round.

After breakfast, Jesus went to Peter as he was the leader and needs to be dealt with.  Jesus called him “Simon, son of John”,  referring to the son of someone who has received the grace of God.  Mentioning one’s father is to remind you to remember the grace of God. 

Jesus asked, “Do you love Me more than these?” What does ‘these’ mean?  It means various things.  Do you love Me more than your boat, your fishing nets, the fishes you caught?  More than your needs?  We often love money more than we love our God.  We love our family more than our God. 

Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (v.15) And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” The second and third time, He said, “Take care of My sheep.  Feed My sheep.” 

His disciples were charged the the responsibility of preaching the gospel.  But it is not by force.  The motivation is, “Do you love Me?”  and as an expression of that love, “Feed My lambs.”  Very few Sunday schools today truly feed the children. 

The third time Jesus asked, Peter was grieved.  He said, Lord you know everything, you know that I love you. (v.17) Then Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (v.18)

And the Scripture said, Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him,“Follow me!” (v.19)

The path will get more and more narrow.  Do not think it is smooth-sailing.  Many people who serve God faced great difficulties when they get old.  Jonathan Edwards was removed from his own church, Charles Spurgeon was forced to retire.  In the case of Peter, he rebuked the emperor Nero who wanted to build Neropolis, the city of Nero after burning houses.  The emperor’s advisors said to put the blame on the Christians when people asked who burnt the houses.  As Neor burnt the cities, he accused the Christians, arrested them and threw them to the lions and burnt them at stake.  Christians were defenseless but they sang praises as they faced their death. 

Peter spoke out to the people, “It is emperor Nero who burnt your houses”.  He was condemned to death.  As he was not a Roman, he could be crucified and humiliated.  When he was about to be crucified, he remembered what Jesus said about his death.  He knew the time had come.  He said to the soldiers, “Can I ask one thing?  My Lord was crucified for the sins of the world.  I am not worthy to die like my Lord.  Please crucify me upside down.”  He died faster as the blood rushed to the brain.  It was a terrible way to die.

Jesus said, “Do you love Me more than these?”  So Peter loved the Lord and died for the Lord.  May the love of God move us all.

Jesus Appeared to His Disciples at Galilee (Jn. 21:1-14)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 19 January 2014 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 21:1-14

This is the third appearance of Jesus to His disciples.  The first two times was on the Lord’s day.  Jesus appeared to 7 disciples here and 5 names were recorded and 2 others were not recorded.  Why did Jesus appear here?  Jesus appeared 10 times after His resurrection and John recorded 3 of His appearances.

The first time He appeared to His disciples, there were 10 disciples.  The first thing he said, “Peace be with you.”  Thomas was absent.  When the disciples shared with Thomas, Thomas said he would not believe.  He used his reason to opposed the Word of God as truth, he despised others’ experience.  Those people who think it is difficult to believe always think they are smarter than others that they are rational and build upon the principle of truth.  Disciples did not debate with him but allowed him to display his foolishness.  Those without faith despise those with faith and are confident of their lack of faith.  Thomas said unless he saw the wounds on Jesus’ hands and side and touch them he would not believe.  God heard it all.  He searches our deepest heart.

When they gather the second time, our Lord appeared not to rebuke Thomas but to display the truth and solve the problem of unbelief.  Jesus asked Thomas to touch His wounds.  He repeated what Thomas had said.  Thomas could only knelt and acknowledge, “My Lord and my God.”  There is no need to touch His wounds as the fact had melted His heart and His appearance had ended his argument.  Jesus accepted people’s worship of Him, proving Himself to be God. 

In this passage, Jesus appeared to His disciples at Galilee.  The disciples did not stay in Jerusalem because of the Jews.  Before the crucifixion Jesus was with the disciples all the time.  After His resurrection He only appeared for a while and disappeared.  They went back to Galilee and gave up the calling.  

The entire work of the gospel restedwith the 11 disciples.  Jesus came to Galilee to recover the situation.  The Lord would go to where you have left Him, stop you, remind you and revive you that you may return to Him.  The whole night they caught no fish.  If God has called you and you are not obedient, you will accomplish nothing. 

But when Jesus asked them to let down the net, they caught many fish.  Although there were a lot of fish the net was not torn (v.11).  In the past they needed to mend the net.  If you serve the Lord you do not need to be afraid of lacking anything.

When they came onshore, there was fire, fish and bread.  Everything was already there.  Do not think that when you give offering you are contributing.  Our Lord is a self-sufficient God.  After this incident they learnt that they do not need to use their way to sustain themselves, they can rely on the Lord.  In this passage, Jesus recovered the situation and brought the disciples back to their calling.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Jesus Appeared to Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:11-18)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 27 October 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 20:11-18

The Son of God came through virgin Mary.  Nearing His death, Mary (sister of Lazarus) used expensive perfume to anoint Jesus. And when it was time for the gospel to be preached to the world after Christ’s resurrection, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. 

The book of Luke recorded angels’ words to the women who came to the tomb, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead.”  John recorded from a different angle.  He recorded Mary Magdalene remaining in the tomb and crying.  When the angels asked whey she was crying, she said her Lord had beenn taken away. (Jn. 20:11-13)

In saying this, she demonstrated how low her faith was.  The Lord she believed in could be killed, could not rise, and could be stolen.  When Jesus asked why she was crying, she could not see it was Jesus, thinking he was the gardener. (v.14-15)

The Lord stood right before her and she could not recognise Him.  She believed in Him who was dead.  She did not think He would rise again.  She was overcome by sorrow.  That is how pathetic her faith was.  Many Christians’ faith is expressed by shallow knowledge.  If you do not have enough faith, you cannot see the Lord is with you.

When Jesus called her name “Mary” (v.16), she recognised the voice of the Lord and immediately responded, “My Teacher”.  The Jesus who stood there was not the Jesus Mary thought or imagined out of her mind.  This is a real encounter.  God is not a topic for discussion.  He is real.  He is the Object of our worship.  The subjectivity of the truth is revealed in Jesus.  Human search for truth ends when God revealed Himself through Christ.

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (v.17)

Why was Mary not allowed to touch Jesus?  Why could His disciples touch Him later?  Had He ascended to His Father and then descended again?  Jesus’ words “Do not hold on to Me” mean He should not be regarded in the physical manner He was regarded in the last 3.5 years.  He now has a glorious and resurrected body.  They should not cling to Him like the way they cling on Him in the past.  Because He would go to the Father and He will be with them spiritually.  They are to preach the gospel of the resurrected Lord to the world, starting from this woman Mary Magdalene. 

Jesus came from the Father and entered the world.  And He died for us like a sinner.  Then He was resurrected, as the Son of God and was going back to the Father.  This summarised the gospel of John.  Mary was blessed to be the first tasked to preach the gospel of the resurrected Christ. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Empty Tomb (Jn. 20:1-10)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 6 October 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 20:1-10

Jesus did not even reserve for Himself a single material thing on earth.  He came from the Father into the world and He went back to the Father.  That way He ended His 33.5 years on earth.  He was born through virgin Mary who had no relationship with a man before.  He rode on a donkey that was never ridden on before.  And He was buried in a tomb that was not used before.

Nothing else was recorded about Joseph of Arimathea except his role in burying Jesus.  He had great political, economical and social standing, but was only remembered for his involvement in Jesus’ burial.  There are many things we want to do in life.  But what are the things that really matter?  How much relationship is there between our activities and God’s work? 

The tomb borrowed for Jesus’ burial was only used for 2.5 days.  But this tomb is of significance because it had a part in God’s greatest plan.  Otherwise the tomb has no value.  It has value because God used it. 

Many people think if God uses their resources, they are being exploited.  However the truth is the other way round.  It is most glorious when God wants to use me, my financial resources and my talent as I have a part in His eternal plan.  Our lives only have value when God wants to use us. 

When Jesus was resurrected, it was the women, not His disciples, the first visited Him.  Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, other Mary and other women came to anoint Jesus.  They experienced and followed Jesus all the way to crucifixion.  Because they participated in their entire process, they knew where to find Jesus on the third day.  Other than John, there is no other man. 

When Mary came early in the morning, she saw that the stone had been moved and told Peter and John that people had taken away the body of Jesus (Jn. 20:1-2).  It took very strong men to remove the stone.  Peter and John were anxious for they had decided to follow Jesus the rest of their lives.  They had believed Jesus was the Messiah who came after centuries of waiting.  They thought Jesus would rebuild Israel and the kingdom of God.  But they followed Him with a political and self-centered hope. 

John being the younger outran Peter and reached the tomb first, but waited for Peter to arrive and allowed Peter to go into the tomb first.  John had the right attitude.  (v. 3-6)

When they went it, they saw linen cloth lying in its original state but Jesus’ body was not there.  The cloth was there, not cut open, not in a mess, not unravelled, it stayed in its original place and in the same shape.  This demonstrates Jesus has resurrected and this surpassed space.  John saw the cloth and he immediately understood and believed. (v.7-8).  The Bible did not say what Peter think. 

Both came to the tomb and both went home.  Why did Jesus not appear before them?  Why did Jesus appear before Mary first? 

The first person to understand the kingdom of God was not Peter, John, or His other discipels, but the robber.  He was hanging on the cross, he initially insulted Jesus but later on read the inscription on the cross “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”.  He believed.   The disciples who have followed Jesus for 3.5 years could not understand this while the robber could see Jesus as King in the few hours.  He saw what God wanted him to see.  He saw what Peter could not see, what John could not see, what His disciples could not see.

The first person to hear to command to preach the gospel after the resurrection was Mary Magdalene.  Jesus was willing to appear first to this woman who was once possessed by demon.  Jesus wanted to use her.   God allowed the robber to be the first to understand the kingdom of God.  Likewise God used the Samaritan woman to bring the whole town to faith.

God often shows special mercy to the weak and use people who are despised by men.  People who think themselves intelligent God will hide Himself.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jesus' Burial (Jn. 19:31-42)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 29 September 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 19:31-42

The sky turned dark when Jesus was crucified.  He was crucified for 6 hours, from 9 am to 3 pm. At 3 pm, He gave up His spirit, “I commit my spirit into Your hands.” Jesus’ death is an active death.  He died willingly. 

The leg bones are harder to break than any other bones in the body.  They were broken to ensure the crucified criminals die.  When they found that Jesus already was dead, there was no need to break His bones.  To confirm His death, His side was pierced and blood and water flowed.  Jesus showed no reaction confirming He already died.  (Jn. 19-31-35)

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken, and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (Jn. 19:36-37)


This was spoken long time ago by the prophets.  At that time nobody understood what it meant and who the Scripture was referring to whose bones will not be broken.  This is the word of God that transcends all time and space.  Through the mouth of David the psalmist, God spoke about the death of Jesus and the manner in which He would die, and specifically that  His bones were not broken. 

Jesus sacrificed His whole life for us.  How shameful it would be for us not to love the Lord when we see Him face to face one day.  His love is too high, too wide and too deep.  When we think of how much He suffered for us, may we love Him more.

Jesus never did something for Himself during His time on earth.  He was never concerned about material things.  When He died, even His outer garment was taken.  Who then would take care of His burial?  Where did Peter weep?  Where were all His disciples?  Who should handle His body?


The Scripture recorded two persons, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.  This is the only time Joseph of Arimathea was mentioned.  He was not one of the twelve.  He was a righteous man, with good standing in the society and was a rich man.  The problem with him was he was afraid of his own safety.  He wanted to play safe so he followed Jesus secretly.

One day he saw Jesus died.  He never imagined Jesus would sacrifice Himself to die for them.  His conscience was stirred and he wanted to handle the burial of Jesus.  Joseph was also a trusted and respected man as he was able to get permission from Pilate to take the body of Jesus, though Pilate had been troubled with Jesus the whole day.  (v.38)

Before Joseph buried Jesus, Nicodemus came.  Both were highly respected Jewish leaders.  Nicodemus embalmed the body of Jesus with about 100 kg of spices.  It is a very expensive burial.  Jesus never prepared anything for Himself in His life but God had prepared everything for His burial (v.39-42). 

When you faithfully serve the Lord, God will take care of you.  We do not need to be concerned about our own needs as our true and living God will take care of us.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jesus' Last Words on the Cross (Jn. 19:28-30)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermon on 8 September 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 19:28-30

Jesus spoke 7 sentences on the cross:
The first –  “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do”
The second – “Today you will be with Me in paradise”
The third – “Behold your son” and “Behold your mother”
The forth – “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?”
The fifth – “I thirst”
The sixth – “It is finished”
The seventh – “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit”

Why did Jesus call “My God” in the middle, and “Father” at His first and last sentence?
In His first and last sentence, Jesus prayed as the Son of God as the Mediator.  At the 4th sentence, He prayed as the Son of Man.  The cross shows that God loves sinner but hates sin, that even His Son who carried the body of sin must be punished.  Yet as Christ is divine and sinless, the power of sin could not hold Him. 

In Acts 3:20, Peter said the Jews had killed the Lord of life but God resurrected Him from dead.  He died in the experience of sin, not under power and authority of sin.  He defeated sin and death.  God would not allow Him to decay, for this body is God incarnate, not destructible by sin.  Jesus also said He has the power to give up His life and the power to take it back again.  It is right to say the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit took part in the resurrection.  Each Person of Trinity has the same power and the same glory.

In His third sentence, “Behold your mother.  Behold your son.” he fulfilled his responsibility as a filial son.  Mary was blessed but also had great sorrow.  Jesus knew he could not take care of his mother anymore.  As the son of man He fulfilled His responsibility to His mother.  As the Son of God he fulfilled His responsibility to His Father in heaven.

In forth sentence, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” God did not answer.  The answer is from saved sinners.  It is because of you and me that God had forsaken Him.  It is not possible for you to love the Lord if you do not understand the suffering of Christ.  The more we understand how much Christ suffered for us, the more we love Christ, the more we understand how decadent we are, the more grateful we are, the more we understand His holy wrath, and the more we appreciate His mercy.

The fifth sentence is “I thirst.” (Jn. 19:28) and the sixth, “it is finished.” (Jn. 19:30)

Jesus’ fifth sentence proved He is really God in the flesh.  He was dehydrated as He did not drink, eat or sleep the whole night.  He bled and perspired as He made His way to the cross. 

God did not answer any of His sentences.  When He was baptised, the heaven opened and a voice was heard “this is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  When He was transfigured, likewise the heaven opened and Father testified of the Son again “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him.”  Jesus needed God’s affirmation the most when He was crucified.  At the sixth hour, God did not speak once.  He was alone when He died crucified.  Isa 53:10 says it is Jehovah’s will to bruise Him.

After Jesus said “I thirst”, someone took sympathy and put some vinegar in a sponge and pushed it against His mouth.  (Jn. 19:29) Vinegar kills pain.  Jesus tasted it to show His appreciation but did not drink it because He did not want to numb the pain.  He wanted to taste all the pain, drink fully the cup the Father has given Him.

Jesus cannot haphazardly receive the pity from sinners.  The relationship is between the Savior and sinners.  He is the source of all mercy.  He did not accept mercy or pity.  It is us who need pity.  Twice Jesus rejected sympathy from men during His passion.  The women in Jerusalem wept for Jesus as Jesus went to the cross.  Jesus said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourself and your children.” 

Christianity did not need to be pitied.  Christians ought to judge the rest of the world and even judge angels.  God will even send the raven which has no sense of mercy, to help His own who are in need.  How did it happen that enemies of God have mercy of the people of God?  People despise Christianity because of this. 

Do not receive pity from those who are against God.  They do not have the right to pity you.  When Christians receive pity of the Gentiles, we betray our Lord.  We give glory to those underserving and opportunity for Satan.  But do not humiliate people who pity you.  Appreciate it but do not take it.  Beware who are gracious to you.  If there are other motives, you need to immediately reject it.  Rather be poor until you die but do not disgrace the name of the Lord.  With the wisdom that comes from fearing the Lord, you can discern if people’s intention are genuine.

With the last sentence, “into Your hands I commit My spirit,” ended Jesus’ 33.5 years on earth.  This is indeed the Saviour of the world.  They took off His body from the cross and buried him.  All happened within  24 hours.  This is the Day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.