Life in His Name

by LA UBF   03/29/2013     0 reads


Life in His Name

John 20:1-31

Key verse John 20:31

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

"...that you may believe." This expression was used in the previous passage. John was an eye witness of Jesus' sufferings and death and testified so that you may believe. When we hear such a detailed, eye-witness account of someone's death it is easier for us to believe that they actually died. Now, there are a few people that some do not believe have died, such as Amelia Earhart (for a time), Elvis, and Tupac.

But can we believe that someone rose from the dead? John does not say that Jesus did not die, but that you would believed he indeed died and now that you would believe that he rose from the dead and is alive. Whether or not Elvis and / or Tupac are alive or not does not really make any difference to you or me. But by believing in Jesus who is alive there is the promise of life in his name. In the passage Jesus appears three times showing that he is alive and what the life in his name is about. This life in his name is much more than just the life that you have right now so that you're here at this mountain. Life in his name is Jesus giving us life that just like his. He gives life in him and all of his qualities and characteristics he shares with us. Here we see it is eternal life with belonging [to the family of God], peace, and blessing. Let's look at his three appearances and see how believing in him gave new life.

First, Jesus appeared to Mary. 

Look at verses 1-2.

[1] Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. [2] So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Mary had no doubt in her mind that Jesus was dead and in a tomb. But she really wanted to visit the tomb. She went as early as possible, even before the sun had risen. But she was too surprised to find the stone removed from the entrance. She ran back and told Simon peter and told the other disciple Jesus loved. It was a very intense moment. She jumped to conclusions saying, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" She said, "they" but we don't know who she is referring to. And that they "took" Jesus and "put" him somewhere. She thought that these two disciples would understand her most. Now she believed that Jesus was dead, but not in the tomb.

Look at verses 3-10.

[3] So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. [4] Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. [5] He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. [6] Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, [7] as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. [8] Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. [9] (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) [10] Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

So those two disciples ran to the tomb and found it just as Mary had said; the stone was removed and Jesus' body was not there. They had found only the cloths and linens that had wrapped Jesus' body still there and folded up. It looked strange. Where could he be if the linens and cloths were still there as if Jesus were lying there? When the other disciple saw the cloths and linens, he believed. Out of the three, one of them believed. Then both of them went back to where they were staying. They couldn't help Mary at all. 

Look at verses 11-13.

[11] Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb [12] and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. [13] They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

It says that she stood outside the tomb crying. She was so overwhelmed at the thought of not knowing where Jesus was. We can see how much she treasured him. She had cried so much just three days before when she saw him die on a cross. Now she tried to visit his tomb but he wasn't there. He was taken from her twice. All she could was just cry to herself. Then she bent over and looked in one more time, hoping that she might see Jesus. Maybe she thought to herself, maybe if I look in once more, he'll be there. Maybe we missed him somehow. But she didn't see him. 

Instead, she saw two angels dressed in white. What a shock. But she was not shocked. They asked her, "Why are you crying?" She said the same thing. She just wanted to know where her Lord was.

She thought that Jesus was dead and powerless. She thought she was powerless. Although she loved Jesus, she didn't think about him properly and this deeply affected her in the wrong way.  Her perception of reality was skewed. She could only cry and think about her loss. Without having life, the shadow of death was over her. 

Every year, at his birthday, my grandfather says, "Children, I only have four more years left to live." He's been saying this for the last 12 years. Eventually, he will be right, but he's always living under the shadow of death. And when it's in his mind, he affects him and paralyzes him. He gets sick although the doctors tell him that nothing is wrong. 

Look at verses 14-15.

[14] At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. [15] He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Then Jesus himself stood there. He asked her the same question, "Woman, why are you crying?" Surprisingly, she didn't realize it was him. Maybe the tears in her eyes blurred her vision so much that she didn't realize it was him. She thought he was the gardener. How funny that her sorrow and unbelief actually physically blinded her from seeing Jesus at that moment, so that Jesus asked, "Why are you crying?" and, "Who are you looking for?" She then said the same answer three times now. The one thing she wanted was to know where her Lord Jesus was and to do something for him. 

Look at verse 16.

Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

She wasn't too perceptive with her eyes. But she did respond when he called her name. Her heart was stirred to recognizing him. When he called her name suddenly she knew it was him standing there. She didn't doubt that call or look the other way. She believed it was him and cried out, "Teacher!" She had been crying and crying in sorrow and loss. Now she cried such a joyful cry of relief. Her eyes hadn't been open. But her heart was open. Jesus had worked in her heart so that when he called her name, "Mary," that was what helped her to believe. Now, she didn't listen to her heart, but her heart was open to listen to Jesus' call. We can't trust our eyes all the time and we can't trust the heart, but we need to keep them open and ready to listen to Jesus.

No one had taken Jesus' body. He was alive and moved around freely. She was looking for him, but he found her. 

Look at verse 17.

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.’ ”

Her first reaction was to cling to Jesus and not let go. It shows us that he didn't appear as a ghost, but in his resurrected body. But what another sudden surprise. Of course, she wanted to hold on to him and not lose him again. But he didn't let her hold on. Instead, he sent her back to the others without him. Maybe she was confused. She had just found him again, and now she couldn't hold on, but had to let go and leave him. 

But it was through letting go and leaving that he really helped her to believe and to show it so that it went deep into her heart. 

Let's look at his message again.

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.’ ”

(1) He told her where he was going. He was ascending to the Father. But it also meant that she didn't need to worry about losing him or being separated or wondering where he was at. He made it very clear where he would be. He was going back to the Father and she needn't worry anymore. 

(2) And he gave her something to do, to go back with a message. 

In his message he said that they were part of the family of God, as God's children, just as he was.


(A) he calls the disciples "my brothers". Jesus had called his disciples, many things before, such as my disciples and students, and then my friends. Once he called them dull. But now this is the first time Jesus called his disciples my brothers like this.

(B) he calls God: "my Father and your Father," and "my God and your God." 

They belonged to the family of God, just as Jesus was. They had the same Father and God. He made them equal to him in that sense. 

There are two things in life we don't get to choose: when we're born and who are parents are (what family we belong to). [To some this looks like an advantage, and to others it looks like bad luck.]

To have life in Jesus' name is to belong to God as a child of God just as Jesus is the Son of God. He makes us the same as him, so that we belong just as he does. Same Father, same God and same direction. 

What did Mary do? Look at verse 18. 

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

She went. It tells us that she believed Jesus and showed it by going back and leaving him. So, even though she was separated from him again, she didn't feel at a loss. She wasn't crying anymore. Jesus leaving her was the very thing that brought her sorrow. And now Jesus leaving her again was her joy. She said so confidently, "I have seen the Lord!" Now she knew where Jesus was and that they belonged to him. She had something she could do for him and she did it. She was changed when she believed his word and went back as he told her. She got a new life in his name.

Knowing that we belong somewhere and to a family sets our future goals and keeps us steady. So many parents leave children, and children leave parents, and many feel that they don't belong anywhere. What happens is that we cry a lot, are lonely, feel loss, and do crazy things and things we don't want to do, all so that we can belong somewhere. But when we believe in Jesus and have life in his name, we belong to the family of God--we share in his life. "My Father and your Father."

My father left our family the summer before I began the 1st grade. My siblings and I suffered a lot from his leaving--such as from jealousy of others who had a father, who played sports with them and taught them how to grow up, and hatred and anger. We wanted to belong somewhere. I looked to my uncles to be fathers, but they were busy with their own families. So when I was 12 I asked my father why he moved away. I told him all my jealousy and how I missed him. He said, "it's your fault." Then my eyes were opened to the sufferings of my mom as a single mom and my brother and sister. And I hated him and thought I was a curse to others whom no one wanted. 

At one conference I was asked to write a life testimony. And John 3:16 was suggested as a key verse to think about. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I had heard this verse before. But at that time it struck me in a new way: God is our heavenly Father. He sent his Son Jesus to forgive our sins and give us new life. He did it to make me a child of God. From that time, I could forgive my father, have pity on him. I saw that i also sinned by hating him. The sense of loss in my heart was filled. I believed that I lost my earthly father so that I could know my heavenly Father. And God has taken care of me like a Father all this time. When I studied Genesis I accepted 12:2. He promised to make me a blessing, not a curse. He taught me to live by faith. So now I am a father of three wonderful children. Jesus brought me into the life as a child of God with a real belonging. And even though I met many rejections from others since then, I don't crying more. My cousins used to call me a cry baby, like Mary. My mom disowned me three times--in one year! But I don't cry because I know that I belong to God's family. 

Last summer I was with M. Isaac in the mountains near Vancouver. We met a cross country backpacker and a shipbuilder. They kept calling M. Isaac my father, even though I said, he is not my father but my pastor. About a month ago, I got an email asking how my father was doing. Anyway, this made me happy because I really like and respect M. isaac. I saw that God brought me into his family in Jesus. It is a real family. 

Second, Jesus appeared to his disciples.

Look at verses 19-20.

[19] On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" [20] After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

They were very afraid without Jesus. They locked themselves up, afraid that they were next in line to be arrested and killed. They used to travel all over the country with him and do God's work. But now they didn't want to go out.  

When Jesus appeared to them, he stood among them although the doors were locked. They could have been even more afraid. The locked doors was their only peace of mind. But what good were the locked doors?! He came right in and stood among them. They had trusted in those locked doors.  

The first thing he said to them was, "Peace be with you!" He knew exactly what was bothering them. Then he showed his hands and side. He let them take a good look at his wounds. The marks showed them that it was really him, alive and standing there with them.

It also tells us that they were really afraid of death. But here stood Jesus, the same jesus who had died with wounds still on him, but alive. He was greater than their locked doors and greater than death. He died, but he rose again. In him they could have real peace, not in locked doors or hiding away. What are your fears doing to you? How often do you lock yourself up or hide away because of your fears? Now look. Jesus showed his hands and side. He rose from the dead. When the disciples saw him they were overjoyed! 

Look at verses 21-23.

[21] Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." [22] And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."

Again, he said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." He was sending them out. It was the one thing they didn't want to do. The very thought of it took their peace away. Jesus took the very thing that brought them fear and used it to bring them peace. 

Being sent out was not something to be afraid of. Death was not something to fear. Jesus rose from the dead. If they are sent out like him, they will also live like him.

Just as was the case with Mary, Jesus used the very thing that troubled them and turned it around to help them and sent them out. It was the way to experience his life. 

He then gave them the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the same Spirit that was with Jesus when he was sent out by the Father. It was the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. He gave them the best gift. Now they had the Spirit that gives life to the dead. Now they had nothing to be afraid of. He told them to receive it. It meant to believe in him, to trust in him and go out. 

He also gave them the authority and mission to forgive. It is not easy to forgive even one person. First, they had to forgive those who arrested and killed Jesus. They had to forgive as Jesus did. As we heard in the first message, whoever believes in him will be forgiven and have eternal life.

When we believe in Jesus and have life in his name, we also are sent out like him. Being sent out is the way to experience the power of his the Holy Spirit and Jesus' resurrected life. This life has deep peace that overcomes all our fears.

Do you want this peace and life? He says here, "I am sending you." Go out to your family, and friends and strangers. And tell them about Jesus. Go do what Jesus did. Don't be afraid. Receive the Holy Spirit. Go to some place that is scary to you and challenging, so that you really experience his life and peace.

Third, Jesus appeared to Thomas. 

Look at verses 24-25. 

[24] Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" 

We don't know where Thomas was or what he had been doing, but he missed seeing Jesus! However the others had seen Jesus and told Thomas. So Thomas should have been okay, right? No. He couldn't believe it. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it" (25b). It's hard to believe that this is the only way he would believe, but touching the wounds like this. But it shows us how hard it was for him to believe. The others had seen Jesus. But Thomas made it impossible for them to convince him. How can you talk to such a person?

When we compare Thomas with Mary, we see that they were very different. Thomas would not believe unless he sees and touches according to his specific criteria. On the other hand, Mary had seen and heard Jesus, but didn't recognize him. She couldn't trust herself, and Thomas couldn't trust others. Thomas is in trouble.

Look at verses 26-27.

[26] A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" [27] Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

After a week, Jesus appeared and stood among them. Again, the doors were locked. For the third time he said, "Peace be with you!" Then he addressed Thomas directly. Notice what Jesus said. He told Thomas to see and to touch exactly according to the criteria Thomas had given. "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side." 

Thomas must have been so shocked at what Jesus said, more than seeing Jesus. Jesus was not there when Thomas gave his conditions. Yet, Jesus knew it and addressed it exactly. Jesus knew him perfectly. Then he told Thomas, "Stop doubting and believe." What was preventing Thomas from believing was not what he could see or touch, but it was doubt. He didn't trust what others said about Jesus or what Jesus had said about himself. He only trusted himself and doubted everything else. Jesus said to him, "Stop doubting and believe." 

Look at verse 28. Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 

Now, he believed! Jesus also turned Thomas's situation around. Now, he didn't need to see or to touch Jesus' wounds anymore. Thomas was touched by how Jesus knew him perfectly. So Thomas said, "My Lord and my God." Jesus knew his real problem and spoke it to him and helped him. Jesus knew Thomas as his Lord and God. Thomas wanted to see Jesus but Jesus had seen Thomas and touched his heart. Thomas thought he knew himself and what he needed. But Jesus knew him better and helped him beyond what he could see.

Look at verse 29.

Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

How many think that they would be more blessed to see Jesus rather than just believe? Probably all of us here. But Jesus says that those who have not seen and yet have believed are blessed! It is because we trust in God who sees us and knows us perfectly. 

And by saying this, Jesus was also sending Thomas out. He spoke about others believing with seeing. Jesus was not going to appear to everybody who could believe. Thomas had to go out. It was the way for Thomas to show that he really believed and to experience blessing others.

The life in Jesus is blessed because it is to be seen and known perfectly by God. And God who sees and knows us helps us perfectly according to our needs.

Look at verses 30-31.

[30] Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. [31] But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Let's review:

There was an empty tomb, locked doors, and doubt. They each had their own problem and difficulty to believe. But he gave each of them very practical ways to believe and then experience this life in his name by sending them out with the message of this new life.

When we believe, we have life in his name. The life he gives in his name is his life. He shares everything about his life with us: 

1) belonging in the family of God

2) peace that overcomes our fear (of death)

3) blessing

Let's read verse 31 again.

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

We have written here for us just as much as we need. I pray that you would open your heart and believe and have life in his name.

2013 UBF Spring Bible Conference, Los Angeles