Today, of course, is Mother’s Day. A celebration day that started more than a century ago in a little church in Grafton, West Virginia. The founder, Ann Reeves Jarvis, wanted people to stop for a moment and express their thanks for the sacrifices of their mothers. Miss Jarvis was successful in getting other church communities to adopt this annual celebration of mothers and she was even instrumental in getting Mother’s Day recognized on the nation’s calendar. But, by 1920, Miss Jarvis had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards, and candies. Miss Jarvis launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Miss Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see that Mother’s Day was removed from the American calendar.
Miss Jarvis wanted Mother’s Day to be about personal testimonies of what Mom had meant and what Mom’s sacrifices meant to them. Instead, powerful people, persuasive people, changed Miss Jarvis’ desires and found a way to profit from the day by substituting a new purpose and rationale for the day. Personal testimony was not needed. They had something much easier to offer than personal testimony. They offered candies, flowers, and cards instead.
Without reaching too far, we can see that Miss Jarvis and our New Testament author, the Apostle John, shared something in common. Miss Jarvis and John wanted people to give their personal testimonies. Miss Jarvis wanted testimonies about the sacrifices of Mom and what that meant. The Apostle John wanted testimonies about the sacrifice of Jesus and what that meant. Both the Apostle John and Miss Reeves spoke out against powerful people, persuasive people, who were offering an alternative to personal testimony.
Today, Mother’s Day, intended to be about personal testimony, we are finishing up our look at personal testimony through the Holy Spirit inspired testimony of Jesus’ Apostle John through John’s letter we call 1 John and how what John said impacts our personal testimony. This week we will finish our look at John’s letter with the fifth chapter.
As we begin to look at the final chapter in John’s letter, there are a few things we ought to keep in mind. John began his journey to know God first by becoming a disciple of John the Baptist. John spent time with John the Baptist along the banks of the river Jordan listening to the message to “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” John witnessed John the Baptist baptize those seeking renewal in faith and John witnessed John the Baptist rail against the hyper religious and hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees.
Then, one day, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming along the banks of the river. John was standing next to him along with another young man named Andrew. Seeing Jesus, John the Baptist turned to his disciples, John and Andrew, and said of Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). “32 Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One’” (John 1:32-34). For John, this was the first testimony he had ever heard about Jesus and that testimony changed John’s life forever.
For upon hearing John the Baptist’s testimony, Andrew and John, our letter writer, followed Jesus and stayed with Jesus. John remembered that moment in which he came to know Jesus himself, writing in his own gospel account that, “It was about four in the afternoon” (John 1:39b) when he met Jesus and his life changed. At that precise moment, four in the afternoon, John, our letter writer gave his life to Jesus and began developing and sharing his personal testimony. Scholars believe that the letter we call 1 John was written near the end of John’s life, probably in 95 AD. Throughout his life, John never wavered in his understanding of who Jesus was, is, and will be. John heard John the Baptist say Jesus was “God’s Chosen One” who had come to save the world. We heard earlier testimony in our New Testament reading, “5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). This is testimony came from John, the man upon whom we have been learning from and speaking about these last five weeks. John’s testimony was given to help Christians avoid the words of the antichrists that were advocating a way other than Jesus is the Christ. We too need John’s words because the antichrists are alive and well even today, often in Christian Churches, offering an alternative view of heaven, hell, salvation, sin, life, death, love, the Holy Spirit, and grace than was revealed in and through the person of Jesus the Christ.
John’s testimony of hope was that “5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:5-6a). John’s words are not just his testimony about Jesus, but these words are Jesus’ testimony about himself. Jesus once said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). I think Jesus’ testimony, echoed by John, is important because there can become a misunderstanding that once someone accepts Christ then they will no longer experience trouble, heartache, illness, discouragement, in this world. Jesus was very clear on this point. We will experience trouble in this world. In fact, of Jesus’ apostles who heard him speak these words, only John died from natural causes. All the other were executed in various ways in various parts of the world. But despite the trouble, the apostles’ understood Jesus was with them and that because Jesus had overcome the world, they would be with Jesus again, face-to-face, after their death. The presence of trouble to the apostles was not a sign that Jesus had abandoned them. Trouble was simply a sign that they were alive and living in this world.
Now the truth that Jesus would overcome the world had been foretold long before Jesus ever uttered those words. The truth that Jesus would overcome the world was given in our Old Testament reading today from the Book of Genesis. God said to the serpent, the physical representation of Satan, who is the evil of this world, “I will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman (Eve), and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). God’s words were a foreshadowing that there would come a battle between Satan of this world and the offspring of the first mother, Eve. And while wounds would be inflicted upon the offspring of Eve, the battle would end in the destruction of Satan. Jesus, and offspring of his mother, Mary, and of the Holy Spirit, would indeed suffer wounds and just as assuredly in his resurrection Jesus would and will demonstrate that he has overcome the world and Satan himself.
John made it clear that Jesus was the Son of God as a human understood trouble in the world. John wrote, “6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement” (1 John 5:6-8). Here, John refers to testimony of three concerning Jesus.
First, the testimony of the water speaks of Jesus. We might think of this as the testimony of John the Baptist that we read earlier that Jesus was recognized at the beginning of his public ministry when the John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the waters of the Jordan and saw heaven open, and the Spirit of God fall and land upon Jesus.
Second, the testimony of the blood speaks of Jesus. We might think of this as the testimony from the cross that Jesus bled and died like anyone else would do upon the cross. But the death of Jesus, the loss of his blood, would be overcome on Easter morning to give testimony, yes that Jesus died but more so that Jesus now lived having overcome the world.
Third, the Spirit testifies and the Spirit, the Spirit of God is the truth. In the previous chapter, Chapter 4, John spoke about the Spirit of God. John wrote, “1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3). The ongoing testimony of the Spirit of God would be found in those who understand and state clearly and without reservation Jesus is the Christ. This is true testimony. Those who say Jesus is not the Christ are antichrists and none of their testimony is of the truth.
The Spirit, the water, and the blood were all in agreement, Jesus is the Christ, “11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).
Eternal life is life in God’s Son. What does that mean to us? Fourteen times in the Gospel of John, John records Jesus speak of eternal life. Jesus said,
- 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. (John 3:14-15)
- 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
- “24Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
We could go on, but I think we get the point that Jesus was sent to give us a life into eternity free of judgement and sin. Jesus’ words were revolutionary for their time. Among the Jews, the Sadducees believed in annihilationism. Namely, that you had to grab for all you could and seek God’s blessing in this life because once you died, all life ceased. You were annihilated. The Pharisees believed in life after death but many believed in Sheol, a shadowy place of life among the shadows, totally absent the presence of God. Jesus comes along and says, “Friends, you have it all wrong. There is a heaven and an eternal life in God’s presence and there is a hell. The latter is hell because God is not present.” Jesus said, “I have come to give you that eternal life with God.” Hearing Jesus’ words, Peter said to Jesus, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Knowing that God has given us life and knowing that God through Jesus gave us provision for eternal life changes everything about how we spend that life in between. We can live lives in gratitude knowing that while we may experience difficulties and sad events in this world, we have an identity and place coming from outside the world. This knowledge of assurance gives us joy, peace, hope, and purpose even amid the troubles of this world. I cannot image the despair I would feel if I had no hope. That would be hell on earth.
How then shall we finish up stating our testimony of Jesus that we have compiled from our short review of 1 John. If we bring forward last week’s statement, we might change it now to read:
“I am a Christian, meaning I have received God’s love through God’s Son, Jesus. I know God is love because God sent Jesus to die on the cross to take away all my sins. When I accepted Jesus, I became God’s own child giving my life joy, hope, and purpose through all circumstances now and a guarantee of eternal life with God. God’s love for me becomes complete when I live loving my brothers and sister like Jesus did, offering comfort and compassion. Sometimes I do not love like Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus forgives me and shows me how to reconcile with others. I know without Jesus; I would be lost now and forever.”
Let’s be willing to share our testimony. If you are still able to do so, share some words of testimony with your mom today. And then let’s all of us share our testimony with others about the God who is love, the Son who gives life, and the Spirit that leads us in the truth that “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11b). Amen and Amen.