Peninsula Community Church
The Risen Christ – His Peace, Power, and Purpose
April 5, 2015
John 20:19-23 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
I am sure that most of you have know the Easter story but let me give you a bit of an overview. You will remember that just a week before the resurrection Jesus had entered the city of Jerusalem with people proclaiming His kingship (John 12:13). You will also remember that what .? ..had begun as a joyful, celebrated moment in time quickly turned to a riotous, chaotic and deadly event (John 19). From that triumphal entry on Sunday until Thursday of that week, Jesus met with his disciples and gave them final instructions. He encouraged them to not be troubled by what was about to happen. He wanted them to know that He would live again (John 13-17).
By Thursday of that week, the Jewish leaders had been able to trump up charges and were able to rouse the crowd to cry for Christ’s crucifixion. For the Jewish leaders, they were jealous of the notoriety that Jesus was receiving and they were afraid that He was going to unseat them from their positions of power. Their response was to trump up charges against Jesus and to excite the crowd to press the Roman officials to have Jesus arrested. It is interesting to note that the Roman officials had a better sense of what was going on than the religious leaders of the day. Pilate, the chief magistrate of Jerusalem for the Roman empire, had to confess that he found no fault in Jesus (John 19:11). And yet he succumbed to the pressure of the crowd to arrest Jesus and then have him ultimately crucified.
While the crowds turned against Christ, the disciples promised their loyalty and that they would be with Him until the end. The loudest of all was Peter who defiantly stated that there was no way that he would ever deny Christ (John 13:36-38) and yet within hours of that defiant statement he had denied Christ not once but three times (John 18). He had turned his back on Christ. After his death, Jesus was buried but the disciples were not found by Jesus’ side or at His tomb, they were found hiding behind locked doors. They were trying to put space between them and the people who had killed the one they loved and they had promised to follow.
In the story before us today, we see Jesus showing up where the disciples least expected it. He showed up right where they were. In this story, we find three things that Jesus did for this band of rejected and fearful followers. The risen Lord showed up to give them peace. He showed up to give them power. And He showed up to give them a purpose and a reason to live.
Lets look at the first of these. Jesus came to give them peace. As noted before rather than being out front in support of Jesus, the disciples were behind a locked door because they were afraid. Fear for them was a very real emotion. As we know, fear can be expressed in many different ways. Fear grabs us and in so doing it strangles our hopes and dreams and it can rob us of peace.
What did they fear? For one they feared retaliation by the Jewish leaders which would result in their death. They were afraid that they would be identified as one of the followers of Jesus. Now before you judge the disciples too harshly remember that we can all fall into this trap. For us personally, we can be afraid that people will know us for who we are. We hide our true self from others and we hope no one finds out who we really are. For some of us, we live in turmoil because we are afraid that people will discover the real us because we know people will not like who we are. So we hide behind a wall and we put on masks to hide our real identity.
Secondly, they were afraid of what the future held for them. Without Jesus, could they continue in the quest they had been called to? Could they continue to hold onto the truth that He preached? How could they be effective in their mission at this point? Their leader was dead and so was their vision for the future. Before we judge the disciples too harshly, may I remind you that we too can be afraid of what the future holds. This is especially true when we believe our security has been snatched from us. Because of fear, we can make wrong choices about the future. Because of fear, we will either play it safe and lock ourselves away or we will take unwise risks that ultimately sidetrack us from accomplishing what we are suppose to do.
But notice what Jesus did. While they were sequestered behind locked doors, Jesus showed up and stood among them. He proclaimed these words not once but twice. “Peace be with you.” Think about this for a moment, Jesus was crucified, laid in a borrowed tomb, and then rose on the third day. Instead of going to the Jewish leaders or the Roman governors, he went to His disciples. Their spiritual and emotional health was more important to Him than His proving who He was in that moment. Jesus was not about exacting revenge or about proving a point, He was about extending love and grace and He was about giving life to those whose life had been sucked from them by the week’s events.
We should note that Jesus suddenly appeared. He just showed up. He suddenly showed up to make a difference in them. In that action, Jesus communicated so much, not in words as much as by His actions. He was coming to them at the point of their fear. He was communicating that I am not going to wait for you to get your act together. He was communicating that He was not going to wait for them to have enough faith to overcome their fear. He came to help them and to restore their faith and to assist them in overcoming their fear.
And here is the truth in this. The risen, living Jesus is still doing this, today. He comes when we cry out to him in our fear. He helps us. For me I have called to him a thousand of times: “Jesus please help me.” And he has come near with the promise: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He will do this for you too, if you receive him into your life for who He really is.
Secondly, Jesus came to give them power. In this passage, Jesus makes a profound statement. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld. By way of receiving the Holy Spirit, we have the power to release others from the wrongs they have perpetrated against us. Here is what Jesus is communicating to us, if you have someone in your life that has wronged you and you continue to hold that over them, the effect on you will be one that is negative and it’s effects are strong.
You see, we are not responsible for how others respond to forgiveness but we must be in a place where we release others who have wronged us. I believe that in essence Jesus was calling on them to release those who had perpetrated the acts of the last few days. The disciples needed to do this for themselves. Forgiveness is the most powerful action that we can take. By not forgiving others, we become obsessed with revenge and getting even. It impairs our ability to look forward to what is ahead because we are locked into the past with all of its hurts and the pain that comes from other’s sin and actions against us. Jesus was saying the locked door of the room was nothing to be compared to the locked door of their heart. The key to unlock the door was forgiveness. This was the power that Jesus want them to have. It was the power of a freed heart that could honestly seek love and not anger.
Thirdly, Jesus came to give them purpose. Jesus’ word to them was that He was sending them out with a purpose. At this stage, the point is that He did not give them a specific plan or destination, but that would come later. Why was this important? Too often when people fail us or their actions are less than admirable we tend to write them off. Jesus did not do that. He came to them. He loved them in spite of their actions or their deeds. He let them know they were still valuable to Him and to the Kingdom of God. You see one of the lies that has been communicated to us way too often is that we have committed too great a sin. We have acted so badly that we will never be forgiven or that we can be used of God. Or, we may feel we have rejected Christ and turned our back on Him too often. Let me clear that up for you. Are you ready? Listen to me. There is nothing that you can do that will turn Jesus off or cause Him to reject you. There is no sin too great that He cannot forgive. There is no act too great that He will not restore you. He has a plan for you. He has a purpose for you. Jeremiah said it best. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
So what does this mean to us this morning? It means that Jesus will come to us to set us free from our personal fears. Today, He is whispering those words if we will only listening. Today, He is holding out His hands to you as the crucified, risen Lord. Those hands want to hold you and let you know it will be ok. Secondly, He wants to empower you through the power of forgiveness that releases you from those that deserve our outrage and our revenges
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom