Our relationship with Jesus isn't a secret to be hoarded; it is a story to be heralded! The disciples were seated behind closed doors (sounds like a lot of churches). Jesus wanted them out, giving away what they had been given. Let's see how these early followers went from panic to peace, from perplexity to purpose, and from protection to power. It's a great journey. Are you up for it?
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Stuff to Consider:
Hebrew terms: שָׁלוֹם; shalom-peace; Mah Shlomcha - How is your peace? ר֫וּחַ; ruach- spirit, breath
Greek terms: πνεῦμα; pneuma - spirit, breath
Figures referenced: George Barna; Ruth Dillow; Layton Ford; Paul Raider; J.C. Ryle; Julius Mantey
Cross references: Psalm 103:10; Mark 2:7; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:37; John 14:27; Acts 1:1; Acts 1:8; Philippians 3:20-21
Turn in your Bibles please this morning to John's Gospel chapter 20. I'm glad you brought your Bible, it's always an important thing to do, then you'll know where to find things later on and you'll see what the text itself says. John chapter 20 beginning of verse 19, Then that same day at evening being the first day of the week when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst 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. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you. As the Father has sent me I also send you". 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, if you retain sins of any they are retained".
Let's pray together. Lord, we now enter into the truest part of our worship and that is the willingness to listen to what you might have to say to us through your word. We haven't come to hear from men. We have come to meet with God. We have not come to be entertained, we have come to be instructed, exhorted and helped. We believe in the power of Scripture we believe in the authority of Scripture over our lives that's why we always look to the book the Bible. And we pray that we would hear your voice. What I have to say isn't important, what your text clearly says is important. So help us Lord in Jesus' name, Amen.
Somebody wants to find an excuse as the skin of a reason stuffed with lie. That's a great definition the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie. There is a difference between a reason and an excuse. Police officers know the difference. When they pull people over and they say, you know, "You're doing 20 miles over the speed limit". You'd be amazed at what police officers hear. One guy said, "Officer I just bought a new steel toed shoes and the reason that I'm speeding as it must weigh more on the pedal", like his foot is not connected somehow to that boot. Another person claimed road rage, not his, but someone else's that he was trying quickly to get away from the person who had the road rage and so he was feeding. But the best was an officer pulled the lady over who said, here is her reason, "It's a shopping emergency". She wanted to get her Christmas shopping done by a certain time and she was racing to the store. So of course the police officer gave her a little gift called a traffic ticket.
The disciples of Jesus Christ were in a room behind closed even locked doors and they had a reason. They were afraid, says in our text - for fear of the Jews after all a door could swing open in any moment. The temple police could rush in what they had done to their Lord and Savior, they might just do to those followers who are behind closed doors, they might be next, they might be killed. So they had an excuse that they called a reason.
What is our excuse? What is the Christians excuse for staying behind closed doors of the church and not getting out and telling people about Jesus? Whatever it is I submit to you, it's an excuse and not a reason. George Barna is a researcher. He looks at the life of human beings, Americans and even churches and he has discovered that in almost every church that he has studied there is always only a small group of people that are passionate about reaching the lost. We have a small group that goes out witnessing. They learned about evangelism but in such a large church like Barna said, it's just a very small group that is passionate about reaching the lost.
And so Barna asked this question in his research. He says, "Have people in the church gotten the vision to reach unbelievers?" Then he answers it by saying this, "If not, that organization is not truly a church. It's just a group of people intrigued with religion." Well that is convicting to me and the last thing I want to become as a group of people that's intrigued with religion, intrigued with the fine points of this doctrine and that doctrine, when a world out there hasn't heard, really heard. Get this, this may surprise you, I hope it shocks you. One survey found that 89% of church members 89%, believed that the main purpose of the church is "To meet my needs and the needs of my family", 89%. That's the purpose of the church, to meet my needs and the needs of my family. Only 11% said the purpose of the church is to win the world to Christ. So that gives you a little bit of a scoreboard of what we're dealing with in terms of Christendom.
So I have a few questions and we'll find that their answer is really in the text. How do we move from fear to courage? How do we discover what God's intention is for us as individuals and corporately as a church? And perhaps even greater question that all of us can relate to is, "How do I do the work God has called me to do his work and not get burned out?" How do I keep doing this, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade without sort of losing the passion and getting burned out? The answer is found in our text and it's divided up, it's in your worship folder into three divisions. An expression of peace, number one, Jesus promises on verse 19 the experience of purpose, he gives them a commission and finally the enabling of power. Go back with me to verse 19 and look at this expression that Jesus gives to them. Then the same day at evening being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, "Peace be with you". You'll notice the word is shut, 'clio' in Greek. It means it can only be shut but it implies being locked and barred. So just get the picture, these brave courageous disciples behind barred locked doors. I don't blame them. If I was in their sandals, not knowing what we know we would probably feel the same way. Now where were they? What room were they locked-in? We don't know that, but my guess is the upper room where they had their Passover. That's the place where they were hanging out in Jerusalem. It's a place that was afforded to them, that's probably where they went. They went back to the upper room where they had Passover, closed the doors, barred them, locked them hoping nobody would come. So now, here's the question, if the doors are locked, are the doors locked, the doors shut, how did Jesus get in? Boy you would be amazed at the answers that liberal commentators who do not believe in the resurrection. Some say he climbed into the window, that's creative. Others say that he slid down the roof somehow. Others say he knocked on the door Jesus. Jesus just appeared and I know that because other versions of the Bible in transmitting this will say Jesus suddenly appeared. He suddenly appeared. Now, that doesn't surprise you if you believe in the resurrection, if Jesus can ascend through undisturbed grave clothes and get out of the tomb. What's a wall? No big deal. And the reason this is fun is because if you ever wondered what your body is going to act like in and be like once it's resurrected, you have a pretty good picture in studying the accounts of Jesus' resurrected body.
Jesus had a physical body, a real body, a solid body. He ate fish. He told people to touch and see that he had flesh and bones at the same time, he could move from one place to another almost instantaneously covering a great deal of ground. And number two, though he had a solid body, it seems that he could move in and out of places even with walls that this new resurrected body didn't have the limitations of time and space and nature that we now have. So I look at this as a preview of coming attractions for us. Okay, Jesus stood in their midst and said, "Peace to you". What was the first reaction of the disciples in that room?" And it's not joy, it becomes that and the text records that but, you need to sort of compare all of the accounts of the post-resurrection events together and you'll discover. Well, it's put in Matthew or in Luke chapter 24. It says Jesus showed up in the room and said peace unto you and this is what Luke records. The disciples were terrified, frightened and they thought they had seen a ghost. Now that's good theology isn't it? It can't be a resurrection; it has to be a ghost.
So their first response wasn't "ah" it was "AH", witch again, I do not fault them for. I'm not on some high pedestal saying that they should have said yes, of course we expected it. Let me give you a little bit of an insight into what the emotion might have been like for these disciples. Now here's a real-life experience. About 20 years ago at the height of operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War. A woman by the name of Ruth Dillow received a piece of communication from the Pentagon. A very sad statement that said her son Clayton stepped on a landmine in Kuwait and was killed, he exploded, and he's dead. She writes - I cannot begin to describe my grief and my shock. It was almost more than I could bear for three days I just wept. I expressed anger, loss and for three days people tried to comfort me but nothing worked. The loss was simply too great. After three days she got another message, a phone call, she picked up the phone, Mom it's me, it's Clayton. I'm alive. The message the Pentagon sent was a wrong message. Her son that she thought was dead for three days was now alive and she continues to write. I laughed, I cried, I felt like turning cartwheels because my son who I thought was dead was actually alive.
That's a little bit of what those followers of Christ must have felt for three days. They thought he was the dead. John witnessed the bloody mess. Now all of a sudden he's there going "Peace to you". There was a mixture, a churning of emotion. What I really love is the first word out of Jesus' mouth. What is it? Peace, Shalom in Hebrew. If go to Israel today if they say "Hi" to you "Shalom", when they say goodbye to you "Shalom", when they ask you how you are doing they ask "Ma sh'lom'cha" and you've got to go "cha" and that means literally how is your peace. What is the state of your peace to common greeting? I love that it's the first word out of Jesus' mouth. There is no rebuking Jesus'. There is no rebuff in his words. He doesn't say, "You bunch of sissies, scared, locked behind closed doors. First of all you ran away, you fled you forsook me Peter, you denied me, you bunch of flakes", none of that. Jesus says, "Peace to you". I love that.
Psalm 103 says, he has not dealt with us according to our sins nor punished us according to our inequities. Peace and you ought to know something. When Jesus said Peace it was not just Shalom, it was not just like, "Dude, peace". This was not a greeting, this is the real stuff. He is promising peace because he has died on the cross, risen from the dead, shows them the wounds in his hands not only to identify himself but say peace. Here's how you'll have peace with God, see these wounds; it's what I went through to ensure our relationship is possible between God in heaven and you on earth, peace.
It's the real stuff. It's what he promised back in John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled, need to let it be afraid, that's the peace because the living Savior has granted it to them. Now look in verse 20, 'Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.' So they go from fear to joy because the living Savior promises them the peace. God promises you peace Jesus offers you today peace and your fears cannot lock him out, so rather than cower in the corner and be immobilized and do nothing, Jesus would say to you peace, confidence.
One of the greatest reasons that people do not open their mouths and share the gospel with people is fear. That's the biggest one. It is probably the biggest one. The Billy Graham Association, of course Billy Graham has been preaching crusades for his whole life, his whole career. But he had an associate evangelist by the name of Leighton Ford who would travel with him an associate evangelist who would sometimes preach but also teach. Leighton Ford would sometimes teach these things called Christian Life and Witness Courses and before a crusade he's telling people how to do it. But he would always ask the question to his audience, "What's your biggest hindrance in witnessing the people?" And he would write down the findings. He took a survey basically of his audience. This is what he discovered, typically about 9% of his audience said, "The biggest hindrance to be witnessing is that I forget to do it. I'm just so busy I honestly forget to do it". It's a small percentage. That is people kind of go through their lives in the date, they sort of forget, "Oh yeah, I'm a Christian and oh yeah I have a task" but they're just so busy 9% said, "I just don't think about it". 12% said, "My life doesn't speak like it should speak therefore a lack that authority". 28% of the crowd typically will say, "I don't think I have the right information when I'm asked a question". But 51% said, "My greatest hindrance to sharing my faith is I'm just afraid of their reaction once I tell them. I'm afraid."
So the first is the expression of peace. Jesus promises them peace, confidence. Don't cower behind the doors in fear, Peace to you. Look at the very next phrase, the next division of the text. It's the experience of purpose, verse 21, Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you" here it is, "As the Father has sent me, I also send you". He didn't just offer them peace he now offers them purpose. "I have been sent on a mission from God. I'm sending you on a mission, as the Father sent me, so I send you". Now I want to dispel a myth. The myth is that evangelism has to be done by the professionals. Well if you're an evangelist or a pastor or you're a staff, those are the people that we pay to do it. So go do it. The problem with that theory is when Jesus said, "As the Father sent me so send I you". The people in that room, you know what? They weren't just apostles. Apostles were there, 10 of them were there. Judas, he's out of the picture. Thomas is absent when Jesus showed up the first time so he's not there. Other disciples just none of them were followers, two on the road to Emmaus that Jesus spoke to, Clopus was one of them, they were in that room according to Luke and there were the women who visited the tomb early that day, they were also in the room. So you've got all sorts of people who have followed Jesus in some capacity, not just official ones that Jesus says to, "As the Father has sent me so I send you".
More over they had failed the Lord, these apostles. They had failed the Lord; they had run away, they had fled. Peter denied. So here is Jesus turning to failed workers, saying "I'm giving you a do-over, a ministry do-over. I know you've blown it, you have not been great witnesses, you're kind of like behind closed doors, you're scared but, those days are over.
Peace to you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you. Every single believer is given in the wonderful mandate responsibility to bear the message to the world. Think of it this way, we take Christ's place in this world. We're called the body of Christ. Jesus was here, commissioned us, left and he gave the job to us. We represent him; we are then the continuation of his ministry. When Luke wrote volume 2 the book of Acts, this is how we began, he says the former treatise that I wrote to you oh Theophilus of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day he was taken up. In other words, Theophilus when I wrote to the Gospel of Luke I was writing to you about what Jesus started. Now I'm writing to you about what Jesus continues to do and to teach. How does he do and teach it? If he's not here, how does he do it? Through us, what he started he continues to the people.
I want you to think of something, this is no worthy, maybe it's a revelation for some of you. Did you know that never once in the Scripture Jesus ever tell unbelievers to go to church? He never stood out to the crowd and said, "Oh and by the way, you better go to church". He never tells them that, he never tells any worldly person to go to church, not once. But boy did he tell the church to go to the world. It's called the great commission, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. That's our wonderful mandate and responsibility.
One Christian leader noted that Christians are like a lot of people with colds sitting around; sneezing at one another and nobody gets it because we've already got it. That's just a great picture, a sad but great picture. We get together and we're in our little Christian cubicle on our Christian island, we sneeze at each other and nobody gets infected because we've already got it. The danger of even a healthy church is when the healthy church begins to turn inward all the activities become solely for the purpose of members. Like the 89%, which said the purpose of the church is to meet my needs and my family's needs. I call that a 'bless-me club'. The church is the only organization; it's the only outfit that exists for the benefit of nonbelievers. J. C. Ryle said, "The highest form of selfishness is for a man whose content to go to heaven alone". I would agree. You've got to be really selfish if you know the world is perishing and you truly believe heaven waits for you and you go, I just want to make sure I get there. I don't care about them. Now, I'm not trying to heat upon guilt. So, I want to attack it from a little different angle right now.
How do we do it, how do we do evangelism? And I'm not going to say, place your right hand on the left shoulder, look in the eyes, say the first name several times, act sincere, no that's not it. It's more fundamental than that. We should do it like Jesus did it. After all look again at the text, 'as the Father has sent me, so I send you' so what does that mean?
It means four things, number one, "Take the initiative". Did Jesus take the initiative? Did he wait in heaven and said, "I'm not coming down until somebody asks for me to come down". No, God sent his Son into the world, He took the initiative. We love him because he first loved us, he took the initiative. We can't wait around for people to come and ask us. We have to take the initiative. Number two, "Open your mouth", you have to open your mouth. I know, I know, I've heard it so you preach the Gospel and if necessary use words. I've heard that, it's a lame statement. Throw it away, here's why, you always have to use words. If you just live a wonderful life, people will go, "That guy is either really special or really weird". And I don't know which and I don't know why because he never says anything.
Use words, open your mouth. Jesus walked up to the woman at the well of Samaria and opened his mouth and engaged in a conversation that was very meaningful that changed her life. Jesus walked up to the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda and engaged in a conversation that eventually changed his life. Jesus walked up to the tree were Zacchaeus was hanging out, looking down and engaged in a conversation that changed his life. Take the initiative, open your mouth. Number three, "What you proclaim with your lips, practice with your life." Jesus' message was so compelling because Jesus Christ was so compelling. And Number four, "Brace yourself", brace yourself for opposition. When you take the initiative, when you open your mouth, when you live with your life that's not going to make people feel initially comfortable. So brace yourself for opposition. What do you mean opposition? Opposition, what they did to Jesus, they killed him. And the world, last time I checked still hates the message of the singularity and the narrowness of the Gospel. But that's what we are called to preached. That's what we are called to do.
Moreover look at verse 23. This is - really he says, "as the Father sent me, so I'm sending you" and now he explains what he wants us to do. Verse 23, if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained. So what does that mean, that we have power to walk around and go, "Uhm, you, I like you, you're forgiven, you not so much, you're not forgiven." Do we have that power or authority? No, not arbitrarily. So what does this mean? Well one Greek scholar named Julius Manti writes this. It should be translated, "If you forgive the sins of any, they have already been forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they have already been retained". So, this is what it means then, you and I do not have the power. We do not provide forgiveness. Remember the leader was right. He said, "Who can forgive sins but God only". That's true, nobody can. We can provide forgiveness but we can proclaim forgiveness. So that when a person says I recognize I'm in need of God and I give my life to Jesus. I just placed my trust in him and his finished work with all authority of heaven you can say to him or her, "Your sins are forgiven". You don't have to say, "Well, I hope they are. I don't know if they are. I don't want to be presumptuous or prideful and say they are. You have to die and wait and see if they are". No, you can say, "They are forgiven, done deal". But if a person says, "Well, I don't know if I'll believe that message, I'm really not going to trust in Christ" then with all the authority of heaven, you can say, "Your sins are not forgiven". You don't have to say, "Well, I don't want to judge you. Your sins are not forgiven".
So you and I bring the Gospel. We don't provide forgiveness but we proclaim forgiveness based upon what a person does with the message of Jesus dying, resurrecting all that he did here. So what do we have here? Well so far, we have the peace of the risen Christ that transforms fear to joy and then we have the privilege of taking the place of Jesus in this world as his ambassador. And then we get a ministry do-over if we failed many times before. And finally we have God's divine authority to pronounce forgiveness. But wait, there's more and that brings us to our third division, "The Enabling of Power".
Look at verse 22 where we'll close with this. And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit". I wish I would have been there. I'm imagining it, but I wish I would have been there. After he said this he went (breathing out) Receive the Holy Spirit. I read this and it reminded me of Genesis 2 where with the very first man, it says that God, the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Now something you ought to know. Both in Hebrew and in Greek, this is written in Greek, but both in Hebrew and in Greek, the word for breath is the same word as spirit, same word, "ruach" in Hebrew, "pneuma" in Greek.
Jesus breathed and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit". There is a correlation. The breath of God in the first creation gave physical life. The breath Jesus to the second creation gives spiritual life. When Jesus breathed and said "Receive the Holy Spirit", you know what this is? A promise, a pledge that they are going to be baptized filled with the Spirit and enabled to do what he has called them to do in this world. That's what it is. He's going to empower them for ministry.
In Acts chapter one, just a few days after this, Jesus said, "Wait for the promise of the Father which you have heard from me - For John truly baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outermost parts of the earth. It's one thing to have peace, one thing to have joy, it's one thing to have privilege but you know what else I need? Power, I don't know about you but my battery goes down pretty quickly, spiritually speaking. If I'm not plugged in to a power source outside of me, I will get burned out. And here's the real secret of the Christian life lived tomorrow in a week from now, in a month from now, and a year from now, and a decade from now or when you're 99 ore 102 years old, whatever age you'll make it to, how do you consistently do it? You can't, it's impossible unless you are plugged in to the power source of the Holy Spirit.
I was reading an article in Outside Magazine that talked about outlandish ideas that people had. I was intrigued by this, because I want you to listen to two of these crazy ideas. There was a group in Tokyo Japan, a tent manufacturing corporation that wants to build a synthetic mountain range. Okay, is that weird? They want to build a synthetic mountain range out of Teflon coated fiberglass 2000 feet tall, 6 miles long in Western Australia. They believe it's going to create updrafts and produce rain. That's a big idea, that's an outlandish idea but I like that, big thinking. Another group in Saudi Arabia, under Prince Faisal wants to lasso and tow a 3 million ton iceberg from Antarctica to Saudi Arabia using the melt; the water that they claim will produce a yield of water 22 times greater than the Nile River to Egypt and will make the desert blossom. Huge, outlandish thinking, no less outlandish is the thinking that Jesus is going to take - A few fishermen from Galilee and spread the Gospel through out the world. Really, he's going to use them to do it?
Yup, that's his plan. It's an impossible plan unless they have the resource, and the resource is the Holy Spirit. That's why Jesus said to his disciples, do you remember this? It's to your advantage that I go away. If I don't go away, I can't send the helper. As if to say, what I am calling you to do, this task is so outlandish you need help, you need power, and that power is the Holy Spirit. That's his plan and you know what it worked. You and I are sitting here as living proof that the plan worked. Those disciples took the message, passed it down, that generation passed it down, that generation passed it down and here we are as proof that that plan worked, what is provided for them He'll provide for you.
Listen to this, this is just a story. It's a legend, that when Jesus ascended into heaven he was met by the angel Gabriel and the Angel Gabriel said to Jesus, "Well, how did it go?" and Jesus said, "It was great, excellent". Gabriel said, "Did they make you king? Nope, Jesus answered. Did they crown you as Prince? Nope. Did they worship you? Jesus said, "Most did not". What did they do, what happened? "They crucified me". And then they crowned you as king and worshipped you, right? Nope. So what happened? Jesus said, "I left my followers to finish the task". And Gabriel said, "Really, so what if they fail? What's your other plan?" Jesus said, "I have no other plan".
You know what; you and I were God's plan to reach the world. And you know what? He has no other plan. So he promises to them his peace, the resurrected Lord says, "Peace to you, confidence for you that turns their fear into joy. He gives him an impossible task but he gives them the power to do it. The power outside of themselves and all the authority of heaven to do it, and now, they are ready to immerge from closed doors and hit the open road, are you?Let's pray for it. Lord, we don't want to be part of that 89% that believes that the church is solely for our comfort. We believe you do comfort to the church, you comfort the afflicted but sometimes the comfortable need to be afflicted. And I pray that if we have grown too comfortable and it's all about me 'bless-me club' of Osuna Road that we would think of the world out there. And when we think, but it is uncomfortable for me to take the initiative and open my mouth, I pray that we would think of the eternal discomfort of a person in hell without Christ and we would be motivated out of love. Speak peace to us Lord. We, like your own apostles have failed and yet today you speak your peace to us and give us a do-over, and you promised us your power and I pray it would be enough to motivate us, to get out from behind closed doors and to hit the open road truth in Jesus' name, Amen.