The Gift of Peace
John 20:19-29, Remsen Bible Fellowship, 07-19-2020
Can you think of the time in life when you were most afraid? I can think of several instances when I was very nervous about how a conversation or a phone call would go. Or there are those times of fearing physical peril, which for me have been mercifully brief-like wondering if my car is going to slide off the road into the ditch on one side or the lake on the other.
Take whatever pit-of-the stomach fear you remember, and add to that a heaping helping of confusion, and that’s where the disciples are in our text this morning. Remember that Mary had gone and told Peter and John about the empty tomb, which they then verified. Mary then meets Jesus in the garden. We know from Matthew 28 and Luke 24 that Jesus then meets with the other women who had come to the tomb, and then he meets Peter (a meeting which is recorded as having happened, never detailed for us), and then with two men walking on the road to Emmaus. All of these witnesses have reported back to the group, and they are huddled in one room, possibly the upper room where the last supper was held.
Excitement, confusion. Questioning for the 9 disciples present who still haven’t seen Jesus: could it really be so? Doubt and fear have a pretty strong toe-hold in this locked room.
Peace for troubled hearts, v19-20
We need to notice again what John draws our attention to, the first day of the week-he doesn’t need that for a time marker (see v1, cf that same day)
He is drawing our attention back to the day so that we understand the shift
Why are these doors locked? For fear of the Jews
All this talk of a resurrection is great, hopefully he is alive: but you know who we do know about? The religious leaders, the Sanhedrin. They’re real
Into this fearful group, Jesus shows up
Imagine yourself, sitting in this room talking over what’s going on, and then, Whoa! Where did Jesus come from? Is that Jesus? Is it a ghost?
Thoughts racing, a million miles an hour, how did he get in here?
How did Jesus get in? He wanted to. 1 Corinthians 15, our bodies are the same but not
It’s a real body (eats, cooks, carries the scars), but a glorified body.
He’s obviously capable of passing through walls and simply appearing where he wants to appear
Do you ever feel like you’re in a place of fear so wrapped up tight, insulated, that no one can see inside it? Do you ever think that you’re in a place of sin so dark that God wouldn’t ever look inside and see you there? Do you think there is something you can or should hide from Jesus?
He’ll walk straight through that door. Psalm 139:7-8
They didn’t think they were locking Jesus out, because they never expected him to show. But locks don’t hinder Jesus
Jesus comes with a word for these men, a word that is going to govern the rest of the sermon; Peace be with you
This has to be the opposite of what they felt when first seeing him
But as the reality of who he is settles in (seeing his scars, v20), they are overcome with gladness
Jesus steps in to their troubled circumstance and brings gladness
What is meant by the word peace? Eirene, in the Old Testament, shalom
More than just the ceasing of conflict, but a state of positive well-being, of order, of being right with God
Isaiah 32:16-18, Psalm 85:6-8
Because Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, all those who trust in him can live: by trusting in Christ we are justified and Paul says in Romans 5:1 that because of Justification we have peace with God
If you have peace with God, if Jesus, the Prince of peace, says peace be with you, do the storms of life, the Sanhedrin and their temple police, a state government and their singing ban, do these really hold a candle to this reality?
The risen Christ speaks peace to you if you will believe that his death-and resurrection life-are for you.
Jesus has peace for your troubled heart. John 16:33
Peace-driven mission, v21
Having peace with God, and peace from God, is foundational. If we don’t get that part down first, everything else we talk about will simply be an attempt at works righteousness, pursuing peace by our good deeds, which is of no use (Ephesians 2:8-9)
But that free gift of salvation save us to something: namely, good works (Eph 2:10)
How does that play out in our text? In v21, Jesus repeats the promise of peace
He then gives them a mission
A mission, a work, that flows from peace with God. Not as a means of peace with God (17:17-18)
What is that work? Carrying out the mission of Jesus. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.
This gets wrested from its context and used to say that by this Jesus means healing the sick and speaking truth to power, etc. But in context the mission of Jesus is pretty clear: he came to save sinners.
Doing earthly good is good. We should do it. But the Mission with a capital M is the mission of reconciliation and eternal life.
1:29, 3:16-17, 10:14-18, 11:25-26
This is important for us to see. We live in a world governed by the desire to be right all of the time, to win the argument, to “own” the other side.
Even as the church, it can be easy to view ourselves as a small army, outnumbered and fighting against the enemy.
But is militant language the right analogy for our mission? 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
We are ambassadors of the great king, bringing his message of peace to the rebellious world
Terms: unconditional surrender and trust
Reward: peace with the king. But not a simple cessation of hostilities, adoption into his family and welcome to his table (Ephesians 2:14)
Jesus comes and offers us his peace. And for all those who have received that peace, he sends us back into the world (not alone, but with one another!) as ambassadors to the world. The church is less an army outpost, and more like an embassy.
Peace in a Person, v22-23
After Jesus gives them this peace-driven mission, he lets them know where the power comes from.
Do you realize that if you attempt to find peace with God, or to do good works for God, on your own power you will always be left disappointed, hurt, and confused?
He breathes on them and says, receive the Holy Spirit
How do we square this with Luke 24:49 wait, or the falling of the Spirit in Acts 2?
Jesus is speaking in the present tense of an imminent arrival (not unusual in John, see 17:4)
We can fairly surmise that the Spirit isn’t here, because when he falls in Acts the disciples are given incredible boldness-down here in v26 they’re apparently still afraid
Jesus making a symbolic action (breathing), and tying in their minds this peace from God to the presence of the Holy Spirit (14:25-27; cf 3:8 - what is the evidence of the Spirit?)
What do we make of v23? The Roman Catholic church looks at the text and finds justification for the teaching that Priests can absolve (or refuse to absolve) sin. Is Jesus giving actual sin-forgiving or condemnation setting power to religious authorities, or anyone?
We need to keep context in mind. Pulled from context, I see how you get there. But look at v21. Then v29-31. The context of what Jesus is doing here is telling us that this forgiving and withholding of forgiveness is tied to the proclamation of the Gospel.
As the gospel is preached, individuals must respond. If they respond with faith and trust in Christ, we have the full authority of Christ to proclaim their sins forgiven. And if they respond otherwise, we have the same authority to warn: warn that without Christ there is no forgiveness. 3:36
Both of these things, the gift of peace with God and the ministry of proclaiming Christ to the world, are only possible through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Peace for the skeptic, v24-28
We read in v24 that one of the disciples was absent, Thomas
We don’t know why, we just know he was gone: and that he was skeptical about what the others said
It’s hard to know exactly how to feel about Thomas. In a sense he really is no more doubting than the others to whom Jesus had appeared the week before; the only difference is that he wasn’t there to see the nail scars and javelin piercing (v25, cf v20). So his doubt is prolonged by a week
Should he have put together what they were saying with the Scriptures with the words of Jesus and trusted? Almost certainly. But what we shouldn’t say is that he was wrong to want evidence. The Bible never commends so called, “blind faith”
Does Jesus leave Thomas in limbo? No, v26 he does the same through the door routine as before: and comes with the same greeting, Peace be with you.
Do you think Jesus wants them to get an idea through their heads? They are still cowering behind the closed door, and he wants them to have peace
But then Jesus engages Thomas in particular: look at the evidence, my friend.
What is Jesus’ instruction to him? Don’t disbelieve, but believe. That could be translated, don’t be an unbeliever, instead be a believer. It’s as if Jesus comes and says, Thomas, evidence is good. But now that you have it, you need to receive it. You need to trust me.
Note Thomas’ response: My Lord and My God!
For someone we label doubting Thomas, this is a remarkable confession. Mary sees the risen Christ and calls him teacher. But Thomas has had some time to stew on this, to think back over the past three years. To consider the Scriptures. And he comes to this moment knowing, if Jesus is alive, it’s not like Lazarus. This isn’t a rising to die again. This is the Son of God, my Lord, my Prince and King. And when he sees Jesus, he cries out in obvious worship and joy.
Do you have doubts about Jesus? Consider the evidence. He doesn’t ask you to come blindly accepting things just because I or someone else said them. He wants you to look squarely at the facts and come to the right conclusion: He’s alive. And he’s the Lord. He is God.
The Blessing of Peace with God, v29
Finally, we come to the blessing of peace with God.
Many translations bring Jesus’ first sentence in v29 across as a rhetorical question, have you believed because you’ve seen? But I think the NIV gets it right to translate this as a simple statement of fact. Because you have seen, you have believed.
Jesus is not rebuking him for belief upon sight: a major part of the sermon next week will be about why we need(!) the eyewitnesses.
But the same blessings that come with belief, the presence of the Spirit bringing peace and empowering mission: these are available to all followers of Jesus.
You’re not less for knowing Jesus through the word. He’s just as present with you. He’s just as active through you. He’s come to be your peace.