Are you engaging, meeting people, and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ? Or are you hiding behind closed doors, demoralized and retreating in fear?
~ View copy of sermon – (John 20: 19 – 31)
Sermon Title: I'LL BE A WITNESS FOR THE LORD / John 20: 19 – 31
Sunday, April 28, 2019
John 20: 19 – 31
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
I’LL BE A WITNESS FOR THE LORD
“On the evening of the 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.” – John 20: 19
On the First Easter, Christ appeared to several individuals and groups. He appeared under all circumstances. Around 7:00 AM. He appeared to Magdalene just outside the tomb. Soon after, He appeared to a group of women near the tomb. In the late evening, He appeared to disciples on the Emmaus Road. After 4:00 PM. Jesus appeared to Peter alone. But for us, as we consider the narrative before us, the most significant appearance was to the eleven disciples and other believers in the evening, as they were hiding in fear behind closed doors. It was probably in the same upper room where Jesus had last taught them and instituted the Last Supper.
Verse 20 of our text says, “The disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.” Jesus had risen from the dead. He was now the conqueror of hell, death, and the grave. He rose with all power in His hands having defeated the devil. In the words of Revelation chapter 1: 18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of death.”
And yet on the day of His resurrection here are the disciples gathered in fear. As we read the various accounts of Jesus’ appearances to His disciples following His resurrection there are many reasons for their fears. The first disciples were cowering behind closed doors because they feared what the Jews and the Romans had done co-conspirators in the crucifixion of Jesus, they would also do to them.
They feared retaliation. They feared being seen as the disciples of Jesus. They did not want the world to see them in their confusion and weakness. This unfortunately, could be a truer picture of the church in our day, than we might be willing to admit. Christ’s church today is often hiding behind its own closed doors, demoralized and retreating. Rather than going out, engaging and meeting people where they are with the Good News of Jesus Christ, we may find it safer to expect them to come to us. The paradigm use to be ‘just build it and they will come’. But the paradigm has shifted. It has gone back to “Go into all the world.”
Confronted with a hostile media, and a society wherein Jesus Christ and Christian values are no longer at the center of our National value system, ethics and spirituality. Confronted with the worship of materialism and a largely unbelieving academic world, and living in a western culture were people worship at the altar of all kinds of gods, which is religious syncretism. And the church often times is found hiding behind closed doors rather than standing up for Jesus in the religious, social, political and national arenas of life and so is deemed irrelevant by many.
On Thursday I was in my office proofing a paper written by Taylor, one of my nieces in college studying to obtain her Bachelor’s degree. She wants to go into medicine. She’s taking a philosophy class and the assignment is to write a paper proving the ‘Reality of God’, without using any biblical references. And so, she is using creation, and the human body as her examples that there is God, because none of this came into being by accident.
One of her biggest challenges is not the assignment but that her professor has already gone on record to the class that he is an atheist. So, Uncle’s advice to her is don’t allow him to intimidate you on what you write because he gives the grades, but give your witness to Jesus through your paper. And maybe the brother will have a conversion experience.
Culture has been a major factor in the shifting of values and beliefs. And because of this, there has been a shift in the mindset of what people choose to believe. The way we think about God, Jesus Christ, the Church and the bible has shifted from generation to generation. We are literally living in a cultural time period in which as it is recorded in the book of Judges (17:6), when because people did not know the Lord or what He had done for them, “Everyone did what was right in their own sight.” A time when God was not recognized as the ultimate authority, and His word, the Scriptures of the OT, were disregarded.
Our societies have become wiser by the standards of the world and yet spiritually weaker by the guidance of Holy Scripture. We have the material things but lack faith in God. We have all the latest technology to link us around the world in a millisecond but lack the God given gift to love and communicate with each other that God is Love and to love one another as we do ourselves!
In striking contrast to the disciples being hidden away in fear, Jesus came to them to dispel their fears and encourage their faith. No closed doors could serve as a barricade against the Risen Christ. No closed doors could keep out His presence. He suddenly came and stood in their midst. The last time they had seen Jesus “in their midst” He was on the cross between two criminals dying for the sins of the world! But nothing about His arrest, trials, humiliation, or cross could keep Jesus from being ‘in the midst’ of them on this evening of the Resurrection.
Jesus comes to stand in their midst to give them hope and encouragement. Like these disciples, Jesus comes to bless us with His peace. He came to encourage their hearts in order that they might go forward with His mission, as well as live their lives without fear. It’s’ an awful experience for one to live in fear and anxiety. Of what might happen, of what could happen, but may never happen. Every experience in life is under the watchful eyes of God. So, Jesus came to them with the greeting and blessing “Peace be with you.”
This salutation of Peace is not a wish, but it is in fact a command. Because of His finished work, a state of peace does now exist between God and us.
He promised them in John 14:27,” Peace, I leave with you. My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, do I give to you, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The peace that Jesus gives is deep lasting peace. Unlike worldly peace which is usually based upon feelings of happiness, and a security, the peace that Jesus gives is confident assurance in any circumstance that we are in the power of His presence. The bible declares “He is our Peace.” More than Peace being something that Jesus gives, Peace is who He is. With Christ’s peace, we have no need to fear the present or the future.
Verses 19 – 23 is the Lord’s Commissioning Service of His Disciples. The first act in their commissioning is that He Gives them His Peace. “Peace Be With You.” We cannot go forth into the world with a holy boldness to proclaim that Jesus lives if we are afraid of how we will be received, or fearful of being rejected or misunderstood. We cannot go forward with the message of the Good News if we have some anxieties of those whom God would send us to. His peace is designed to minister to us personally, but it is also designed to strengthen us to go where Jesus would go. To those who need Him regardless of their station in life.
And notice that after Jesus stood in their midst giving His once fearful disciples the blessing of His peace, He then gives them in John’s version His Great Commission. After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you! And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The second act of their commissioning in John’s Gospel is that they are given the Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
As Jesus acted in the power of the Spirit we have also been anointed to act in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do not live and act in our strength but it is in His strength. So, as we live out the Great Commission, we are able to do this effectively and with power, only as we depend on Him, through the Holy Spirit.
He came to be the Light of this world, so are encouraged to Let our lights so shine before men and women, boys and girls that they might see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. As He came to seek and to save the lost, so are we. As He came to preach the gospel to the poor; and to heal the brokenhearted, the recovery of sight to those who are blinded by sin, so are we! As He was talked about and often misunderstood, so will we be. And we are able to accomplish His Mission only because we have received the Holy Spirit.
It is the Spirit that gives life. We are not passive in the process of doing God’s work. We are to actively receive the power of the Spirit. The water from His well is always flowing, but we must stretch out our cups to receive the water. The wind of the Spirit blows always, but we must hoist our own sails to catch the wind. The fire of the Spirit burns with passion and power, but we must harness it as a fire shut up in our bones.
Finally, notice that in verse 23 Jesus gave His disciples the authority to act in His name, concerning the forgiveness of sins. “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” The disciples did not actually have the power to forgive sins, only God can forgive sins, but we have been given the privilege of telling others their sins can be forgiven in Jesus Christ. We can tell others that “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” We can witness of how the Lord continually forgives us as we go to Him in repentance and confession.
We can tell the world that Jesus died to make us holy, and He died to set us free. We have the opportunity to bring people to the kingdom of heaven by presenting to them the message of salvation, that our God is a loving God. Our God is a forgiving God. “Thou our sins be as scarlet God can wash them white as snow through the blood atoning sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.” We can tell the world the God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. Because He lives, we have been given the gift of His Peace, the power of His indwelling Spirit, and even as the Father sent Jesus so now is Jesus sending us! Hallelujah!