Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | April 27, 2014
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.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
In order to offer peace to others, you must first be at peace yourself. If you are not at peace, you offer to others whatever you are – fear, confusion, frustration, anxiety, anger, or perhaps nothing at all.
Before Jesus appeared to the disciples in their hiding place in the upper room they had little to offer others. They felt guilty, afraid, confused, frustrated and probably angry. Most of them had abandoned Jesus in his time of need, so they likely felt some guilt. They were afraid that the authorities might find them and kill them as they had Jesus. Some were confused by his death and the reports they had heard about his supposed resurrection. Others were likely frustrated and angry that things had turned out so badly. So Jesus came among them that Sunday night to bring peace, both peace with God, and the peace of God.
As the crucified savior, Jesus offers peace to the guilty. When Jesus offered peace to his disciples the first time he showed them his hands and his side, to prove he had dealt with their sin and guilt by his death on the cross. This is good news for us as well. To those who know that they too have let Jesus down, he says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus is still able to deal with our sin and guilt. In him there is always a new beginning. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9). Through Jesus we can have peace with God. “He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised up because of our justification.” Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God thru Jesus Christ. (Rom. 4.25; 5:1). As the crucified Savior he offers us peace with God.
As the risen Lord, Jesus offers also the peace of God. Jesus offers peace to the fearful, to those who feel beaten up by life’s storms. He offers peace to the frustrated, to those for whom life hasn’t turned out as we’d hoped. He offers peace to the angry. Anger is often a masked form of fear. When we are angry, it’s because we fear losing something that’s important to us. When Jesus showed his hands and side, he proved not only that he died for our sins, but also that he had risen from the dead. He had conquered the power of sin and death and evil in the world. Therefore he was able to offer an inner peace to his disciples to enable them to continue his mission. We may not be meeting behind locked doors, but there are times when everything seems to go wrong, and we are fearful, or frustrated or angry about the past and what we think the future may hold.
What are your fears, your frustrations, your anxieties? What are the sources of your anger? Jesus would come among us today to offer his peace to you and me, so that we can offer the peace of the gospel to others, so that we can take up the mission of Jesus.
Because Jesus has given his people peace, he sends us out to do his work in the world.
We have a mission to fulfill. The risen Lord Jesus sends his disciples out to continue his work. Mission is no optional extra; it is of the essence of the church. Christians are not to be merely involved in self-improvement; we are to be involved in reaching out to others with the love of God in Christ. There’s something wrong when the church’s programs and activities, whether intentionally or not, are geared primarily to the needs of its members rather than to the needs of the unchurched. There is also something wrong when the church’s programs and activities are so demanding that its members have little or no time to get to their unchurched neighbors and friends.
- We have a pattern to follow
- We have a message to communicate
- We have a power to receive
- We have a pattern to follow; Jesus set a pattern of mission in which evangelism and compassionate service were inextricably bound. These two strands of Jesus mission were in fact one. From beginning to end, Jesus embodied the message he preached. There’s something wrong with the church programs and activities do not include meaningful evangelism; there’s also something wrong with the churches programs do not include meaningful social action. There is, however, also something wrong with the church programs of evangelism and social action are not meaningfully interrelated. John Stott was right when he wrote: words remain abstract until they are made of concrete in the deeds of love, while works remain ambiguous until they are interpreted by the proclamation of the Gospel. Words without works lack believability; works without words lack clarity. So Jesus works made his words visible; his words made his works intelligent.”
- We have a message to communicate. Our message, expressed in word and deed, centers on Jesus, crucified and risen, and the forgiveness he offers. In order to communicate this message, we cannot shout from a distance; rather, we must go into the world to where people are. Just as Jesus left of the security and splendors of eternity to come into our world, so we in turn must leave the security and the certainties of our church life to enter into the world of those who need to know that in Jesus, life can begin again. Effective communication does not involve a preacher in the pulpit, but rather people who live out God’s love in the world. In this respect Michael green draws attention to a story told about St. Vincent, who wanted to reach the slaves in the Roman galleys he was totally unsuccessful – until he himself became a galley slave and was able to proclaim the good news when he was one of them, sharing their situations and conditions. Michael Greene adds, you can, as one wise men put it – almost certainly – only evangelize friends.
- We have a power to receive. The task before us is immense. In the West, at least, where churches for the most part are in retreat, and where church growth is mainly church transfer, the task of effectively communicating the good news of Jesus to our world as a whole appears to be beyond our resources. The truth is that the task is beyond our means – but not beyond God’s means. Where there is God’s Spirit, there is hope; even the deadest of churches can arise as an army. For gods spirit is the spirit of resurrection. God’s Spirit brings life; God’s Spirit brings power. The good news for the church is that God gives life and power through his Spirit to his church as it’s members go out into the world to fulfill the mission of Jesus.
But if they had received God’s peace through faith in his death and resurrection they were nevertheless not at liberty to keep the good news to themselves now they were to become his messengers.
There is a story told in folklore of a king who commanded the subjects to bring burlap bags to the palace. It was a peculiar request, to say the least and naturally some of the subjects were offended. No one could understand why the king had commanded them to bring bags. Those who were offended brought the smallest sax they could. Others brought old ones or ones filled with holes. When they arrived at the palace the king did not take the sack from them. Instead he ushered them into this is storerooms and invited them to Fill their sax with gold and Carrie at home. Those who had come resentfully with the smallest bags received very little while those who had brought the king the largest and best bags received more. So it is spiritually. God asks for our all, but he does not do so to make us unhappy. His way is the way of blessing. God says do not come to me with symbols. Come to me with arms and hands open wide and see if I will not fill them with every spiritual blessing. If you will be my messengers, I will make your life full and make you a blessing.