Scripture: John 20:21
Let’s pray for a moment. God, we thank you for this time that we get to chance to think about your word for a little while, and we pray that you will speak to us, through your word, through the work of your Holy Spirit inside of us, and we thank you, and we look forward for you working in us the obedience that comes through faith. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In John, Chapter 20, we find Jesus visiting his disciples. It’s a resurrection appearance. It’s the first appearance that Jesus makes to the assembled group of disciples. He had already appeared to Mary Magdalene. Peter and John already believed that Jesus was resurrected because they saw the empty tomb, but together as an assembled group they have not seen Jesus yet and so Jesus then comes and meets with almost all of them all at once. It comes in John, Chapter 20, and I am going to begin on the 19th verse and I want you to particularly listen to the 21st verse.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the door locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said “Peace be with you!” 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 with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus meets with his disciples and what we can see about them is that they are a fearful group. It talks about the door being locked because of the fear of the Jewish community outside, because Jesus has been crucified. They don’t have 2,000 years of hearing about the resurrection of Jesus. They have Peter and John and Mary Magdalene who are bringing this strange story to them that really is not rooting in their hearts right now and they are afraid. And they are thinking about how can we return somehow to life the way it used to be, going back to fishing or going back to farming or whatever we did before. How do you pull together the pieces of a life that has been totally destroyed, because all of your hopes, hopes that you believed were from God are destroyed and torn apart in front of your eyes?
So, they are in that room and they are afraid. And then Jesus comes in. The first thing he says to them is “Peace be with you.” Boy that is words that they needed to hear because they were feeling anything but peaceful inside, dominated by fear and here is Jesus coming in a bodily form showing them that he is still alive and here is the one who has come back from the dead, the very one sent by God and saying peace, the wholeness, the completeness, the direction, the purposefulness, all of this from God be upon you and he says it to them twice. It’s something that they really needed to hear.
So Jesus came to them and brought to them an assurance and a peace that they desperately needed at that moment, but Jesus came for more than that. Because John writes about more. He came to bring that blessing to them, but he came to do more. One of the things that happened while he was there is that the disciples were overjoyed to see the Lord. He shows them his hands and his feet and they are overjoyed to see Jesus in bodily form. Can you imagine the kind of feeling they have inside of them? I can’t imagine that they were sitting in their chairs you know around there and Jesus comes in and they go, “Oh, hi Jesus. Glad you are here. Join us.” It didn’t happen that way. When Jesus came in they wanted to dance, they wanted to sing praise, they wanted to fall on their faces because something absolutely unique in history has happened, something that is mind-blowingly large and so they were ready to party before God. But Jesus came for more than that, because John writes about more. Yes Jesus came to bring a blessing to them, yes Jesus came because there needed to be worship and praise to go up to God for what God has done, but Jesus came to give them an assignment as well.
“As the Father sent me, I am sending you.” When Jesus said these words he began to mettle in the rest of the lives of those people. As the Father has sent me, I am now sending you. What has been going on in my life is not over. It’s going to continue and it’s going to continue through you. All the plans of living a normal life are gone for these people. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead has changed all of that. They could never return to what normal meant before Jesus. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. They were created and recreated in Jesus Christ for something bigger than life as usual. The king, the ruler of the entire earth has come. He has died. He has sought the lost and he has done everything possible to save them and restore them to a relationship with God and that king, that ruler is now saying, I am sending you because I am not finished yet. I have just begun. There is a whole world out there to save.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus’ mission of reclaiming the world, of reaching out to what was lost and to draw it back to God is something that is still happening. And he said that not only is he sending us, but he is sending us as the Father sent him. What does that mean that we are sent like Jesus was? Well, we don’t have to guess about that because Jesus himself talked a lot about what it means that he was sent by God. Now in just a few moments I am going to read you a few scriptures, but I have invited the worship team to sing us a song that talks about the mission of Jesus in this world that’s continuing, because it is a mission that Jesus began in this world, but even after the resurrection it’s the mission that Jesus is still doing, that God is still doing in the world through the Holy Spirit. And so in a moment I am going to have them sing and we will just reflect on what it means that Jesus is at work around us. But before they come up or as they come up I am going to read to you a few scriptures and I want you to just sit back and listen to what Jesus himself said about his own mission to the world.
First, from Luke, Chapter 4: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
From Mark, Chapter 10: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
From John, Chapter 8: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of light.”
This is what Jesus was sent in the world to do. This is still Jesus’ mission in the world. This is our God.
This is what we have been waiting for in our own lives, whether its loneliness, whether it’s our brokenness, whether it’s the fact that we are mourning, there is a part of us that deeply, deeply longs for God to connect with us on that level. This is what we have been waiting for. This is what we find so deep about the work of God in our lives. And so we have got to remember that that’s the very things that are going to be important to the world around us as we, as God’s people, reach out to them. Jesus is still seeking the poor, seeking those who are mourning, seeking the orphans, seeking the broken, seeking the lonely, but now through the Holy Spirit he is calling us to be a part of it, and so I just want to reflect on a few more verses. Jesus has talked about his own ministry. Let’s hear Jesus talk about our ministry. These are things that he has told us to do.
From Matthew 28: “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
From Luke, Chapter 24: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations beginning at Jerusalem.”
And then from Matthew, Chapter 5: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Not too long ago I got to the Eastern Shore, and I got to see the Drum Point Lighthouse in St. Solomon. It’s a beautiful lighthouse. It’s got these very powerful iron pilings underneath it and then they’ve got the area where the people can live. It’s beautifully done. It’s very small, but everything you need seems to be there and above it there is a very powerful lens. The way it looks when it is written is called Fresnel or something like that. See that is the problem, when you don’t hear it you read it, okay? I have said Fresnel now for two services, but a Fresnel lens or something like that is very powerful and can be seen for 13 miles. It’s a beautiful building and it’s in this nice safe marina. It was commissioned in 1883 but not in this place. It’s now in this marina. It’s part of a museum and it’s very easy to get to and that is why I got a chance to see it.
But it was built for more than that. It was built for more than just being in a marina as part of a museum. The Drum Point Lighthouse was built to sit right out in the bay at the mouth of the Patuxent River to give a clear beacon of light, to show where the safe places were and where the dangers were and it was built strong so they could take the worst storms that the bay could throw up against it and still in the midst of that storm to send out a clear light showing people safety and danger. It was built for something great. Now, all safe in the marina it looks great, but it is no longer great, because it is not doing what it was built to do. It was built for more than that.
“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” We were built for something bigger than life as usual. We were built to be part of what God is doing in the world, part of something that has to do with light and darkness, life and death, evil and goodness. It might not be flashy stuff, but we are called to do important stuff and this is true for each one of us as Christians. It might not be 55,000 at a time like Billy Graham did. It might not even be 5,000 like James Emory White. It might only be five, five people in our family, in our neighborhood, in our office, but God has called us to something bigger than just earning a paycheck or providing for our families or trying to make due in life for our own selfish reasons. He has called us to be more than that; something God sized. It might not be flashy, because God size things are not always flashy, because the things that God is doing in the world has to do with love and service and caring and praying and these things aren’t always things that people notice, but God notices because God is already invested in that. This is what we are created for. It’s says in scripture that we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God planned in advance for us to do. We are built for more than just living for ourselves.
If you are just still living for yourself, then let me encourage you to take a first step. The first step is to admit that, that you are just living for yourself, but to know that God has created you for more than that and to be willing to say, “Okay God, I believe that Jesus Christ has paid the price for that kind of life and for all the damage that I have done for living that way and I am willing to turn around and live a new way. Come and show me how to do it. Come and do it in me.” And if you want to take a step like that, all it takes is a prayer, an honest set of words in your heart to turn your life around to God. And if you do something like that, let us know so that we can join you in that journey. But many of us have had that conversation and yet it still feels like our lives are all bottled up. We are still just living so often for ourselves and for nothing more, for just the normal kind of concerns of making sure we’ve got good food and a safe house and a decent vacation. These are good things, but we are built for more than that. And I would like to give a few suggestions on how we can kind of break out of that pattern if that’s where we find ourselves right now.
Gracious God, we pray that we might be open to the work of your Spirit in our hearts, whether it is to make a first step to follow Jesus Christ or whether it’s to continue to press on with him to be your light, to be your hands and feet where we live, where we work, where we play. Speak to us. Move in us. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.