Empowered by the Resurrected Lord

April 11, 2021

Pastor John Hering

John 20:19-31

John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 But Thomas, one of the Twelve, the one called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 After eight days, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Take your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue to doubt, but believe.”  28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Jesus, in the presence of his disciples, did many other miraculous signs that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

What runs through the minds of people who are stuck?  Moms can feel trapped by their kids.   People who are afraid of catching a disease can feel trapped in their homes.  So, what all do you think was running through their minds before Jesus showed up that evening?  “It’s the truth,” said the women, “We actually did see angels. We know it sounds crazy, but they told us he’s alive.” Peter piped in, “That’s right! John and I raced to the tomb early this morning. It’s empty, and the grave clothes were neatly folded. What does that tell you? And then this afternoon he appeared to me.” “Yeah, right, Peter. You were probably hallucinating because the last time he looked at you was with that look of utter disappointment.” “Alive?” said James, “That’s impossible! He was dead as a doornail Friday afternoon and buried. He must have lost his power. I think it’s time to be realistic and figure out what we’re going to do now that he’s gone.” “You’re right,” Andrew added, “We’re going to need a plan on how to get out of town without the authorities knowing. They did away with him and now they will likely come after us!”

How would you feel if you were there, huddled in that house in Jerusalem with Jesus’ first followers? With the specter of death spooking around, do you think you would have a flash of fear floating through your veins? Then apostle John reports that something amazing happened: 

The Risen Christ Gives Power To His Church

Power to Proclaim Jesus’ Gospel

It is Easter evening and we find the disciples hiding behind closed doors. True, Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to Mary, the women and to Peter, but the Holy Spirit had not yet emboldened the disciples with the power of the Gospel.  So how would you like the Gospel delivered?  An email?  A Facebook post?  How about Amazon dropped off a box of Gospel on your front porch?  Jesus delivers the gospel to the disciples personally:  19 On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Consider these disciples. There had been some doubt about Jesus’ identity by Mary in the garden, who hysterical with grief, thought she saw the gardener through her haze of tears. And the Emmaus disciples—they were walking with Jesus in broad daylight, heard a mighty sermon about Jesus, but didn’t recognize him until he broke bread and gave it to them—and they saw the holes in his hands! And now here was Jesus standing in the middle of the emotional disciples in a locked room in dim light.

Jesus came to proclaim the Gospel.  The disciples saw the Gospel with their own eyes. 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”  What joy!  They see proof of his crucifixion and resurrection!  However, their joy was not to be kept for themselves. To women who met him earlier that morning wanted to hold on to him.  But Jesus’ forgiveness and love was not to be horded for themselves, 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I am also sending you.” Jesus blesses them with true peace, for their Father in heaven sent him to fulfill the plan of salvation for them.  Now, he gives them the Holy Spirit who gives the disciples power to proclaim Jesus’ Gospel. 

Most people use a key to start or turn off their car. Jesus gives his church the “Ministry of the Keys.”  Listen carefully: 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 Whenever you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven. Whenever you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  What did Jesus just say? Does he give authority to the church to legislate forgiveness and condemnation to people, and then bind God to their actions? No, Jesus is clarifying what he had already said in Matthew 18:18, “Amen I tell you: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The Greek verb is a perfect passive—“having been forgiven.” We would translate it this way, “Whatever you forbid on earth having been already forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth having been already permitted in heaven.”  We are not binding God to forgive or not forgive what we say, but God is commanding us to ratify on earth what God has already decreed to be his will in heaven according to his Word. Jesus has forgiven us all.  Believe & receive what Jesus has to offer.  But, those who refuse to believe, refuse to worship, refuse to receive and miss what Jesus has to offer.  We are commanded to declare what God has already declared.  What a joy and privilege for us to proclaim the powerful Gospel of Jesus!  Let’s say it simply!  It means we get to show people Jesus’ Gospel who died and rose for them.

Power to Confess His True Person (Identity)

And what a joy it is when those who hear the Gospel of Jesus believe it.  But, the devil works hard to keep us from believing in Jesus.  So, was the case for Thomas. 24 But Thomas, one of the Twelve, the one called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.” Poor Thomas wasn’t there. We might be tempted to say, “See what happens when you “forsake the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb 10:25).  We don’t know why he wasn’t there, but he suffered a week of doubt as a result of not being there. That’s enough punishment, don’t you think?  “ 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!”  But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  Some might call Thomas a doubter.  Why are his two eyes more trustworthy than their twenty? Consider his history.  When Lazarus was sick and there was great danger for Jesus to head into the heart of enemy territory, it was Thomas who said, “…to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too, so that we may die with him” (Jn 11:16). Thomas believed that death with Jesus was better than life without him.

All the other people who have met Jesus had their doubts, why not Thomas, too?  But, when they saw the flesh of the risen Lord, then they believed. 26 After eight days, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Take your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue to doubt, but believe.”  Thank you Thomas! Through his experience our faith is also increased in the power of seeing Jesus’ identity.  And like Thomas, our doubts must also give way to faith once the evidence is given. Jesus’ words are strengthening and sweet, “Be not without faith!” In light of the powerful evidence of his true identity it was time to stop doubting.

Dear Christian friends, every rational doubt of Jesus’ resurrection has been overturned by the powerful facts and evidence. Jesus fulfilled every Old Testament prophecy, he was witnessed to be alive by over 500 people.  Do you need something to see Jesus’ true identity?  Jesus gave his own body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for you.  Only stubbornness is left as a reason for not believing. Let your faith be built on the powerful evidence of the empty tomb and the resurrected Lord.  Therefore the resurrection Savior gives Power to his Church.  He shares the Gospel and reveals his true identity in order that you have

Power To Have Life In His Name

There is more power to be gained from our resurrected Christ.  It is the power that changes us forever. 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” How blessed Thomas was to have Jesus come to him personally to cause him to believe. His faith was great indeed!  28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Need we any clearer a passage that tells us exactly who Jesus is?  He is God the Son!  Thomas knew the power in Jesus to have his sins forgiven.  Tradition has it that he traveled all the way to India to proclaim his Lord’s love. What does that say about us?  In the powerful name of Jesus you can cross the street and speak to your neighbor about the power of Jesus’ love. 

The power of our Risen Savior has continued since that Easter evening.  We are a congregation that believes Jesus is our Savior, that his message needs to be proclaimed today so more people can have life in his name.  You’ve gone through 40 days or Lent, attended Easter service, and now is not the time to become timid.  Jesus has empowered us with all we need to carry out that work. 30 Jesus, in the presence of his disciples, did many other miraculous signs that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  Obviously the Holy Spirit did not inspire the last Gospel Writer to say, “There are many other stories and books written about Jesus that you should search for!”  No, he is saying that we have the powerful Gospel that creates faith.  Of course Jesus did and said many things that we don’t have recorded for us. But, we have not lost a part of God’s truth.  We can be confident that we have all we need in the power of God’s inspired Word to give us eternal life in Jesus’ name.

Conclusion: There are plenty of people who are entrapped in this world.  They have fear, guilt and doubt.  However, we have the power of the Risen Savior at work for us.  It has always been there and will continue to be there for us to enjoy and savor. Let us be eager to be in the Word of God—the powerful instrument the Holy Spirit uses to create and sustain our faith in Jesus. Let us be eager to proclaim this message by talking to our friends about Jesus and generously supporting the gospel ministry.  Let the power of the Risen Savior give us all assurance that we have eternal life through Jesus.  Amen!

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