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Peace Be With You

John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  20:27
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Today we're going to finish up John 20. And there are a few notable things to round out this chapter. One of the most interesting is that Jesus stands in their midst and breathes on his disciples. And we can extrapolate that he does the same for us as well and we'll look at what that means.
John 20:19 NLT

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.

This is the same day. Easter Sunday, the day the Lord rose from the dead, and the disciples were afraid, so they hid behind a locked door. And the first words out of Jesus' mouth to them is "Peace." But the concept of peace is more than just avoiding conflict. It's the same concept as the Hebrew word for peace, it's shalom. It's wholeness, completeness, well-being, harmony, and security (FSB, Luke 2:14).
It's almost as if Jesus is saying, "Be at peace. I have overcome. It is done. You are secure." Notice, the locked door doesn't hinder Jesus. He comes right in the midst of them even though the door is locked.
This is where C.S. Lewis gets his idea in The Great Divorce when he describes heaven saying:
At first, my attention was caught by my fellow passengers, who were still grouped about in the neighborhood of the omnibus, though beginning, some of them, to walk forward into the landscape with hesitating steps. I gasped when I saw them. Now that they were in the light, they were transparent- fully transparent when they stood between me and it, smudgy and imperfectly opaque when they stood in the shadow of some tree. They were in fact ghosts: man-shaped stains on the brightness of that air. One could attend to them or ignore them at will as you do with the dirt on the window pane. I noticed that the grass did not bend under their feet: even the dew drops were not disturbed.
His whole premise is that heaven is more real than we are, and as a result, compared to the glory of the perfected creation, earth is a ghost. Perhaps this depth of realness can explain how Jesus was able to get into the locked room. But he gives this pronouncement of peace. Very similar to the common command of Scripture: "Do not be afraid".
John 20:20–21 NLT

As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”

This is John's great commission. And notice again the emphasis on peace- and he will say it again in a few verses. It makes you think this concept might be important to the Christian life. This concept is one of peace in every respect. And that peace will carry us out as we are sent by Jesus to accomplish his mission. But we don't get to be comfortable. We must live lives where we share the gospel. Whether in plenty or in want, our peace will not stem from possessions, or even full stomachs, but from the Lord.
John 20:22 NLT

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

You remember how I emphasized that in John's resurrection account, he didn't place emphasis on the third day, as one might expect, but on the first day of the week? And I mentioned how this represents the beginning of something brand new, such as the world had never seen before?
John harkened back to Genesis with his counting of the days. On the first day, God began to create, and now, on the first day both of the week, and of the new covenant, God is recreating. And he harkens back to Genesis with this same language of breathing on his people, just as Jesus breathed on Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 2:7 NLT

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.

And it is interesting that both in Greek and in Hebrew, breath and spirit are represented in the same word. In Hebrew, the word is Ruah, in Greek, it is pneuma. But just as in Genesis, God imparts his image to his creation, so in the new beginning, Jesus imparts his image into his people.

Jesus breathes God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, into the disciples. In doing so, He restores God’s original intent—His people take up His image again. They also become bearers of order in a chaotic world through healing people and imparting to them words of life: the message of Jesus, who came from God as God in human form, suffered, and died for the sins of everyone so that all may have eternal life.

John 20:23 NLT

If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

This is a concept that is foreign to us, so I want to take a few minutes to explain what is probably meant here. Our Catholic brothers and sisters interpret this verse literally and so they have their whole system of priests and bishops to pronounce absolution for sins and that's how they apply this verse. I think they're mistaken in doing so, but I can understand why they would interpret it the way they have.
But really, this is the proclamation of the Gospel over lives. When we experience the joy of faithfully communicating the Gospel message to people and they accept it, we get to make the pronouncement that their sins are forgiven- that's the act of baptism. However, if they reject the Gospel, then part of the Gospel is a warning that all who reject it are still in their sins, that is to say, not forgiven.
D.A. Carson says it this way:
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel according to John 3. Jesus Appears to His Disciples (20:19–23)

There is no doubt from the context that the reference is to forgiving sins, or withholding forgiveness. But though this sounds stern and harsh, it is simply the result of the preaching of the gospel, which either brings men to repent as they hear of the ready and costly forgiveness of God, or leaves them unresponsive to the offer of forgiveness which is the gospel, and so they are left in their sins.

We can be sure of this interpretation, Leon Morris argues, because the words used to describe those having their sins forgiven or those having forgiveness withheld is plural. He says:
The Gospel According to John 2. The Appearance to the Ten (20:19–23)

It is the sins of whatever69 people, not the sins of whatever person, to which this verse refers. Jesus is not speaking of individuals, but of classes. He is saying that the Spirit-filled church has the authority to declare which sins are forgiven and which sins are retained.70 This accords with rabbinical teaching that spoke of certain sins as “bound” and others as “loosed.”71 This referred to classes, not to individuals, and this is surely what Jesus is saying also.

This is exactly what we see in Acts 10 and the events following Peter going to Cornelius. This does not contradict what the rest of Scripture reveals- yes, God forgives sin, but we are his instruments in delivering grace. The act of baptism then is the "forgiving" and the refusal of the Gospel the withholding forgiveness. And this is why we must take the proclamation of the gospel- telling everyone we can about Jesus- so seriously. This is the same argument Paul makes in Romans 10.
Romans 10:9–17 NLT

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

John continues:
John 20:24–27 NLT

One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

Notice Thomas is called the Twin. Several commentators have allegorized this name suggesting that perhaps since his twin is never mentioned, we should look to ourselves for the lack of faith or lackluster faith of which we accuse Thomas. But he was for some reason missing during Jesus' first appearance to the disciples, so he doesn't get the same benefit that they do. It is no wonder that he doubts.
But notice that Jesus displays his omnipotence and omnipresence in that he hears Thomas' disbelief and answers his challenge very specifically eight days later. It is no wonder that in Revelation, Jesus is depicted as walking among his churches. He is very near and very present. He is an ever-present help in trouble.
John 20:28–31 NLT

“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.

Thomas makes his confession- the very same confession that John has written his Gospel to elicit from us. We are expected to bow down at Jesus' feet and make the same confession that Thomas does- "my Lord, and my God!" We need to come to faith, and this is what faith looks like- acknowledging the power, identity, and majesty of Jesus, and aligning ourselves with his purposes and his plan.
And Thomas' faith is fine, but not the best kind. Jesus says that those who do not see and still believe are blessed. That's us. We are blessed because we have not seen with our eyes, and yet, we hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Peter says as much in his first letter:
1 Peter 1:8–9 NLT

You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

And this is the goal of John's gospel- his whole book has been composed that we would trust in Jesus. That we would have life in his name. Real life. Full life. Complete life. That only comes by believing. By believing, John wants us to have life in Jesus' name. And that's the purpose of the Gospel today!
The Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism is a series of theological questions and answers and it starts like this:
History of the Christian Church § 90. The Typical Catechisms of Protestantism

What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

This is what it means to have life to the full. That in our enjoyment of God provided by his grace, freely given to us by Christ we know what it is to truly live. Therefore, this means that
we of all people laugh most heartily,
we love most selflessly
we give most freely
we serve most enthusiastically
we mourn most hopefully
we sing most joyfully we live life most fully.
We know that this life is fleeting, but there is something greater that awaits us, and in joy, we proceed through this life, obeying our Lord and our God because he has promised good things. We don't wrestle with the though that this life is all there is. Some say YOLO as an anthem for making stupid decisions. But we know better: you only live twice. And how we live, how we obey, how we love, how we serve determines how we live for eternity. Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is alive and right now he is ruling and reigning, let that fill you with all joy and peace as we strive in this life, moving every day closer to seeing our Lord and our God -who died for us, and rose from the dead- face to face.

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