Out from closed doors - The Commission and Power
Out from Closed Doors: The Commission and the Power (John 20:19-23)
On the first Easter, Christ appeared to individuals and groups. He appeared under all circumstances. Around 7:00 a.m., He appeared to Mary 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 p.m., He appeared to Peter alone. But for us, the most significant appearance was to the eleven disciples and other believers in the evening. It was probably in the same upper room where He had last taught them.
Christ calls us from behind closed doors with His commission and His power for the task.
The Risen One's Church May Hide Behind Closed Doors
The church may hide behind closed doors because of fear. The first disciples were cowering behind locked doors because they feared what the unbelieving world could do. They feared retaliation. The world that crucified their Lord might do the same to them. They feared misunderstanding. There was a rumor that they had stolen the body of Jesus. They feared observation. They did not want the world to see them in their confusion and weakness.
This, unfortunately, can picture the church and individuals today. Christ's church today is often hiding behind its own closed doors, demoralized and retreating. Confronted with hostile media, a largely unbelieving academic world, and a cynical materialistic society, the church cowers behind its own doors.
In striking contrast, no closed doors can stop the Risen Christ. No closed doors can stop His presence. He suddenly came and stood in the midst of them. Nothing that can happen to them or to Him can stop His presence in their midst. The last time they saw Him "in the midst" was on the cross between two criminals! But nothing about the arrest, trials, humiliation, or cross could keep Him from being "in the midst" of them. The last time John would see Him, He was standing in the midst of His churches (Rev. 1). The Easter promise to our church is that nothing can keep Him from our midst except our own unbelief.
No closed doors can stop His blessing. "Peace be [to] you" (v. 19). His words do not express a wish, but command a fact. Because of His finished work, a state of peace does exist between God and you. These were the last words they heard Him speak in the same room before His cross. The last words of His public ministry and the first words of His resurrection presence are "peace."
The Risen One's Church Must Hear His Commission
The Risen One gives forever the model of His commission: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (v. 21). As Jesus depended on the Father, we are to depend on Jesus. As Jesus was set apart by the Father, we are set apart by Jesus (17:19). As Jesus acted in the power of the Spirit, we are to act only in the power of the Spirit (17:22). As He came to be Light, so are we. As He came to seek and save, so are we. The reason for the failure of so much "church work" is our neglect of this commission.
The meaning of our Lord's commission is one of prolonging and continuing His work. We are not here to begin something new. Our only commission is to continue doing the things the Risen One is always doing.
The method of our Lord's commission is to use all of us, every one of us. These words were spoken to the eleven and to all others in the room (Luke 24:33). To limit His task to the "clergy" is the dry rot that spells the doom of any church.
The Risen One's Church Must Have His Power
Christ gives the power. He is the active giver. His gift of power is equal to a new creation. Jesus' words purposefully recall the gift of physical life to Adam by the breath of God. The greatest thing has happened since creation! The breath of Jesus Christ gives spiritual life.
But the gift continues His presence and work. The Holy Spirit is not a substitute for the absence of Jesus, but the vehicle for His continued presence and work. The Holy Spirit never came to lead to wild manifestations, but to continue the same witness and work of Jesus Christ.
How does Jesus' gift in the upper room relate to His gift at Pentecost fifty days later? Simply this—some of His Spirit qualifies you for more of His Spirit.
We take the power. We are the active receivers. The word could well be translated, "take ye the Holy Spirit" (v. 22). We are not passive in the process. There must be on our part the outreached hand, the clutching fingers. The well flows always, but we must stretch out our own cup to receive the water. The wind blows always, but we must hoist our own sails to catch the wind.
This is Easter. But we have not met to examine a long-ago, faraway event. We have met because that event means a commission and a power for Travis Avenue Baptist Church. We dare not keep the Word behind closed doors.