John 20:19 informs us that it’s now the evening of the first day of the week. The disciples are together. How do they feel? They’re frightened – worried that the Jewish leaders might come after them too. The fact that Jesus’ body was missing must have heightened their fear ever more. They must have felt confused, having heard reports of Jesus appearing to Mary. And they must have felt all-at-sea regarding their own futures. What were they supposed to do now? Where should they go? Will they be arrested? They lock the door – keeping all of the danger outside, for a time at least.
But a locked door is no barrier to Jesus. We’re just told: ‘Jesus came and stood among them.’ (Verse 19)
John does not focus on the mystery of Jesus’ appearance, but rather he focuses on what Jesus says. What would be Jesus’ first words to his disciples having just risen from the dead? They are words of peace. In fact, these are not only his first words, but also the 2nd thing he says, as he repeats it again: ‘Peace be with you!’
As we saw last time, Jesus’ bestowal of peace on the disciples is all the sweeter, as we remember the fact that the disciples had fled from the scene of the cross, abandoning Jesus. Peter had denied him. But Jesus does not come with words of rebuke, picking over what had happened and what should have happened, the way we sometimes do. No, Jesus comes to a group of men who were full of fear, and who perhaps felt like failures, and he says to them: ‘Peace be with you!’
1. Peace with God
It’s a horrible thing to fall out with people, whether at home, at work or in the community. It brings us a great deal of stress and anxiety. A harmonious staff room, home, office is such a blessing. However, the peace which Jesus speaks about here is primarily peace between us and God. There is no greater kind of peace than this. Now, you might say: ‘But I didn’t know I was at war with God, or that I had conflict with him!’
What is it that has come between us that needs to be sorted out? It is our sin. Our selfishness. Our tendency to live in God’s world, breathing his air, enjoying his gifts, but breaking his rules, and living lives which fail to honour, love and worship our Maker. It is trying to pull God from his rightful place on the throne, and placing ourselves there instead.
How can we be so sure that this is the kind of peace Jesus is speaking about? After all, he just says: ‘Peace be with you!’ We know because of the action Jesus performs in between his 2 announcements of peace: he shows them his hands and side. Yes, Jesus shows them these marks to verify his identity – that he truly has risen from the dead. It is important that the disciples know that this really is Jesus.
But the marks powerfully connect the risen Jesus to his death on the cross. Jesus appears alive again for the very first time, and immediately focuses on the marks of the cross. In other words, Jesus draws attention to the fact that the peace which he offers us is a costly peace.
Each one of us has personally disobeyed God, and so have come under his righteous anger. The way to move from the place of God’s anger to the place of God’s peace, is to receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, as he died on the cross, in order to pay the price for the sins of his people. To have peace, we must have faith in Jesus, and his work of dying on the cross.
Do you know this peace yourself? If not, then turn from your life of being independent from God, and seek his forgiveness.
2. Joy in the Lord
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (verse 20). Let’s notice the joy the disciples experience on the day of resurrection. Of course, this is the joy of realising that Jesus is alive again, and is the Messiah after all. It’s the joy we experience when the penny drops, as we look upon Christ’s wounds, and realise that he went through the agonies of the cross for us, and that our sins have been dealt with.
Ironically, often I can look for joy in all of the wrong places, whilst ignoring its primary source. The fleeting joys and pleasures which the world has to offer, as we entertain ourselves, and enjoy a great meal and a glass of wine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But they do not last.
What, then, is the secret of lasting joy? The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (verse 20). It’s in seeing Jesus, and having a relationship with him that deep and lasting joy springs from.
‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!’ (Philippians 4:4)
If you lack joy in your life, why not ask God to help you to have a fresh vision of Jesus? This only happens as we have our Bibles open each day, as this is the way we listen to King Jesus.
3. Sharing our peace and joy
During his ministry on earth, Jesus was acutely aware that he had been sent by the Father in order to bring peace to his people – that was Jesus’ mission. And now Jesus is entrusting that mission to the church! As R C Sproul says: It’s as if Jesus is saying: ‘Carry on my mission.’
Of course, sometimes we are daunted by the task each one of us has been entrusted with – the task of evangelism. But we must remember that Jesus has not sent us out on our own.
He has given us:
– a message: we proclaim that sins can be forgiven, only through trusting in Christ. There is no other way to deal with our sins, only God’s way, on God’s terms.
– power: all Christians have received the Holy Spirt, and it is he and he alone who can give us the boldness and desire to share our faith, and he alone who can bring those in darkness into the light.
– an example: Jesus is our ultimate example for sharing our faith. Jesus was not aloof from others, but lived alongside them; we must do the same.
‘We are not really fulfilling the great commission until we live with, befriend, love and enter into the experiences of those to whom we are sent. If we are going to go into the world as Christ was in the world, we are going to have to learn how to become friends with unbelievers, and then work out the issues of life by their side.’ (J M Boice)