Study in John’s Gospel. Presentation 98. Now Hear This! Chap 20v19-23. Presentation 98. Introduction.
During Easter it is not uncommon for series of sermons to be preached on the ‘last words of Jesus’. And for the last sermon in such a series to be preached on Jesus’ words “it is finished” or “Father into your hands I commend my spirit”.
But these were not Jesus’ last words for his post resurrection words are no less gripping, comforting or challenging. Previously we have looked at his words describing the new relationship he had established with his followers. Now we examine three more sets of words.
The first words Jesus spoke to his assembled disciples in the upper room were, “Peace be unto you”. Throughout the N.T. the thought of God giving peace to men is always connected with what Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection, ‘We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ Rom 5.1 It is in this sense that Jesus uses the word here, indicating that, “having gone to the cross and risen from the dead I have something unique to impart – ‘peace’.” Jesus describes harmony in both in vertical and horizontal relationships. The one is the derivative of the other. We cannot be at peace with others until we are first at peace with God.
And ‘peace with God’ is not something we naturally possess. By nature, we are in a state of restlessness and alienation. We are out of sync with God and when that reality hits us it is very unsettling.
Now the peace that Jesus gives is more than the removal
of anxiety. It is a positive quality that produces
an inner harmony. It enables a man for the
first time in his life to answer the accusing
voice of conscience; and to experience an
For the first time a man can look himself
in the mirror and know that all is well.
It is no accident that Billy Graham, when looking for a book title that would describe the result of making God’s gift of salvation our own, called it, “Peace with God”.
From time to time, I come across people who have become greatly burdened by their sinful conduct and they say, “I need to make peace with God”. Now I know what they mean but they are embarking on the impossible.
For only Christ is equipped to ‘make’ peace, and he has
done so on the cross. Peace is not something we
make but a gift we receive and enter into by faith.
HoratiusBonar a well-known hymn-writer
expresses this great truth and one of his
works. It reads;
Not all my prayers nor sighs nor tears,
Can ease my awful load.
Thy work alone, O Christ,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
Now Jesus has not only made available peace with God. He also offers us the peace of God; God’s own peace!
And it is this aspect of peace that Paul describes to the Philippians.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Phil.4v6
If ever there was a confused, anxious, agitated group of people it was this disciple band. Their Master has been taken and crucified, their future hopes had crumpled and they were in fear of their own safety. Now these raging, emotional storms were stilled, as Jesus entered that
room and brought his peace, God’s own peace.
Are you experiencing agitation of mind
and heart? Does anxiety and worry keep
you awake at night? Jesus can also still
those storms and speak peace to our
Having spoken words of peace, Jesus then speaks words of commission, v21 ‘Peace... as the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. The order of Jesus words is significant. We must have peace outwardly with God and inwardly in our own hearts and minds before we can effectively share the gospel of peace with others.
But once we have tasted that peace
and the condemning voice of
conscience to longer haunts us,
then we are set free to share
good news with others.
Note too, that our missionary endeavours are to be patterned on Christ’s own, “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. We are reminded of the incarnational model of Jesus’ mission. He did not stay in the safety of heaven but stepped into a hostile world. He did not cling onto his rights and glory; he humbled himself and embraced a servant role. He became a suffering servant, dying that others might live. We too are sent into a hostile environment to humbly serve and to suffer for Jesus’ sake.
Paul spoke of, “dying daily” and he said, “death is at work in us that life might work in you” 2 Cor. 4v12. It is so easy Christians to retreat into a comfortable, non-threatening, holy club rather than invade a hostile yet needy world. Listen to John Stott’s insightful comment.
"We do not identify. We believe so strongly (and rightly) in proclamation that we tend to proclaim our message from a distance. We sometimes appear like people who shout advice to drowning men
from the safety of the seashore.
We do not dive in to rescue them. We are afraid
of getting wet, and indeed of greater perils
than this. But Jesus Christ did not
broadcast salvation from the sky.
He visited us in great humility.
…We cannot give up preaching, for proclamation is of the essence of salvation. Yet true evangelism… modelled on the ministry of Jesus, is not proclamation without identification any more than it is identification without proclamation. Evangelism involves both together.... But how are we to
identify with the people … who will not hear? That is the
problem. How can we become so one with secular men and
women, as Christ became one with us, that we express and
demonstrate our love for them, and win a right to share
with them the good news of Christ?”
This is why caring, bridge-building, Christian projects are
so important. We are saying to a secular society,
“We care about you and the lives you live”.
Jesus not only commissioned his disciples for service, he equipped them for the task v22 he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. How do we understand this? Some see a contradiction between Jesus’ activity here and the bestowal of the Spirit at Pentecost - 50 days later. What then is happening here?
First, we need to recognise that
the Holy Spirit was actively at
work before Pentecost, e.g.
opening Peter’s eyes to affirm
Jesus identity, enabling John to
see the significance of the not so
empty tomb etc.
What Jesus underlines here is that he is the source of the gift of the Spirit and that nothing can be done in our lives without the Spirit’s ministry. It is the Spirit who applies the benefits of Christ’s death, including the bestowal of peace to our hearts. It is the Spirit who empowers us to be a
missionary people and equips us to cope with the hostility
of an unbelieving world.
The Spirit enables us to communicate powerfully and
effectively a gospel of forgiveness hence,
“If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven;
if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Again these words are easily misunderstood…
Scripture teaches that only God can forgive sin. When Jesus said to the crippled man, “friend your sins are forgiven you”Lk.5v20, he was revealing his divinity.
There is no instance in the N.T. of an apostle taking on himself the authority to forgive sins but what they did do in the power of the Spirit was to preach the certainty of the forgiveness of sins to those who repented and exercised faith in Jesus.
Peter says to Cornelius, “that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” Acts 10v43
Now what does all of this mean in practice? If someone says to a Christian,
“I know I have offended God. I have repented of my sin, and placed my trust in what Jesus did upon the cross but I do not feel peace inside”, what do we say? “You must try and get a special feeling”. No! We don’t say that. Nor do we say, “You must not have truly repented”.
Instead, we have the authority of God’s word, and the
empowering of God’s Spirit to assure them that if they
have placed their trust in Jesus then they are indeed
forgiven! We do not absolve them of their sin but
assure them of what God has done. We are not
stressing a personal feeling but divine facts as
the ground of our forgiveness.
Conversely, if someone says, “I have no confidence in Jesus or in the significance of his death, but I have great confidence in my own ability and in my quality of life and in my efforts to be a good neighbour.
I am going to take my chances that these things will
secure my forgiveness before God.”
Then again we have the authority of God’s word and
the empowering of God’s Spirit to say,
“I am sorry but you are deluding yourself and while
that is your position you simply cannot experience
the forgiveness of God”.
What an awesome responsibility God has entrusted
to us and what a remarkable privilege he has given.