Peace to You! – John 20:19-23

Peace to you!
John 20:19-23
Hope in Christ Bible Church 3/11/18
Well, it’s all by God’s grace that we gather this morning in the name of Christ.
Over the last number of weeks, we have been traveling in the highlands of John’s gospel where the air is so crisp and refreshing for our souls to breathe in.
For the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ towers as the apex of God’s glorious plan of redemption. This is the heart and soul of the gospel by which we are saved and stand in Christ.
Paul declared to the saints at Corinth (I Cor. 15:1–3), “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
What is that preached word by which we are saved and stand? The apostle declares (v.3): “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Friends, that’s the greatest news of all- the gospel by which we can be saved and stand firm- the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus!
What a joy for us to see last Lord’s day how Christ first revealed Himself at the tomb. For it was to seeking Mary Magdalene- once a sin-filled demon possessed lady whom Christ rescued!
What an unforgettable moment when Mary recognized it was not just a gardener but Christ who said her name!
But what about the rest of Christ’s followers? When did they become convinced that their Savior taken from them and executed on a cross, had come to life again?
O we must grasp this. For if you aren’t certain you have a living Savior, then you are in trouble. What if it is all just a lie? Well, then we are to be pitied for following a fantasy.
For if Christ stayed dead in that tomb, the best philosophy of life would be to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, and we would have no more hope than a dog who dies.
And if Jesus Christ did not conquer death, then you are going to live a life of emptiness and fear. For if Christ couldn’t save Himself from His enemies and death, then there’s no way He can help us.
But friends, to know with absolute certainty your Savior lives fills the life with peace and joy for every day of your life.
Would you take in with a teachable heart John 20:19-23?
“So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
The words of Jesus here give us:
1. Encouragement of peace 19-21a
2. Envoys of peace 21b
3. Empowerment for peace 22
4. Explication of peace 23
John highlights for us when this took place.
He tells us “it was evening on that day”- that’s the same day Mary went to the tomb where Christ appeared to her.
Yet for extra emphasis, John then specifies, it was “the first day of the week.” That makes it Sunday.
You say, ‘What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that this Sunday marked the day Christ said he would rise from the dead, 3 days after His death. So, it’s the glorious Resurrection Sunday evening!
Where though did the disciples meet? It may have been the Upper Room. That could have
been in the house of Mary, Mark’s mother, where they would gather when Peter would later be imprisoned (Acts 12:12).
During their time together they would have been trying to piece together reports of what they had heard that day.
Remember, Mary Magdalene was the first one who came and announced to Peter and John the empty tomb. That’s why those two disciples ran and saw for themselves.
But the real shocker was when Mary came back a second time and announced to the disciples (v. 18) “I have seen the Lord.”
Luke tells us, the response: “And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” Luke 24:11
Then a man named Cleopas and another disciple met Christ as they were walking on a road leading outside Jerusalem.
They wasted no time but headed back to the room in that city were the 11 disciples gathered. And they make this announcement, ‘The Lord has really risen…! And they add one more witness- “…and has appeared to Simon.”
Yet we are told that those who heard their report “did not believe them either.” Mark 16:13
So most all of the disciples and close followers of Christ that are baffled. And they do not believe that Christ had come to life again.
For let’s state the obvious. People who die don’t normally come to life again.
Don’t believe the stories of people who claim they died and then come to life again.
For when there are no brainwaves and no heartbeat, what it all flat on the screen, there is irreversible death.
It doesn’t matter what people say happened to them in some death like dream on the operating table. God says, “It is appointed for man to die how many times? Once! “It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
Yet Jesus Christ is the great exception. How though did it happen?
Who raised the dead body of Jesus from the grave?
Do you know? There are three answers. God the Father, the Holy Sprit and Jesus Himself- each of them and all of them were responsible for the resurrection!
The apostle Peter, in his preaching after Pentecost, really lays into the unbelieving Jews saying, “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.” Acts 3:14–15
And don’t forget, Christ Himself, early in his ministry, John 2 records His telling the Jews, “Destroy this temple (he’s referring to his body) and in three days I will raise it up.”
Paul in writing saints at Rome+ credits the Holy Spirt for Christ’s resurrection.
Romans 8:11 “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
Wow! All the power of the eternal godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit raised Jesus Christ from the dead!
But put yourself now in the sandals of Christ’s disciples gathered in Jerusalem that evening of the resurrection. John writes as an “I was there” eye witness. And he recalls for us how “the doors were shut where the disciples were.”
Why? To keep out stray dogs? Hardly. That was their last concern. John tell us those doors were closed (the clear idea is locked) “for fear of the Jews.”
“Doors” in the plural may well mean that the outside door of the house and he door of the room were locked.
You likely have a dead bolt lock on your front door of your house to keep out robbers. Good idea.
Private residences at that time were also equipped with bolt locks. The sliding bolt
anchors into door frame so that it can’t be opened from outside.
What Jews were the big threat? The Sanhedrin Council that wielded power over the temple police.
For it would have been easy for these who just managed to kill Christ to track down His disciples.
Remember, persecution of the church didn’t end at Christ’s death. That’s pretty much where it began!
Soon a guy named Saul, likely part of the Sanhedrin council, would be breathing murderous threats against Christians and throwing them into prison. To quote Luke, he “persecuted [them] to the death” (Acts 22:4).
So, they are filled with fear, their minds perplexed with so many questions. They are really struggling.
I imagine them reading from O.T. passages and pleading with God to protect them.
Try to identify. A time when the bottom of life seemed to fall out on you, you’re scared, your heart is racing, and you don’t know what to do?
Well, the disciples find themselves in an impossible situation.
And, this is so good. It’s right then, when they are stunned with confusion and fear that Jesus “came and stood in their midst.”
And we expect that they think, how they must have been so encouraged.
But Luke’s parallel report tells us, “But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.” And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Luke 24:37-38
O how overwhelmed that group of little faith must have been.
Just like the Jerusalem church while praying for Peter in prison didn’t believe the servant that he was at the gate. Instead they keep insisting that it was his angel. girl
They believed their Jewish superstition, that each person has his own protecting angel (Acts 12:15).
Now, how did Christ get into that room? How was that possible? Locked doors, and all of a sudden, Christ appears in the room.
All kinds of answers have been suggested.
Some say, “Well, Jesus may have arrived earlier and was hiding in the room.”
Others theorize that Jesus climbed in through the window or descended from a hole in the roof.
Some think the disciples opened the doors and let Jesus in.
But that violates the sense in which John writes- that all of a sudden Jesus came and was there standing in the center of them!
By the way, Jesus had no trouble exiting His grave and graveclothes that morning, and He did not have had any problem entering that locked room that evening!
Now, what did Christ say to them as He stands right into their midst? Two words in Hebrew, “Shalom aliechem.” Peace be to you.
It’s still used today as a customary greeting among Jews.
But it meant so much more than a mere greeting as they heard it come from their Savior’s lips.
It is the perfect complement of Christ’s statement on the cross. There His last words were, “It is finished. And now His first words to His disciples are, “Peace to you!”
For peace is the great gift the risen Christ gives to His followers.
By His dying in their place on the cross, He the paid the price for their sin. That means that while once God’s enemies, Christ had reconciled them to be His friends. Friends, that spells peace with God.
Romans 5:1–2 shows how that happens: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”
Likewise, if you have peace with God through faith, then you can now exult in the hope of the glory of God you now have!
Don’t forget. Christ had already promised His peace to the disciples.
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
You see. The only Peace the world offers is fickle and fake. Take for example the peace movement of the 60s. The hippies were called “peace freaks.” They claimed to seek and find peace. They even had their own peace sign. Yet their counterculture of psychedelic drugs, rock music, and free love came to a dead end. Rather than delivering peace, lives were destroyed with overdoses, violent crimes, even death. In September, 1967, shops in San Francisco placed invitation cards on their counters with the words, “Funeral Notice for Hippie”. The hippy supporters then lead a funeral procession down a large street carrying a casket filled with worthless trinkets. You see, they looked in all the wrong directions. For the only way to find peace is by going to the source of peace, Jesus Christ. Isaiah the prophet (9:6) rightly calls the coming Christ the “Prince of peace” (Sar Shalom). That means He reigns and can make us rightly related to God. And so wonderfully, Paul says of Christ, “For He (Christ) Himself is our peace….” (Eph. 2:14).
Christ’s death, and now sudden appearance terrified these disciples. So Christ allays their fears by bestowing peace to them.
O how they needed Christ’s peace for their hearts so filled with panic. For knowing that One more powerful than death and all your enemies is alive, and with you, and give you His peace- that’s the greatest balm to the soul! Just imagine how their hearts would have soared with joy to hear the voice of Christ. How relieved they would have been after deserting Christ on Friday to hear Him not say, “Shame on you” but “Peace to you!” As soon as He told them that, “He shows them His fresh scars. From Luke 24:39, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see,
for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” You know what they saw? Deep puncture wounds in His wrist areas left from those crude spikes. And in His side the gaping hole left from the long Roman spear. Now if a close friends shows you a place where his hand had been deeply cut, what would be your reaction? You would say something like, “O, I’m so sorry to see you were hurt so badly.” You would feel for them over that injury. But what was the disciples’ response after they see the grizzly wounds on Christ’s body? We read, “The disciples therefore rejoice when they saw the Lord.” Why would they say that? Here’s why. They are far more amazed at Christ being alive then His wounds. Those wound marks didn’t call for pity and sorrow but fulness of joy. Gloom was turned to gladness. Sorrow to celebration!
What their Lord told them the week before (John 16:22), now comes to pass: “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” At one moment that room looked like a group of mourners at a funeral. And then next it’s overflowing with great rejoicing! For now they are convinced the One in whom they had placed all their hopes and dreams, though once He died, now He is alive! They would have been beside themselves in a “seems to good to be true” state of wonder and amazement. Listen, it’s one thing to see your favorite sports team make an unbelievable comeback and win a game. Yet it’s an infinitely greater thing when Christ makes a comeback from death in total victory over sin, death, and hell! That’s why the hearts of those disciples exploded in an avalanche of joy- the only one who could give them peace with God and the peace of God was standing right there with them!
Did you notice what Christ then tells them? Verse 21, “Jesus therefore said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’” Why did He tell them that again? Because they needed to hear that again. And so do you. Friends, real, lasting peace you will never find in possessions, people, personal protection or in political leaders. Only Christ, the true source of peace, can give you peace in Himself. Let’s be clear. If you don’t have Christ as your Savior from sin, you have no peace with God. Your only hope is this: do an about face from your life of sin and trust in Christ’s death in your place on the cross. That gives peace with God for eternity. And friends, God wants you to enjoy that now. Christ alone will guard your heart with His peace as you continue to trust in Him. We could see this in dozens of passages. Let me just give you two that often serve as a balm to my soul.
Isaiah 26:3 “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.”
And I commend to you, when you think you need to worry, to meditate on Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So the next time and every time you find yourself starting to get worked up and worried about whatever, pour out your heart to God in prayer with thanks.
Three big discouragements hit me one day last week. It was like the joy was being sucked right out of me. O, I’m so glad the Spirit reminded me to get on my knees, and give that all to the Lord. And that brought peace to my heart.
We give Christ our cares and He gives us His peace. Christ’s Encouragement of peace then brings us to the
2. Envoys of peace 21b After Jesus repeated, “Peace be with you, He
then follows with, “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Now don’t miss how these are linked together.
Christ’s peace is what we need to carry out our mission. You say, “What mission?” It’s the mission of being sent to represent Christ everywhere you go.
This is what Christ talked to His Father about before going to the cross. John 17:18 “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”
What our Lord then said to His Father, now after He has risen, is what He says to His disciples.
This friends, is the Great Commission of John’s gospel. He tells the disciples what also applies to you if you are His follower: “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Christ now, before returning to heaven, entrusts His followers with the task of continuing what He began in coming into the world.
This, Christian, is your job description. You are a sent one by Christ. He has left you in this world to emulate what He did in this world.
That is, to declare God’s saving sovereignty. In other words, the goal Christ wants to be clear in your minds as His follower is this: to represent Him well.
How? By obedience and dependence in speaking and living for Him.
You see the focal point of being sent isn’t the felt needs of people, it’s not about starting food banks, providing medical aid, and paying the utility bills of those who call our church. And it’s not telling people what they want to hear!
Christ’s calls us to speak the truth, holding forth the Word of life, in a world of lies. He has vested in you the authority to proclaim the message of redemption. He procured it. You proclaim it!
Don’t forget the metaphor of an ambassador. We are in a foreign land in this world to represent the King of Kings to its people.
II Corinthians 5:20 puts it so vividly, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
So let me ask. Does that characterize you? Do your friends and even acquaintances know whom you represent? No not your company, co-op, or personal concerns but your King?
But that’s just the starting point to introduce those whom Christ brings into your life to Him. That’s just the start.
You see, Paul begs on Christ’s behalf that the lost will come to Christ!
You say, “The unsaved I know aren’t interested, they’ve got religion, and they will reject me.”
That doesn’t matter. Leave the response in God’s hands. Your job is to present Christ to them and plead for their souls.
And don’t forget. Be Spirit-filled in your witness. That means you need to be gracious. Just like Jesus our Savior.
I love the words of our Lord in Luke 4:22- “And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”
And as an envoy of Christ, ask questions as He loved to ask. Questions that will make them think deeply. Then, listen well. Speak with compassion as Christ did to those who were lost sheep without shepherds.
Above all, use your Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And let them see the joy of Christ in you as you call them to repentance.
Now as you hear Christ’s calls to those disciples and to you to be His faithful sent one, I hope you feel like inadequate for the job.
Because the Apostle Paul, after describing his God-given responsibility to represent Christ, exclaims, “And who is adequate for these things?” II Cor. 2:16 God through him then answers (II Cor. 3:5), “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”
No, we can’t do the work of an envoy alone.
We need God with us. We need God in us. And that comes through the
3. Empowerment for peace 22 Look now at what follows the commissioning of the disciples. It’s right there in verse 22.
“ ‘And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
Jesus does not leave them on their own to fulfill the mission He has just given to them.
What though actually happens here? Some say, “This is John’s equivalent to what happened at Pentecost.”
Luke, remember in Acts 2 described the coming of the Holy Spirit which was some 50 days after the Resurrection.
Yet, that just doesn’t fit. And here’s why. When the Spirit comes upon the believers in Acts 2, they are powerfully changed.
The major manifestation is seen in this- the disciples with a boldness they have never known before start proclaiming the gospel. There’s a whole new courage. Yet that’s not yet seen even after Christ here in John 20 says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
By the way, do you remember that Christ has already told them when the Spirit would come.
Not just after His resurrection but after His ascension.
John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
So, what Jesus does here on Sunday evening of His resurrection is this: He gives a “dramatic object lesson to foreshadow what’s right around the corner.
He’s making a pledge that anticipates the Holy Spirit will soon come upon them.
That’s the point of when we read, that Christ “breathed on them.” The more literal idea is that Christ inhaled and exhaled.
By the way, the words, “wind”, “breath” and “air” can all be expressed by the same Greek word pneuma. And pneuma also is used to refer to the Spirit of God!
So what Christ shows those disciples and us is a symbolic lesson of a soon-to-be given gift in the
Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit would come and empower their ministry of the gospel.
That’s why in Luke 24:49, after Jesus charges the disciples to proclaim His name to all the nations explains, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
That, beloved, was the empowerment that came for witness when God sent the Spirit at Pentecost.
And church, you know, if you are a Christian, that means you received the Spirit of God at the moment of salvation.
Just as Ezekiel sees God breathing on the field of dead bones that come to life, so when God gave you His Holy Spirit, you came to life spiritually!
And the that same Spirit of God in you is the divine empowerment for life and ministry as a witness for Christ.
This is so absolutely vital that right before Christ ascended before very eyes and returned to heaven, He said these final words to His followers: Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
The Spirit came and through those disciples and every faithful disciple of Christ to our time loves to give powerful witness of the living Christ. Encouragement of peace
Envoys of peace
Empowerment for peace, and tied to this is the
4. Explication of peace 23 (to make explicit)
Now we see Christ link the reception of the Spirit with forgiveness of sin. For He says,
“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Let’s be clear on what this doesn’t mean. No one has authority to forgive anyone else’s sins. I can’t, you can’t, a priest can’t and the pope can’t.
Christ’s words remind us of what He had previously said to Peter in Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever
you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Here’s Christ’s point. When Peter or any follower of Christ acts according to God’s Word, what they say is the judgment of God on a situation.
And in Matthew 18:18 in the context of church discipline, even putting one out of the church our Lord declares, “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Those Matthean passages concern church discipline. Yet that same principle ties to what Jesus says that Sunday evening to His disciples our mission of the gospel.
What’s clear is that the apostles couldn’t go around saying, “Hey you, we don’t like you, so your sins will never be forgiven. You are helplessly lost. And you over there. Your pardoned.”
In fact, when any church hierarchy claims they have the authority to absolve someone’s sin, well they oppose the truth of God’s Word.
When the Roman Catholic councils proclaimed Jan Huss, Martin Luther and scores of others followers of Christ as heretics, that judgement meant nothing before God. For those who sat in judgement twisted God’s Word and actually condemned themselves.
But when those whom God has called to represent Him, declare His Word to a situation, they speak with all the authority of God.
So, it is, that Christ’s true disciples who know His standard in the Scriptures, can boldly declare the certainty of a sinner being forgiven if that person has embraced the work of Christ.
And the opposite Christ says hold true as well. We can boldly declare that a sinner is not forgiven if there is a refusal to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Listen, this declaration to tell others of the consequences of their true belief or refusal to belief is not only a privilege. It’s a responsibility.
You see, if you really care about those around you, you will tell them the truth.
You will tell those who come to God through the narrow road of Christ who is the only way, truth and life- rejoice with them that their sins have been forgiven by God.
But to those who refuse to believe and repent, you must also tell them the truth- “Based on what God says are the consequences of your unbelief, your sins have not been forgiven.
And unless you repent, your state of unforgiveness will continue meaning you will experience the frightful wrath of God.”
So it is, the declaration on earth that reflects the divine decree honors God and His Word.
We can say it this way, “God mediates His authority through mouthpieces of His Word.”
Well, friends, if you are a child of God, He calls you to speak for God. Speak faithfully on His behalf. And you do that by knowing His will in this book.
I thank God for those of you who saturate your life daily with God’s Word. Those who can say with Job, (Job 23:12). “I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. “
Will you resolve in your heart (with God’s help) to fill your mind daily with God’s truth? For then you will come to experience Christ’s promised peace. Then you will take the message of peace to the lost empowered by the Spirit.
A message that of warning to the Christ rejecters and welcome to all who will submit to Christ the prince of peace. “Peace for our time” was a declaration made by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his September 1938 speech. Well that same month Hitler invaded Poland and WW2 began! The world can give no peace.
So don’t trust anyone or anything for peace. Trust in Christ who alone is and gives peace!
Peace to you!
John 20:19-23
Hope in Christ Bible Church 3/11/18
Intro. I Cor. 15:1–3
1. Encouragement of peace 19-21a
Acts 12:12
Luke 24:11
Mark 16:13
Heb. 9:27
Acts 3:14–15
John 2:19
Rom. 8:11
Acts 22:4
Luke 24:37-38
Acts 12:15
Rom. 5:1–2
John 14:27 Isa. 9:6 Eph. 2:14
Luke 24:39
John 16:22
Isa. 26:3
Phi. 4:6-7
2. Envoys of peace 21b
John 17:18
II Cor. 5:20
Luke 4:22
II Cor. 2:16
II Cor. 3:5
3. Empowerment for peace 22
John 16:7
Luke 24:49
Acts 1:8
4. Explication of peace 23
Mat. 16:19
Mat. 18:18
Job 23:12
How can I be a doer of the Word who experiences moment-by-moment peace of Christ?