Look Around, See Needs, Step Forward
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
(Since it is Easter, do film clip of crucifixion and empty tomb.)
John 20:19 (Holman) In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, APeace to you!@
Death could not hold the resurrected body of Jesus. Doors could not stop it, gravity could not detain it.
Before Jesus came, the disciples were terribly depressed. Most did not believe Jesus was alive, and even if He were alive, their joy would be muted by remembering they denied Jesus. They had all forsaken Him and fled like faithless cowards. None had spoken in His behalf; only one had stood at the cross.
They were sad at their failure, but when Jesus appeared, He did not demand an explanation, nor even seek an apology. He could have said, AShame on you,@ but instead said, APeace to you.@ His words carried their own forgiveness.
John 20:20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
He had predicted their sorrow would be turned into joy (JN 16:20-22). Now it happened. Gladness filled the room. Doubts were scattered, fear died. The threatening Jews were still nearby, but all fear was gone because He was alive, and they were forgiven. Terror fled, rejoicing arrived, defeat withered, victory blossomed, elation reigned supreme.
John 20:21-22 Jesus said to them again, APeace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.@ After saying this, He breathed on them and said, AReceive the Holy Spirit.@
Previously the mission of our doing what Jesus had done would have been impossible. But now, Jesus breathed and started a new world. The mission was His. The power was His. He knew they would fail alone. Thus He imparted to them what they would need. Unless we allow God to breathe into us, we have no chance of being Christ=s body.
Christians, He has breathed the Holy Spirit into your body because of your faith B you have the chance to be Christ=s body. What an awesome assignment.
John 20:23 AIf you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.@
Only God can forgive sin, but His forgiveness reaches only to those we touch with the Gospel. God has no other bearers of forgiveness than Christians. If we do not take the message of forgiveness to people, they will never get it.
Read the recipe. Touch a person, know and befriend them, earn their trust, then capture the right moment to tell your personal story of forgiveness.
His work has become our work. He looked around where He was, saw needs, and walked across the room. Jesus stepped forward to act. We must also, going forth to spell out the terms of forgiveness: repentance and faith.
We carry not only a message of forgiveness, but also an atmosphere of forgiveness. Sinners must feel in us what has already been decided in Heaven. They best sense the forgiveness of God through other believers.
Saul of Tarsus met God on Damascus Road. Devastated for three days and nights, he began to sense healing only when Ananias came to bless him (Acts 9:4-18). Had Ananias not come, we wouldn=t have Paul.
What a privilege it is to be able to speak words of forgiveness to the lost and dying. People can so bog down in the quagmire of sin that they fear they can never get rid of its condemnation. They can feel despair and fatalism.
Christ-followers have an awesome responsibility. We hold in our hands knowledge that unlocks Heaven=s gate. Like a pharmacist, what we do with what is on our shelf, determines whether or not a person will die or be healed.
What is your story of forgiveness? He took you from sin, forgave you, and began to change you. Has He turned your fear and guilt into peace, your depression into elation, your sorrow into joy, your anxiety into faith, your doubts into hope, your worldly life into a life of significance?
John 20:24 But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called ATwin@), was not with them when Jesus came.
When Judas failed, he went out and hanged himself. When Peter failed, he went out and wept bitterly. When Thomas failed, he went out and hid himself. He wanted to grieve alone. He was ashamed, brokenhearted, unable to look the apostles in the eye. He simply wanted to be left alone with his grief. The death of Jesus, combined with his own failure, meant the total extinction of hope.
Sorrow and depression have an isolating effect. Thus, when Thomas heard the disciples had assembled, he stayed away. He did not have the heart to go.
Satan desperately tries to reinforce this isolationism brought on by sorrow and depression. Satan wants to keep us away from the fellowship of believers.
John 20:26a So the other disciples kept telling him, AWe have seen the Lord!@ But he said to them, AIf I don=t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!@ After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them.
The disciples did not give up on Thomas. They walked across the room to find him and help him . Because they went to him, he came to them.
Thomas was not apostate. He had been an absentee, but could not remain an absentee. His presence spoke well for the Apostles. Though Thomas had been absent and defiant, the others did not ostracize him. They treated him as a wounded comrade, not a despised enemy. They sought to help him, and tried to strengthen him. We must always have a soft heart for Christ=s wayward sheep.
John 20:26b-27 Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, APeace to you!@ Then He said to Thomas, APut your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don=t be an unbeliever, but a believer.@
Once Jesus arrived, He immediately singled out Thomas. Reproof would be unnecessary. The doubter would be melted, not insulted.
It must have been embarrassing for Thomas to hear his own challenge repeated back to him by Jesus. Jesus, though invisible, had been present when Thomas had obviously made his rash remarks.
Notice the love of Jesus. He had heard with his own ears the objectionable, obnoxious tone of Thomas, but Jesus condescended to grant Thomas= test. Jesus offered to let Thomas do anything needful to strengthen his faith.
John 20:28 Thomas responded to Him, AMy Lord and my God!@
For eight days, Thomas had pondered, AWhat if Jesus really is alive?@ He knew exactly what it would mean, and had drawn the only logical conclusion.
His leap of faith was astonishing. He bounded from skepticism to an unseen world. His words remain the strongest testimony to the divinity of Jesus ever uttered. He rose to the loftiest view of Jesus found anywhere in the Gospel.
Thomas became the first to verbalize the ultimate truth about Jesus. To Thomas belongs the honor of being the first to look into the face of Jesus and say, AMy God.@ John never could forget this instant. After 60 years, the awe of this moment was still a fragrance to his soul, and he chose to make it the climax of his Gospel.
John saw its significance. Once the truth expressed by Thomas was verbalized, the lives of the disciples and the history of the world could never be the same. Once spoken, it became a reality in their lives that demanded a change. Things would be different now.