“Gifts from Jesus”
8 April, 2018 – The 2nd Sunday of Easter
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist churches
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
John 20:19-31 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=389938149)
I’ve heard about Jesus and I need more.
Think back with me.
John 1:45 - Philip to Nathaniel “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
“Come and see.”
Nathaniel will have to encounter Jesus and draw his own conclusion.
Think back with me.
John 4:42 – Woman at the well goes to town after meeting with Jesus
“Come and see,” she invites,
Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done!”
Many believed based on her report.
Many more believed because their experienced Jesus themselves.
“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe,
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know
that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
Think back to last Sunday with me.
John 20:18 – Mary to the disciples “I have seen the Lord!”
No evidence of their belief or attempt to verify Mary’s claim.
Today, Jesus comes to them in the secured room
“Peace be with you.”
Then, he shows them evidence of his crucifixion,
His hands and his side.
Disciples to Thomas
“We have seen the Lord.” (20:25)
Thomas needs to see and experience Jesus just like Nathaniel,
Just like the people in the village the woman at the well went and told,
Just like Mary, waiting and weeping outside the tomb.
“Unless I see
The mark of the nail in his hands,
And put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side,
I will not believe.” (20:25)
I can’t fault Thomas.
He’s gotten a bad rap.
It isn’t as if he doubted.
His skepticism is a reflection of
The same need to see and experience the risen Christ,
Similar to Nathanial and the people from the woman’s village,
Just like the ten disciples locked away in the upper room after the resurrection,
Just like you and me today.
I’ve heard about Jesus, but I need something more.
Show me Jesus.
Show me Jesus.
I’ve learned over the years that Jesus doesn’t play fetch.
Jesus doesn’t respond to our every request, petition, or plead
Like a dog fetching a stick.
Jesus moves and acts on his terms.
Not on our terms.
Jesus is our God.
We are his disciples.
It’s good not to confuse this basic principle value
Of the relationship between our God and his people.
We don’t tempt the Lord.
We don’t command the Lord.
We don’t tell the Lord how to run his kingdom.
We don’t tell the Lord to show up.
If the Lord shows up, wonderful.
If the Lord doesn’t, the Lord has his reasons,
And it may, or may not be, our place to know.
Trust in the Lord.
Trust in the Lord that he knows what’s he’s doing.
Then let it go.
Trust and release.
Show me Jesus, that I, too, might believe!
“What does it mean?” the gospel of John is asking
In his account of Jesus appearing
First to the disciples,
Then, secondly, to Thomas.
What does it mean?
Jesus’ appearance is first by sight,
But is not dependent upon sight alone.
It is possible to come and see Jesus without his physical presence,
Without acuity of vision and direct observation.
It is possible to come and see Jesus,
To come to believe in his resurrection and salvation,
Simply with an open mind and heart.
Allow me to help us to connect the dots.
Jesus’ visit to the disciples in the upper room wasn’t a courtesy call.
He had an agenda.
The gospel of John reveals two action items that were his greatest priority.
1. First, Jesus breaths upon his disciples
And gives to them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Contrary to Luke / Acts account of the Holy Spirit descending
Forty days after the resurrection of Jesus,
“with tongues as of fire”
As reported in Acts, chapter two,
Jesus gives to his disciples
The gift of the Holy Spirit on the evening of his resurrection.
The breath of Jesus,
The gift of the Holy Spirit,
The power of God Almighty taking up residence (abiding)
Reveals the resurrected Jesus much more powerfully
Than simple direct, visual, eye witness observation.
Christ is alive!
We are free to witness,
Because he has filled our lives with his Holy Spirit!
By filling us with the Holy Spirit
Jesus gives us the power of the Spirit,
That will sustain us when we run out of power.
Jesus breaths upon us the will of the Spirit,
That guides us when we become disoriented or lost.
Jesus fills us with the love of the Spirit,
Love that forgives,
Love that saves,
Love that will, one day, welcome us home.
The Holy Spirit
Is the gift of Jesus Christ
To his disciples
Authenticating his resurrection.
2. The second high priority item
Jesus sought to address
With his disciples locked away in the upper room for fear of their lives,
Was the command to forgive,
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.
If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (20:23)
The power to forgive is an awesome responsibility.
“If” means yes or no.
If means yes, as a disciple of Jesus,
Given the gift of forgiveness
And the ability to grant forgiveness,
Then, if forgiveness is given, they are forgiven.
This power comes to us directly
From the sacrificial atonement of the cross,
Washing us clean of our sins by the blood of Jesus.
This makes us stewards of God’s grace,
The keepers and caretakers of God’s gift of redemption
To a world sinking in sin.
With a world in such desperate need of salvation,
Withholding the forgiveness of Jesus Christ
Appears to me to be poor stewardship of the gifts Jesus
Gives to us for safekeeping and responsible use.
What does it mean if
“If” means no?
What if the sins of another are retained?
Jesus says, “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (20:23)
It doesn’t make sense
The Son God sends to forgive and save the world,
Would commission his disciples to perpetuate sin
By the refusal of forgiveness.
What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s happening!
Indeed, the answer lays deeper in the translation.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.
If you retain the sins of any, they are retained,”
Our gospel of John reads. (20:23)
Yet, in the translated Greek from the original Arabic,
There is no word for “sins” in the second conditional clause.
“If you retain …, they are retained.”
Scholars suggest a more accurate reading would be
“whomever you hold fast (or embrace), they are held fast.”
In other words,
Embrace those who have sinned against you.
Hold fast to those who’s sin has caused you harm.
Hold them tight.
Do not let go!
Offer forgiveness until they accept it.
Drown them with your love.
Let this sink in for a moment.
Embrace and hold fast to those hard to forgive.
The implications are immense.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus introduction begins
Like it has so many times before.
“Peace be with you”
Becomes the common denominator that brings
Our post-resurrection appearances of Jesus together as one.
The risen Christ
Is a gift of peace,
To be welcomed into the community of eye-witnesses
Who are transformed into evangelist-witnesses.
“We have seen the Lord!” (20:25)
“My Lord and my God!” (20:28)
Christ is risen!
The love of God,
As expressed through the gift of Jesus Christ,
Brings peace to the world.
To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
Is a gift of peace,
Knowing that individually, and collectively,
The Holy Spirit will guide us,
Will support us,
Will sustain us,
And is leading us home
To abide with God for eternity.
To forgive, and be forgiven,
Just as Jesus directs,
Is to become the usher and stewards of peace in the world.
For those who you can’t forgive today,
Hold tight to them
So that your faith might deepen such that
You can forgive them tomorrow.
Peace, I give to you, dearly beloved.
My peace I give to you.
The peace of Christ is what I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled.
Be filled with the Spirit and
Be at peace.
(I’m grateful for creative inspiration that I’ve drawn from Mary Hinkle Shore’s commentary, as found at: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3619)