Sent by the Resurrected Christ

You know the feeling. For one reason or another, you are speaking in public tomorrow and you’re afraid.

  • Maybe you have a class presentation at your school or you have some lines to recite in the school drama.
  • Maybe your biology professor has assigned you to give a persuasive speech about the origins of life or about your view of human gender roles.
  • Perhaps your business team tabbed you for giving a sales pitch to some high-end clients, or your supervisor gave you the last-minute job of presenting the year-end results and the future projections for your department.

For many, these scenarios alter your perspective on life for a while. That knot in your stomach. (The butterflies, too.) The small bursts of panic and cold sweat. The temptation to call in sick. That small but subtle wish, or perhaps even a prayer, that you will get sick or that your teacher or supervisor will delay or even cancel the assignment. Those funny but not so funny nightmares about standing in front of the class in your pajamas or forgetting to bring your notes. Those early morning dreams about fainting halfway through your speech, about ruining the company, or about an alien invasion in the board room.

You know what I mean. Speaking in public has a way of making you afraid, and that’s exactly what the eleven disciples were feeling on the weekend of the crucifixion. They were afraid to be seen in public, and they were certainly afraid to do or say anything that might identify them with Jesus. After all, being on his side might also get them crucified.

To them, it seemed as though the enemy had surrounded them. and that darkness had settled into their hearts. But in John 20:19-23 we learn that the truth of the resurrection transforms your outlook on life. It changes your hopelessness to hope and sorrow to confidence.

Christ's resurrection overcomes fear.

That’s what we find in John 20:19-23. The eleven disciples (minus Judas Iscariot) were hiding out in a room together. They even locked the doors for extra security.

When I was a child, I was scared of the dark. When I woke up at night to use the restroom, I’d lay in bed for a very long time until I could wait no longer. Then I’d jump out of bed and run to the bathroom as fast as I could, closing the door behind me. I’d do the same thing on the way back to my room, closing the door as quickly as possible out of fear that someone was hiding in the living room at the end of the hallway.

In those moments, I can assure you that I was not peaceful at all, and I was certainly not happy. I was scared. I was terrified. I was afraid. Like those disciples hiding in the room, you and I cannot be peaceful and happy, but afraid at the same time. You’re either peaceful and happy, or you’re afraid. Which is it for you today?

It brings peace.

What did Jesus do to calm his disciples’ fears? He appeared to them in the room in person. He did not appear as a ghost or some sort of spiritual being. He appeared with a real, physical body. This was the same body which had been crucified. We know this because Jesus showed them the wounds in his hands and side. He did this again a week later, when he even let Thomas touch his wounds as well.

Imagine the initial shock they must have felt. They had lived and served with Jesus for three intense years. They left their jobs for him and banked their futures on him, Then, within one short week he was taken away from them in the worst way possible. He was falsely accused in public, brutally tortured, and crucified as a criminal for all to see.

Imagine the heartache and pain, discouragement and fear, confusion and sorrow they must have felt that dark and frightful weekend. These men were not feeling peaceful at all; they were filled with deep anxiety instead. Then, suddenly, Jesus appeared to them in person. And when he came, he said, “Peace be with you.”

This word peace describes tranquility rather than anxiety. Rest rather than turmoil. A clear mind rather than confusion, satisfaction instead of sorrow. It was like those scenes in so many gripping stories and movies where it looks like the “good guy” has been destroyed, but then at last he shows up again to save the day.

The good news for the disciples was that this was not a story or a movie. It was real. You see, in the movies, the good guy only appears to die and then we find out later that he was okay after all. But for Jesus, he really did die and yet he really did come back to life. That’s the kind of hero, the kind of Savior that we need – the kind that really died for my sins and really came back from the dead.

When you’re watching a movie like this, you know what it feels like when the good guy shows back up, don’t you? You relax a little bit more because you have a feeling that everything is going to turn out okay in the end. For the disciples, they could now be at peace because their Savior who had died was alive again – but this time it was forever.

It causes gladness.

When the disciples saw Jesus and heard him say, “Peace,” they responded with gladness. This word gladness means “to be glad, delighted, excited – to be very, very happy.” What a difference Jesus made when he appeared to them!

After a week filled with confusion and a weekend plagued by fear, these men became glad and excited all in a moment, when they saw Jesus again. Talk about shifting gears! Talk about flipping a switch! Jesus turned the spiritual lights on in the room that evening.

Though you and I can’t see Jesus in a physical way today, we see him just as clearly (or more clearly) in another way, through the revelation of Scripture. What the Bible tells us about Jesus enables us to see Jesus for ourselves in a real, spiritual way.

In fact, Jesus himself taught us how to see him this way. Before he died on the cross, he said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). Then after he died and rose again, he had a conversation with some disciples in which he began “at Moses and all the Prophets” and “he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

If you want to see Jesus, then read and study the Bible, from Genesis to Psalms to Malachi, and from Matthew to Revelation. All thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and all twenty-seven books of the New Testament show us the truth about Jesus.

In fact, John – who wrote this gospel – tells us in another letter a reason for his writings. He wrote to tell us the report about what he saw and experienced in a physical way so that you and I would share this experience of seeing Jesus with him (1 John 1:1-4). In fact, he hoped that just as the disciples were glad to see Jesus in person, so you would be glad to see Jesus based upon what they reported in Scripture (1 John 1:5).

“Seeing” Jesus through the Scripture is the way to turn your fear and sorrow to peace and gladness. If you have never believed on Jesus as your God and Savior, then you have never seen Jesus this way and you are not able to overcome your sorrow and fear. The solution for you is to believe on Jesus today.

But if you have believed on Jesus and find yourself struggling with fear today, then ask yourself, “Am I looking in Scripture?” What is your relationship with the Bible today? Do you read it for yourself? Do you memorize specific statements from the Bible that speak about your sins and your struggles? Do you study the Bible in depth for yourself, learning more and more about the Jesus you have trusted?

To the disciples, Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Those are the words that they needed to hear. What words from the Bible to you need to hear today? Do a topical search? Read a book through from beginning to end. Let the words of God in the pages of Scripture speak to your mind, your emotions, and your behavior today and all throughout this week. The more you hear from Scripture and believe, the more your fear will change to peace, and your sorrow to gladness.

But seeing Jesus does more than overcome the feelings of fear and dread. It also gives you a mission to carry out. Seeing Jesus doesn’t give you a reason to sit down and do nothing. He gives you a reason to serve. Seeing Jesus transforms you from a fearful, private person to a joyful public witness for him.

The resurrection gives you a mission.

Two times that evening in the room, Jesus said, “Peace to you.” The first time, he intended to calm the disciples’ fear about what might happen to them after he died. This was a fear rooted in the past and present. His resurrection and return them assuaged that fear, making it possible for them to have peace once again.

The second time, though, he intended to calm a different fear, the fear about what might happen to them if they did what he was about to say next. This was a fear rooted in the future. Do you have any of those? Do you have any fears about the future?

  • Perhaps you fear financial failure and a job loss?
  • Perhaps you fear criticism or going away from home?
  • Perhaps you fear rejection by someone you admire, or perhaps you fear doing what is right in a world that is hostile to God?
  • Perhaps you fear physical pain or developing a physical illness or disease.
  • Perhaps you fear the death you will inevitably face, or perhaps you fear dying prematurely?
  • Whatever the case, knowing that Jesus has risen from the dead should give you the peace you need to go forward without fear.

In addition to these fears, the resurrection of Jesus overcomes a different kind of fear rooted in the future. Consider that since Jesus had resurrected from the dead and was with his disciples again, and knowing that the disciples were feeling so glad, then why did Jesus need to tell them “peace” again? What was there to be afraid of in the future?

Christ is sending you, just as the Father sent him.

Jesus told his disciples what he wanted them to do. He wanted them to “feel” peace, but he wanted them to “do” something, too. Just as God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world as a witness for the truth, in the same way Jesus was now sending his followers into the world as a witness for the truth.

At first this sounds like a wonderful opportunity, doesn’t it? After all, what could be better than telling people about how to have a restored relationship with God, about how to have their sins forgiven, about how to have eternal life, and about the resurrection of Christ, which guarantees our own future resurrection as well if we believe on him?

The problem with this wonderful opportunity (and it is wonderful) is that the world is not very happy about this mission. Do you remember what John told us at the beginning of his gospel, only three verses after the wonderful message of John 3:16, that “God so loved the world?” Jesus came into the world as the light of the world – to save the world – but the world did not receive him because “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19),

This hatred for the truth about Jesus led to his unfair treatment and crucifixion, and this hatred for Christ will cause similar challenges for you as well. That’s why Jesus told his disciples not long before he was crucified, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

That’s why Jesus said to his disciples a second time, “Peace to you.” He wanted to assure them that though he was sending them into the world with the good news that everyone needed to hear, it was a hostile and unreceptive world. They would easily be afraid to follow these instructions and to receive this special mission.

But we can have peace even with this, telling others the truth about Jesus in a hostile world. We can have peace because Jesus as resurrected from the dead. Not only does this fact provide us with the message we need to give, but it provides us with the foundation for our faith, our confidence, and our peace in the face of danger. Even the threat of persecution and death itself should not alarm us because Christ has risen.

You will need to rely on the Holy Spirit.

Jesus not only sent his followers into the world, but he enabled them to do what he had called them to do. In Acts 2, Jesus would initiate something that we call Spirit baptism today. He would send the Holy Spirit from heaven to live within every believer, empowering them for life and service in a way that he had never done before that day (Luke 3:16; John 7:37-39; Acts 1:4-5; 2:32-33).

The moment you believe on Jesus as your God and Savior, this happens to you as well (1 Cor 12:13). God sends the Holy Spirit into your life at once and he remains with you for the duration of your life on earth (Eph 4:30). It is not a separate experience that happens to you later in your Christian life. It happens the moment you believe on Jesus. If you have believed on Jesus as your Savior, then the Holy Spirit is within you today.

But Jesus had not returned to heaven yet and had not yet sent the Spirit to baptize and empower his followers for life and service. So here, Jesus imparted to these eleven disciples a special blessing, a preliminary gift of the Holy Spirit to enable them in their mission until Spirit baptism would begin. It was like a “movie trailer” before the movie is released. It was a limited preview of what was about to occur.

Today, when you speak up for Jesus, you discover something wonderful. You discover that the Holy Spirit enables your witness. He gives you courage, clarity, and wisdom, and he empowers your words when you tell others about Christ.

After he sent the Holy Spirit to believers in full on the day of Pentecost, you find a remarkable trend throughout the first century. Believers who spoke about Jesus were filled the boldness (which is confidence and clarity) by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2, 4; 3:10; 4:8, 31; 5:3, 17, 28; 9:17; 13:9, 45, 52; 14:17; 19:29).

This is especially remarkable because believers faced a lot of intense hostility from rabbinical Judaism and eventually from Rome (Acts 4:1-3, 21; 5:17-18, 40; 7:54, 58; 8:1-3; 9:23; 12:1-3; 13:50; 14:1-2, 19; 17:2-9, 13; 18:12; 19:33-41; 20:3; 21:31; 23:12; 26:31-32). But despite this pressure, they spoke up for Jesus and the church expanded as a result (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 11:21; 12:24; 16:5; 17:6; 19:20).

Are you speaking up for Jesus when you can? Are you experiencing the boldness and clarity, confidence and help, peace and gladness that the Holy Spirit gives when you share the truth about Christ and the message of salvation?

You must spread the message of forgiveness.

When you read John 19:23, you may wonder what Jesus is saying. In summary, he is saying that his followers need to speak the truth about Jesus so accurately and clearly that it is clear who has been saved and who has not.

This is important because the fact that Jesus has resurrected from the dead means that real forgiveness of sins is possible. It means that whatever sins you are guilty of thinking, saying, or doing, Jesus has already died as the penalty for those sins (1 Cor 15:3). God’s anger towards you has been fully appeased and his justice for the wrongs you’ve committed have been completely satisfied forever. About this, Peter said, “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).

That is why Peter would go on to preach that, “whoever believes in him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). If Jesus had not risen from the dead – dying for your sins – then you would know that his death was not enough to satisfy the justice of God. But since he did rise from the dead, then you know that his death was enough. There was no reason to remain in the grave for he had satisfied the law’s demands and death had no authority to keep him in the grave any longer.

So many people are living under the penalty of their sins with no way to escape. They follow philosophies that try to explain away the pain and guilt of being a sinful, broken person living in a wicked and decaying world. They practice religions that offer a way for you to solve the problem of your sins by yourself.

But the only way to receive full and complete forgiveness of sins is to believe on Jesus, who died for your sins and rose again forever. Indeed, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through” him (John 14:6).

So many people need to know about this good news, the truth about Jesus from God. Yet many who hear this good news will reject it. Even so, there are those who will receive it, too. Think of Jesus himself. Far more rejected his message than received it; but thank God for the ones who believed.

Who will believe in the world this year because you told them that Jesus saves, that he died for their sins, and that he returned from the grave victorious? Are you afraid to speak up for Jesus?

Consider what Paul said about this in Romans 15:4-6: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Get into the Scriptures. See Jesus there for yourself and let him calm your troubled heart, replacing your fear with his peace. Be a follower of Christ who proclaims the good news of salvation in Christ, committed to compassionate evangelism, without discrimination, through our lives, to our community and to the world.

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