Turning our World Upside Down (John 20)

It is confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper. 

“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.

Interestingly, the advert said nothing about what they were looking for in candidates, nothing about what the role required. It didn’t need to. I confess that purely out of curiosity I visited the website of www.southaustralia.com. Yes, I did and it is true. 

Then reality caught up with me. I remembered my age and my heart sank. And my soul yearned to be 30 years younger… If only… Do you ever do that? Do you ever feel life has passed you by? Do you ever feel over the hill? That you have had a raw deal?  That you have been short-changed? That time is running out?  Like the sand in the egg timer?  If only you could turn it upside down and start again? Well, you can – kind of! Because of Easter. Because the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ has radical implications for the way we view the future. For the way we view life and death.

Let us discover how the resurrection of Jesus transformed the lives of his followers. The disciples were meeting in secret, hiding, behind locked doors. They were not expecting Jesus. He could have rebuked them for their cowardice during the previous few days, but he did not. There is no rebuke, no “how could you?” Jesus doesn’t scold them or shame them. The first words of Jesus spoken after His resurrection are almost identical to what He said shortly before He was arrested: 

“I told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

First notice, 

  1. Jesus Gives His Peace to Live on

“Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:19-20)

The disciples were afraid. The word “fear” in verse 19 carries with it the idea of “flight.” The disciples were so alarmed and frightened that they wanted to run. Now, contrast this with the word, “peace,” which means “putting together that which is broken.” Jesus knows they are afraid so He says “Shalom” to them, which literally means, “All good to you.”  He came to bring good to them – peace. The cross is the sign of peace, the cross is the means to peace. Jesus comes to them and reassures them. He shows them his wounds. They were to be sure it was Jesus and not another person. Not a ghost or apparition. Do you understand that Jesus wants to extend peace to you and I as well? He doesn’t gloss over your past. He is well aware of the mistakes we have made. 

He knows how we’ve scorned Him, denied Him, and rejected Him when we should have been speaking up for Him. Yet He still extends peace. When He sees you He says, “Shalom.” Jesus gives his peace to live in.

  • Jesus Gives His Purpose to Live by

“Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

The first use of the word “peace” in verse 19 was given in order to quiet their hearts. This second “peace” was given in order to prepare them for their role. 

Jesus reminds them what he had said that the Last Supper “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18). He not only restores them but He entrusts them as his ambassadors. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21) In his book The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren reports on a survey that found 89% of church members believe the church’s purpose is to “take care of my needs and those of my family.” Only 11% said, “The purpose of the church is to win the world for Jesus Christ.” Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21). We need reminding that mission is our first priority otherwise we experience what Mark Mittelberg calls the “second law of spiritual dynamics.” Left to ourselves we move toward self-centeredness. Jesus gives his peace to live in and his purpose to live by.

  • Jesus Gives His Power to Live on

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22-23)

We usually think that the Day of Pentecost was the birthday of the church. It wasn’t. It was more like her baptismal day. Easter was the birthday of the church, when the Apostles met Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. 50 days later at Pentecost, the power of the Holy Spirit enabled them to be witnesses of Jesus. If you sometimes feel a little overwhelmed when prompted to bring Jesus into a conversation, remember Jesus not only calls, he also empowers as well. We need his presence and power too. When we give the Holy Spirit room to work, He will surprise us again and again by what He does best. We are not alone. 
God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.

And when I find myself tempted by adverts offering a new life in South Australia with fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine, I remind myself of my purpose here – to know Jesus and make Jesus known wherever Jesus sends me.  John closes his Gospel with these words,

 “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

How did Jesus transform them from fear to courage?  He gave his peace to live in, his purpose to live by and his power to live on. The resurrection of Jesus provides a glimpse of all God intends for all of us too. Today, God the Father calls you to trust His Son, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ and let Him transform you by the power of His Spirit, from someone who is living to die into someone who is dying to live.