“And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” John 20:22.
Our personal journey of faith travels past many milestones where God “simply shows up,” sometimes in surprising ways and sometimes in rather subtle ones.
There’s no rhyme or reason for us to be sitting around waiting for God to do something supernatural in our lives.
If we have responded to God’s call on our lives, we need to be moving forward in those areas we already know God would have us travel.
God will equip us further as we progress on our very personal spiritual journey.
Today’s verse reminds us we need to be open to what God might do when God in Christ Jesus enters into what we believe, even prefer to be, our “locked away” lives, living like our ideas are set in concrete, thinking now we are Christians.
“God hasn’t anything further for us.”
“God may want to equip us for something we don’t feel ready to do it.”
I’m reasonably sure the disciples didn’t feel like being “sent” anywhere there might be an “arrest warrant,” a Roman spear or sword to greet them (verse 22).
At this point, these disciples were still “meeting alone” behind locked doors.
Then without any notice whatsoever, catching each and every one of them,
inside their own uniquely personal “I’m too busy getting my story straight in their own heads in case the door should be splintered” moment,
His sudden presence – “ALIVE?” materializes – Can they be any more shaken?
What can the presence of Jesus bring into our lives behind our locked doors?
What happens when we allow Jesus’ presence to come through our locked doors and straight into our hearts, our minds and our souls?
Let’s look at what Jesus did for these disciples and discover what He can do for all of us this morning.
John 20:19-23 Amplified Bible
Jesus among His Disciples
19 So when it was evening on that same day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were [meeting] behind barred doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “[a]Peace to you.” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy. 21 Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].” 22 And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven [because of their faith]; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained [and remain unforgiven because of their unbelief].”
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Grace and peace from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
Have you ever been in a room when suddenly (or subtly) someone walks into your seclusion and suddenly there is this air of electricity; this certain spark of energy that accompanies them?
Is it you or is it I as we are bristling at our privacy suddenly ending?
It seems that certain people just possess an added bit of charisma or charm that can change the very atmosphere of a room or a meeting. They possess a certain “uniqueness,” a “specialness” which causes people to stop and pay attention.
Some would see this as an intentional, malicious act of major annoyance and maximum rudeness and almost immediately be “turned off” and “ticked off.”
In spite of how we feel in that exact moment when our privacy ended without our permission, have you ever noticed that certain people defuse our annoyance with their ability to possess an extra amount of charisma, charm, and allure?
Their presence makes a room come alive. There is a magnetic pull towards them as they begin to talk and walk around.
They have that something “special” that causes people to stop and listen. They have that something “special” that speaks to the very heart of people’s lives.
When they walked into a room, the whole atmosphere of the room changed.
You knew immediately someone important was present. You rushed forward, people rushed through you to be near them and hushed to hear them speak.
People like Elvis Presley. Elvis was able to electrify audiences with his voice and presence even before his band played a note or before he sang his first words.
However, there is one that possessed more charisma, more of that something “special” than any of those that I have mentioned.
As charismatic, as charming, electrifying as all of the most charismatic men throughout history, there were none who had more power to change the atmosphere of a room than our Savior and LORD Jesus Christ. No one.
Jesus was able to immediately command the attention of thousands of men, women and children for hours, for days at a time. He possessed charisma plus.
Our reading (John 20:19-23) this morning deals with one of those electric moments in the life of Jesus and his followers.
It deals with one of those singularly unique times when Jesus’ mere presence in a room immediately transformed everything.
Instantly, with Jesus’ presence things went from negative to positive.
With Jesus in the room there came courage and faith where there once was fear and doubt.
With Jesus in the room there was laughter and joy where once there had been sorrow and despair.
And what Jesus was able to do in that room so long ago, I believe this morning He wants to do in our lives and in our Church Services each and every worship session, every bible study session, every prayer and fellowship session.
I believe when encounter Christ, we invite Jesus into our sinful humanity, to be with us and within us, to be present among us, we will experience seasons of newness, joy, peace, transformation, salvation, courage, faith in amazing ways.
Ways that will certainly unsettle us in unanticipated ways, change not only the atmosphere of our worship settings, but ways that will change all of us as well.
In our passage this morning, we see Jesus doing the same thing.
The Disciples locked away in that Upper Room were all wondering in their own way if their Messiah Jesus had really died, was actually dead or actually alive.
Then suddenly Jesus comes into the disciples’ room and the whole atmosphere inside that locked Upper Room is transformed.
Things go from being downcast and negative to becoming electrifying and positive.
The disciples go from being anxiety ridden and fearful to possessing courage.
They go from experiencing feelings of severe uncertainty, anger, fear, anxiety, confusion and sorrow to experiencing blessed assurance, joy, peace, happiness.
I. Jesus’ Presence Brought Peace and Stability
In verse 19 we read where Jesus’ disciples were hiding behind a locked door because they were afraid.
Even though they had heard the message of the Risen Lord from the women and had then listened intently to what Mary had said, listened intently to Peter and John to the “apparent emptiness” they had witnessed at the “empty tomb” they were still very much afraid of “My God! My God! What could possibly be next?”
They were afraid for their lives and for the lives of their families.
Down deep, the disciples knew it would not be long before the Sadducees and the Pharisees would want them silenced.
They knew that both Pilate and the Temple would be doing all they could to destroy any teachings or influence of the Jesus Movement.
After all, the Temple had been successful in finding Jesus guilty of both treason and blasphemy.
That meant that Jesus’ disciples could also be arrested for the same things, treason and blasphemy.
They could find themselves arrested, beaten and at the very least thrown into prison and at the very worst hanging on a cross taking their last breaths of life.
I am sure the people huddled down in that room were wondering how long they would have to hide out in Jerusalem until things died down.
How long would it take before they could safely go back to Galilee and disappear back into the woodwork of their old lives?
What would they do now?
+Could Andrew, Peter, James and John go back to fishing?
+Could Matthew go back to being a tax collector?
+Could Simon the Zealot get back into politics?
+Could Bartholomew go back to his royal family?
Would they or their families ever be safe?
What would the new normal look like?
Just as they were perhaps wondering about all of those things it happened.
Suddenly, in the middle of all their anxiety and angst Jesus appears.
Right there standing in front of them was Jesus, alive and well.
I am sure it had to startle them.
After all, the doors were shut. But right here in front of them was Jesus.
There was no denying that it was Jesus.
He showed them His hands and feet.
They saw the nail prints and they heard His voice speaking peace
– “Peace be with you.”
“Peace – Be – With – You”
There is no fussing about why they were not at the tomb.
There is no fussing about locking the door in fear.
There is no fussing about how they had abandoned him.
There is no judgment or condemnation.
There was just the voice of peace.
There was just the voice able to bring harmony, stability, courage and calmness.
That is what happens when Jesus enters our rooms when they are filled with fear, with doubt and despair.
That is what happens when Jesus enters our rooms when they are filled with uncertainty, confusion and chaos.
Jesus brings peace.
Our Risen Lord brings tranquility.
He replaces doubt and despair with peace and salvation.
He removes the negative and replaces it with positivity.
Remember Psalm 107?
It is a song about peace.
A song of praise and worship and prayerful contemplation centered on how the LORD brought peace to four diverse and uniquely different groups of people:
+Verses 1-9 – Wanderers who have nowhere to go
+Verses 10-16 – People who find themselves imprisoned
+Verses 17-22 – People injured by their own sinfulness
+Verses 23 – 32 – Sailors who are overcome by a storm
All four groups are beleaguered and overwhelmed.
In each case their only hope is in God.
Only God can rescue them.
Only God can bring them peace.
Only God can bring them harmony, stability and joy and in all four cases God does bring them peace, harmony and stability.
It’s why we love some of the old hymns that speak of peace in the midst of trials and tribulations:
+I Need Thee, Every Hour
+It is Well with My Soul
+Peace Like a River
+To God be the Glory
+Great is Thy Faithfulness
and our own singularly unique lists which are far too long to be placed here.
They all remind us that in Christ there is peace.
They all remind us that when we feel like shutting and locking the doors, we need to invite the Presence of Jesus.
They all remind us that when fear, doubt and worry overtake us we need to understand that in the midst of it all is our Lord and Savior Jesus wanting to bring to us an amazing measure of peace, salvation, stability and tranquility.
Today, no matter what we are going through the truth is right beside us is the Risen One. Right beside us is the Alpha and the Omega. Right beside us is the pre-existing one who can bring peace to our troubled hearts, minds and souls.
Jesus can bring us a peace and a stability that is tangible. Jesus can bring a peace that passes all understanding (John 14:25-27, Philippians 4:4-9)
II. Secondly, Jesus’ Presence brought Great Joy and Forgiveness
Not only did Jesus bring peace into the room but He brought a great deal of joy and forgiveness.
When those disciples saw Jesus’ hands and His side it revealed to them that what the women had said was true.
Jesus had in fact risen from the dead.
The proof was right there in front of them.
He was there to see, to feel and to experience.
Can you imagine how much joy suddenly rushed into that room?
The one they thought was dead was not dead; He was right there with them.
Jesus had risen from the dead. He was alive. Their friend, their teacher and Lord was alive. There was no doubt now that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God.
Today, there are a great many people trying their best to manufacture their own joy.
Often, they take a similar route taken by the Prodigal Son we read about in Luke 15:11-32 (Parable of the Prodigal Son.)
+If you remember that young man thought that he could find ultimate joy in possessing certain material goods or belonging to the right crowd.
+If he could just enjoy certain physical pleasures then he would have joy.
+If he could just have enough money then he could have joy.
He did everything he could to manufacture true joy.
He spent everything to experience joy but, in the end, he discovered that true joy had escaped him.
Instead of finding true joy he found himself sitting in a hog lot wishing that he had it as well as the hogs.
We know deep down that true joy cannot be bought.
It can’t come from immoral pleasures.
It can’t come from just having a bank account full of riches.
The young man found joy when he went back to His Father.
He found true joy when he found himself surrounded again with people that truly loved and cared for him.
He found lasting joy when he found himself surrounded with people that understood how to forgive him, accept him and that wanted him.
This is the joy that Jesus gives. It is the joy that Jesus’ church is able to give.
III. Jesus’ Presence Brought the Holy Spirit
In verse 21 we read where Jesus simply breathed on them His Holy Spirit. He filled the air with His Spirit for them to receive, enjoy and experience.
This is the same Holy Spirit that we read about in Genesis chapter one that helped creation take form.
It is the same Holy Spirit that God breathes into a lump of clay called Adam and he comes alive.
It is the same Holy Spirit that we read about in Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven where a valley of dry, dead bones comes to life.
And now Jesus breathes on those gathered there and gives them
+Peace +Stability +Joy +Forgiveness +New Purpose
They no longer have to live under their own power.
They are now able to live with the breath of God inside of them,
the Holy Spirit in their lives, revealing to them how to live and leading them into what Jesus earlier called the Abundant Life.
It is astonishing, utterly amazing what the Holy Spirit can do in a person’s life.
John 20:20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
The disciples were overcome with joy when Jesus arrived in their midst.
More than anything they needed and wanted to be with Jesus.
Joy is such a wonderful thing and yet for all to many people it is evasive.
These disciples learned that true joy is relational in nature.
That is to say, true, lasting joy happens between people.
Our society promotes that true joy can be found in things and in the possession of things.
All you have to do is watch a car or phone commercial.
The idea is that if you own this item or that item you will surely, suddenly be overwhelmed with great lasting joy and happiness.
And yet, history is littered with stories that belie that premise.
Joy lasts about as long as the shine does on our new toy. In a matter of days people are again overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness and despair. Often because after the shine wears off the payments continue on and on.
The disciple rejoiced that day – peace and joy filled that little house – because the resurrected Jesus was in their midst.
Joy replaced fear and sorrow because of Jesus being there.
Joy, laughter and celebration filled the air.
If we could only experience this as we gather together as His people today.
If only Jesus’ disciples today could only experience His presence of joy, laughter and celebration in the same way those first disciples did amongst themselves.
How different would be the air in our sanctuaries. Our services, our study times, our prayers, must be saturated by His Peace and His Joy.
And what a big difference that would make in how we learn to respond to the presence of God, what we do here, what we experience here each Lord’s Day.
Pope Francis is right when he stated;
— “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral.” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” Nov. 24, 2013).
In other words – in our churches there should be a spirit of joy, of laughter and celebration. For in the Church there is life – in the world there is death. In the Church there is peace and joy – in the world there is sorrow, pain and despair.
But without Jesus – the Church will look and feel forlorn.
Without Jesus these disciples were full of gloom, heartache and despair.
Without Jesus they could only hide and lock their doors.
But with Jesus – there is JOY.
Breathe on Me, Breath of God by Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889
1. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.
2. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
3. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.
4. Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life
of thine eternity.
There is a spirit of enjoyment, there is an atmosphere of praise.
Is it not time we allow Jesus to bring joy back into our fellowships?
It is not time to cast out doom and gloom from our faces?
Paul tells us to rejoice, to rejoice evermore (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Because this is the power of the resurrection living and breathing within us,
This is the covenant call of Christ Jesus on our lives!
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Lord God, my Way-maker, I know you have a destiny for me to achieve in this life. I want to follow the plan that you have laid out. Help me to understand and follow your call. Show me your will for my life and what I need to do right now to get started. Enable me to know who I am in Christ, and the special gifts and abilities you have given me. Give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation as I seek to know you more intimately. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.