John 20:19-2219 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, 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.21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
I invite you to notice something with me here in this passage. It is simply the connection between the peace of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Today, on this Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church, I want to look with you at the theme of peace as it flows from a receptivity to and relationship with the Holy Spirit. I want us to notice the practical and powerful ways that God’s peace can transform our lives.
First notice with me that Jesus comes to us in peace. He came to the disciples in peace. He had many reasons to be angry with the disciples, many reasons to be disappointed in them, many reasons to scold them and to let them have it for the multiple ways they had deserted Him when He needed them most. They had lost focus. They had lost faith. They had given in to fear. It happens, doesn’t it? I’m guessing you’ve experienced it during this Pandemic. I know I have.
I’ve asked some fear-based questions like, “How is ministry even possible right now?” “What will we do if people quit engaging and quit giving?” “What if people simply get out of the habit of coming to church and just never return?” Early on I asked questions like, “What happens if people can’t get the medical testing they need done? How will delaying diagnosis impair people’s health in the future?” My own mom was desperately needing to get into a hematologist and her appointment kept getting pushed further and further into the future. When she did have one, it was a virtual one. When you are losing blood and need answers, that can be a disturber of your peace. Many of you understand as you have had similar health crises and have needed to be actually and not just virtually seen by a doctor.
I’ve also wondered, “What will happen if there is a resurgence of the virus in the future?” I’ve questioned how I might manage divisions and hurt relationships if they arise within the life of the church because of strong feelings about reopening or staying online only and because of strong feelings regarding masks or no masks and a whole host of responses people are having right now. I’ve wondered how I will help people deal with the emotional trauma that is very real and will likely continue to linger for more than a minute due to financial pressures and the way life has changed and will change as a result of what we are going through. The unknown can create crippling fear, can’t it?
Though the circumstances are very different, I can identify a bit with the disciples who were locked behind closed doors in fear. What lurked on the outside for them? They weren’t sure. How would they navigate life without Jesus being physically present with them? There were just going to be so many changes for them. What would happen to them if they moved about freely? They couldn’t know, and those unknowns kept them huddled together behind a locked door.
More than anything, they needed peace. Peace dispels fear. It has that kind of transforming power. This is what each of us needs and needs to seek today in order to be freed from anything that Satan might want to use against us to keep us locked up. I will testify that several times during the last two and a half months, Jesus has come to me with His peace. I have received cards and texts from many of you that have brought God’s peace to me as you have reassured me that God is still speaking to you through our online ministry. Our staff has done live video devotions where you have shared words of life with all who have watched, and God’s peace has rested on me. I have ministered one-on-one to several of you and to many in the community in ways that have reminded me that no virus can lock God’s power and presence out of our lives, and the peace of Christ has given me a passion to persevere. I have gone back after each online service and have taken note of the way many of you have engaged online and have shared our services, and God’s peace has washed over me. I have heard stories of ways you have ministered to each other and to our community and God’s peace has swelled within my heart. I have witnessed people walking back into the church doors and doing so as tears streamed down their face because it was so wonderful for them to be back, and peace has calmed my spirit. I have seen supernatural answers to prayer, many supernatural answers to prayer, which had reassured me that God is right here with us all, and that has given me what the Bible describes as peace that can’t even be described or understood. It’s the peace that truly passes all understanding that Philippians 4 talks about. The fact that Jesus will come to you in peace is life liberating and life transforming. He IS the Prince of Peace.
And so, Jesus’ first word to the disciples was, “Peace,” and this peace was accompanied by an empowering by the Holy Spirit. In a moment that would foreshadow the Day of Pentecost, in a moment that was a sample of what was to come, Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. Let me make three observations about what I will call Pentecost Peace, the peace that is accompanied by the receiving of and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
- Pentecost Peace will move through locked doors.
There are all kinds of reasons that people are hiding in fear. There are all kinds of emotional and relational prisons that are keeping people from living free and from experiencing the abundant life for which Christ has died. People are walled in by unforgiveness. People are living in isolation because of addiction. People have locked themselves in because of some kind of personal failure. People have distanced themselves from Jesus because it has just been too long since they had that connection with Him, and they don’t think they would even know how to get back if they tried, and so they don’t.
Listen, the Peace of Pentecost can move beyond the biggest of barricades right into the hardest of hearts and the most confused mind. There is no wall that the peace of Christ cannot penetrate. I understand that fear caused the disciples to hunker down and lock the door, which is natural and human, but when we allow our fears to immobilize us, we are doing the opposite of what the Peace of Pentecost does.
- Pentecost Peace mobilizes us for God’s mission.
Notice verse 21 again, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Peace with God comes as we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, and the peace of God that is received through the Holy Spirit enables us to be bold witnesses for Christ. The fact that Jesus was sent by God was something He talked about a lot. In fact, 38 times in John’s Gospel, Jesus used the phrase, “Him who sent me.” It was an ongoing theme and for a strategic reason. Jesus never claimed to be an independent agent. He never said He was on His own mission, sharing His own agenda. He didn’t just say what came to Him naturally or fly by the seat of His pants. No. He said that He only communicated what the Father told Him to say (John 14:10).
This is important for us because Jesus is our example in all things. If He submitted Himself to the message of the Father, so should we. As He was sent by the Father to communicate the Father’s message, Jesus was sending us. In that same manner, Jesus sends us. We are not some rogue bounty hunters trying to drag people to God. We are agents of the Most High God, empowered by the Spirit, to share the Word of God in power and authority as Jesus did.
Do you know that often Jesus’ words were counter cultural? His messages were challenging, right? His words weren’t always received well. People weren’t always quick to say, “Jesus, You are totally right and I’m going to change my life now to line up with what you have just said to me. Thank you very much!” No. While Jesus was on a mission of peace, His mission wasn’t always peaceful. How do we reconcile that sometimes Jesus’ words disturbed people and disrupted their way of life? Listen, peace isn’t about status quo, but it is about Shalom. Shalom is about wellness and wholeness in every part of your life, and if you are living in a way that is contrary to God’s way you won’t experience the true wholeness of Shalom, the true wholeness of peace. In order for that to change, you have to receive the whole message of Jesus, the full message of Jesus and not just the parts that make you feel good or resonate with your sensibilities and desires.
I guess what I am saying is that in order to experience the peace of God in fullness you have to welcome the Word of God in fullness. And Jesus never said to the Father, “Ummm, can I leave that part about serving out?” “Can I skip over that not lusting piece?” “Could we tweak the part about getting the log out of your own eye before trying to clear out the speck out of someone else’s eye?” “Could we de-emphasize generosity and giving to the poor? I mean, I think it would go over better if we massaged it a little bit.” No, Jesus accepted the words God gave Him, and so must we. As Jesus was sent to proclaim the message God gave Him, so too, we are being sent with the full message of Shalom. And not only is it a message we proclaim, but it is one we must live out. How many of you know it is easier to proclaim peace than it is to live out?
That is why we need the power of Pentecost. That is why we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We will never have the power to be peacemakers and to correctly proclaim peace unless the Holy Spirit rests on us as He rested on Jesus. Do you remember at Jesus’ baptism that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and anointed Him for His ministry? Listen, if Jesus, who was also God, needed the empowering of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His mission, how much more do we need the Holy Spirit’s power? The Peace of Pentecost is not given without the Power of Pentecost, and that makes all the difference in our ability to go as Jesus went.
Jesus said to His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Listen, the offer of peace in your own power from your own perspective will simply make people a disciple of you. But the offer of peace in the power of the Holy Spirit from the perspective of God our Father will make people disciples of Jesus.
And so, Jesus breathed on the disciples. That may sound weird at first read. It wasn’t like Jesus was saying, “Here, let me breathe on you.” That actually sounds kind of creepy, right? It sounds completely creepy during this Covid 19 Pandemic. While I know we are supposed to go out and do the things Jesus did, I do not recommend you go out and ask people if you can breathe on them right now (or ever). J Just sayin’. His breath was the wind of the Spirit. Just as God breathed into Adam the breath of life in Genesis 2:7, Jesus was demonstrating that God wanted to breathe spiritual life and power into the disciples. You remember that when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet He was pointing them to a kind of cleansing, a kind of washing of their souls that would take place after He paid the price for their sin on the cross, well, the same could be said here. Jesus was providing a symbolic moment that was anticipatory of an even greater moment that would come on the day of Pentecost.
That day is recorded in Acts chapter 2.
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.
My third point is simply this:
- Pentecost Peace unites us into one body.
Acts 2 makes a point to tell us that God-fearing Jews from every nation on the planet were impacted by the Word of God that flowed from those who were filled with the Spirit. In fact, people from 16 different locations, 16 different languages or dialects were referenced. They had traveled to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Shavuot, also known as Pentecost, which is the Jewish festival that commemorates the day the Jewish people received the Law via Moses, and the streets were teeming with people. The disciples who had gotten together to pray and wait for the Promised Outpouring of the Holy Spirit received it as the sound of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled everyone that was gathered in that house. Each one started declaring the Word of God in languages they had never learned. And as they did, that Word was heard in the streets by those who were there. Those gathered to celebrate the receiving of the Law then had an experience with the Spirit of God and 3000 of them became followers of Jesus. 3000 people who didn’t even speak the same language, but in one breath, as God’s Spirit was poured out, each one of them had the united experience of hearing God’s Word in their own language. The breath of God and the Word of God united those gathered, forming them into the people of God.
This is part of the message we must live out and declare. We are all one. God calls us to be one. God created us as one race, the human race, and those who are in Christ form one family. There is no Jew or Gentile, no white or black, no brown or red, no male or female, no distinction to be made for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). Pentecost makes us family. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Hating someone because of a difference like the color of their skin or disregarding someone’s life simply because of your experience or power or position is heinous. The arrogance of anyone who thinks they are superior to another because of their privilege or upbringing, is not only ignorant, it is a form of idolatry. It is evil and anyone who ascribes to that kind of ideology is in an alliance with the devil. What has gone on and is going on in our country, with the taking of life and the discarding of life because of a prejudice heart, is simply an abomination. I’m telling you the Power of Pentecost is the change we need. While only God can transform a heart, I believe if we will faithfully declare God’s message in the power of the Spirit, we can see a uniting of people into God’s family the way it is supposed to be. Church, with Christ as Lord, and the blood of Jesus as our banner, there will always be more to unite us than divide us. We must not let hate win.
So that no one has to try to read between any lines this morning, let me be clear. Racism is evil. It is sin. It must not be tolerated in the Body of Christ, and we can not assume a position of silence and call that peace. We must declare the Word of God in the power of the Spirit so that the peace of God can reign in every heart. It is what we have been commissioned to do. It is why the Spirit of God has been poured out on believers. It is why Jesus is breathing on us again this morning.
Our world needs peace. We need to be on the frontlines of peace. We need to be the leaders who are bringing people together as we bring them to Jesus. Jesus Christ has died for all. The message of the Gospel is for all. The breath of God is for all, and it grieves the heart of God that anyone could view someone else’s life as insignificant, invaluable or dispensable. We need to become absolutely ridiculous in the way we love one another as well as in the loving way we treat those outside the Body of Christ.
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
We are one in Christ. If we are going to live as one for Christ, we have to live at one with each other. This is the Proclamation of Peace for this Pentecost that God has called me to deliver.
When Jesus offered His peace to the disciples and breathed on them, He told them to “receive” the Holy Spirit. God is not unwilling to breathe on us. God is not unwilling to pour out His Spirit on us, but we can sure be unwilling to receive the offer. Those 120 disciples that gathered in the Upper Room were willing to receive, and because they were, 3000 people were saved that very day. I wonder, do we have 120 people on-site or online who are willing to receive the Holy Spirit in order that 3000 more can be united in God’s peace? Do we have 120 people today who are committed to declaring the message of peace and to living it out through their lives? Are there 120 people who will refuse to be silent and instead be sent with Pentecostal Power to Proclaim Pentecostal Peace?