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Breathe in Peace


Please read John 20:19-23.

It’s been nearly a week since the world saw images of the cathedral Notre-Dame engulfed in flames. As you are no doubt aware, there has been no shortage of reactions to the fire and opinions about rebuilding the historic building.

On one side you have the architectural experts who have already submitted unsolicited opinions that the cathedral should be renovated to reflect modern, politically correct sensibilities. I heard one man condemn the cathedral as oppressive to non-Christians and non-whites. His solution sounded to me like a kind of “religious mall” that accommodated worshippers of all faiths and no faith at all.

Chowderheaded notions like that betray the sad state of the PC crowd. To have these thoughts, let alone express them in a public forum, is ridiculous.

On the other side I offer Mel Lawrenz, Minister-at-Large at Elmbrook Church and director of The Brook Network. He wrote, “Notre-Dame de Paris is a church building, but also a landmark of civilization whose construction was started 858 years ago, taking 200 years to build. When its construction began, Paris only had 100,000 residents.

“What do the great cathedrals represent? Churches are built to facilitate worship. A church is a gathering place for the people of God. They stream to it from the surrounding neighborhoods, and so enjoy a connection with each other, the basic movement that forms community and society.

“When I saw Notre-Dame burning what came to my mind was the great loss of this symbol, but also the fires burning up our civilization today. Philosophies that deny the possibility of truth, the abnegation of morality and ethics, the devaluing of community and the descent into lonely isolationism. Churches settling for superficial sentimentalism and church leaders trading integrity for fame. Government leaders forgetting the very idea of selfless service. The laziness of crude social communication. There are dozens of fires smoldering among us, and none of us know when [one] will flare up & make us less civilized.

“A mason who worked on the beginnings of Notre Dame in AD 1160 knew he would not see it completed, nor his apprentice son, nor his son, nor his son. They all worked on something that God and the world could see 200 years after it was started. The most important things we work on in our lives will never be completed within our lifetimes. And the most important things we will build are not buildings.”

<https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2019/04/the-notre-dame-fire-civilization-burning/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weeklybrief&spMailingID=59057872&spUserID=MTI3ODAxOTkxODkwS0&spJobID=1622644128&spReportId=MTYyMjY0NDEyOAS2>

The resurrected Jesus replaced His disciples’ fear with peace, joy, the Holy Spirit, and authority.

1. They were afraid of the Jews.

They were afraid even though Peter and John had already seen the empty tomb (vs. 1-9) and Mary of Magdala had seen Jesus Himself (10-18). If they’d understood from the evidence and eyewitness Jesus was raised from the dead what reason did they have to be afraid?

Clearly, they didn’t understand. Peter and John saw only the empty tomb; they didn’t see Jesus. This was evidence they’d misinterpreted. They may have been concerned that the Romans or Jewish leaders were convinced Jesus’ body had been stolen, they would likely be blamed, sought out and arrested. Without His body they had no way of proving their innocence on a grave-robbing charge, a crime that met with severe penalty: death. The empty tomb may have added to their fears, not diminished them.

Mark 16:11 says the disciples found Mary of Magdala’s account to be unbelievable. To be fair, Mark 16:12-13 says they didn’t believe the testimony of two others who said they’d met Jesus walking in t country. This is nothing new; in the gospels Jesus rebukes the disciples several times for their being slow to believe (Luke 24:25).

Their fear was demonstrated in two ways (19). One, they were gathered together, possibly believing there was strength in numbers. Of course, they gathered for reasons other than fear; surely grief bound them together as well.

Two, they had locked the doors. The motive for doing this is specified as FEAR OF THE JEWS. John’s reference to THE JEWS probably meant the Jewish religious and civil authorities; the Sanhedrin. What did the disciples fear THE JEWS would do to them? Probably some version of what they’d done to Jesus, perhaps more quietly.

2. Jesus replaced their fears with blessings.

He replaced their fear with peace by being among them (19). Jesus’ means of entry into their locked room is not specified, so we are left to imagine how it happened. The point is that He STOOD AMONG THEM. He was with them again!

Surely His presence among them, say nothing of His sudden appearance, would have been startling to already nervous people. To calm their fears, He pronounced PEACE to them for the first of two times in this passage. This expression is often used in response to angelic visitations and other situations where a startled, fearful response would be understandable.

He replaced their fear with joy by confirming His identity and His still-human nature (20). Jesus SHOWED THEM HIS HANDS AND SIDE: two of the three places where His body had been pierced during His crucifixion. This allowed them to recognize Jesus as a man, not a ghost (see Luke 24:37-39).

We could paraphrase this verse to say, “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw He was the Lord.” It was really Him! A small part of their joy may have been relief that He wasn’t a ghost, but the major portion must have been that He was not dead.

He replaced their fear with peace by pronouncing peace to them (19+21). Jesus blessed them with His peace a second time (a reminder of the peace He’d promised them in John 14:27). Part of this PEACE was an assurance that their story was not over. Quite the opposite, Jesus was sending them into the world as God the Father had sent Him. The commissioning we see here fits with Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 18, “AS YOU SENT ME INTO THE WORLD I HAVE SENT THEM INTO THE WORLD.”

At that time, this was a typical greeting in the Hebrew language; shalom alekem. In a situation where they felt anything BUT peace, it was a familiar-sounding and calming blessing. The fact that Jesus bid them PEACE twice supports the assumption that He appeared suddenly and miraculously among them, startling them. As this is something people aren’t normally able to do, He also had to reassure them He was a man not a ghost.

He replaced their fear with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them (22). They would go into the world to continue Jesus’ mission. As He had, they would carry on under the power of the Holy Spirit.

The matter of Jesus’ breathing on them seems strange to us. Consider the following:

The sight, sound, and feeling of Jesus’ breath were more proof that He had risen bodily from the dead. Ghosts do not have breath.

In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word we translate as “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”

Both of them are required for life but are invisible to the naked eye.

This action is meant to remind us of a couple Old Testament passages. First, Genesis 2:7; how God created humans by breathing THE BREATH OF LIFE into the nostrils of the man He’d created from the dust of the earth. Second, the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37), where God breathed new life into the dead men’s bones.

We can understand Jesus’ action of breathing on them was a kind of demonstration, given the layers of meaning we have just noted.

He replaced their fear by delegating His authority to them (v. 23). As Jesus’ opponents acknowledged, only God has to power to forgive sins (for example, see Mark 2:7). Jesus repeatedly exercised this power, demonstrating He was God as well as man.

In this verse He is delegating to His disciples the divine authority to forgive or withhold forgiveness. The word FORGIVE literally means “to let go, to release.” In this way it reminds us of the “binding and loosing” promise Jesus made in Matthew 16:19 and 18:18.

The resurrected Jesus replaced His disciples’ fear with peace, joy, the Holy Spirit, and authority.

A mother and her four-year-old daughter were preparing to retire for the night. The child was afraid of the dark. When the light was out, the child caught a glimpse of the moon outside the window. “Mother,” she asked, “is the moon God’s light?”

“Yes,” said the mother.

The next question was, “Will God put out His light and go to sleep?”

The mother replied, “No, my child, God never goes to sleep.”

Then out of the simplicity of a child’s faith, she said that which gave reassurance to the fearful mother, “Well, as long as God is awake, there is no sense both of us staying awake.”

<http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/faith-to-sleep>

Fear is one of the things Easter has done away with. As we’ve seen this morning, fear has been defeated. It no longer holds any mastery over us. In Jesus Christ, our fear of death, in particular, has been put to rest.

The resurrected Jesus Christ relieves us of fear and replaces it with courage based on the peace, authority, joy, and Holy Spirit power. Yes, fears still arise, but their voice rings false. The world’s threats are empty. Because we share in the Resurrection Day victory of Jesus, we shall overcome all our fears.

Resources

The Anchor Bible, Raymond E. Brown

Message #180

Zondervan Bible Commentary, David J. Ellis

#Easter #JesusChrist #John #HolySpirit #fear #joy #authority #peace

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