“Resurrection: Then What?”
April 08, 2018
By John Partridge*
John 20:19-31 Acts 4:32-35 1 John 1:1 – 2:2
Today is the second Sunday of Easter or, a part of the church’s Eastertide celebration. Today, and during the next few weeks, we will be remembering what happened after the resurrection and the events leading up to Pentecost. This is important stuff. This is the story of the disciples and the early church as they discovered what it meant to serve a Jesus that had risen from the dead. It was one thing to be a follower of a rabbi, or teacher, that preached throughout the countryside and challenged their church leaders to be ethical, moral, and actually do what scripture taught. But following Jesus the rabbi and teacher, and following the Jesus that had defeated sin and death were two very different things.
In these next few days and weeks, everyone’s understanding of what it meant to follow Jesus was changing. Everything that they thought they knew, and much of what they believed, was challenged. Everything that they thought they understood about the mission of the church, and their role in that mission, was being deconstructed and rebuilt into something new. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, everyone was starting over and their lives would never be the same again. We begin our story today in John 20:19-31, when the disciples meet the risen Jesus for the first time:
19 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. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 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.
The disciples were together, probably talking about the wild stories that the women had told them about seeing angels and a risen Jesus. Since the crucifixion, they had been trying to figure out what to do next. They had left their jobs, careers, and families behind to follow Jesus and now he was gone. They were filled with grief and confusion. Their lives were in turmoil… and now this! What did it really mean that the tomb was empty? Was it possible that Jesus had risen from the dead? Had the Romans, or the Pharisees, or someone else, stolen Jesus’ body? Did they suspect each other? Were the disciples asking one another if they had done it for some reason? We don’t really know. But what we do know is that they were together, and that they were afraid of being discovered together, or at least afraid of being discovered by the Pharisees or the Sadducees and arrested, or worse. They were so afraid of being discovered, or overheard by neighbors, that they had closed all the windows and locked all the doors.
And suddenly, Jesus appeared among them.
And in the midst of their confusion, and pain, and grief, and fear, Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus’ first gift to them is to comfort them, calm them, and assure them that he was not gone and that all would be well. But Jesus also says that just as God had sent him to earth, Jesus is sending his disciples out as well. And not only is he sending them, he breathes on them and offers them the gift of the Holy Spirit (these acts are connected because in both Greek and Hebrew, the words for “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit” are the same word). And to make absolutely sure that no one was left out, Jesus returns to make sure that Thomas is included and all of the disciples (other than Judas) are working together. In the span of a single week, Jesus moves the disciples from a place of fear, confusion, grief, and turmoil to a place of unity, belief, understanding, and growing confidence. And going forward, that is what the church begins to look like as well. In Acts 4:32-35, Luke says this:
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
The followers of Jesus Christ were so unified in their belief, so focused on their mission, and so trusting of one another, that they shared everything that they had. That doesn’t necessarily imply that they were living in a commune or were supporting communism, because many of them still owned land and houses, and presumably in some cases, businesses. Luke doesn’t say that these people sold everything that they owned, but that those who had something made sure that they shared what they had with those who had nothing. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that the followers of Jesus didn’t share what they had or give money to the poor because they got a tax deduction for doing so. A believer in Jesus Christ shares what they have with others, and gives to the church, simply because the Spirit leads us in that direction and because God has asked us to do so. Any tax benefit that results from our generosity and obedience is clearly not something that the disciples ever considered.
And as we heard last week, and many times before that, the mission of the church was clear from the beginning. In 1 John 1:1 – 2:2, it sounds like this:
1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
2:1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
John again repeats, several times, the core mission of the church. We have heard, we have seen, we have touched, and we must tell the world what we have learned so that others may have what we have. We must share the good news of Jesus so that others can come out of darkness and live in the light.
Isn’t there always a “but?”
John says “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
And as he explains further, what he is saying is that if we follow Jesus, we will walk in the light and Jesus will purify us, and he will be at work perfecting us.
While these things are all true, if we follow Jesus then we must do our best to act like it. We cannot claim that we are perfect or without sin, because we are not, but we try as hard as we can not to sin and trust Jesus for forgiveness when we do.
And so we see that from the very beginning, the followers of Jesus Christ had several core beliefs that directed their entire lives. First, trust that Jesus loves you and is in control of your life. Second, believe that Jesus has defeated sin and death and has paid the price for your sin through his suffering, death and resurrection. Third, we must focus on the mission together. We must care for the poor, feed the hungry, lift up the brokenhearted, cloth the naked, be a voice for the voiceless, and in all things have compassion for others and be Jesus to the people around us. Fourth, because we have heard the good news, because we have seen the power of Jesus to change lives, and because we know the truth, we must tell the world what we have learned so that others may have what we have. We must share the good news of Jesus so that others can come out of darkness and live in the light. And finally, we must live and we must love… together. We must resist sin and live lives that honor God, and we must act as if the teachings of Jesus are important.
It’s a short list.
And it’s not easy.
But these five things must shape everything we do.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.