Prepare Our Hearts – April 14th

Tuesday, April 14, 2020
John 20:19-23
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

A few days ago we looked at some of the reasons we can be certain that Jesus really did rise again, but neglected to examine in depth the idea that Jesus’ own disciples were taken by surprise at the news of His resurrection. That very first Easter evening, the disciples huddled together inside a locked room, undoubtedly trying to make sense of all that was happening. Just a few hours prior, the women came running from the direction of the empty garden tomb in such a manic state that it was hard to make out what they were saying. The gospel writer Luke informs us in his account that the disciples at first dismissed what the women were saying as “an idle tale.” As is often noted, in patriarchal first-century Israel, a woman was considered “too hysterical” to be considered a reliable witness in the court of law. Nevertheless, Peter and John listened and raced to the garden and, while they saw no sign of the angels, the stone was gone and the tomb was indeed empty. Now, the disciples were left yet again to contemplate what to do with the day’s second round of unbelievable news brought by the women: they had seen the risen Jesus!

The locked room and fearful state of the now-eleven disciples are clear indicators that they didn’t yet grasp that everything they thought they knew had been changed forever. Then, without warning, Jesus was right there, present with them, just as He had been so many times before. To fully verify His identity, Jesus offered them His nail-scarred hands and spear-pierced side: now they too knew without a doubt that Jesus lived!

The ESV translation of the Bible tells us that upon seeing Jesus they disciples were “glad,” but I am not sure that word is strong enough to describe what they must have felt in that moment. We might instead more accurately say that they were simultaneously relieved, refreshed, renewed, and rejoicing at the remarkable return of their risen Redeemer! Jesus was alive and all was right with the world.
As He told them, “Peace be with you,” He spoke peace into existence within their hearts. Then Jesus reminded them that their mission, rather than coming to a conclusion, was just now coming into focus. They would no longer be merely disciples, or learners, but apostles, which means sent ones. Just as the Son had been sent from the Father, they were now being sent from the Son, and they would carry with them the message of peace and forgiveness for the world from the Father through the Son, but they would not do it alone.

Jesus then breathed and reiterated they would soon receive the Holy Spirit, which He had previously told them would come upon His departure from the earth It was the Holy Spirit who would empower their efforts, enabling them to forgive, just as they were in need of forgiveness. Of the twelve, one had betrayed Him, one had denied Him, and the rest had fled. Only John stayed near through the trial and execution, and afterwards even he was riddled with fear and guilt. Each of the others had completely abandoned Jesus, just hours after swearing they would never leave His side. They not only needed the Lord’s forgiveness for their unbelief, they also needed His power to offer it to each other. They must learn to speak the language and deal in the currency of forgiveness, which was the heart of the work and message of Jesus towards His wayward sheep.

We find ourselves in the same position of the disciples today: in need of God to do His work in us in order for us to do His work in the world. I don’t know about you, but over the years I have found myself too many times attempting to do ‘the Lord’s work’ in my own power, while dismissive of His ability to work through others whom I have deemed unreliable or unworthy. Far too often I have set my own goals and expectations of success with total disregard to how God is already at work. Even if everything I endeavor appears to come to fruition, the mark of a true disciple of Jesus is never outward success but inward submission. I am daily learning that I must allow God’s peace and forgiveness to dwell within me before I ever attempt to offer them to others, and I must understand that I am a terrible savior, I can only point to the One who by His grace has saved me.

Prayer for today:
Lord Jesus, just as the first disciples did not know how what to believe and needed You to show Yourself for who You are, we still need You to open our hearts and reveal Yourself to us today. Help us to know and experience Your peace and forgiveness in a transformational way, that we can then answer Your call to be ambassadors to the world around us. Forgive us for the times we dismiss or deny the transformative work that You are doing in those around us. We ask that You take our imperfect endeavors and use them for Your glory, for the sake of Your name. We ask this in Your mighty name, which has the power to save. Amen. by Dan Kish