By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
Eagle Rock Lutheran Church
Los Angeles, Ca
For us the last words of our loved ones are very important. That’s why people go to their lawyers to make their Last Will & Testament. In the court the last words of a dead witness have bearing or relevance. The world has full of compilations of the last words of most popular people, and we treat them as very precious. Let me tell you some last words of famous Christian leaders:
Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism, says, “Our God is the God from whom cometh salvation: God is the Lord by whom we escape death.”
“Live in Christ, live in Christ, and the flesh need not fear death,” says John Knox, the founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland.
John Calvin, founder of Calvinism, says, “Thou, Lord, bruisest me; but I am abundantly satisfied, since it is from Thy hand.”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, says, “The best of all is, God is with us. Farewell! Farewell!” (sermonillustrations.com).
Jesus had also last words before he ascended to heaven. In his words, Jesus prepared the disciples after the resurrection. He should ascend to heaven as soon as he was raised, but still Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and strengthened their “resurrection foundation” which is unique in Christian faith.
Our passage hints that Jesus showed himself to his disciples within a span of one week (vv.19, 26).
I. Jesus Consoles: “Peace be with you!” (vv.19, 21, 26).
In our passage, there are three mentions of the phrase “Peace be with you!” Two instances in the Resurrection day, and another one after a week. This phrase was addressed to Jesus’ disciples.
Greeting “peace” to his disciples during this time was a timely manner, since they were perplexed, afraid of the Jews, and had doubts. As the core or agents of Christ’s mission to the world with unstable minds might hinder their missions.
Jesus knew that, that was why he told them “Peace be with you!” It was like “Make whole your minds.” Repetition of that kind of greeting may mean the importance and urgency of peace in their hearts and minds.
Duke University, a United Methodist university in North Carolina, did a study on “peace of mind.” Factors found to contribute greatly to emotional and mental stability are:
1) The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge or hate was a major factor in unhappiness.
2) Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to hopelessness and depression.
3) Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it. In other words, live your life.
4) Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress. Separation from the world (e.g., stay in the room) will not help in having peace.
5) Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.
6) Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues–love, humor, compassion and loyalty. In other words, apply love and humor to your family, friends, and neighbors.
7) Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation, and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable. Understanding oneself will help nurture peace in his mind.
8) Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness. Believe in God and expect that he will help you in your times of troubles (sermonillustrations.com).
Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v.21). This is the first of the three commissions given by the Risen Christ (another on the mountain in Galilee [Mt. 28:16-20; 1Cor.15:6], another on the Mount of Olives [Luke 24:44-51; Acts 1:3-11]).
You might notice the adverbs “as” and “so” in the sentence. It may mean, “in the same way, likewise” or “To the amount or degree expressed or understood” or “As-to the same degree or extent or equally” (thefreedictionary.com; dictionary.com).
In Jesus’ words, it may mean like this: “Look at me, I am your model, the Father sent me like this, so I am sending you like this way, too.” He may mean three things: (1) Sacrifice, (2) Loyalty and (3) Glory. Jesus did sacrifice for his mission entrusted by his Father. He was patient, and he even offered himself for his mission. Even in times of sufferings and crucifixion his loyalty to his Father was unmovable. In the resurrection, Jesus was glorified. Glorification is sure for those who will sacrifice, and will be loyal for his mission.
III. Jesus Gives: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (v.22).
Sending the soldiers in wars without guns might mean suicide, likewise sending the apostles into the world without the power of the Holy Spirit will mean painful suffering, and consequential defeat.
So Jesus breathed on the Holy Spirit to them. The Greek word used here is εμφυσάω (emphusaō) which means “breathed on” or “blow at,” which the act was symbolic, after the manner of the Hebrew prophets (compare Ezek.37:5, Vincent’s Word Studies).
The Holy Spirit was promised, and in the book of Acts, Jesus told his apostles to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit (1:8). On Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit filled the waiting disciples (Acts 2:4).
IV. Jesus Proves: “Put Your Finger…” (v.27-29).
Sending the apostles with their doubts in mind was unwise leadership, so Jesus cleared the minds of the doubting disciples. The Gospel of John mentions Thomas as the doubter, but Mark 16:14 says the plurality of doubters, meaning Thomas was not the only one, some disciples had also doubts. Let me read the account of Mark,
“Finally he appeared to his eleven disciples while they were eating. He rebuked them for their unbelief and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who had seen him after he had risen.”
Anyways, in the Gospel of John, Jesus asked Thomas to touch his hands and his side. Jesus told Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Take your hand, and put it into my side. Stop doubting, but believe” (v.27).
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus told him, “Is it because you have seen me that you have believed? How blessed are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!” (vv.28-29).
I believe Thomas’ doubt was just a kind of scientific doubt. Doubt that did not lead him to unbelief. That was the doubt that led him to dig deeper the truth and led him to a strong belief. After he found out the truth as revealed by Jesus himself, he shouted, “My Lord and my God!”
However, for Jesus, that faith founded on proofs seem inferior to faith. The disciples knew this later on. Hebrews 11:1 says,
“Faith, therefore, is the substance of things waited for, the evidence of things not seen.”
One good thing with Jesus, he even sent the disciples even though their faith was not strong, and they have had doubts (Mark 16:14-15). Probably he knew that as they did share the Gospel their faith would become stronger and better.
It is interesting to note that the last commandment of Jesus Christ after he was resurrected, and before he ascended to heaven is that the Church shall go into the world and do its mission (Mt. 28: 19-20; Jn. 20:21).
I remember a theologian once said like this, “A church that ceases to do its mission, ceases to be a church.” Thus, the church exists for mission, and if it stops doing its mission it stops to be a church.
J. H. Bavinck is right when he says that:
The Church . . .exists to satisfy the need of the world. Missionary activity is not incidental, but it is a part of the very essence of the church. . . the church is the instrument by means of which divine mercy is extended to the world. Through his church Christ stretches forth his hands to those still outside the light of his everlasting salvation.” (An Introduction to the Science of Missions, p.69).
The big question for us nowadays is this, are we ready to be a church? Are we ready to be the Eagle Rock Lutheran Church that has mission to its neighborhood?
Are we ready to be a member of the church that does its mission to its neighborhood? Or we are just like watchers in a movie theater? We just pay, watch and go home after the movie. Spectators who are spectating the spectacular?
One night, about ten o- clock, he realized that he had not yet witnessed; so he went out in to the street, and spoke to a man standing by a lamppost, asking him, “Are you a Christian?”
The man flew into a violent rage, and threatened to knock Moody into the gutter. Later, that same man went to an elder in the church and complained that Moody was “doing more harm in Chicago than ten men were doing good.”
The elder begged Moody to control his zeal with knowledge. Three months later, Moody was awakened at the YMCA by a man knocking at the door. It was the man he had witnessed to.
He said to Moody. “I want to talk to you about my soul,” He later apologized for the way he had treated Moody, and said that he had no peace ever since that night on Lake Street when Moody witnessed to him.
Moody led the man to Christ and he became a zealous worker in the Sunday school.
The missionary action of Moody did not bear fruit at first, but his action made the man think about his faith and salvation.
When we go to our neighborhood, and share the gospel, we might receive nothing, we might convert nothing. But the Holy Spirit will help us, and in His time, our effort will become victorious and fruitful. Just go….