Message Delivered on April 12, 2015
John 20:19-31 “Powering Up”
If I were to ask you what you think about when you hear the expression “power up,” what comes to your mind? Maybe it is plugging your phone into the charger to refresh the battery, or turning on your computer (to “boot up” or “power up”), or perhaps you are turning the key in your car’s engine. All of these are possible sources of getting re-energized or ready to perform various tasks.
Think about the tornado that ripped across mid-America and wiped out a small town west of Chicago. That storm did more than “power up.” It cut a huge swath across Illinois, wreaking havoc in its path. Storms that knock out electrical systems help us to focus on systems that remind us how dependent we are upon power. We are grateful when wind filled storms pass over and do not affect the flow of power to our homes. If we are to define power, we might think of possession of control, authority, or influence over others. Some people have natural gifts for applying power. Some are born to power and others seek power, while still others abuse power. The whole matter of authority, jurisdiction, control, command, or dominion is an extremely intriguing one. Often we are locked in international and national debates as to how we should or should not use power. Should the Mideast have nuclear power and the ability to bomb neighbors near or far? Today’s gospel announces how Jesus conferred powers upon his followers when he appeared to them as the Risen Christ. Let us call it “Easter Power.”
John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance takes place on Easter in an Upper Room where the disciples had gathered. Jesus’ appearance is substantiated by Luke. The disciples were in shock, drenched in fear, worrying what might happen to them when it was discovered that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb. The door is locked in defense of any who might come looking for them. It is Jesus who comes looking for them.
Can you imagine what it was like when Jesus came and stood among them unannounced? He does not enter the way a normal person would through the door. He speaks to them to give them evidence that he is their Lord and shows them the badges of his crucifixion: five scars, nail prints in his hands and feet and the wound where he was speared in the side to confirm his death. The scars were proof that he was the living Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, standing amongst them. He was dead but now he is ALIVE!
Jesus’ greeting to the disciples was, “Peace be unto you,” shalom. It is a word used to suggest the fullness of well-being and harmony untouched by ill fortune. It is a lot like the German word, “Gemutlichkeit,” to convey well-being. The word as a blessing is a prayer for the best that God can give to enable a person to complete one’s life with happiness and a natural death. Jesus’ ministry was clear: he had come to introduce the rule of God and to order peace for the world. If only peace reigned in the world then and now!
Jesus came to tell his disciples about the unbroken relationship with the Father as the chief sign of peace. It was his gift to the disciples to contradict any other form of security offered by the world. His gift was dependent upon his complete victory over sin and death. The community of Jesus’ disciples came to look upon the life, death and resurrection of Jesus as God’s Gospel of Peace for the whole world.
The welcome greeting was accompanied by Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon them, even as God had breathed life into Adam, the man formed of the dust of the earth. On the first Easter evening, Jesus made new creatures of his disciples. Paul wrote later in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
The One risen from the grave brings new life, life that has conquered death and reconciled us to God. New life conferred by the power and force of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with eternal life. The Holy Spirit enables those who share in Jesus’ victory to opt for decisions that make for peace and are conducive to actions of freedom and love. It is a new way of living.
Dying to destroy death was a significant victory. Too often victories are only momentary, but not so with Jesus’ victory over the grave. Jesus’ victory can now be put to universal practice. God had reconciled the world to himself. There is a new basis for God and people to live together. The disciples had authority from Jesus to forgive sins–divine authority. They had authority to reconcile people to each other. They could withhold forgiveness hoping that some folks need to seek out the goodness and mercy of God. Forgiveness of God can be withheld from those who neither love nor trust the God who created them.
Jesus’ power is the power needed in the world for healing. The brokenness of the world can be seen in the inability to live in harmony in marriage, family, work, community, political, national and international relationship. We all suffer from the problem at one level or another. What is not so obvious is that people are inept at overcoming the destructiveness of bad human relationships. Remember “Humpty Dumpty, who had a great fall? All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Humpty together again.” At our house we said, “Poor Humpty.” God can and does reconcile people through the power of forgiveness he shares with us.
Spouses can forgive each other to make their marriage new every day. Parents and children can forgive the daily failures they have in their efforts to live together in tranquility. Progress toward better relationships can be made when there are persons willing to be advocates and reconcilers for individual rights and agendas. One of the prevalent problems today is that our nations was born out of Christian traditions and values while other nations do not have the same convictions. Jesus not only gifted the disciples with Holy Spirit, but he also empowered them to believe–to have faith. The disciples’ fear turns to joy and they witness to the Christ. When Thomas comes to the second gathering, the disciples tell him, “We have seen the Lord!”
Thomas can only believe if he sees Jesus’ scars, the signs of death, not life. Jesus offers to let Thomas touch his scars but Thomas confesses his faith. Jesus tells Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have come to believe.” Faith is a miracle given by the Holy Spirit, who can change the hearts of people and help them to believe in Jesus, who has achieved our salvation for us.
John wants us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and through him, we too will rise again. In the meantime, we are sent into the world as practitioners of God’s reconciliation. I have been to enough doctors lately who are practicing medicine, that I want them to get it right. I want you to get it right, as well. Wherever we are, there is a need for forgiveness of sins. Each Christian has the power to forgive. Jesus trusts us to carry on his work. Power Up. Do you agree to accept this mission? Sometimes it seems like the old television show, “Mission Impossible.”