This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: John 20:19-22
Sermon prepared by Rev. Vernon Luchies, Kalamazoo, Michigan
A brilliant young preacher accepted a call to a large congregation. The people were pleased with his fine oratory and learning. But there seemed to be something still missing in his sermons. One Sunday morning, there was a note on the pulpit from one of his elders: "Sir, we would see Jesus!"
It gnawed at him. It bothered him! The Holy Spirit was convicting him. He really wrestled with the Lord in prayer. He finally gave up his scholarly lectures. He became a real ambassador of his Living Lord. He pleaded with people to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Some, who came to be thrilled, remained to pray and confess. A great change came over him and his congregation.
On a later Sunday morning, there was another note on the pulpit:"Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord!.” Those very words from the KJV, form our text today. Listen to verse 20, "After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side, The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."
I pray that such joy will be ours this morning. Such overflowing joy ought to be ours every Sunday! Someone might say, "Well, that all depends on the sermon." Surely, that plays an important part, but such talk may also be a "cop-out!" Jesus didn't say: "Where two or three are met together — if the sermon is good — there I am in the midst of them." Remember, He's here with us even if the sermon is "lousy!" Perhaps the Risen Lord is right there beside you, but you don't recognize Him! You're like Mary Magdalene. She didn't recognize Him either at first! Our text says, "Then were the disciples overjoyed when the saw the Lord!”. Not, “When they heard an excellent sermon.”
The entire sermon and service must show us the Living Lord! He, the Risen Lord, is here! He's here to be seen by faith! He still "Walks among the golden lamp stands which are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:17
How thankful we should be that locked doors cannot keep the Saviour out! Neither can 2000 years of history! We can be with the Lord as really as the disciples could that great "evening of the first day of the week."
Whether then or now, the actual presence of Jesus does not depend upon the feelings of His followers. That Sunday evening, His followers had a fading faith. Demoralizing doubts! Frightening fears! Threatening thoughts! It wasn’t at all like the Psalm writer’s experience:
"With joy and gladness in my soul
I hear the call to prayer.
Let us go up to God's own house.
And bow before Him there.”
And bow before Him there.
No, fearfully they hurried through the streets. Cautiously, they peeked around each corner. Quickly they slipped within, and bolted the doors. They feared the Jews would enter and possibly do away with them also.
Yet, despite such feelings, when they saw the Lord, they were overjoyed! Whether we see Him or not, He is here. To be seen. To be known. To be worshipped and adored! Jesus Himself has said, "Behold I am alive forevermore." That still holds true in the year of our Lord 2002. So, see Him and be overjoyed.
See Him blessing us!
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.'" Ah, the presence of the Risen Lord is a blessing in itself! Yet, with uplifted,nail scarred hands, He speaks a blessing of peace to their troubled hearts.
'Locked doors, heavy hearts, muddled minds cannot stop Him from blessing us with His peace. I'm sure the disciples had many questions. But with Jesus' blessing of peace, questions and doubts are forgotten.
"Peace be with you!" are Jesus very first words. Jesus is very much concerned about the peace of His people. Among the final words Jesus had with His disciples were these: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” At another time He said, "These things have I spoken unto you that ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.”
We can be quite sure His disciples did not sense that peace immediately. But that, in no way, makes this peace of God meaningless! Not at all! Without them realizing it, that peace was penetrating their hearts. Unawares, that peace is already working. That's one reason "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."
How unconscious you and I were at the beginning of this service! The Risen Lord blessed us as surely as He blessed His followers that first Lord's day evening: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!" And were we conscious of His blessing at the time, I'm sure none of us felt an overwhelming sense of peace as soon as the blessing was spoken. Thank God, that peace does not depend on bur awareness of it. When Jesus blesses with peace, that peace does not wait until awareness dawns in our hearts. Rather, it enters that you and I might become aware of it! It's a blessing of irresistible grace and growing peace!That unrecognized blessing of peace at the beginning of the service, might just cause some little part of the message or of the service to strike deep root in your heart. It might cause that "spiritual lift" to come right in the busyness of your work-a-day week! It just might help you to better "obey your parents in the Lord," children. Young people, It might just strengthen you to have your personal devotions more faithfully. Others just might see that peace in your face and in your life at school. Sick and elderly, it might just ease your pain and worry. It just might impress those taking care of you! See Jesus this Lord’s day and be overjoyed! His disciples were. You can be also!
One thing is for sure. Only after Jesus blesses with peace, does He reveal Himself and what He did for us. Else, none of His disciples, nor any of us, would be convinced of His presence among us, nor of His salvation for us!
See the marks of His love!
"After He said this, He showed them His hands and side." What a wonderful thing to do! How can anyone doubt now! Imagine! He even shows them His side, the spear thrust that proved His death! What condescension!How anxious He is that they believe. He wants them to know that He is the very same Jesus. That He is still intimate with them. How much He wants us to believe. To know He is our Living Saviour.
"With His wounds we are healed!" No wonder that in verse 20 we also read, "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.'” Congregation, See! See Jesus! Be overjoyed!
With their minds and hearts at peace, they take in this wonderful revelation! Standing there around Him, they ask themselves, "Can this really be Jesus? Jesus, who died on the cross?" First, there was His blessing of peace. Now, they see the nail prints in His hands. The wound of the spear thrust into His side. No longer can they doubt. This is the very same Jesus who died on the cross. They are completely convinced of it.
This all happens that first Sunday evening. They see. They really see Jesus. "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord!” I can't imagine any of His followers falling asleep that first Sunday evening, can you? How could they possibly do such a thing? Can you feature any of them whispering about non-essentials? Paying no attention? What wonders they would have missed.
Perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a reason why some of us are not overjoyed Sunday evenings. Is it possible, we ignore His blessing of peace? Are we blind to those wounds in His hands and His side? Those wounds by which we are healed? Jesus shows His disciples and us, the evidence of His suffering. In showing them “His hands and His side”, "He preached unto them Jesus!" Those marks of suffering were caused by Peter's sins, all the disciples, sins. Our sins, yours and mine, pierced His hands and His side.
Jesus didn't show His hands and His side to shame His disciples, or to hound them with guilt. He showed them to convince all of us, that full salvation was accomplished. He showed them His hands and His side to lead all of us to faith and repentance.
These wounds were not in a dead body, but the living Lord! Those wounds revealed the sacrifice of the living Saviour! "Jesus paid it all! “All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He made it white as snow.” Jesus’ wounds speak of victory over sin, suffering and death! Those wounds speak of newness of life! Are you, like the disciples, over-joyed when you see the Lord?
As you come here Sunday after Sunday, what do you see in Jesus? Do you see Him only as, one to stay on the good side of? Someone to be used? Someone to keep you out of trouble? Someone to keep you peaceful and give you plenty? Then you aren't really seeing Jesus! See Him first of all as your own salvation! As the world’s salvation! Then you too will be "overjoyed when you see the Lord.”
In revealing Himself in this way to His disciples, He was saying to them and to us: "It is all for you! The price has been paid in full! The curse has been lifted. Now we truly know the truth of what Jesus said on the cross: "It is finished!" Our salvation is complete. The living Lord, standing here alive, genuinely proves it!
Boys and girls, when Jesus sprinkled that water of baptism on your forehead, He was telling your parents, "See my hands and my side! It is all for you and your children.” When you grow up He expects you to say "Amen" to your holy baptism. He expects you to confess: "Jesus is my own Living Saviour and Lord." He expects you to do so publicly before this church and before the world!
Every time we hear the Word preached, or see the Lord's Supper served, Jesus is saying to all of us, "It was all for you. See. See Me! I'm a alive and well! Be overjoyed. Be sure to meet the Lord every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening! See Him and be overjoyed. Whether young and old, when we see Jesus, our Living Lord by faith, we too will be "overjoyed." “And the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Hear Him sending us!
Verse 21, "Again Jesus said, Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you!" Notice, before He sends, He blesses with peace again. "Hallelujah! What a Saviour!" He doesn't send us out with upset hearts.
You and I might think that after the blessing of peace, after showing His hands and His side, Jesus might have said "That’s all for this evening." But Jesus isn't through with them or us yet. No, they have to put what they've seen and heard into action! Something has to be done with seeing the Risen Lord. That overflowing joy of seeing Jesus, has to have an outlet. So, Jesus sends them out with the good news that He's alive and brings salvation!
We might think, “Surely, this applies only to Jesus' disciples! Not to us today!” It applies to them especially, but not only to them! We too are His disciples! Every time we meet, we are blest with His presence. Remember, Jesus is present every time we meet together in His name. Be promised! "Where two or three meet together in my name, there I am with them!" Every Sunday, every time we meet together, we are blest with peace, we are shown His love and suffering for us. And we are sent out to tell the world.
In the last book of the Bible, Jesus walks among the golden lamp stands. The lamp stands are the churches! They are to lighten the darkness! Jesus said, "I am the light Of the world!" But when He finally left for heaven, He said, "You are the light of the world!”
On that first day of the week, at the first light, the women had to "go quickly and tell!" And the redeeming feature of it all is this: none of Jesus’ followers had to go on their own power. Jesus blessed His people with power, after he had blessed them with peace! How do we know this? "He breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit!" When He sends, He also enables. It has been that way all through history. For with that breath on His disciples came the promise of Pentecost. He Himself said, "You will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be My witnesses.”
To all His witnesses, he says: "As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you!" So how does the Risen Saviour send us out? As the Father sent Him! How did the Father send out His only Son? John 3:16 doesn't say, "For God so felt it His duty to send His only Son?" No! "For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son." Ever since that first Sunday evening, Jesus sends out His followers in love! He says, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring!" In love He sends! In love they go! In love, others are drawn to Him.
"The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord!" Are you? He blesses us with peace. He shows us His hands and His side. Our Salvation! Let us overflow with joy and tell others. Soon we will hear God's benediction. This is not meant just to comfort us and give us peace this week. It is also meant to qualify us as sent-ones to proclaim the resurrection of our Living Lord! Listen to Philippians 2:15 & 16: “That you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life!"
Is God calling you, young people, retired people, into full-time service? Ask Him! Surely, He's calling all of us into full-time overflowing joy. His Spirit has been breathed into us. To be sent just like Jesus was sent: "not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved!"
See Him. Be overjoyed. Be overflowing with the good news that Jesus is alive and receives sinners.
Let's talk to our Living Lord! Let us pray together!
O Lord Jesus, give us the grace to say with your servant Job: "My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You! Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Having seen you by faith this morning, may we, like Your disciples, that first Sunday evening, be overjoyed. Seeing You by faith. Seeing Your hands and side. May we say with the hymn writer:
Wounded for me, wounded for me
There on the cross He was wounded for me.
Gone my transgressions and now I am free,
All because Jesus was wounded for me.
Risen for me, risen for me.
Up from the grave He has risen for me.
Now evermore from death's sting I am free,
All because Jesus has risen for me.
We pray Lord Jesus:
Breath on us, breath of God,
Fill us with life anew!
That we may love as Thou dost love
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Proposed Order of Service
We enter to Worship
Songs of Praise by the Praise Team
We approach God with Praise
Call to Worship: Psalm 95:1-8a
Elder: In whom is our help?
People: Our help is in the name of the Lord, The maker of heaven and earth.
God's Greeting: I Peter 1:2
We greet one another
Song of Praise: Ps. Hymnal ~ 241:1-3" This Is the Day!”
We follow God
The Morning Prayer
Song: Ps. Hymnal # 280:1-3" Blessed Jesus, at Your Word”
God speaks to us through His Word
Scripture Reading: John 20:19-22
Sermon: "See Jesus! Be Overjoyed!"
Prayer that God apply His Word to our hearts and lives
Song: Ps. Hymnal # 296:1-5 “We Give You But Your Own”
God’s Parting Blessing: Ephesians 3:20 & 21
Song of Dismissal: PS. Hymnal # 420 “Breathe On Me... “
Words of Dismissal
Leader: Go forth into the world to love and serve the Lord!
People: Thanks be to God! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!