Sunday 19th April 2020
Jesus said: ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ (John 20:21)
Praise: Take time now to listen to or sing your favourite hymn.
Prayer: Risen Saviour, though we have not seen the empty tomb and folded grave-clothes, the wounds in your hands and feet, or your physical presence among us, yet we believe, for we have tasted your love, experienced your power and known your joy and peace. So, we come gratefully today in humble praise and adoration. Accept our worship we ask and hear us as take the words Jesus taught as we say, ‘Our Father…’
Reading John 20:19-31 Last week we focused on Jesus’ appearance to Mary at the tomb. In today’s reading, the scene shifts to a locked room as Jesus appear to His anxious disciples…
Prayer: Take time now to pray for yourself, your family, local community and our church. Remember too the needs of today: those who are unwell, anxious or bereaved, our NHS, our leaders etc. Take a moment of quiet before you begin and ask God to bring people and situations to mind, always remembering to also thank God for answered prayer in these challenging days…
Reflection: Another week and still in lockdown. How are you managing? Are you like me and struggling some mornings to even work out what day it is! If you are finding things a bit of a struggle, what might help? Some reassurance? A sense of peace? A sense of purpose, after all, there are only so many times you can do the dusting and cut the grass! If reassurance, peace and purpose are what you’re looking for, then today’s reading is just the one for you, because those are three themes that dominate John Chapter 20: the reassurance Christ alone can bring, the peace Christ alone can promise, and the sense of purpose Christ alone can give. And interestingly, the context of John 20 is another group of people in isolation and lockdown….
The reassurance Christ alone can bring: Lockdown – Jesus’ disciples were in self-imposed isolation and lockdown. Jesus had been crucified and although He had spoken many times about His death, when it happened, it turns out the disciples just weren’t prepared for a Messiah who would die in such a brutal way. And even though Mary had seen the Risen Christ and told them about it (20:18), it seems they simply hadn’t taken that in because they were still more than afraid; they were terrified. In verse 19 we meet the disciples cowering in a room, isolating themselves from the outside world, with the door locked for fear of the Jews. But what happened next? The text tells us Jesus came and stood among them; it doesn’t tell us how that happened just that it did. So, the first thing the Risen Jesus does is simply to be there with them, among them, reassuring them with His presence. And today, in our isolation and lockdown, Jesus still reassures in the same way; the promise of Scripture is that He is right there with you, closer than you could ever imagine (Jeremiah 29: 13-14, Matthew 28:20, Acts 17:24-27). The reassurance of Christ’s presence; the reassurance Christ alone can bring.
The peace Christ alone can promise: Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then He showed them His hands and His side, and they were overjoyed. And isn’t it interesting what Jesus doesn’t say, no mention of: ‘Where were you guys when I was hanging on the Cross? I said I’d be raised on the third day, were you not listening? What are you doing hiding in here?’
None of this; no accusations, just gracious, hope-filled words. So, if you find yourself battling with questions like: Why is this corona virus happening? When will this end? Where is God in all of this? Be assured, Jesus understands your questions and Scripture encourages you to ask them. (Just look at the Psalms – they are filled with questions for and about God.) But don’t stay with your questions; ask them and then listen for Jesus’ answer, for His answer is still, ‘Peace be with you!’ Jesus longs for us all to know His peace….think of other places in Scripture in which Jesus talks about this: Matthew 11:28, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest’. John 14:27, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ Philippians 4:7, ‘The peace of God, which is beyond understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’ Jesus knows all about troubled and anxious hearts and He gives Himself as the answer… ‘Peace [His peace] be with you’. The peace [beyond understanding] Christ alone can promise.
The sense of purpose Christ alone can give: Jesus appeared to the disciples, offered them His peace and then gave them something to do, a mission, their mission and our mission too, ‘As the Father sent me, I am sending you’. Now, you might be thinking (understandably), ‘I am sending you…’ Where can we be ‘sent’ when we are either confined to the house or can’t get as far as the Warren or Millisle Road without being stopped by the police! Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it…Let’s pause and think about Thomas for a moment….Thomas wasn’t there for that first encounter with the Risen Christ but a week later, still in lockdown, Jesus appears once more to the disciples, now including Thomas. And what’s the first thing Jesus does again? He offers them His peace (v26) and then speaks directly to Thomas, and again no accusations, not a word of, ‘Thomas where were you last Sunday? Thomas, why can’t you just believe?’ No, once again words of encouragement that invite belief, and then the challenge that would also put purpose back into Thomas’ life, ‘Stop doubting and believe’. Thomas accepts the invitation by making one of the great declarations of Scripture, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Thomas with all his questions and doubts, encounters the Risen Christ, and in doing so moves from a place of uncertainty to a place of praise…
Now, back to that thought about our purpose and of ‘being sent’. ‘Being sent’ means what it has always meant; it means being Christ’s ambassadors and witnesses just wherever we find ourselves…it means loving and serving God and loving and serving others….and the Lord and others can be served from your front room, front garden, on the phone or internet, out shopping, out for a walk….the opportunities are always there…..for prayer, Bible study, a word or action that is helpful and encouraging…loving and serving…..that’s our purpose… the sense of purpose Christ alone can give…
The disciples once so afraid and anxious, encountered the Risen Christ, the One who died for you and me and who is now gloriously risen. They accepted the peace He offered and were filled with joy (v20), praise (v28) and a new sense of purpose (v21).Take time now to thank and praise Jesus that He died for you, like Thomas then declare aloud Jesus as your Lord and your God, and as you do, may His peace fill your soul as you prayerfully ask how you can serve Him today, tomorrow, the next day. And to Him be all the praise and glory.
Prayer and Praise: Pause for a moment of quiet, thankful prayer and then sing or listen to a hymn of praise.
Benediction: May our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who came with grace and truth, also fill your hearts with grace and truth, as you serve Him in the days ahead. And may the joy of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be your strength. Amen