We all like to get good news. Sometimes when we get good news we know it is going to radically effect our lives. I received good news last November when Bishop David phoned me to say that I had been selected to be your new rector. It was good news and very exciting. But I knew it was going to radically effect my life and the life of my family. It would mean moving house. Moving closer to one of our daughters, but also moving further away from our other daughter. It would affect my husband Oliver’s pattern of work. We would have a new home, a new church family and hopefully make new friends. I’m sure that all of us can think of receiving good news that has radically affected our lives-a new baby, a new school, a new job, a promotion…many, many things.
The good news that we celebrate on Easter Sunday is that Jesus is alive. He was alive on that first Easter Sunday when he rose from the dead and appeared to the disciples. Jesus is alive today. That news-that good news-had a radical effect on the lives of those first disciples. That news-that good news-has a radical effect on everyone that follows Jesus today. That is what I’d like us to explore together this morning. How does this good news that Jesus is alive today affect our lives?
Let’s begin by looking at our reading from Chapter 20 of John’s gospel. It was the first Easter Sunday. The day that Jesus rose from the dead. On the evening of that first Easter Sunday, all the disciples apart from Thomas, met together in a room. We can only imagine what they were thinking and feeling. We know they were frightened because they had locked the door. Most of them were probably still a bit unsure about what to make of Jesus. They knew that Jesus had been crucified and was dead. They had all seen that. But that morning Peter and John had been to Jesus’ tomb and come back and told them it was empty. Just a bit later, Mary Magdalene had rushed in to tell them she had seen Jesus alive standing outside his tomb and he had spoken to her. What were they to think of it all?
Then wonderfully-amazingly-Jesus came and stood among them and spoke to them. Jesus was alive! They could see it was Jesus because he showed them the wounds on his hands and his side from the crucifixion. Yet somehow he was different. For a start, he didn’t need to unlock the door to get into the room.
The disciples were overjoyed. Jesus was alive. Jesus spoke to them. Jesus’ words were to radically affect the disciple’s lives. I’d like us to focus on two things that Jesus said.
- Jesus gave the disciples his peace.
- Jesus gave the disciples a message to take to the whole world. He told them that just as he had been sent into the world by his Father, to proclaim the good news of the gospel, so he was sending them into the world to proclaim the good news of the gospel.
The disciples were frightened. They were so frightened that they had locked the doors in case the Jewish authorities came to get them. But locked doors were no barrier to the risen Jesus. Jesus stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you.’ The word in Hebrew is ‘shalom’ and is still used today. Maybe initially the disciples thought that effectively Jesus was using the usual greeting to say hello. But Jesus repeats the words, ‘Peace be with you.’ Maybe it began to dawn on the disciples Jesus meant something more. Maybe they began to remember that Jesus had promised them his peace shortly before his death.
The word ‘peace’ has its roots in the Old Testament idea of shalom. That wholeness and well being that come when we have peace with God and peace with his people. There is an inner rest of the sprit that comes when we have fellowship with God that spills out into our relationships with other people.
Jesus death and resurrection open up the way for us to enjoy peace with God. Jesus took the things that separated us from God. Our sin and self-centredness and bore it on the cross.
When we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we move from being estranged and cut off from God, to being in fellowship with him. We become friends of God.
Jesus gives to his disciples this peace as a gift. Before Jesus arrives they are full of fear and hiding behind locked doors. When Jesus gives them his peace, they are filled with joy. As we follow the disciples’ lives in the days and years following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, we see the disciples full of boldness and courage in the face of huge challenges.
What about us? How can we know the peace of God? How can we enjoy that inner rest of the spirit that comes from friendship with God in our day to day experience? Not just in the good times when things are going well, but in tough times. When we get ill, when someone we love dies, or in the everyday stresses and strains that come in our families and workplace.
The heart of knowing God’s peace comes in trusting that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can know God as our Father. If you are trusting Jesus as your Lord and saviour, Jesus says to you, ‘Peace be with you.’ He is saying, ‘You know God. You know he is your loving Father and you are his beloved child. You know his character. He knows all your needs. You know how much he cares for you. You know he is faithful to all his promises. Once you understand you Father is looking after you, how can you worry?
I was very tempted to worry and get stressed during the long wait for my DBS to come through and the uncertainty of when we would move to Itchen Valley. I had to keep coming back to God in prayer. Remembering that he is my Father who is in ultimate control of all things. Thanking him for his faithfulness and his promise that our times are in his hands. Remembering too as I prayed for you all that God can use all things -even the things we don’t like at the time-to work for the good of those who love him. It’s as I came to Jesus in prayer. Jesus who is alive. That God gave me his peace and reassurance.
Enjoying God’s peace is more than not being stressed or fearful. God’s peace gives us freedom to enjoy life. Enjoy our relationship with Jesus. Enjoy our relationships with each other. Enjoy the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us.
My vision is that together we will grow in our relationship with the living Jesus. That we will grow in enjoying his peace. Grow in enjoying the abundant life he came to bring us. The good news is Jesus is alive. As we grow in our relationship with him, it is going to radically affect our lives.
- Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out and share the good news of the gospel. In verse 21 Jesus says, ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’
Jesus was saying to the disciples, ‘You enjoy my peace. You enjoy having a relationship with me and our Father God because I took the burden of your sins and died on the cross so that you could be forgiven. I want you to go out and tell the people who don’t yet know me this good news. They too can have the barrier of sin and selfishness forgiven. They too can enjoy a relationship with the Father. They too can enjoy my peace.
Jesus then promised to give the disciples the gift that is going to make all the difference in this huge task he is giving them. Jesus promises them the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God would come to live in them. They would know God’s presence in their lives day by day. They would know his power-the mighty power that raised Jesus from the dead. The power that can transform lives and relationships. The power that can soften hearts to open up to the good news of relationship with Jesus.
The disciples were faithful to Jesus’ commission. We read about how they began to tell people about the good news of the gospel in the book of Acts. More and more people became followers of Jesus. More and more people enjoyed the peace of God
As disciples of Jesus, Jesus speaks the same words to us as he spoke to his first disciples, ‘As the Father sent me, I am sending you.’ Jesus is commissioning us to share the good news about relationship with Jesus. The good news about enjoying the peace of God. The good news about the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.
I’m looking forward to getting to know you all in the weeks and months to come. Some people have already begun to tell me their stories. I love to hear about how people came to faith in Jesus. Almost always, there are key people who have been faithful to Jesus and spoken about their faith. Maybe our parents, a mother, a father. Maybe a friend. Maybe a work colleague. I know in my life, there were key people who spoke to me about their relationship with Jesus. They stirred up in me a hunger to have a close relationship with God that can only come through faith in Jesus.
My vision and hope and prayer is that as we together grow in our own relationship with Jesus, as we experience the love and power of the living Christ in our lives, we will be faithful in sharing this good news with people who don’t yet know Jesus.