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In John 20, following the death of Christ, a group of women went to Christ’s tomb on Sunday morning, only to find that His body was not there. Mary Magdalene ran to the disciples and many of them dismissed her claim, but Peter and John ran to the tomb. When they saw that Jesus’s body was gone, they believed, but did not fully understand that He had risen from the dead. The disciples then returned home (John 20:1-18). Now, we come to John 20:19-23, and we find the disciples gathered together in a locked room because they were afraid of the Jews. Their Savior, their Leader, was crucified just a few days earlier; therefore, they assumed the Jews would seek their lives next.
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.
Jesus, who is able to conquer sin and death, brings peace to His people. The disciples were glad they saw the Lord! They were extremely happy. Christians must be reminded constantly that they serve this same resurrected Savior. This reality should bring them peace even though they live in an evil world.
What’s interesting is that these disciples were about to experience severe persecution, from this point on throughout the rest their lives, because they served the risen Christ. Yet, Christ brought peace to them. The peace that Christ speaks of is not a safety that the world knows. The resurrected Christ gives peace due to His identity as the Conqueror of the Fall, the curse, and death. Money, politicians, family, guns, nuclear weapons, etc. cannot bring true peace. Only the Prince of Peace brings true peace to those who repent and place their faith and trust in Him. His peace transcends this evil world. Having been sent by His Father, He saves us from the wrath of His Father, sin, sinners, and Satan. This Jesus is the same Redeemer who was prophesied of in Gen. 3:15 as the Crusher of the Serpent’s head. He is the same Christ who is the Seed of Abraham, the true David, the One who is wiser than Solomon, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, etc. He created all things and holds all things together (Col. 1:16-17). This is God the Son Incarnate, resurrected to live forevermore. He is our Redeemer.
The question is, “Do we evangelize like we’re locked in a room for fear of men? Or, do we evangelize with the peace provided by our resurrected Savior and God?”
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Peace comes through Christ. Just as God the Father sent God the Son to earth to save sinners, Christ now sends those sinners saved by grace to reach others with the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. As Christians, we are “sent out” to reach others. Notice that these disciples are in hiding for fear of the Jews. Jesus, however, tells them to be at peace, for He was sending them out to reach others. Then, He told them to receive the Holy Spirit. This is a reference to something that would happen fully at Pentecost, not long after this appearance.
Jesus, then told His disciples that in light of receiving the Holy Spirit, they would be able to forgive the sins of others. Now, the reality is that only God can forgive sins. This is not a reference to Jesus’s disciples having the power to forgive sins like Catholic priests or the Pope, but it’s a reference to the fact that those who heard these men preach the gospel would be forgiven or condemned based on their preaching. In other words, through sharing Christ with others, we are involved in the salvation of sinners, their forgiveness, but we are also involved in the judgment of sinners when they reject the gospel.
Why do I think this is what Christ means? The answer is because the disciples never forgave anyone’s sins in the rest of the New Testament. They instead preached the gospel and baptized those who repented and placed their trust in Christ.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20)
How must we respond to the truth presented in John 20:19-23? The same resurrected Christ who brought peace to His disciples in the midst of severe persecution, continues to provide peace in the midst of this evil world for those who trust in Him. What Christians must ask is, “Do we evangelize like Christ rose from the dead,” or, “Have we have locked ourselves in a room for fear of men?” The sin of silence plagues evangelical churches without a shred of accountability. I fear most Christians do not evangelize with the peace provided by the resurrected Savior. Almost every excuse levied by silent Christians has fear as its foundation. There are numerous excuses for the sin of silence that serve as examples: “What if they get angry?” “What if I offend them?” “What if say no?” “I don’t want to push them further from God.” “I’m inadequate.” “I don’t know what to say.” “What if they ask a question I can’t answer?”
Furthermore, concerning more specific application, I don’t recommend adding quotas to ministry. I think quotas either serve to discourage us or they encourage us to boast in our accomplishments. For example, I don’t like putting more strain on myself than Scripture by saying, “I will baptize one per week this year.” Now, a healthy goal would be to intentionally pursue the individuals God has already placed in your life and to seek others. We need to evangelize with the peace of the resurrected Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to Him, without fear. That seems to be the emphasis of this passage, not some western revivalistic quota. You let God sort out the souls. Your job is to take the gospel to your neighbors, worldwide. Just as God the Father sent God the Son, God the Son now sends us. Until every person on earth repents and places their trust in Christ, we have not reached God’s quota (I still affirm predestination, but the will of God is complex. He is not willing that any should perish; nevertheless, only His people will surely be saved). In response to the redemption provided by Christ, in thankfulness let us seek the world with His gospel. We are not alone as we carry out the task of evangelism. The Triune God is with us, even indwelling us through God the Holy Spirit.
In conclusion, do you evangelize with the peace of the resurrected Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit? Or, do you functionally deny the resurrected Christ and God the Holy Spirit by “locking yourself in a room” for fear of men, embracing the sin of silence?