A Mission Fulfilled but not Completed
A Mission Fulfilled but not Completed John 20:19–23 (NIV84) 19 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!” 20 After he said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Friends, this morning we have listened to five short verses from John’s Gospel. Five short verses, yes, but five verses with a huge theological punch. In these verses Jesus addressed His disciples three times: 1. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 2. After He showed them his hands and side Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” 3. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” When we consider these words of Jesus, it is clear that He entered their presence that evening of the first day after His resurrection with a purpose. The disciples gathered fearfully behind a closed door when Jesus suddenly appeared among them. And as He stood among the fearful disciples on that Easter Sunday night, Jesus said to them: “Shalom! Peace!” Friends, I want you to understand that Jesus didn’t turn up that night just to exchange pleasantries. That was not His purpose. No, Jesus had a different agenda. His agenda wasn’t just to make sure after the tumultuous events of that weekend that they were at peace! No, it was much more than that. Jesus appeared to them to complete His mission on earth. John made a serious effort to share the message that Jesus was sent to earth with a task to fulfil and that He single-mindedly focussed on fulfilling that task. Just listen to the following verses where John highlighted this. John 3:14–17 (NIV84) “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. 16 ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.’” John 5:35–37 (NIV84) “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. 36 ‘I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given Me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent Me. 37 And the Father who sent Me has himself testified concerning Me.’” John 7:28–29 (NIV84) “Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, ‘Yes, you know Me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on My own, but He who sent Me is true. You do not know Him, 29 but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent me.’” John 8:42–43 (NIV84) “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own; but He sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.’” John 10:35–36 (NIV84) “If He called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36 what about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” John 13:20 (NIV84) “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent Me.” John 20:21 (NIV84) “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” Yes, friends, John made it clear: Jesus came to earth on purpose. He was sent on a mission. He had a specific agenda. And everything He did on earth focussed on fulfilling that task. Our Scripture reading of this morning highlights the fact that Jesus’ mission wasn’t completed with His death on the Cross. In other words, the events of Easter Friday are not the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry. It continues. When Jesus entered that room that night and greeted the occupants with “Shalom!”, He did so with a purpose. He was still busy completing His work on earth. Let’s look at our Scripture passage a bit closer. I want to you understand that this passage reveals that Jesus made sure that the disciples would be able to hear His message. This was the purpose of the first “Shalom!” He stills their inescapable angst and bewilderment with this familiar word of greeting, “Shalom; Peace be with you!” How many times in the past have the disciples heard Him uttering this very same greeting? A few nights earlier, Jesus said: “In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me…. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:16, 20, NIV84). To relieve their anxiety, even more, He showed them His hands and His feet. These wounds caused them to knew it was really Him – it was not a lookalike, not a doppelganger, who was standing there in their midst. No, it was these wounds revealed that it was the Resurrected Jesus Himself! The “little while” was over, joy had replaced grief, and “no one will take away your joy” (16:22, NIV84). No wonder they were overjoyed! But Jesus didn’t turn up there that night just to show them that He conquered death. He came to them that evening because the reason why He came to earth, His mission, was not completed yet. Yes, just like His death didn’t end His mission, Jesus’ resurrection didn’t finish it either. He came that evening to instruct and prepare them for their future task. So, after He showed them His wounds, Jesus repeated His Shalom! Peace! This time, however, the Shalom wasn’t a greeting. Nevertheless, this second Shalom was as crucial as the first. Where the first Shalom addressed their anxiety, the second identified what they needed for what was laying ahead for them – their mission. And to fulfil that mission they couldn’t be troubled or afraid. Friends, John 14:27–31 (NIV84) tells us that a mere four nights earlier, on the night that Judas betrayed Him and Peter denied Him, while they were still in that very same room after they have eaten their last Passover meal together, Jesus told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded Me.” So, Jesus said a second time, “Peace be with you!” and then He revealed why they needed this peace so much: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” This is why Jesus returned to them that night. He promised them that His death wouldn’t be the end. He promised them that He wouldn’t abandon them, but that He would return to do exactly what His Father commanded Him to do. He returned because His Father commanded Him to commission them to continue with His mission: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Although these words are something Jesus has not said to them explicitly before, they didn’t come as a surprise. We have heard Jesus acknowledge this truth in His prayer in John 17 where Jesus said to the Father in prayer, “Just as you sent me into the world, I also sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) The disciples shouldn’t have been surprised by their mission, for their mission was everywhere presupposed in Jesus’ conversations with them. For example, in John 13:16 (NIV84) Jesus told them: “I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” And according to John 13:20 (NIV84) Jesus said to them: “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.” John 15:16 (NIV84) alludes to this also: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” This is followed by an explanation of how the world would treat them: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the One who sent Me.” (John 15:18-21 NIV84) Yes, this is the message: Jesus’ mission is now their mission. The very task that the Father has given Jesus has now become the work of those who follow Jesus. And to fulfil that mission they needed bold, untroubled and fearless hearts. According to John 16:33 (NIV84), while they were still in the upper room four nights ago, Jesus said to His disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Friends, Jesus’ appearance that night was living proof that He had overcome the worst of whatever the world could dish up. He reminded His disciples that they would experience trouble in this world too, but they find their peace in Jesus, they also would overcome the worst of what the world could dish up, just like He did. Because they received Jesus peace as He promised in John 14:27, they would be able to face the worst there is to face as they embarked on fulfilling Jesus’ mission. Because Christians possess Jesus’ peace, they can cope with any kind of persecution, discrimination, bias, intimidation, bullying, or victimisation as they pursue to fulfil Jesus’ mission. 22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Friends, to fulfil Jesus’ mission, believers need the Holy Spirit. In a certain sense this verse completes the Gospel of John because the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised (John 7:37–39; 14:16–20, 26; 15:26; and 16:7–15) at last was given to Jesus’ disciples so that they can continue to fulfil His mission. Jesus gave them this power by breathing the Holy Spirit into them. John 7:37–39 (NIV84) 37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” 39 By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 14:16–20 (NIV84) 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you. John 14:26 (NIV84) 26 But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 15:26 (NIV84) 26 “When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me. John 16:7–15 (NIV84) 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 When He comes, He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in Me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see Me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is Mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is Mine and make it known to you. “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Just like Jesus’ mission wasn’t to condemn the world, but to save it, ours is not condemnation either. Christians are called to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, proclaiming salvation for those who come to faith, the forgiveness of sin for those who admit theirs and who seek forgiveness. The forgiveness that we share is not ours, but God’s. We are just the missionaries who extend God’s invitation to a world in desperate need of forgiveness. Our mission is to tell them about this forgiveness. We are the perpetuation of the message proclaimed by John 3:16–17 (NIV84) that: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” This is our mission now. Luther once said that the first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when they become believers is to bring others also to believe in the way they came to believe. This morning Jesus is saying to you and me: “You have now received from Me peace and joy and all you should have; you need nothing more for your person. Therefore, labour now and follow My example. As I have done, you should do as well. My Father sent Me into the world for your sake, that I might serve you, not for My own benefit, but that I might serve you. I have finished that work, I have died for you, and I have given you all that I am and have. Now I’m sending you out to do the same. Remember that and go out and do the same. From here on onwards, serve and help everybody who lacks faith to find faith. By faith, you have enough of everything. That’s why I send you into the world as My Father has sent me. Instruct and teach everyone that you meet who doesn’t know about God’s amazing grace, that they may come faith and don’t perish but have eternal life as well.” Friends, this is not a task that is delegated exclusively to pastors and preachers. No, this is the mission of all Christians. We all are charged to profess our faith publicly and also to lead others to believe. This morning Jesus is saying to you and me: “By faith you can accomplish this mission. It will reveal your righteousness before God and testify that you understand why I came to save you. By faith you will reveal God’s plan for the world in love.” Amen.