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Sending Life

Sermon passage: (John 20:19-23) Spoken on: June 8, 2014
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: John

Tags: John, 约翰福音

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About Rev. Wong Siow Hwee: Rev. Wong is currently serving as a pastor in the children and young family ministries, as well as the LED and worship ministries.

Sermon on John 20:19-23

This is the last sermon on the entire sermon series on John. In planning this sermon series, we began with an ambitious target, to tackle most of the long arguments and debates in John. I think I can speak for everyone that it was an arduous journey. It was painful to prepare, and it must have been painful to listen. So I hereby want to congratulate everyone for enduring through the process. Good job. Go ahead, pat yourselves on the back for the tremendous effort. (Clap) You can also shake the hands of those beside you: “Thank you for giving me a nudge when I was almost dozing off.” Sometimes it is important to acknowledge what we have accomplished as a community. There is a reward to all the survivors of this journey. That reward is true faith and life. As John confessed about his intentions in John 20, 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. The reward of our systematic examination of all these passages is true faith. You know what you believe, and you know why you believe. And only when you truly believe, you may have life. It is a matter of life and death. It is that important. We did it as a church. Maybe we should print T-shirts like what they do for marathon participants: “For the successful completion of listening through an entire Jubilee Church Sermon Series.” When you become grandparents, you need such memorabilia to add flavor as you recount your heroic tales to your grandchildren: “I remember sitting through those sermons of John in 2014 like it was yesterday… Those were the days of the triple combo. SiowHwee strains your mind. ChangAnn questions your heart. And Daniel challenges your will. This is how I earned this T-shirt which I wear proudly every day.” As your grandchildren look at you in awe, then you proudly turn to the back, revealing the words in bold “Jubilee Sermon Survivor!”

But running through all the arguments and debates about Jesus remains just talk, just unsubstantiated claims, until the truth is finally tested. You need a definitive event to settle the argument about Jesus’ identity once and for all. Today is the day where I will bring you to the finishing line, where your faith can be made concrete, and your belief can be made certain. This is the passage where all doubts are put to rest, and like Thomas, you may declare to Jesus, 28 “My Lord and my God!”

John painted the scene really well. A group of disciples were huddling in a dark room. The doors were locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. Their master was just crucified dead. They might be next to suffer the same fate. Then Jesus came and stood among them. Nobody said anything. But in their minds, they must be thinking, “I see dead people”. Kids, don’t try this at home. Unless, just like me, you are very much into sermon application, then you may want to imitate Jesus. Find a moment when your family or friends are feeling fearful, like when they are watching a horror movie, or feeling anxious about a test tomorrow. Then slowly and silently stand among them. When they least expect it, unleash the words “Peace be with you!” If their hearts are still beating afterwards, you can then tell them “John 20:19”. You’re just imitating Jesus and it helps with scripture verse memorization.

But for the disciples, it wasn’t about fun and games. When Jesus showed his hands and sides, they were overjoyed because they recognized him. It was a moment of happy reunion as Jesus predicted in John 16: 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 22 Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. 33 “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.”

There are two things that come with the reunion with Jesus: Joy and Peace. In fact, “Peace be with you!” is repeated 3 times, just so you know that it is not just an ordinary greeting. Jesus said it 3 times with the exclamation mark according to the NIV (和合本 too). This joy and peace is to be contrasted with the fear at the beginning of the scene. “In this world you will have trouble”. That’s something that’s unavoidable if you are the light shining in the darkness. This has been an on-going struggle from Jesus’ time till now, because we must and we will fight over what is the truth and the way. This is the divide between those who do not recognize Jesus and those who receive him.

John 1: 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

There is indeed a struggle and a fight between light and darkness. And we have fear because we often feel there isn’t enough light to battle all the darkness of this world. But there is a promise in the Gospel: The darkness will not overcome the light (1:4). Jesus promised, “I have overcome the world.” (16:33) And when the disciples recognized and received the resurrected Jesus before them, they realized these promises had come true. Their fears turned into joy and peace.

And this is only half the story. Many Christians think that they have crossed the finish line when they receive the joy and peace. If this was the end, then being a Christian is only being self-serving. I’m contented as long as I have my joy and peace. But in the Prologue, light is linked to life. The receiving of the light should lead to life from a new birth. We become children of God, born of God. Joy and peace must lead on to life. Therefore, the story does not end at Easter. This is only half the story.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. It is part of our liturgical calendar to remember the coming of the Holy Spirit. And Pentecost is what comes after Easter. That’s the second half of the story. That’s what makes it complete. After the resurrection, Jesus gave the disciples the Holy Spirit. 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John used a very unique verb for “breathed”, found nowhere else in the New Testament, but significantly in two places of the LXX of the Old Testament, Genesis 2 and Ezekiel 37.

Genesis 2: 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Ezekiel 37: 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

We’ve spoken about the Holy Spirit as the enabler and strength for Christian living.[i] We’ve spoken last week of the Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.[ii] Because it is through the Spirit that we can truly know Jesus. Today, I want to talk about Spirit bringing life. This is clear in both the contexts of the Old Testament’s usage of the verb ‘breathe’. This breath is to make something come alive. But we have to ask. What is this life for? There are 3 clues to help us arrive at the conclusive answer.

Firstly, this life begins with what Jesus has accomplished. Jesus has overcome the world. The truth of his identity is now evident, and the truth is now victorious. We have the knowledge that Jesus is raised from the dead and that is his vindication from God. We have the peace and assurance, knowing that we have the authority of the truth.

Secondly, this life is a commission, but it is a commission with a definite form. “’I’m sending you’ (v.21b). How does he send his followers? ‘As the Father sent me’ (v.21a). This pledges his disciples to the same obedient and dependent relationship Jesus sustained during the course of his earthly ministry.”[iii]

Thirdly, this ministry leads eventually towards forgiveness or judgment. This third clue is especially crucial. What kind of life would lead towards forgiveness of sins or judgment of sins?

Piecing these 3 clues together, I conclude that this new life is a life that proclaims Jesus is alive. When we say our life is a witness, we are saying in the way we live, “Let me show you Jesus is alive.” Who is Jesus sending into the world? The word Christian means followers of Christ. Because Jesus is alive, his followers live without fear, for they know the truth. Because Jesus is alive, his followers obey his Lordship to love and serve one another. Because Jesus is alive, we must forgive one another to abide with the Spirit that unites us. Because Jesus is alive, we believe God’s creative and living work on the world continues on, and we embody this work. Brothers and sisters, does your life manifest this truth? You are sent, because you, who are a new creation of God, are the gospel people will witness.

Sin is the denial to acknowledge the revelation of God in Jesus. If you know the truth but you live a life that denies the truth, then you are living in sin. On the other hand, if your life is a reflection of the truth, that Jesus is alive, then the world will be confronted with the truth. To those that receive the truth, there is forgiveness. They are restored to the Father just as we are. To those who reject the truth, there cannot be forgiveness, because this new life is not what they want. It is sad, but life is always about the choices you make.

I wish to end with the vision of our Church as a Spirit-filled worshipping community. This is not something we wish or hope to be true. This is something we know to be the truth. Let us be motivated by the truth. Since the new life is in us, let us fulfill our mission as a witness to the world. “By loving one another as Jesus loves, the faith community reveals God to the world; by revealing God to the world, the church makes it possible for the world to choose to enter into relationship with this God of limitless love. It is in choosing or rejecting this relationship with God that sins are forgiven or retained. The faith community’s mission, therefore, is not to be the arbiter of right and wrong, but to bear unceasing witness to the love of God in Jesus.”[iv]

[iii]Andreas J. Kostenberger, Encountering John, p 184
[iv] The New Interpreter’s Bible, v. 9 , p. 848