Resurrection Day has come and gone and we are ... the same? I hope not. I hope that we have all received some new revelation and have drawn even closer to Jesus. I hope we were surprised by something. Maybe it wasn't at church but perhaps it was something in our personal preparation. Change is suppose to be a constant for us as we are in the midst of transformation. Every moment with Jesus is suppose to augment this transformation process because it is impossible to spend time with Jesus without being changed. Resurrection Day was not the end of it. The empty tomb was not the end of it. There is more, much more to come.
Last night Jesus met with some of his disciples. Judas was dead and Thomas was missing but all the others were there when Jesus suddenly appeared in the room. The door was locked as they cowered in fear having heard the report from Mary but not daring to believe. They dared not believe and yet he was standing there, in front of them, greeting them in peace.
Understand that these poor men were without a future. Jesus had been their future, their only future and he was stolen away from them. Without him they had no hope, no direction, no purpose; they felt completely lost. The hid away, filled with fear, anxiety and dread which paralysed them. They were really paralysed emotionally, physically, mentally. The shock was wearing off and the depression was sinking in and this is why they could not process Mary's news from that morning. She said that she had seen Jesus and he was returning to the Father. What were they to make from that?
Now here he stood in front of them. He showed them the marks in his hands, his feet and the gash in his side. There was no denying it. The sight of the marks pained them but the joy of having Jesus with them again was starting to penetrate everything else. What a shock it was to have him with them again but they were still too afraid to touch him, to embrace him, to even greet him. Three things happened that night that changed everything; three things that gave them a future, purpose, direction and hope.
Jesus said to them and to us: "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21) Imagine how those words filled the void they had been left with. Consider the power of this statement: Jesus has sent us out with the same sense of rescue mission as he was sent with. He came with the purpose saving mankind:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
We go with that same understanding that the world is saved through Jesus Christ. We are sent to share the good news, to put the enemy to flight and to respond to the needs of people through the compassionate heart of God. Jesus came with power and authority through the Holy Spirit and he is sending us in the same way.
The second thing that happened is Jesus promising the Spirit, who is the power and authority of God in us: "And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:22) He told them to go and he promised the Spirit to equip them to go. Jesus set for us an example of how it is that we can serve in these weak bodies. Although he came as man and he was equally man and equally God, he set aside his divine nature and served in the flesh. He did this through the Holy Spirit, showing us that it is possible to do exactly what he did through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said:
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)
Going to the Father was significant. He told his disciples they should be pleased he was going to the Father because in going he was able to send to them the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is key to everything we are suppose to do in the going. Yet, it requires a faith that few of us have yet to tap because we have twisted Jesus' words so that we do not expect to do what he did. We convince ourselves that he meant something else. Meanwhile the world continues to cry out, "Show to us that your God is real".
The third thing that happened that night to change them is also of great significance. Jesus said to his disciples: "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23) Forgiveness is key to everything we do and are involved in. We cannot minister to a suffering world if we do not understand nor experienced the power of forgiveness. Love is the foundation of the Kingdom and forgiveness is its first fruit. Jesus told many parables and gave many teachings on forgiveness, stating that if we do not forgive we will not be forgiven. He told us that we will be forgiven in the same manner in which we forgive. How can we possibly share the Good News of Jesus Christ if we are not able live the first steps of this relationship: repentance and forgiveness?
This command on forgiveness was important because the disciples had to get past what had just traumatized them. They had been betrayed by Judas, one of their own. The leaders of the land just trapped and manipulated the execution of their innocent Master. The Romans and inflicted incredible cruelty upon the innocent. They were hiding in fear. They may have even felt abandoned by God. There was a lot of forgiveness needed to heal the many wounds. Then there was the forgiveness they needed to believe they received. Peter is an example of this. If you are to minister to this fallen world the first thing you must accept is that you are forgiven. The enemy will come at you with accusations of your past, trying to rob you of God's power but you must hold on to the fact you are forgiven. Knowing and accepting your forgiveness you will in turn be able to easily forgive those who will harm you in ministry.
I look to these three things and I realize that my life is brimming with purpose, direction and hope for my future. I have received the command to "go" in the same sense that Jesus was sent by the Father. There is a world that needs to know the good news and who need to "see" Jesus. I have received the Holy Spirit, who is the power and authority of God in me. Demons must flee at my command. Diseases must let go and infirmities will be healed. I have the power and authority to speak life into dead things. I have the power, ability and responsibility to forgive in the same manner I have been forgiven. Forgiveness is what it is all about. I come away from Resurrection Day having been renewed in my understanding that it is not about me; it is about Jesus and the lost who need him.