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JOHN 20:19-23
Series:  Encountering Jesus - Part Two

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 28, 2009

This morning we’re coming back to the series we began at Lake Day - back to our series focused on Encountering Jesus - Jesus meeting us at our times of deepest need.  On Lake Day we looked at Jesus encountering us in our loss.  This morning we’re focused on encountering Jesus in our fear.

This man is Paul Mukonyi. 
Paul Mukonyi had been studying tourism in Lyon, France.  While studying in Lyon he came to believe that he was being followed and spied on by a group of people - mostly North African Arabs.  Paul kept a diary of his fears and on at least 3 occasions reported his fears to the police in Lyon.  The French police did nothing since there was no proof that Paul was being followed.

As his fears increased, Paul felt that he needed to escape to Kenya.  At the Lyon airport he contacted officials before flying to London - telling them that he was certain he was being followed.  He also told security personnel at London’s Gatwick airport that he was being followed.  In both cases, the police reassured him that he would be okay and escorted Paul onto his flight.

On the flight from London to Nairobi - somewhere over the Sudan - Paul - suffering from acute paranoia and feeling threatened by the passengers around him - Paul burst into the cockpit of the 
British Airways 747-400 - attacked the pilots - disengaged the autopilot - causing the plane with 379 passengers to plummet 19,000 feet.  Fortunately the pilots were able to regain control and the plane landed safely.

Paul’s doctors said that Paul wasn’t trying to harm anyone - he was simply afraid.

Most of us probably wouldn’t consider hijacking a 747.  But, we all have our fears.  T
hings in life that can cause us to be fearfulnot just the economy or airplanes being flown into buildings.  But children being kidnapped - the moral degradation of our society - struggles in our homes - the unknown of what will happen tomorrow.

How will we live and care for our families?  We struggle with time and schedules and wonder if we can keep up.  Are we adequate for all this?  What if some debilitating illness comes?

Growing older - we fear loosing control - loosing our minds - loosing control over our bodies - over our lives.  Ultimately - perhaps the greatest fear is death - the unknown of what happens or doesn’t happen next.

We fear failure.  We fear success.  We fear change.  We fear trusting God. 

Please turn with me to John chapter 20 - starting at verse 19.  Let’s look at what it means to encounter Jesus in our fear.

Verse 19: 
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Let’s pause there.

On the first day of the week - the third day after Jesus was crucified - probably about 5 or 5:30 in the morning - the twilight of early morning - Mary Magdalene and a group of other women arrive at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed two days earlier.  Their desire was to anoint Jesus’ body - a sign of their love and devotion.

Mary Magdalene arrives first - sees the stone rolled away - probably fears the worst - sees enough of the situation to realize that Jesus’ body isn’t there.  As the other women arrive Mary runs off to find Peter and John.

Which begins a sequence of events that take place on the day Jesus resurrected - the first day of the week.  Peter and John show up at the tomb - have no clue as to what’s happened - return home speechless.  Jesus reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene - reassuring her in her loss - what we looked at two Sunday’s ago.

Then Jesus spends time walking with two disciples on the way to Emmaus - a village about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem - Jesus explaining the Scriptures to them - staying for dinner at their house.

Later these two men returned to Jerusalem - found the disciples gathered together - reported that they’d seen Jesus alive.  But the disciples didn’t believe - didn’t understand - struggled to come to grips with what they were being told.

John picks up that sequence of events here in verse 19.  The disciples are huddled together in this room.

The word “fear” in Greek is “phobos” as in phobia.  Like “arachnophobia” - which is the? fear of spiders.  Cyberphobia - the fear of computers - anyone relate?  Arachibutyrophobia - the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

“Phobos” has the idea of terror - dread - being seized with fear - the heart stopping kind of fear that tears us apart inside - drops us dead in our tracks - makes us want to run in terror.

The disciples had narrowly escaped arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus - the One they’ve been following for 3 years - the leader of the group - has been brutally executed.  Now His body is missing.  They’re probably thinking about plots - conspiracies - against them.

As disciples of a condemned well known agitator they’re under suspicion - probably next on the list for being arrested.  They might have been trying to figure out a way to get out of Jerusalem without being picked up by the temple police or Roman authorities.

There they are - waiting to be arrested - the doors are locked - they’re in fear “phobos” of the Jews.  They’re face-to-face with the unknown.  There’s no way out.  No hope.  No solution.  Doom is certain.  Fear.

Can you relate to where these guys are at? 
Fear touching us deep in our hearts.  The unknown.  What do we do when the bottom drops out?  When we realize just how little control we have over our lives.

In verse 19 - John records Jesus stepping into this fear and offering the disciples His presence with them.  We need to grab on to that reality. 
Jesus offers us His presence.  Say that with me, “Jesus offers us His presence.”  Share that with the person next to you, “Jesus offers us His presence.”

Mrs. Monroe of Darlington, Maryland is mother of eight children.  One afternoon she came home from the grocery store and walked into her home.  Everything looked pretty much the same, though it was a bit quieter than usual.  She looked into the middle of the living room and five of her darlings were sitting in a circle - exceedingly quiet - doing something in the middle of the circle.  She put down the sacks of groceries and walked over closely and saw that they were playing with five of the cutest skunks you can imagine.

She was instantly terrified and yelled,
“Run, children, run!”  Each child grabbed a skunk and ran in five different directions.  Mrs. Monroe was beside herself and screamed louder.  The children - in fear - each one squeezed his skunk - producing the obvious results. (2) 

In the semi-controlled chaos of our lives we long for peace.  Peace that goes much deeper than just an absence of conflict.  Peace that goes deeper than a few moments apart from everything else we’re dealing with.  Peace that touches the deepest parts of who we are.  That becomes the inner strength and confidence we need to get up each morning and do life.  That quiets the fear in our heart.

Jesus’ greeting,
“Peace be with you.”  Was pretty standard for the day.  “Shalom.”  Coming from God - who is the source of peace - that greeting is not just a trite, “How’s it going?”

In John 14:27 - Jesus is speaking to His disciples and He says this: 
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you - My peace is different that the temporary empty peace you find in the world - Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

September of 2000 - there was a severe outbreak of the Ebola virus in Uganda.  Ebola is a terrible way to die - a type of viral hemorrhaging - bleeding.  Its very contagious - very lethal.  Hardest hit in the outbreak was the town of Gulu.  Over 400 people contracted the disease.  Over 170 people died.

In the town of Gulu, when the Ebola virus struck, one of the first to recognize the disease and to begin treating cases was
 this man - Dr. Matthew Lokwiya.  After weeks of treating patients - often taking the worst cases and risking infection - after weeks of spearheading the fight against the disease and being credited for keeping the death toll remarkably low - on November 30, 2000, Dr. Lokwiya himself became a patient.  On December 5th - Dr. Lokwiya died. (3)

Isn’t that like Jesus?

Look where Jesus goes with His offer of peace - John 20 - verse 20: 
And when He - Jesus - had said this - “Peace be with you” - He showed them both His hands and His side.  The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  It is Jesus.  He is alive.

Jesus was born without the disease of sin.  Born into humanity that faces certain death as a result of our sin.  And yet Jesus took on our sin - bore it on the cross - died in our place.
  He conquered over the worst of what we fear in this world - the crud of this world - even death.

The Apostle John writes in 1 John 4:18
:  “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.”  As Jesus came and lives with us - the love of God is revealed to us.  God is not just all-powerful - but also all-loving.  That love - sending Jesus to the cross - should drive fear from our hearts.

Remember last Sunday - in the Children’s message - we talked about the account from Mark 4  - where Jesus has been teaching all day and He decides to head out with the disciples across the Sea of Galilee.  There’s the storm - the wind - the waves - the boat taking on water - the disciples in fear - panicking.  Familiar account - right?

They wake Jesus up.  He comes to the front of the boat.  Tells the wind and the sea to
“Be still.”  And they do.  (Mark 4:35-41)

Point being - Jesus - is God.  He’s got authority over the storm.  The storm won’t last forever.  The boat will not sink.  But even if the boat sinks - Jesus has that covered.

So, where’s Jesus?  In the boat - with the disciples - with us.  To die on the cross you got enter the world.  Look at the holes in His hands.  Look at that gaping wound in His side.  Whatever the fear - Jesus has been there - is there - will be there - with us.  Presence.  You’re not alone. 

Share that with the person next to you,
“You are not alone.”

ne day a man went to his doctor with a terrible cold.  After his doctor examined him - the doctor said, “I want you to go home and take a very hot bath.  Then go to the window, open it, and inhale as much cold air as you can.  Then go to bed.  In a few days, come back and see me.”

The man complained,
“But, doctor, if I follow your instructions I’ll catch pneumonia and I could die.”

“Don’t worry,”
said the doctor, “We can’t cure the common cold, but we do have a cure for pneumonia.”  Old joke.  Bad joke.

The reality is too o
ften we’re focused on curing the wrong disease.  We’re focused on the wrong issue.  Hiding behind locked doors - fearful of the Jews - the unknown of what may happen to us.  We’re stressing out over our circumstances.  We’re focused on our fear when we should be focused on Jesus.

Isaiah writes,
“He - God - will keep in perfect peace all those who trust in Him, whose thoughts turn often to the Lord.”  (Isaiah 26:3)

Grab this:  Peace is the birthright of every believer in Jesus Christ
.  We rob ourselves of that birthright when we focus anywhere else but on Jesus. 

Peace comes from Jesus.  God who is the source of peace - who walks with us through life - who’s conquered over - has authority over and is more powerful than - whatever we might fear.  To focus on Jesus is realize our inheritance - our position - our relationship with the living God - His presence with us - and to begin to learn to trust Him in the midst of whatever we’re going through.

Let’s go on - verse 21: 
So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

Jesus again tells His disciples,
“Peace be with you.”  Then this, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

God - the Father - sends Jesus - the Son - into the world to speak the Father’s words - to do the Father’s work - to lay down His life for the salvation of men - to declare the reality of what it means to live life with the living God.  In John 14:12 Jesus says that His disciples will do even greater works than He did because He - Jesus - is returning to the Father.

As the Father has sent Me, I also send you”
is quite a statement to a bunch of guys huddled in fear in a room - waiting for the door to be busted down and to get hauled off to their execution.

Jesus offers us God’s power.  Let’s try that together, “Jesus offers us God’s power.”

On the day of Pentecost the disciples were all together and there was a sound from heaven like a violent rushing wind.  The sound filling the room they were in.  Maybe like in the guy’s car next to you - with the woofers bouncing the car off the ground.  Loud permeating sound.

Then there was what?  Little tongues like fires distributing themselves on each of the disciples.

Acts 2:4 says that when that happened the disciples were
“filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The filling of the Spirit is often accompanied by all kinds of manifestations - signs - demonstrations of God’s presence and work - tongues as an example.

Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18,
“Do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit.”  Wine controls us.  The Holy Spirit should control us.  That has to do with how we do ministry - being effectively controlled - directed by - the Spirit - doing what is extraordinary. 

That’s not what’s happening here.  We need to understand that there’s a difference between being filled by the Spirit and being indwelt by the Spirit.  Here - Jesus is breathing into the disciples the indwelling Holy Spirit - the Person of the Holy Spirit coming within them - not without - but dwelling within.

The prophet Zechariah is given a vision of two olive trees that stand on either side of a golden lampstand.  The oil from these two olive trees continually drips into a bowl that’s on top of the lampstand.  The oil dripping down onto the bowl supplies the lamp with what it needs to keep burning.  Zechariah is told that the oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit.

Do you remember this verse? 
“Not by might nor by power, but by My  -what? Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)  The vision of the lampstand is where that verse comes from.  The oil is symbolic of the working and power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purposes in and through His people.

In the New Testament we see the same role - in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is given to indwell us - to live within us - to empower and guide and supply to us everything we need to do the ministry that God calls us to do.  To live life with the living God.  (John 14:16,17; Ephesians 3:16)

Verse 23 is a little weird - if we read it wrong.  We have to see this in the context of the Holy Spirit indwelling us.

God doesn’t forgive sins because we decide that someone’s sins should be forgiven.  God doesn’t send people to Hell because we tell them to go there.  Jesus’ point is that His disciples - by the guiding of the indwelling Holy Spirit - the disciples are able to know and declare what is sin.  The disciples are able to declare God’s forgiveness.  That’s a ministry thing.  That’s living out the life that God calls His people to live.

The prophet Isaiah writes - Isaiah 52:7: 
“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”

Isaiah 52:7 is quoted elsewhere in Scripture.  It’s a verse that speaks of deliverance - an announcement of a great victory - the coming of peace. 

In the New Testament these words are applied to Jesus and His disciples - us - the bringers of God’s good news.  (Romans 10:11-17)  Tell this to someone next to you,
“You have lovely feet.” 

People make wrong choices.  Anyone here not have done something that you regret?  People - especially in the world around us - people live with feelings of guilt and failure and shame.  Deep down - admit it or not - longing for some way of coming to peace with all that.

To be able to lovingly say to someone
“This is the bottom line issue.  This is what you’re struggling with.  Its sin.  And here’s where the sin is.”  That’s huge.

Forgiveness is huge.  To be able to say to someone,
“Here’s how to deal with that sin.  You need Jesus.  Because God - for those who are trusting Jesus as their savior - God forgives your sin.  In Christ you are no longer condemned.  God offers you His healing and peace.”  That’s what lovely feet do.  They deal with real issues - in real time - with God’s real solution.

That’s what Jesus is commissioning His disciples - us - to do.  This incredible privilege of continuing His work - declaring the victory and salvation of God.  Of living out what it means to live life with the living God in a way that God will use to declare that reality - the awesomeness of that restored relationship - to a world desperate to know His peace.

How did that go?  What happened to those disciples?  Martyred - horribly.  All of them except for John - who was tortured and exiled.  Deaths that - huddled in the upper room - on the first day of the week - deaths that the disciples feared.  But later faced with boldness and confidence - living out their relationship with Jesus - testifying of Him - lovely feet upon the mountains.

The power for that - the One who enables us to live life according to God’s great purposes for our lives - the power comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Grab this:  Boldness and confidence - not fear - boldness and confidence  are the birthright of every believer in Jesus Christ
.  We rob ourselves of that when we focus on what we fear - rather than relying on the power of God within.

Whatever the circumstances we might find ourselves in - fear provoking though they may be - God’s empowering us to live life does not change.  The Spirit remains dwelling within. 

Let me put this practically

Many many years ago - back while I was living in L.A. I went through an time where for the most part the thought of leaving my apartment made me nauseas.  The stress of thinking about going anywhere effected me physically.  The fear was so great that it literally made me sick.  I could get graphic here.  But you get the idea.

My apartment - for the most part - felt safe to me.  Everything outside was a dangerous - uncertain - frightening place to be.  A huge unknown where anything could happen.  I could loose control - physically - mentally - emotionally.  And then what would happen to me?  I was alone.

It was all I could do - emotionally - mentally - to pull myself together to make it to work - to get there and hide in my office.  Then someone would say,
“Let’s go to lunch.”  Going to a restaurant was terrifying.  So many people.  So many possibilities for disaster.

I would be sitting at a table in a restaurant and I’d have a panic attack.  Overwhelming stress.  I thought I was going to throw up - pass out - have a heart attack.

Can any of you relate to this?  Fear locks us up.  Behind physical doors - or doors in our minds.

What was the bottom line of healing was remembering that I wasn’t alone - that Jesus was with me - His presence.  That He had it all under control - even death.  That the power and ability to live life didn’t come from me - it comes from God.

I would say to myself - over and over again - as I went out into the world - learning to trust God: 
“God is with you.  Jesus loves you.  God has it all under control.  Trust Him.”  Days - weeks - months - years - of repeating those truths - until they began to sink into my heart.

I don’t know what fears you live with.  God does.  
Faith is the answer to fear.  Realize that Jesus is with you and that God will supply everything you need to do life.  Learn to trust Him and you will know His peace.

1. San Francisco Chronicle 01.02.01, A9
2. John Haggai, How To Win Over Worry - quoted in Charles Swindol, Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes
3. San Francisco Chronicle, 12.06.00

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.