Keeping Up Appearances
Text: John 20:1-29
1. Illustration Bruce Larson said, “The events of Easter cannot be reduced to a creed or philosophy. We are not asked to believe the doctrine of the resurrection. We are asked to meet this person raised from the dead. In faith, we move from belief in a doctrine to a knowledge of a person. Ultimate truth is a person. We met him. He is alive-“
2. The historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus is not something that is based on mere conjecture. It is based upon eyewitness accounts from people who saw, touched, and ate with Him after His resurrection.
3. On the days following the resurrection there were:
a. Appearances of Demonstration
b. Appearances of Devotion
c. Appearances of Decision
d. Appearances of Doubt
4. Read John 20:1-29
Proposition: We need to have a personal encounter with the risen Jesus.
Transition: First, there is an...
I. Appearance of Demonstration (1-10)
A. He Saw and Believed
1. The first two appearances on the Resurrection morning involved a very unlikely person, Mary Magdalene.
a. She held no position of significance among Christ’s followers.
b. Her only claim to fame was that she was one of those who served Jesus.
c. Why her? She is not one of the twelve, and she is a woman.
d. It just goes to show that God is not a respecter of persons.
e. His priorities are not ours!
2. John tells us "Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance."
a. Jesus burial happened just a short time before the beginning of the Sabbath and so preparations for His burial were rushed.
b. Proper burial was something very important in their culture, and Mary wanted to see that the Lord’s body was properly prepared.
c. The fact that she came early in the morning while it was still dark is evidence of her concern for the Lord.
3. However, when she got there she saw that the stone had already been rolled away so "She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
a. It had not dawned on her yet that Jesus was raised from the dead, just as He said He would do.
b. Her only thought was that someone, in this case the "they" she refers to are the Jewish religious leaders, had taken His body and done something with it.
c. So she goes to Peter and John for help.
4. When Peter and John heard the news, they sprinted for the tomb to see for themselves. John out ran Peter to the tomb, but out of respect for Peter waited for him before entering the tomb.
a. Though John’s youthful legs carried him more swiftly to the grave, once he was there he stooped and looked in, but he waited for Peter’s arrival before entering the cave.
b. He looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but no mention is made yet about the head cloth.
5. Notice what happens when Peter gets there. He goes right inside, and he "noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings."
a. If someone would have stolen Jesus body, they would not have taken the time to unwrap the body, and even if they had taken off the wrappings they would have left they in disarray.
b. Whoever left them, left them there neatly.
c. The face cloth separate from the linen and is “folded up”, which could be an indication of neatness, or that it was still rolled the way it had been when it was wrapped around Jesus’ head—that his body had risen straight out of the wrappings and cloth.—(Bible Background Commentary)
d. This is just one of many proofs of the reliability of the resurrection.
6. Then John went in, "and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
a. This disciple is the one who demonstrates faith not simply in what he sees, but in Jesus and God’s power at work in him.
b. Elsewhere in the Gospel any absolute use of the verb "to believe" indicates a robust, complete faith in Christ (Burge, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: John, 554).
B. Face to Face
1. Illustration: Sometimes we have to come face to face with the truth. I heard about a little boy sitting on his front steps with his face cradled in his hands, looking so forlorn. His dad came home just then & asked him what was wrong. The little boy looked up & said, "Well, just between us, Dad, I’m having trouble getting along with your wife, too!"
2. Some people have to come face to face with the truth before they believe.
a. They come face to face with the fact that they are lost and need God.
b. They come face to face with their own mortality.
c. They come face to face with their own sinfulness, and their need for a Savior.
3. Some people have to come face to face with tragedy before they believe.
a. They are told they have a terminal disease.
b. They are told that they are going to be arrested for their crimes.
c. They are told that they are about to lose everything they hold dear.
4. What really matters is that they come face to face with the risen Jesus.
a. Face to face with His power.
b. Face to face with His forgiveness.
c. Face to face with His compassion.
d. Face to face with His love.
e. Face to face with His grace.
5. Coming face to face with Jesus sets us free.
a. Free from bondage
b. Free from sin
c. Free from death
Transition: Have you come face to face with Jesus?
II. Appearance of Devotion (11-18)
1. Mary, still convinced that Jesus’ body had been stolen, stood outside the tomb crying.
a. She is a classic example of total devotion to Jesus.
b. Being a woman, standing outside the tomb could have been dangerous.
c. She could be attacked by robbers, or arrested by the Romans or Jewish religious leaders for taking Jesus body.
d. However, none of this mattered to her because she wanted to see that the body of the one she regarded so highly was taken care of and given the proper respect.
2. She looked in the tomb and "saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying."
a. The angels are not very significant in this text, but their only role is to ask Mary why she is crying.
b. They are merely a transition to what is about to happen.
3. Her response to them is the same as what she had told Peter and John, “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
a. She had witnessed Jesus death, and if that wasn’t bad enough, now she simply wanted to finish His burial, and even that was taken from her.
b. However, the angels knew why the tomb was empty.
c. They also knew that if these people had listened to Jesus’ words about his resurrection while he was alive, they would not be sad and confused; instead, they would be leaping for joy.
4. She turned around and there she saw Jesus, but she did not recognize Him.
a. This could be because she had been crying and couldn’t see very well.
b. However, there was something different about Jesus body that made it hard to recognize.
c. Lk. 24:16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him (NASB).
5. Suddenly Jesus calls her by name “Mary!” and she recognizes Him crying out “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
a. We need to notice here that it was not the apostles that Jesus appears to first, but to this lowly, humble woman.
b. It wasn’t because of her importance, position, or status, but because of her devotion.
c. She had never wavered in her devotion to Jesus, and while the others cowherd behind closed doors out of fear, she kept looking for Jesus.
d. Jesus rewards her undying devotion by making her the first to see Him after the resurrection.
B. Undying Devotion
1. Illustration: Two longstanding church members were in a boat fishing with a new Christian. Fishing is a great time for conversation and each was proclaiming his fervent faith and devotion to God. As they were discussing their faith, one’s hat blew into the water. So he stood up, calmly stepped onto the water, walked over to his hat, picked it up off the water, and walked backed to the boat. The new Christian was amazed how this Christian could seemingly walk on water. As the new Christian was pondering this, the other church member’s hat blew into the water. He also very calmly stepped onto the water, walked over to his hat, picked it up off the water, and walked backed to the boat. The new Christian was overwhelmed at how spiritual these men must be to have walked on the water as they did. Then the new Christian thought to himself, "Well, if these guys can do it, so can I", and he "helped" his hat blow into the water. He very calmly stepped out of the boat and was inhaling water instantly. As he fought his way to the surface, gasping for breath, the two long-standing church members turned to each other and said, "I think we should have told him about the sand bar on this side of the boat."
2. Like Mary, we need to have devotion to the risen Jesus.
a. Devotion when others criticize us for following Jesus.
b. Devotion when family and friends turn their backs on us for following Him.
c. Devotion when things are not going the way we planned.
3. It is easy to have devotion when everything is going well, but true devotion is tested when we are tested.
a. It is easy to be devoted to Jesus when the sun is shinning and the flowers are blooming.
b. It is easy to be devoted to Jesus when the bills are paid and there is plenty of money in the bank.
c. But true devotion is seen when the skies are gray, there’s more bills than money and the rent is due.
d. Habakkuk 3:17-28 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
4. Like Mary, true devotion will be rewarded.
a. Matt. 10:32 "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven (NASB).
b. We will be rewarded now in this life.
c. We will be rewarded in the next life.
d. Devotion to Jesus is the greatest thing that we can do.
Transition: Are you totally devoted to Jesus?
III. Appearance of Decision (19-23)
A. So I Am Sending You
1. Later that evening "the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders."
a. By "disciples" John is referring to a number of believers and not just the apostles, and even Luke indicates that there were others present (Morris, NICNT, 745).
b. Fear has gripped their hearts and they no doubt conclude that the tragic fate of Jesus may soon be theirs.
c. They are afraid the temple authorities will find them and arrest them too (Burge, 557).
2. Then, all of the sudden, "Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said.
a. Here they were looked up like Fort Knox and Jesus just walks right through the wall.
b. Not even looked doors can keep Jesus out.
c. His greeting of peace is a typical Hebrew greeting, but Jesus means so much more.
d. When the world thinks about peace they think of an outer peace; an absence of strife.
e. Jesus here is talking about an inner peace; a peace that only He can give.
3. He spoke with them and shows them the wounds in His hands and side. The disciples were "filled with joy when they saw the Lord!"
a. The phrase "filled with joy" means "to enjoy a state of happiness and well-being —(Louw & Nida: NT Greek-English Lexicon)
b. What had once been fear had now been replaced with extreme joy.
c. Once all their hope was gone, but now they had a living hope.
d. Once all their dreams had been shattered, but now their dreams had become reality.
e. Jesus, who once was dead, but now is alive, is standing in their midst and all is right again.
4. Once again, He tells them “Peace be with you." But then He adds, " As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
a. He is alive, and in this, they rejoice, but now their work begins.
b. He came into the world to seek and save that which was lost, for this was the mission given Him by the Father.
c. Now He was sending them into the world with the same mission.
d. Illustration: Do remember the old Mission Impossible tv show. The guy would go into some secrete place and listen to a tape recorder that said, "Mister Phelps, your mission, should you choose to accept it..."
e. Jesus had a mission, and now they had to choose to accept it.
5. However, He was going to send them out powerless. John tells us that "he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit."
a. The Spirit — suggested throughout his public ministry, promised in the Upper Room, and symbolized at the cross — is now given to the disciples in a provocative and personal way (Burge, 559).
b. This was the initial announcement of which Pentecost was the historic fulfillment (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM).
c. Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit to empower them to fulfill their mission that He was sending them out to do.
B. Sent Ones
1. Illustration: It is easy to determine when something is aflame. It ignites other material. Any fire that does not spread will eventually go out. A church without evangelism is a contradiction in terms, just as a fire that does not burn is a contradiction (Christian Theology in Plain Language, p. 162).
2. Just as Jesus sent His disciples then, so He is sending us now.
a. It is our mission to share the gospel with everyone who will listen.
b. It is our purpose to reach out to those who need Jesus.
c. It is our job to be evangelists.
3. Sharing our faith is not an option; it is a calling.
a. We have been called to be soul winners.
b. We have been called to be evangelists.
c. We have been called to go to the highways and compel them to come.
4. Jesus has empowered us in our mission.
a. He has empowered us by His Holy Spirit.
b. He has empowered us with His word.
c. He has empowered us to be His witnesses.
Transition: Have you made the decision to be His witness?
IV. Appearance of Doubt (24-29)
A. I Won’t Believe It Until I See
1. One of the disciples, Thomas, was missing when Jesus appeared to the others. When he returns, the other disciples tell him that they have seen the Lord.
2. His response is “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
a. Thomas would have made a good scientist. Unless he could see it and touch it he wouldn’t believe.
b. No one else in the NT makes these kind of demands before believing (Morris, 752).
c. He was so certain of the death of Jesus that he would not credit the report of his reappearance and insisted that he would not believe unless he could actually touch Jesus’ body.
d. Thomas would be satisfied by nothing less than material evidence (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM).
3. Eight days later, there they were again. The doors were locked, and all of the sudden there stands Jesus.
4. He tells Thomas “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
a. Jesus knew what Thomas had said for He knew the thoughts of Thomas’ heart.
b. Thomas is being challenged to change, to become like the others who, upon seeing Jesus, embrace him with faith (Burge, 562).
5. Thomas’ response to Jesus challenge is classic, “My Lord and my God!”
a. Thomas accepts Jesus challenge in a new a fresh way.
b. Jesus had been referred to by many as Lord, but this is the first time someone had referred to Him as God.
c. It is a telling example of what the sight of the risen Jesus did for Thomas.
6. However, Jesus puts another twist on Thomas’ response. He says, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
a. Thomas’s faith is not necessarily blemished because of his need for sight; it is simply privileged, for few would ever have the gift of what these disciples have experienced ( Burge, 563).
b. It is a blessing and an encouragement for all who will follow.
c. Thomas believed because He saw, but we are blessed because we believed without seeing.
B. Believing Is Seeing
1. Illustration: Those who doubt most, and yet strive to overcome their doubts, turn out to be some of Christ’s strongest disciples. (Selwyn Hughes)
2. Jesus understands doubt.
a. He knows that we are human.
b. He knows that we have questions.
c. He knows that we have moments of weakness.
3. However, Jesus calls us to move from doubt to faith.
a. He doesn’t mind the questions because He knows the questions lead to answers
b. He doesn’t mind the doubt because He knows we can be transformed from doubt to faith.
c. What He wants from us is to say to Him "help my unbelief."
4. What Jesus doesn’t understand is willingly staying in doubt.
a. He has proven to us His faithfulness.
b. He has proven to us His goodness.
c. How can we stay in doubt when we know all that He has done for us?
Transition: Are you moving from doubt to faith?
1. Does Jesus need to demonstrate His love to you today?
2. Does Jesus have your full devotion?
3. Have you made the decision to accept Jesus call to make disciples?
4. Do you need Jesus to dispel your doubt?
5. Jesus is waiting to give you whatever you lack.