OPEN: Dr. Don Colbert wrote a book called “Stress Less” and noted that 75 to 90 % of all visits to a primary care physicians were stress related. Americans (he said) consume five billion tranquilizers, five billion barbiturates, three billion amphetamines, and sixteen tons of aspirin every year. Much of this 'medicine' is being taken to help alleviate stress or the resulting headaches and pain associated with stress!
What causes stress? Stress is caused by - Worry and fear. What causes worry and fear? Well worry and fear happen when there’s something that is happening…or CAN happen… that I can’t control. You could be worrying about your job, your family, your health, your finances, or your possessions (that you might lose one of them). Essentially, there’s something you can’t control or you’ve lost control or… and panic sets in.
ILLUS: A few years ago I went to the dentist. He put this mask over my nose and tells me to breathe deeply of the gas. It was supposed to help me RELAX as he worked on my teeth. Apparently, it works for lots of folks… but not for me. As the gas began to go thru my system, I felt like I was losing control of my body… and I began to panic.
That’s how a lot of people react when they believe there’s something in their lives they can’t control.
In our text today, we’re told that “On … the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews…” John 20:19
The doors are locked. Why are the doors locked? Because the disciples are afraid! Why are they afraid? They’re afraid because the Jews had had Jesus put to death and Disciples are pretty sure they’re next. They’re worried, they’re stressed out, they have no control over their fate… they’ve begun to panic!
Now was their FEAR real? Well… it’s possible. Someone one said: “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get me.” A lot of really dangerous and powerful people had wanted Jesus destroyed. And it wasn’t unreasonable to believe these same people would want destroy to them too. But whether their fear was justified or not… they’ve locked the door, barred the windows, and they’re HIDING in this room. And they ARE afraid!
And then Jesus shows up. And He gives them… PEACE.
Jesus had promised “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
And in Matthew He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
One of the major prophecies about the coming Messiah in Isaiah declared…: “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; … and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, prince of PEACE. Of the increase of his government AND OF PEACE THERE WILL BE NO END.” Isaiah 9:6-7
And that’s why Peter wrote: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
(PAUSE) Now, that’s great theology! That’s wonderful stuff! But just exactly HOW do we do lay hold of His peace?
Well, I believe the answer to that question is part of the reason we’re being told this story about the disciples in John 20. They’re not feeling “the peace” right now. They’re afraid and their lives have fallen apart. But then… Jesus shows up. And Jesus does some things that change their lives (PAUSE)… and can change ours too!
Notice the first thing Jesus does: He appears to them and says “Peace be with you.” And He doesn’t say it just once… he says it twice. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “peace be with you.” ... Jesus said to them again, “peace be with you.” John 20:19-21
Now, in some religious circles, this is a religious greeting. When Muslims greet one another they’ll often say “Peace be unto you.” And the reply will be “peace be also upon you.”
But that’s not what’s going on here though. This is not a greeting. This a declaration. This a promise. Earlier in His ministry Jesus said: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
That’s what Jesus had said back then, BUT now - in this locked room - Jesus has come so that they can have that peace. It’s like He’s saying “peace IS with you!”
What exactly has Jesus DONE that would give them peace? Well, 1st He was THERE with them.
ILLUS: There is a true story of a woman who was suffering from depression and went to talk with her counselor. Hers was a truly tragic tale. Her daughter had been killed, her husband was unfaithful, and now she began to believe was about to lose her job. The counselor asked her: "When the world crashes in on you, to whom do you go?" After a long pause she said, "I guess I just go to myself."
Later, she said the one word that most described her was "alone." She didn’t have anybody who was THERE for her.
Now, we don’t have to worry about that with Jesus. We have this promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) We have the promise that Jesus will never abandon us and that He will ALWAYS be there with us.
But even a lot of Christians have trouble with this. Because, I mean, Jesus appeared physically to the Disciples, but He’s never done that for us. I realize there are times you can “feel Jesus presence” in the room with you… but, as far as I know, He’s never appeared physically to any of us. And so the question arises: How can I have His peace WITHOUT His physical presence?
Well, believe it or not, it is possible. That what Paul writes this in Philippians “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice… the Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE OF GOD, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the GOD OF PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU.” Philippians 4:4-9
ILLUS: Paul’s saying that you don’t have to SEE Jesus to know that He’s there. For example: How many of you, in the past couple of minutes have breathed? Of course you have. If you hadn’t breathed, you’d have passed out by now. You need air to survive. But have you ever seen air? Of course not. But you know it’s there because it’s what gives you life.
In the same way you don’t need to SEE Jesus to know that He’s there. All you need to do is focus on what He’s done in your life – rejoice in His blessings - and you’ll be reminded of His power and love. You’ll know He’s there, and you will have his peace.
One person put it this way: “Peace rules the day when Christ rules the mind.”
The 2nd thing Jesus did for His disciples, took me by surprise. You’d think after 30 years of preaching I’d know just about everything there is to know about the Bible… but I miss things occasionally. You see, I’ve always focused on the part of this story where Thomas hasn’t gotten to see Jesus the first time around and refuses to believe He’s risen from the dead until he can see his hands and side. Then Jesus shows up and tells Thomas to touch His hands and put his hand in the wound in His side.
I had never caught the fact that – before Jesus did this with Thomas – He’d done it with the other disciples. We’re told, here in John 20, that Jesus appears to the other disciples before He meets with Thomas and “… he showed them his hands and his side.” John 20:20
Now, why would He do that? Why bother to have them focus on the wounds in His hands and side? Well, too often many Christians forget that Jesus can do “stuff.” That certainly happened to the disciples. Many times, even after Jesus had done all kinds of miracles, the disciples had a problem believing Jesus could do OTHER STUFF. For example – a little after Jesus had performed the miracle of feeding 1000s of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish, we’re told that the disciples and Jesus had crossed over to other side of the Galilee and the disciples suddenly realized they’d forgotten to bring bread along with the. It says “(the disciples) began discussing among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’” Matthew 16:7
And Jesus gets kind of upset with them. “Guys, we just got done feeding 1000s with just a few loaves of bread, and you are worried about where you’re going to get bread! THINK!!!”
ILLUS: I just had an online conversation with a guy who was like that. He was convinced God just sat up in heaven and kept His hands to Himself. He believed Jesus came to save us… but that’s about it. There are no present-day miracles where God would intercede in our lives, there’s no answer to prayers (essentially, our prayer time was a waste of time) and any coincidence that people attributed to God was just that… mere coincidence. And this guy was a preacher!!!!
I’m afraid I kind of upset him… he unfriended me. I think it might have to do with the fact that I mocked him by saying his God was a fairly pathetic God who didn’t do anything, and that essentially his faith was empty. Like I said, I think I upset him. But I don’t care. I believe in a mighty God who does mighty things… I believe in a Jesus who can show me his hands and his side. And because of that… I believe in the promise: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32
So, to have His peace, the 1st we need to remember that Jesus is always there for us. And the 2nd is to remember that He has done, and can do, mighty things in our lives.
But Jesus did one more thing that brought them peace. He said to them: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." John 20:21
Did you catch that? At the heart of the peace Jesus gives us is a commission… a job to do. You see, Jesus didn’t give us His peace just so we could sit around and watch a movie or go out to eat. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things. I like to go watch a movie, and I like going out to eat. The thing is – too many people believe Jesus saved them so they could kind of drift through life and enjoy themselves. They think Christianity is all about putting in an hour or two each Sunday, singing songs, praying, taking communion and hearing a sermon – and then they can go about their daily lives without getting too “religious.”
But that’s not the way this works. Do you remember Jesus saying (we showed a graphic on the screen quoting Matthew 11:29 that also showed two yoked oxen) “TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
You see those 2 oxen in the picture? What’s that on their shoulders? It’s a yoke. Farmers used it so that their oxen could help plow the field. So when Jesus said – put on my yoke upon you – He was saying He had a job for you to do. Put His yoke on and pull the plow together. And, if you and I allow Him to use us we “you will find rest for our souls” (peace).
Now… how does that work?
ILLUS: Imagine that your phone is ringing, and you answer it. You the recognize voice, but it’s not somebody that you’d ordinarily talk with. The person on the other end of the line is someone who’s really important. Someone you admire and respect. It could be a famous singer, or a movie star or a politician you respect. (Have you someone pictured in your mind?) And they have called YOU to ask you for a favor. Now you didn’t think they knew you from Adam, but they took the trouble to look up your phone number, they took the time to call you up personally (they didn’t have a lackey do it – THEY called you up). And they’ve called you because they thought enough of you to believe that only you could do what they needed done.
How would that make you feel? (I’d feel pretty good). Will you do what they need done (I would! In a heartbeat). It wouldn’t matter what else was happening in your life. It wouldn’t matter what was bothering you, depressing you, making you fearful. Suddenly, you were worth something. This person was counting you. And you’d do whatever they wanted done, no matter what it cost. Because they thought you were important enough to entrust with an important task.
CLOSE: Now most of you here are Christians. But even you will struggle with worry and fear. Peace can be difficult for even the most dedicated believer. But the keys to laying hold of the peace Jesus can give us to:
1. Believe that Jesus is THERE and won’t leave you. He’ll always be there for you.
2. Believe that Jesus has done great things in the past… and that He will do great things in you future.
3. And believe Jesus knows your names. He cares about what happens in your life and He believes so much in you that He has something He wants to give you. A mission that gives your life value.
But if you don’t belong to Jesus, you don’t have those promises. That’s why we offer an invitation at the end of every service…. (INVITATION)