Summary: A Forgiveness sermon for the believer.
Taking Us Back
Let me set the stage for you, Let’s go back and listen to these words as Max Lucado speaks of the very disciples of Jesus in the aftermath of the crucifixion:
“The church of Jesus Christ began with a group of frightened men in a second-floor room in Jerusalem.
Though trained and taught, they didn’t know what to say. Though they marched with him for three years, they now sat…afraid. They were timid soldiers, reluctant warriors, speechless messengers.
Their most courageous act was to get up to lock a door.
Some looked out the windows, some looked at the wall, some looked at the floor, but all looked inside themselves.
And well they should, for it was an hour of self-examination. All of their efforts seemed so futile. Nagging their memories were the promises they made but hadn’t kept. When the roman soldiers took Jesus, Jesus’ followers took off. With the very wine of the covenant on their breath and the bread of his sacrifice in their bellies, they fled.
All those boasts of bravado? All those declarations of devotion? They lay broken and shattered at the gate of Gethsemane’s garden.”
Harsh words, but an even harsher reality. Here’s another take on it.
I often sit and wonder, why is my ministry so ineffective? I’ve been to conferences; I have taken classes in effective ministry, why even now I am reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. So why is it that I can’t seem to be an effective minister like Paul or Peter, you know Peter was the Rock, or even John who had seen all the miracles of Christ and still ran to hide. Oh yes, John redeemed himself on that day when he ran to the empty tomb. But why is that my ministry seems to mimic Judas or Thomas, the betrayer and the doubter. It seems like every time I turn my back I stab a knife, no better yet, I hammer a nail into the blood-soaked wrists of Christ himself.
There are two reasons I want to propose as to why that is that we will look at today; the first being that we become paralyzed with fear; secondly, its because we forget where we have come from.
Let’s look at that first reason now, paralysis. We often become like the apostles sitting in the upper room mourning the death of their teacher and focusing on the regrets and fears that have put them here. Looking at the empty spot at the table where Jesus had sat, thinking back to the times where Jesus had befriended them, and focusing on the past failures.
Then out of the blue, Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.” He doesn’t say “Oh man, you guys really blew it this time” or “Come on guys, how many times do I have to tell you?” He says “Peace be with you.” He knew exactly what they needed at exactly the right time.
How many times these days do we look at churches and say “Oh, I know what their problem is, they need to be more receptive.” They talk of helping missionaries and healing world hunger and yet never reach out to their own backyard. They all have good intentions but as Lucado says,
“Good people, Lots of ideas, plenty of good intentions. Budgets. Meetings. Words. Promises. But while all of this is going on, the door remains locked and the story stays a secret.
You don’t turn your back on Christ, but you don’t turn toward him either. You don’t curse his name, but neither do you praise it. You know you should do something, but you are not sure what. You know you should come together but you are not sure why.
Upper-room futility. Confused ambassadors behind locked doors. What will it take to unlock them? What will it take to ignite the fire? What will it take to restore that first-century passion? What will have to happen before the padlocks of futility tumble from our doors and are trampled by the feet of departing disciples?”
It will take not only meetings and conferences; those are only a small portion of it though. The important parts are a fuller reliance on the Holy Spirit, no I am not talking about saying “praise the lord” or “preach it brother” but if that is what the spirit tells you to do, do it; and the most important part is truly knowing our Lord, Jesus Christ in the most personal and heartfelt way you can think of and then beyond that.
Back to the apostles though,
“A lot of things would happen to them over the next few decades. Many nights would be spent away from home. Hunger would gnaw at their bellies. Rain would soak their skin. Stones would bruise their bodies. Shipwrecks, lashings, martyrdom. But there was a scene in the repertoire of memories that caused them never to look back: the betrayed coming back to find his betrayers, not to scourge them, but to send them. Not to criticize them for forgetting, but to commission them to remember. Remember that he who was dead is alive and they who were guilty have been forgiven.”