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Sermon March 12, 2017

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1293

March 12, 2017 John 20:19-23 & Luke 24:36-49

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript. This series is based on the Book Jesus Speaks by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola)

 

“The Voice of Jesus: Behind Closed Doors”

 

Post-resurrection stories have much to teach us about how Jesus speaks to his followers. We began this sermon series on the voice of Jesus with the story of Mary at the tomb, and last Sunday with the two on the road to Emmaus, and today we look to the disciples in the upper room, behind closed locked doors for fear of those who crucified Jesus and others who may have been out to find His followers. Today we are looking at two gospels with the same story, each with similar details and each with details unique.

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: Shalom

 

Both Luke and John include Jesus’ greeting to the disciples, Shalom. Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Now, I know that the New Testament is not from the Hebrew. The Greek word is eirene, a word with which we are not as familiar. Jews would have likely still used Shalom in traditional greeting. Either way, both words from Hebrew and Greek carry the same meaning, so I wanted to include the more familiar Shalom in our discussion today. Either way, in the English it is “peace”! It is the first word from Jesus in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Jesus appears in a room that is locked, locked for fear of the Jews. Luke just says that Jesus stood among them and as a result they were startled and frightened. John adds the detail that the doors were locked. That may help explain the startled, fright, not to mention the Lord risen from the dead standing in their midst.

His first words are of peace, shalom, eirene. This is a common statement in places of fear throughout the Bible. In academic terms the attempt to calm a fear is considered a salvation oracle. When Mary is afraid at the appearance of an angel in the birth narrative, the word is, “fear not.” To others it is “do not be afraid” or “be at peace”. The words seek to convey that there is no need for fear or to end all fears.

The traditional Jewish funeral held a seven day period of mourning called “sitting shivah”. Imagine for a moment, Jesus’ “family”, His closest followers gathered in a locked room. They are practicing this mourning ritual and on their minds are the various appearances that have already occurred on this Sunday. He appeared to Mary, to Peter, to the two on the Emmaus Road. They are mournful, excited, uncertain, frightened also by the possibility that Romans soldiers or Jewish leaders may be looking for them. And then, Jesus appears. “Peace to you!” The kind of peace Jesus offers is first to drive out all the fear. It is the peace that we know from Philippians 4:7, 9, And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” and “the God of peace will be with you.” Paul, who was intimately familiar with Shalom, teaches us that God’s peace, which Jesus offers in the upper room, is, first, beyond our understanding. Even in the greatest place and time of fear we are able to be at peace. Secondly, this peace will guard us, our hearts and minds, against all fears. Third, that the God of peace will be with us.

This is a place where we hear the voice of Jesus, in Shalom. It is through God’s peace that we hear Jesus speak. When we experience the transition from fear to peace, we are hearing the voice of Christ. Listen for Jesus to speak by giving you peace in your heart and mind.

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: In the Word (Part 2)

 

The next point on our outline is the voice of Jesus in the Word, in the Scriptures. I listed it as Part 2 because this is a repeat of what happened on the road to Emmaus when Jesus taught the two all the Scriptures concerning himself. The road to Emmaus is in this same chapter in Luke 24, and here we have the same voice speaking through the Scriptures. Look at the order of things in Luke’s account: Jesus appears, greets them with peace, has them touch him to see that he is really risen, eats some fish, and then has a Bible study. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” This is a repetition from the sermon last Sunday, the voice of Jesus speaks through the Scriptures. I don’t know what to make of it but I find it interesting that on the road to Emmaus Luke writes that Jesus started with Moses and the Prophets to teach all the scriptures concerning himself, and here in the upper room, he starts also with Moses and the prophets, but adds the Psalms specifically. The other difference is that everything written must be fulfilled in Jesus. It reiterates that when we read the scriptures, we are hearing the words of Jesus about Jesus. Verse 45 would be a great prayer for us to hear the voice of Jesus, “Lord, open our minds to understand the Scriptures.” Pray it again, “Lord, open our minds to understand the Scriptures.”

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: Through His Presence

 

The disciples have a distinct advantage over us in that they actually had the physical Jesus to touch and see in this encounter. They watched him eat, which a spirit does not do. He was physically there and they heard his audible voice through that presence. We do indeed have a sense of presence, first in the testimony of the disciples who tell this story, but also in the promise Jesus gave to send a presence in the Holy Spirit. John’s gospel also tells us later, Jesus said to [Thomas], “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus has spoken a blessing to all of us and all who were not present with Jesus in the upper room, that we have received a blessing for not seeing and yet believing. Jesus speaks to us through His ever present Spirit and His ever present Scripture.

 

 

  • The Voice of Jesus: A “Holy Kiss” - Breathed Into

 

The final voice I want to speak to this morning is something of a metaphor, a holy kiss. This comes out of John’s gospel when Jesus is said to have “breathed on them” and told them to receive the Holy Spirit. The most accurate translation would be that Jesus breathed into them. It takes us back to the first time God breathed into Adam to give life. It is the gift of life given to all of us with every breath we take. It may also remind us of the Holy Spirit “breathing into” Mary at the conception of Jesus and what His birth, life, death, and resurrection means for our eternal life. As we have believed in Jesus, we too have been “kissed” in receiving the Holy Spirit. The authors of Jesus Speaks refer to Jesus’ breathing on the disciples as the “kiss” of the Holy Spirit. Our first kiss is the kiss of life. Our second kiss is the kiss of eternal life. And the third kiss is the kiss of of new life in the church, the body of Christ (book reference pg.35).

It is an interesting consideration to call these encounters “kisses”. We know that Paul encouraged the church to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). This was probably a type of “secret greeting” that signified something like we do when we pass the peace of Christ with one another in worship. Our “kisses” are more along the lines of shaking hands or we might even think of giving a fist bump or elbow bump when we don’t want to pass on germs from a cold. However when we greet one another, we should also include in that greeting the understanding, at least, that we are passing on the kiss of the Holy Spirit and all that that includes: peace, grace, mercy, faith, love and so forth.

There is a fascinating verse in Psalm 85:10, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.” In may convey that these characteristics of love, faith, righteousness, and peace are all in harmony together. Verse 11 0f Psalm 85 may also indicate that heaven and earth will one day know this harmony, “Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.” Reminds me of “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The point of all this is to say that Jesus speaks to us through the breath of the Holy Spirit, in a holy kiss that we also impart to one another when we greet one another with the peace of Christ or with a hug or hand shake or fist bump. Just imagine every time you greet a fellow believer, that you are communicating to one another the great meaning behind the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are passing on to one another the peace and love and faithfulness and righteousness of Jesus.

 

  • Hearing Aids

 

* Wisdom/Guidance

The first hearing aid this week is wisdom.

Colossians 2:3 “[In Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We have wisdom in Christ. Jesus calls us to exercise that wisdom by making wise choices. Christ is in us and we are in Him. We have the mind of Christ. We have all that we need to make good wise choices, that is, we have what we need to hear the voice of Jesus. James reminds us to ask for wisdom and God will grant it (James 1:5-8).

But our yearning for wisdom and guidance is often for greater clarity, you know, hoping the Lord would speak directly to us with specific instructions. But as I have stated throughout this series, that is not how it works. The authors of Jesus Speaks present what I think is a helpful metaphor. They say that “the Lord’s will is more like a parking lot than a train track” (pg. 141). God does not always give specifics, but he leaves room for us to make wise decisions. Many of us probably thought of God’s will like a train track, we are either on or off track. There is only one way to go, one place to be, you either hit it or miss it. But I like the parking lot metaphor because each parking space is a choice and whatever choice we make is within God’s lot. Layout that parking lot across the field of your life and whatever lane (life issue) you are cruising down is an opportunity to park (make a wise decision) all within the will of God. Perhaps the voice of Jesus is a parking attendant. All the wisdom we need in in Christ. Listen for his parking directions!

 

** The Body of Christ/The Church

The second hearing aid is the church, all the people who make up the body of Christ. I have the tendency to think about Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 2:16 as each individual having the mind of Christ. But the grammar of the passage is a plural “you” meaning that we, as the body of Christ, have the mind of Christ. It is a collective wisdom and hearing and discernment. This is probably one of the most neglected ways of hearing the voice of Jesus, through the collective hearing of the church. In theory, Presbyterians have relied on this hearing aid when we call elders to service, teaching and ruling elders. My call to the ministry was confirmed through the collective voices of the church who sent me on to seminary and the seminary community who prepared me for office and the church who first received me as their pastor. Your call was also a voice in our hearing some 17 years ago to call me as your pastor.

One of the ways we hear the voice of Christ is through the body of Christ, the church. The mind of Christ is known through the collective hearing of the members of the church. No single individual has all the hearing, but together we can hear more clearly.

 

***The Scriptures

Sweet and Viola (Jesus Speaks) say that “the primary voice of Jesus speaking will always be the scriptures” (pg. 30). I spoke of the Scriptures last Sunday as the first and best hearing aid for us. It is the first answer I give when someone asks me how to listen or hear Jesus speak. Let me pair that up with the voice of the hearing aid of the church because the Bible also speaks most clearly when we read it as a body. When we gather for worship, when we gather in study groups, when we gather with two or three or more, Jesus is in our midst, speaking through His Scriptures and through His people.

 

****Conscious

The last hearing aid for today is our conscious. Last Sunday I talked about Jesus speaking through a spiritual instinct within us. I likened it to the still small voice, an impression, or a gut feeling. The conscious might be differentiated in that it is something of a check and balance. It alarms us when we get out of God’s purpose and will and affirms us when we walk in His path.

 

Romans 2:14-16 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. We might consider this “accusation” as the alarm.

 

Romans 9:1 “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit.” We might think of this witness as the affirmation.

 

Jesus Speaks says is this way: “Anything that offends your conscious is something to stay clear of. Anything that your conscious allows is morally permissible for you.” They do suggest that some people can destroy their conscious and we know that some of the crimes people commit suggest that they have no conscious at all. 1 Tim. 4 begins this way, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (1-2). Those verses sound so familiar to us in light of the craziness of the world. We might consider some of the people we see today who march and riot and reek havoc as those whose consciences are seared. Our conscious is another hearing aid when it is in good health to alarm us on bad things and affirm us for the good.

 

Yes, Jesus is speaking to us today, in the peace that passes understanding, in the Scriptures, in His ever present Spirit, and in God’s Holy Kiss. Let’s fine tune our hearing aids of wisdom, church, study, and conscious, so that we might hear more clearly. Amen.