Today we’re in our final lesson of the Rise Up series. We’re going to learn that Jesus wants us to Rise Up and Go to Make Disciples. Our goal is to learn (1) Where Jesus wants us to go, why we should go, and (2) What we should do when we get there. Before we do that, let’s say a prayer and ask God to help us.
I. Go and Do What?
The lesson comes from Matthew 28. It’s another appearance of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Timeline wise, it takes place after the appearance to Thomas. We know this because a reference is made to the Eleven – which would include Thomas. In fact, lots of scholars point to the finality of Jesus’ language in this section to place this appearance near the end of his 40 days on earth after Easter.
Let’s start by reading the command that Jesus gave them. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28)
I want you to put yourself in the disciple’s shoes for a moment. They had heard Jesus’ teaching. They had seen him die for making disciples!
Can you hear the collective gulp?
You mean, keep preaching your Words?
The very words that got you killed?
And to the nations? Like not just our families, but to strangers?
Because that’s what Jesus meant with those words. He wanted them to take the message beyond their group of Eleven!
He wanted them to…
Go to the Jews.
Go to the Samaritans.
Go to the Greeks and the Romans and the Egyptians.
Go to the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the teachers of the law.
Go to the prostitutes and the drunkards and the tax collectors.
Go to the people wherever they are people!
And he wants you and me to do the same.
Because – here’s the deal. Modern day believers are Jesus’ disciples and as Jesus’ disciples they carry on the disciples’ mission. DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS? Then, you have the same mission: Go and make disciples of all nations.
Go to your neighbor who speaks more Spanish than English.
Go to the immigrant who only moved here a month ago.
Go to the tattooed barista with the big stones in his ear holes.
Go to the coworker whose skin is a different shade of brown than yours.
Go to your cousin who’s gay.
Go to your husband even when he’s made it clear that he’s sick of you talking about Jesus with him.
Jesus wants you to GO!
Jesus wants Gethsemane to GO!
He wants us to go and make disciples!
II. Do What?
Now if you’re thinking, “OK. I’m going home. I’m going to put my dad in a headlock and force him to believe.” Don’t. That’s not what I’m saying. (And I don’t need a lawsuit). Jesus explained how to make disciples in his commission. “Go and make disciples by … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
You may be thinking, “Pastor, how do I know what Jesus said? I’m not one of the Eleven?” Easy. You read what a few of the Eleven wrote down that Jesus said. That just so happens to be in the Bible.
Granted. You might not have the Bible memorized yet. (You probably never will.) Nor do you need to start sharing the message of Jesus by outlining the genealogy of Jesus with all of the names in order. Start with the main message.
What is that message? Do you remember the phrase S.O.S? It’s a series of letters that first started in WWI as a way for ships to communicate with others ships that they were in need of help. If they were in danger of sinking or under attacked, they’d use over Morse code to deliver the signal S.O.S. It communicates immensely important information very quickly.
When you are sharing the message of Jesus just remember S.O.S. to communicate the two most important concepts to your friends.
1) Show Our Sins
That’s what the Bible does. It shows us we haven’t measured up. It shows us our sin. It shows us that we need a Savior.
How so? It tells us what sin is and when we read what sin is – we think – it sounds familiar. For instance, the Bible says, “Don’t hate.” When I read that, I think, “Wait. I’ve done that. I couldn’t be?” Then, I keep reading and the Bible says, “Don’t lust.” I think, “Wait, I did that last week.” The Bible doesn’t miss a beat and says, “Love God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.” I think, “Uh oh.” And if for some reason that doesn’t work, the Bible straight up says this, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 – In fact, write that down and memorize it for an easy way to share the Gospel.
The Bible shows our sin. It’s like a mirror that shows you where a stray whisker is or an x-ray that shows where the problem is – it shows our problem of sin. When you are talking with a friend, it will show them their problem of sin, too.
2) Show Our Savior
Thankfully the Bible doesn’t stop there. Thankfully, the Bible has a second S.O.S. In fact, it’s the bigger and more important message. The Bible also Shows our Savior. It tells us about Jesus, that he lived perfectly, died innocently and rose triumphantly for us in order to save us from all of our sins! To put it another way – it gives us the solution to the problem it exposes – it gives us Jesus, the solution for sin!
And I’ll tell you guys. There’s nothing better than looking someone in the tear-filled eye, struggling with guilt, up all night because their sins have been bothering them and causing them to feel like they will always be far apart from God eyes and telling them – Jesus lived for them. Jesus died for them. They are forgiven!
You can be a part of that. Remember: S.O.S. Show our Savior to your friends. In fact, remember Romans 3:23? Write down the second half right now (verse 24). All have sinned and fall short of the glorified God (vs. 23) and all are justified freely through grace in Christ Jesus (vs. 24). If you don’t feel comfortable explaining all this, then simply share that passage with a friend.
Not comfortable speaking? Email them.
Facebook message them.
Worst case scenario? Just invite them to church where they’ll be Shown the Savior! That’s part of going!
This is a separate point, but related to the past two. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples by baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (v.19) Baptism too make disciples. It’s an incredible blessing from God. It’s physical, tangible, visual Gospel.
Think of baptism like a Sharpie. I used Sharpies when I was younger to write my initials on the bottom of my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. That way I wouldn’t lose the toys when my friends took their toys home.
In Baptism, God writes his name on you. He says that you are his through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He calls you his own. In order to make you his own, he cleansed you; purifies you; and makes you holy. He bathes you in the love of God the Father, in the precious blood of Jesus Christ and in the faith strengthening power of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor, I’m in. I’ll go get a firehose and a loud speaker. Let’s go downtown and baptize the whole city of Raleigh.
No! (Again – no need for a lawsuit.)
For adults, we baptize those who have heard God’s Word and ask to be baptized.
But there are some people you could baptize…
Some people who are apart of all nations and whom God has called you to go to!
Some people who are little people.
Baptize your child. If you haven’t done it yet, you need to. Jesus says it to you hear, “Go and make disciples of all nations – your kid is included – by baptizing.” Listen to Jesus. Make your child a disciple of Jesus. Baptize them in God’s name.
If you want to do this, email me. Text me. Talk to me after church. We’ll make happen! There’s no need to delay. We need to heed his direction and go!
III. But Why?
Granted. You might not want to do this. Telling your friends, your family, a stranger about religion might not seem like a very 21st century thing to do. It might not even be on your bucket list. Why should you?
Check out verse 19: Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
(1) Jesus said So
Have you ever worked in fast food? Imagine you were at McDonalds and you normally work the drive thru – the drive thru that your manager said you were to manage all night and never leave that post unless you wanted a “McDock” in salary.
What happens when the guy at the counter who just started his job says, “I need you to clean out the bathrooms.” Hopefully, you don’t listen. He doesn’t have the authority. But what if your manager, who told you to stay, who wears a special manager’s shirt, and even has a name tag that says, “Manager’ comes over and says, “Go and arrange the ketchup packets.”
Well…then you go and construct the Taj Mahal of ketchup packets. He has the authority.
Why listen to Jesus? Simply put. He has the authority. Not just some authority. Not just a little authority. But all authority in heaven and on earth.
If you questioned him on this, think of what happened a couple of weeks before this command. He rose from the dead. I can almost hear Jesus now:
Ya’ll remember a few days ago? Remember when you thought I was dead forever? Remember when I came back to life, but instead proved my authority over death? Remember how I have authority over life and death for you?
You should listen to me.
It makes sense. If you listen to him for the way to eternal life, why not listen to him for purpose in life? Why not Go?
(2) It’s of Eternal Importance
The second reason is a bit hidden. Listen again to Jesus’ words, “Go and makes disciples…” A disciple is a follower. A follower is a believer. According to Jesus himself who has the authority to authorize such things, “All who believe in me will be saved.”
In other words:
Jesus alone saves us to heaven.
Jesus alone saves us from hell.
Jesus alone saves us from eternal damnation to eternal life.
To put it simply – It’s of eternal importance to go and make disciples!
Granted. Most modern Americans do not see it this way. They see going and sharing your faith as unloving:
You’re forcing your beliefs onto me.
You’re trying to make me feel bad and yourself feel better.
Let me believe what I want and let me live my life. You’re being selfish!!!
But is sharing Jesus really selfish?
What if you were going on a date and you asked me how I looked and as you smiled at me, I saw a big, old, green, leafy spinach sticking out of your teeth. And what if I thought, “I don’t want this to get uncomfortable and I don’t want to hurt their feelings because I don’t want them to speak gruffly to me, so…You look great!”
Is that loving?
Nope. It’s selfish.
It’s the same thing with faith on a grander scale. If you are convinced that Jesus is your Savior and it is by faith in him alone that we are saved, you have to share this message. Sharing your faith isn’t selfish; not sharing is!
And Jesus isn’t about selfishness.
That’s why he went through the uncomfortable death on the cross for you.
Maybe it’s worth going through a much less uncomfortable moment with your friends?
(3) God has Your Back
Finally, remember that God has your back. Because this can be very intimidating. Go and make disciples of all nations! So Jesus told them that they would not be alone. He said this, “Surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age.” (Mt. 28:21)
That’s good news. Because Jesus wasn’t afraid of even the scariest of situations.
He wasn’t afraid of storms in the middle of the sea; he stopped them.
He wasn’t afraid of legions of demons; he drove them out.
He wasn’t afraid of fatal illness; he cured it with a snap of his fingers.
He wasn’t afraid of death; he rose triumphantly on the third day.
He isn’t afraid of your uncle getting a bit cranky.
He isn’t afraid of a few friends calling you a loser.
He isn’t afraid of someone BLOCKING him on Facebook.
Don’t you be either. He’s with you. He’ll protect you.
We’ve got a mission. And that’s the main message for this morning. Jesus has a mission for you and me – to go!
So don’t lollygag.
That’s what happened with the disciples. A couple of days after this commission, Jesus took them out to a hill and something amazing happened. He literally lifted off of the ground and levitated up to heaven.
No jet packs.
Just Jesus and his God power heading up into the clouds.
It was amazing enough that the response of the disciples was to stare, mouth open up into the sky.
That is, until a stranger tapped their shoulders.
The angel said, “Why do you stand there staring up into the sky? This same Jesus will come back in the same way you saw him go. But ya’ll? Go to Jerusalem. Wait for God’s gift. And then? Begin your work.”
Go and make disciples.
Allow this to be your divine shoulder tap:
Stop staring and go make disciples! Amen.
Do you know what a guy romper is?
Apparently, it’s a thing. A romper is a shirt and short combo. It’s a onesie – first made popular by women and that kind of makes sense. But the other day someone told me that they had made it into a guy thing. I didn’t believe. I doubted.
Maybe you’re doubting.
But it’s real. I saw it. Pictures of guy’s rompers unbuttoned near the top and exposing manly chest hairs in all their glory.
Sometimes things are unbelievable.
Sometimes things are “guy romper” unbelievable.
And somethings things are dead guy, put in the tomb, and three days later risen from the dead unbelievable.
Do you believe the unbelievable? Or do you doubt?
Today we’re going to hear about a disciple who doubted and we’re going to listen to how Jesus handled the situation. My hope is that it helps to remove some of your doubts. Before we do that, let’s pray:
I. Waiting to See?
Our lesson for today comes from John 20:24. It says: Thomas, one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
Now…I don’t know what Thomas was doing.
Maybe he was out grabbing some Chinese takeout.
Maybe he was working out with his run club.
Maybe he was applying for jobs – since the disciple gig fell through.
For whatever the reason Thomas missed the very first Easter. When all the other disciples were filled with joy, wonder and amazement at the appearance of the resurrected Lord, Thomas was being filled with disappointment as he waited in line at the grocery store with only one checkout attendant.
So…when Thomas carefully approached the unmarked apartment that the disciples had made their hideout, he braced himself for the sadness that he was about to encounter: Grown men crying. Grown men scared. Grown men grieved by the reality that the Savior that they loved, that they devoted years of their life to, that they hoped in, was dead.
Thomas looked in his shopping bag.
I hope this bucket of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream will do the trick. Passover Pecan – it’s a new flavor.
But as Thomas opened the door, he didn’t find the melancholy that he expected.
Thomas! Where were you? I can’t believe you missed it!
It’s Jesus. He’s alive. We saw him.
I didn’t believe it at first either…but it’s really him. Truly him…I touched his hands. I felt his side!
It’s Jesus! It’s Jesus! Jesus is alive!
Thomas’ words had quite the bite. Enough! Stop being crazy. I don’t know what happened or what you think you saw – but whatever it was …it wasn’t Jesus. He’s dead. His body bled out. His lungs collapsed. The soldiers, who are paid professionals at killing people, killed him. They took his body down from the cross. They confirmed his death. They brought his body to others who confirmed his death. Our friend, Joseph, buried him! I think he would have stopped if he had noticed the lungs moving. But he didn’t. They buried him. They closed the grave…Do you know why?
The other disciples humored him.
Because he was DEAD!! D.E.A.D. DEAD! Dead – dead. Dead…dead…DEAD! And our discipleship is dead! If you want to stay here and make up stories and follow some imaginary friend, go right ahead. As for me, I’m going to go live. I won’t follow what’s dead. Because dead things are dead and dead things stay…DEAD!
It was quiet for a moment. Thomas’ chest stopped speaking to catch his breath – as his blood pressure sky rocketed.
Then, someone spoke.
Thomas. I know how you feel. I felt the same way. Even when I saw him…I thought it was just a ghost.
But then…Then, I touched him. I felt the hand that had helped me away from my sinful life. Then, I put my finger into the nail marks and I placed my hand into his side. I saw him eat – bread and fish --- just like a living human being. I thought he was dead. But, Thomas, I saw Him. I felt him. I was with him.
And all the other disciples concurred. They took turns telling how they had seen him, how they had touched him, how they had felt him. Surely, they couldn’t all be seeing things. Surely, they couldn’t all have been tricked. Surely, they couldn’t all be so foolish.
And Thomas listened.
And Thomas thought.
And Thomas laid down one simple ultimatum:
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands with my own eyes and touch the wound mark on his side with my own hands – I will not believe.” (20:25)
That’s Thomas. Affectionately known forevermore as Doubting Thomas. Which is unfortunate. Perhaps the man would have preferred to be known as Believing Thomas or Ravishing Thomas or Muscular Thomas. But he’s remembered mostly for one thing – doubting.
What about you? Is that the adjective that could describe you? Do you doubt or do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Do you believe he’s your Savior?
You have basically the same information:
You know that he died. Thomas knew that.
You have people telling you that Jesus rose – Thomas did too.
You know that typically dead people stay dead. That was something that Thomas knew and Thomas believed…deeply.
To be fair, Thomas had the miracles:
He saw the blind man see – and when he doubted it – he asked the blind man how many fingers he was holding up – and the blind man told him. Repeatedly.
He saw the lame man walk…and when he doubted it – he asked the man to stand – and he started doing the Electric Slide.
He saw the men with leprosy cured…and when he doubted it – and after much coaxing – he touched skin that felt as fresh and new as a Neutrogena model’s face.
Yet when Thomas is faced with the biggest and most impressive miracle of all – he doesn’t believe.
He gives an ultimatum.
Good idea? Bad idea? Giving an ultimatum to God. That’s like a little preschooler turning to his parent and saying, “Unless I see these so called ‘germs’, then I won’t wash my hands…!” The ultimatum is silly. The child should trust the parent. He knows way more. She understands way more.
And the ultimatum for God is just as silly. The child – (read: human) – should trust the parent— (read: God). He knows way more. He understands way more.
He is way more!
And yet. We aren’t that unfamiliar with ultimatums. In fact, Thomas’ nickname, did you see it? It’s Didymus. Didymus means “twin.” It probably meant that Thomas was a twin.
But I can’t help but notice how my language, sometimes, twins Thomas’?
Yes, God. I’ll believe that you’re with me as a pastor – as long as you add 12 new church members by the end of the week.
Yes God. I’ll believe that you’re with us, as long as you get groundbreaking going on the preschool by next Thursday.
Yes, God. I’ll believe that you love me as long as you stop people from being mean to me.
And when I talk like that. I can’t help but think that my last name must be Didymus.
I can’t help but think that I am Thomas’ brother.
Are you our relative too?
Sure, I’ll become a believer in Jesus – when he appears to me and proves it.
I’ll trust you more God…if you find me a job by the end of the week.
I will be an awesome believer – once you get me the perfect boyfriend.
I’ll really devoted myself to you – when you finally give me a kid.
I’ll believe in God – if he heals me from this cancer.
Here’s the deal with ultimatums -- If anyone should be giving anyone ultimatums, it’s God giving it to us.
He created the earth.
He provides for it.
He created you.
He provides for you.
He sent his Son.
He lived perfectly for you.
He rose from the dead.
He is the one with the right to an ultimatum because he’s the One with the power!
And (to be honest) he has given an ultimatum? Wanna hear it?
John 3 says this, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life…but whoever does not believe will be condemned, because they haven’t believed in his Son!”
In other words:
God came off his throne.
God became human.
God lived 33 perfect years when you couldn’t.
God died innocently in your place so you wouldn’t have to.
God rose triumphantly to prove it to you!
Finally, God used someone in your life – maybe a mom, maybe a dad, maybe a Sunday School Teacher…maybe me right now – to bring this message to you.
And if, after all that, your response is: I don’t believe it.
Well… God says you’ll believe it one day.
One day – when it won’t be a matter of faith.
One day when you feel the hand of his wrath.
One day when it’s too late.
II. Believing to See!
But don’t believe out of fear. Believe in the risen Jesus because it’s true.
Fast forward our story one week. The day of the week is the same. The time of day is the same. The cast of characters is the same. The door is locked the same. And Jesus appeared among them – the same. Listen to this. Verse 26 is almost a carbon copy of verse 19: Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
But one thing is different. This time Thomas is there. And Jesus walks right up to him.
“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (v.27)
Thomas felt the flesh of his hand.
Thomas felt the ridged remainders of the nail marks.
Thomas felt the jagged edges that the spear had left behind.
Thomas looked Jesus in the eyes.
And this time? He fell to the ground:
“My Lord and My God!” (v.28)
Jesus lifted him up. Jesus hugged him. Jesus forgave him.
And then, Jesus said something very interesting:
“Because you have seen me, you have believed. Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Is that you?
Do you believe even though you haven’t seen?
Do you believe even though you’ve only heard?
Then, you are blessed.
The blessings are numerous:
You have forgiveness with God.
You have forgiveness from all of your doubts.
You have forgiveness for your unbelief.
You have peace with God.
You have joy in your salvation.
You have God’s love.
You have none of God’s wrath and all of his blessing.
You have the promise that you will see him.
Can you picture that? That’s what heaven is. The moment when you and I will see our Savior with our own eyes!
You will see the nail marked hands – a testimony to his love for you.
You will see the flesh wound in his side – a testimony to his compassion for you.
You will see Jesus – move and breathe and being alive – a testimony to His Power.
Thomas believed because he saw.
Don’t ask to see and then believe; but believe and you will see.
That’s what faith is. Hebrews says this, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for; and certain of what we do not see.”
And what do we hope for? That we too will conquer death. That we too will be in heaven. That we too will be with God. That we too are forgiven!
And what we do not see? Jesus’ hands. Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ side. We don’t see the risen Lord Jesus.
But just like Thomas didn’t see Jesus; it doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t risen.
And, in fact, it almost makes you wonder if Thomas’ absence wasn’t God ordained.
God knew Thomas would doubt.
And God knew we would doubt.
So, God led Thomas away.
And Thomas doubted.
But then Jesus appeared.
And Thomas’ doubts went away.
And if doubting Thomas, doubting skeptic, I’ve seen Jesus do all kinds of miracles, but I won’t believe this miracle to be true – Thomas doubts, but then believes.
That means the truth? Is true.
It’s not a myth.
It’s not fake new.
It’s not a fairy tale.
Jesus has risen. You are his.
Stop doubting and believe. Amen.
Andrew looked around as he held his finger to his lips. Through the dim candlelight, the expression on the faces of his comrades was very clear:
Eyes were wide.
Perspiration beaded on their foreheads.
They were scared.
Ok. I think they’ve past. It’s alright to whisper (and make sure you whisper!)
Slowly faint murmurs trickled back into the night air.
I thought that was chainmail for sure.
Sooner or later it will be and the soldiers will knock down the door and they’ll corner us and they’ll arrest us and we’ll be crucified too.
They will if you can’t keep your voice down!
It was an undisclosed room in the heart of the city. The building was non-descript and unlabeled. The old sandy bricks blended in with the bricks next door. The lights were low – to not attract attention and the doors were barred – to not let anyone in. Because of the wind, it was hard to hear any noise come from inside the building.
For all intents and purposes, the building was abandoned.
But inside the building? It was full of life – hearts beating at a steady 120 bpm. It looked like a triage unit…for spiritual warriors. These men had seen their leader die no more than three days earlier. It was an awful death. They had seen blood dripping from his forehead, blood spurting out of his wrists, blood falling down his back and blood coughing up and dripping down his beard as his lungs breathed his last.
That’s what the Jewish leaders had done to Jesus.
That’s what the Jewish leaders were going to do to them.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
A few hours ago – one of their friends had told them that Jesus was alive. Some women had seen him. Mary Magdalene had seen him. Peter had seen him. And about half an hour ago – two more disciples had burst through the door saying the same thing.
That should have been exciting.
It was confusing.
Confusing and a bit terrifying.
Because last they saw Jesus – Jesus who loved them – who cared for them – who gave them hope – who gave them purpose and meaning – who healed them and promised them peace – that Jesus – last they saw that Jesus?
They abandoned him.
They left him for dead.
They pretended like they didn’t even care for him.
If the reports were true, then…he had conquered death.
He was unstoppable.
He was God.
And He was out for vengeance.
James could picture it now. Soon Jesus would show up, eyes like fire – and zap them with his miracles. He’d send Legions of demons into Andrew. (Mark 5) He’d stuff Philip full of all 12 baskets of bread. (Jn. 6) He’d warp Peter into a raging sea where he wouldn’t reach down and rescue him from drowning. (Mt. 14) And give the rest of them advanced stages of leprosy. (Lk. 5)
And me? James gulped. He couldn’t escape the feeling that Jesus would call down fire on him – the very fire he had once asked Jesus to call down on those who didn’t follow him. On those who abandoned him. On those who pretended like they didn’t know him.
You know. People like him.
I. Be Afraid to Hide
I know how the disciples feel.
They had sinned against God.
They had sinned against Jesus.
They had done it – even after they had become convinced that Jesus was God.
I’ve done that.
It’s kind of like when you’re shopping at Kohl’s – and there’s a sale, because there’s always a sale – and as you’re rifling through the dresses you catch a glimpse through the CLEARANCE rack of that one friend – that former friend – that you badmouthed and wronged and called four letter names. What do you do? Duck down real low and seem real, real interested in whether that blouse is cotton or polyester.
Or if you’re at a restaurant, having a good time with your family, stuffing a piece of pizza into your mouth and suddenly you almost choke on your pepperoni. There’s that one gal you used to date that ended when you were a jerk. So, what do you do? Keep your eye on where she is sitting and be sure to look everywhere but where she is sitting when you are leaving.
It’s so easy to do that with God.
In fact, it’s really easy.
Here’s a quick 5 steps to avoiding God:
1) Don’t Open your Bible. Read Facebook. Read Harry Potter Books. Just don’t read the book about God and what he expects of us. In fact, to be sure that you don’t open it on accident, why not simply glue it shut?
2) Don’t Even LIKE Any Jesus Things. The Instagram algorithm will see that you liked a passage and they will star to show you (horror of horrors) more Bible passage. Just remember – Swipe left.
3) Screen Pastor’s Calls. In fact – block him and all of the elders completely. Then you won’t even be bothered by guilty feelings for not answering.
4) Never drive by church. In fact, enter it into your GPS as a route to completely avoid church. Live right next to church? Simple. Just get an UBER and sit in the back with a blindfold.
5) Get rid of all your Jesus friends. Peer pressure isn’t good. Why would you want peer pressure to spend time with God? Instead – drop all of your church friends. Don’t talk to them. Don’t text them. Don’t snap them. Ignore them. Sooner or later they’ll get the hint…leave you alone…and you’ll never have to think about God again!
But here’s the problem with this fear – hiding from God doesn’t fix anything!
Your sin remains and you can’t hide from him.
Just ask Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3)
Or Jonah. (Jonah 4)
Or Saul. (Acts 9)
Or how about Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
You can’t hide from God.
Eventually God and you will meet.
Eventually you will stand before the center of his throne.
Eventually you will face Him.
Where were you?
And if you’re response is: Sorry, God. I was hiding from you.
How do you think he’ll respond? (HINT: Divine fireballs from heaven; that isn’t too far off. )
II. Don’t Be Afraid to Come Near
This was why James was on edge.
This is why he was frightened.
This is why he was watching that front door like a hawk.
It’s also why he almost passed out when someone appeared behind him.
On the evening of the first day of the week…the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus appeared among them. (Jn. 20:19)
Pay careful attention to what it says. There is no knock. There is no ringing of the doorbell. This is no verbal conversion, no opening of the door, and no sneaking in the back.
Jesus simply appears – a miracle.
And it’s silent.
James’ heart is racing.
James’ fear is at an all-time high.
It’s him. He’s here to get us!
Jesus looks at them.
Jesus looks at him.
Jesus opens his mouth.
He lifts up his hands.
James ducks for fear of the fireball death.
And Jesus speaks:
Peace be with you.
As in – My brothers.
As in – I defeated your sin.
As in – I defeated death.
As in – I am alive.
As in – Your sins are remembered no more.
As in – I forgive you.
As in – I. Love. You.
But Pastor – that’s what Jesus said to the 12 disciples. I’m not one of those. They were only gone for 3 days. I’ve been gone lots longer.
Check out Romans 5:1. It says this, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And that “we” there? That’s the Apostle Paul talking to the citizens of Rome. Citizens who didn’t know Jesus – citizens who had been apart from God their entire life.
Paul is announcing what God announced at Jesus’ resurrection: “You – humans – have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I am announcing what Paul announced that God announced at Jesus’ resurrection: You have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reason for the peace? It isn’t that your sin isn’t so bad. It isn’t that you weren’t gone so long. It isn’t that at least you weren’t as bad as your neighbor.
“Since we have been declared innocent through faith…” (Rom. 5:1)
That faith? It’s in Christ.
That Christ? He declares us innocent.
That innocence? It declares us at peace with God.
To put it simply: God isn’t angry at you, because of Jesus.
And yes! That’s hard to believe. It was hard for the disciples. So, what does Jesus do? After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. He proved that he had risen. He proved that he was alive. He proved that he had defeated death and sin and everything that separated them from God.
The response? The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
He had risen.
He wasn’t angry.
They were no longer afraid.
III. WHAT NOW?
1. Come Near God
Disciples go towards Jesus – see his open hands – and are encouraged. In fact, Overjoyed!
You go near Jesus. Heed his words of warning – hear his words of comfort.
Julianna – a text of forgiveness – how much better to hear it from her lips – same with God.
2. Share Peace
Because it’s really interesting what Jesus says next: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
Do you know someone who needs peace? I bet you do. Listen to what Jesus tells. It isn’t ignoring them. It isn’t send them a Facebook like. It’s sharing PEACE with them.
Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about the cross. Tell how he lived for them. Died for them. Rose for them. Tell them about how he forgives sins and proclaims peace to all who believe.
My wife and I like to have fun with our dog. Sometimes when we come home (and discover that he has an obnoxious amount of energy) my wife will head up stairs and I'll head outside. Then, I'll call to him, "Come Clay!" and he'll run real fast to come find me. Then, as soon as he gets to me, my wife calls from the upstairs window, "Clay come!" He leaves and runs to her. This goes on for awhile until he get tired and finds himself running back and forth -- unsure of whose voice to listen to.
(The same phenomenon occurs when a bunch of guests come over at once. He runs around the room -- looking to be petted -- but unsure who the best option might be.)
It's hard to be a dog.
Then again, it's also hard to be a human.
If you’re a Christian in modern America, maybe you’ve faced situations similar. You know Jesus is calling you. But – there are lots of voices out there telling you to stop following him and start following them! These voices are tricky. Because when you don’t listen to them, they can get violent. They mock. They yell. They make you ‘uncool’ at school. They post angry messages on your blog.
And you start to think -- Is it worth it?
Whose voice should I follow?
We’re going to John 10 today– to listen to Jesus’ words as to why to follow his voice – the voice of the Good Shepherd. Before we look at his treatise, let’s say a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Danger of the Thief
The illustration Jesus uses in this section is one that would have been very common to ancient Israel – an agrarian community. Listen to the illustration:
Very truly I tell you, Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. (John 10:1-5)
Notice to whom the illustration is given. It’s given to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of people who hated Jesus. They didn't believe in him. In fact, their mission during Jesus' life seemed to be intimidating people into not following Jesus.
In the chapter right before John 10, Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth. Instead of being amazed, the Pharisees arrest the blind man and charge him to badmouth Jesus. They insist there must have been foul play in this healing. (A satanic ritual or illegal drugs -- something!) But the man refuses. As a result, they throw him out of the synagogue because he is a 'no good follower of Jesus.'
It’s really interesting that this illustration begins with the illustration of the thief. “Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (v.1) If the guy isn’t coming through the gate, then he isn’t the shepherd. He goes to the side, because doesn’t have the key – or (if you live in a fancy, uppity shepherding neighborhood) he doesn’t have the keycode to open the gate.
And since he can’t get through the gate, he has to wait until night. He has to sneak.in. He has to climb over the fence. He grabs one of the sheep, jumps back out and the sheep are never to be heard from again.
If you haven’t guessed already, you are the sheep in this parable. I’m a sheep too. Jesus isn’t the thief; he’s the shepherd.
Who’s the spiritual thief then? The spiritual thief is the one who doesn’t come in from the gate. I think this is pretty interesting. If you jump forward to verse 7 Jesus defines the gate. He says, “I am the gate for the sheep.” That means the spiritual thief is the one who enters the sheep pen apart from the message of Jesus.
Do you get it?
Jesus was calling out the Pharisees! They weren’t leading people to the Gate! They weren't leading people to Jesus. In fact, they were intimidating people like the formerly blind man into denouncing the real shepherd.
They were the thieves.
The Pharisees as an organized group that are not around today. Are spiritual thieves still a problem today? Oh yeah. Here are a few common ones;
False Teachers. This is essentially what the Pharisees were. Instead of pointing people to salvation by faith in Jesus alone, they pointed people to salvation by doing Jewish thing...Lots of Jewish things...Jewish things that they were probably not going to be able to accomplish because they weren't awesome like the Pharisees
False teachers are still around today. You might find them on the radio, online or on TV. Listen to their message. All the fine sounding sermons and well dressed speakers in the world cannot make up for a lack of Jesus Christ. If they don't point you to Jesus, they aren't going through the Gate. They are robbers. Watch out!
Political Movements. Because Political movements have somehow become more important than following Jesus. Political movements (democrats, republicans and any other political movement) have plenty of non-Jesus like aspects to them. When these things enter through the side gate and steal you away from following Jesus – taking up all of your time reading blogs, posting things on the internet, and ignoring your Bible. You’re in danger; the thief has ahold of you.
Sexual Liberation Movement. Don’t get me wrong – sex is a good thing! God is not a prude. God simply wants to protect your heart and the hearts of others. That’s why God wants sexual relations practiced within the marriage covenant. But this movement proclaim “It’s your body. If it feels good, do it – Who cares about the consequences and who cares who I harm and who cares if I don’t follow God!”
But that line of thinking isn’t a Jesus line of thinking. Jesus cared whom he harmed. Jesus cared about following God. Meaning this current of thinking doesn’t come through the gate. It comes from hopping the fence! IT’S A THIEF! And if you’ve been finding yourself listen to that current of thought lately. You’re in danger; the thief has a hold of you.
Your friends. That’s a hard one to hear. But think about it. If your friend is making fun of Jesus…If your friend is making you question your faith…If your friend is leading you to do things outside of your…If your friend is ridiculing you and giving the impression that unless you give up your faith, the ridicule will only increase. YOU’RE IN DANGER! Your friend is a thief. Knowingly or unknowingly…they are leading you away from the only one who offers salvation.
Here’s the thing. The thief doesn’t actually care about you. The thief only cares for himself. He only cares about the money they’ll get from the wool or the tasty meat that’ll fill his belly later.
As for the sheep? Well…
He doesn’t care if he hurts the sheep.
He doesn’t care if the sheep bleat in terror as he loads them in the back of his truck.
He doesn’t care if the sheep get bruised as he stuffs them into the back of his truck and peels out of there not to get caught.
He doesn’t care if the sheep is absolutely miserable.
And the reality? These spiritual thieves do not care about you and your eternal good.
II. About the Shepherd
(1) He Owns the Sheep
But the shepherd isn’t a thief. The shepherd is a caretaker. The shepherd goes through the gate. Verse 2 says, “The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the Sheep.” He’s got the keys. This is his field. He belongs here. In fact, the gatekeeper opens the gate for him. “Good to see you Frank! Things are going pretty well in the field over there. Do you want a cuppa Joe before you head in?” Everyone’s friendly to the shepherd because he belongs there. He belongs there because the field is his.
And the sheep are at ease. He’s there to check on them. To feed them. To give them water. To fix that break in the fence. To scratch the hard to reach spot behind their ears.
The motives of the shepherd are entirely different from the motives of the thief.
The motives of Jesus are entirely different from the motives of spiritual thieves.
The thief cares about himself.
The shepherd cares about the sheep.
The spiritual thief cares about himself.
The Good Shepherd, Jesus, cares about you.
(2) He Calls You by Name
And yes… I said you. That’s not a generic – “Pastor-is-talking-to-a-lot-of-people-here-but-probably-specifically-didn’t-mean-me” you.
It’s a You – specifically you – you. Look at verse 3 He calls his own sheep by name. He doesn’t shout “Here Sheepy, Sheepy, Sheepy!” like the thief trying to get you into the big burlap sack so he can run off to you. He calls out your name – specifically – because he means you – specifically - and he loves you – specifically!
That’s so different from the spiritual thief. The spiritual thief doesn’t care about your name. They think of you as a dollar bill. As a vote. As a notch in the belt. As a like on Facebook. As a building block to their own pride.
But your shepherd? He knows you intimately. He knows your name. He knows your middle name. He knows your last name – and how to pronounce it correctly. He knows your nick name; your pet name; and the super hero name you gave yourself when you were 7.
He knows all about you.
And he loves you:
He loved you enough to die for you.
(3) He Lays Down His Life for the Sheep
In John 10:11 Jesus says, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."
Because the reality is that we sheep got ourselves into trouble. Thieve, wolves, terrorists, and all kinds of awful were attacking. You might know them as sin, death, and the devil.
But Jesus picked up his staff. It looked stunningly like a cross.
He lived perfectly when you couldn't.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the forgiveness of all of your sins.
He died for the sheep!
But unlike any other shepherd in history, the Good Shepherd also rose from the dead. He came back to life on Easter. That means he's not done with us. That means he has good places to lead us:
(4) He Leads the Sheep to Wonderful Places
That’s the final part of following this shepherd. Verse 4 says, He calls his sheep by name and he leads them…He goes on ahead of them.
Take Psalm 23 – it’s well known; we read it earlier says this:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me besides quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
Our shepherd does that for us. He makes us lie down in the nourishing greens of his word. He leads us to the trickling brook of his promises. He quiets our souls with the gentle words of his love.
This is key because sometimes life leads you to scary places. Places only described as “The valley of the shadow of death.” Places like financial barrenness. Places like cancer wards. Places like a turbulent workplace.
I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
As in, your shepherd is with you.
As in, your shepherd he won’t leave you.
As in, your shepherd will lead you out of that valley of death and into the banquet of heaven.
In fact, that’s how Psalm 23 ends:
He spreads a table before me…goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
Jesus is an awesome shepherd.
III. How Do His Sheep Respond?
(1) Listen to His Voice
Because sheep are used to the voice of the shepherd. They hear it call them for food. They hear his voice tell them where water is. They hear his voice call them and soothe them when they are afraid.
The sheep of the shepherd listen to the shepherd because it’s a voice they recognize.
The same is Jesus’ sheep. They recognize his voice.
It’s a voice that knows your name.
It’s a voice that loves you.
A voice that cried out in agony on the cross for you.
A voice that stopped working…and then 3 days later worked again.
When you don’t know where to go in life – how to act in a certain situation, listen for his voice!
You’ll find it in Scripture. You’ll find it in his Word. Find his voice. Find a section of Scripture that speaks to your life right now. Listen to it!
(2) Run from the Thieves
Verse 5 says this, The sheep will never follow a stranger in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize him.
It’s similar to a stranger at the mall with a scratchy, raspy, obviously bad news voice opening up his big white van and saying, “Hey kid – want some candy!” The sheep of the shepherd do not run to him; the sheep of the shepherd run away!
What’s that look like in your life? It means running away from the spiritual thieves!
Cut out the porn! In fact, get a filter on your computer and give a friend the password.
Stop sleeping with the person you aren’t married to.
Turn off the politics!
Get away from the negative comments and get off of Facebook. It’s ok. You’ll live.
Run away from these spiritual thieves. They steal your soul; lead you to sin.
And if you follow the spiritual thief long enough, suddenly you start to trust them.
You follow them willingly.
You wake up and realize that you don’t have any idea where the Shepherd is and you don’t know how to get back to him!
Maybe you’ve been lost.
Maybe you are lost.
Because the shepherd doesn’t let his sheep stay lost.
(3). Follow Him
In fact, Jesus tells the story of a shepherd who owns 100 sheep (that’s a lot of sheep). But unfortunately, he wakes up one morning, goes out and counts the sheep and realizes that he is down 1. There’s only 99. He counts them again. He starts to panic.
And he tells the gatekeeper to watch the sheep while he puts on his coat and puts on his boots to go out in the rain and find the sheep.
You’ve got 99 sheep sir! Why do you need to go get that one?
The shepherd answers – Because. I love her.
He goes out in the storm. He walks over hills. He chills his body to the bone. He walks through mud and thistles and searches and panics until: The sheep! Over there in the bramble. Bleeding. Unable to move.
He swoops in – tears in his eyes. He hates to see this sheep in pain. He takes out some snips. He cuts the sheep free. He grabs her in his arms and brings her home.
What was lost is found.
That’s your shepherd. That’s Jesus.
That’s someone worth following.