So I Send You 2nd Easter
Acts 5:27-32 April 28, 2019 John 20:19-31
Have you ever stood up from where you were sitting and gone into another room and then stopped and asked yourself, “Why am I here?” Believe me, if you haven’t had that particular experience, you will…many times! It’s kind of a universal experience for those of us who are “seasoned citizens.” But not everyone gets around to asking the deeper question, the more important one, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?” If you listen to the culture that surrounds us, you’ll be told that your purpose is to consume goods, to have a good time, to pay lots of taxes and fees, and to (hopefully) die at a ripe old age. (Reminds me of that T-shirt that says “Whoever dies with the most toys, WINS!”)
Or the old song, “Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is.” Did you catch the critical “IF”?! “IF that’s all there is…” And if that’s NOT all there is, then there must be MORE, right? The answer to the question, “Why am I here?” becomes extremely important—in fact, becomes the only truly significant thing in our lives! What Jesus came to reveal to us is that there is more to life than just living—that life has a purpose, a direction; that Christ who indwells us has something he wants to do through us, right where we are!
As I looked over today’s Scriptures, I saw a theme developing that carried over from Easter’s verses. We see Peter and other Apostles explaining to the High Priest that they must obey God rather than any human authority, and that they were witnesses and had to proclaim that which they had seen for themselves.
When later speaking at the house of the Gentile, Cornelius, Peter said, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.” Jesus commanded us to preach and to testify. So, when this High Priest and the council gave them strict orders NOT to teach in the name of Jesus, Peter and the gang chose to put their lives in danger by obeying Christ’s command to preach and to testify! They put their lives in danger.
What do you suppose it was that gave them such courage, such determination, such boldness?! Listen, again, to the description of their first contact with Jesus after the resurrection: “When it was evening on that day (the day of resurrection), the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Shalom’ (Peace be with you). After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Shalom. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’”
We hear at the close of every worship service, “Christ who indwells you has something he wants to do through you, right where you are.” And I believe that is true. But sometimes Jesus sends us somewhere else—perhaps to another country, perhaps to another city, or perhaps just slightly beyond our comfort zone. Jesus is saying to us, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
You might be tempted to respond, “But Jesus was only talking to those who were there. I wasn’t there!”
Well, the text clearly states that Thomas was not with them when Jesus came and stood among them. But Thomas clearly understood that he was meant to be sent out. He traveled to the sub-continent of India, and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, to this day, there are Christians in India who call themselves “Thomists”, named after the Apostle who brought the good news to their ancestors! The Gospel thrives when Christians follow God’s call and allow themselves to be sent, even if it’s no further than to the family next door!
But what happens when we ignore the call, refusing to be sent? Here’s a famous example: You know the name Kublai Kahn, the emperor of the vast empire of Mongolia. When we see Mongolia today, it’s just a little oval of a country squeezed in between Russia and China. But in the days of the great Kahns, it was the largest empire in the world, including much of modern-day Russia and China! Did you know that Kublai Kahn’s mother was a Christian from the Nestorian Church in Persia? She obviously had a great deal of influence on her son, because he wanted Christianity to be taught throughout his empire! And when Marco Polo came to visit in his palace in Beijing, he asked Marco to carry a message to the Pope in Rome. “Please send 100 learned priests to come to Mongolia and teach the Gospel of Christ.” Wow! How often does the church get an invitation like this?!
And how did the church respond? Well, the church was having a lot of difficulties at that time—some say they were “in survival mode.” The Pope didn’t want to invest 100 priests in Mongolia—so he sent two. Yes, two.
I can just imagine Jesus saying, “Oh, come on, man! Stop listening to your fears! Just as the Father has sent me, so I send you!
In conclusion, I believe the question God is asking the whole church is this: What are we here for? (What is the church here for?) Are we a social club that gets together because we enjoy each other and like being together? [Well, I have to admit that’s true. We DO like being with each other!] And what is our building for? Is it just a comfortable, attractive place for us to get together, or is it meant for something greater?
Friends, when I hear Jesus telling the disciples, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you,” I hear him telling you and me, “I have drawn you to myself to bless you and to help you grow—and to send you!”
Everything that has gone before has happened to make this moment possible—to create this unique set of circumstances in which God can use you for something incredible. Paul puts it like this in his letter to the church in Ephesus: “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” THIS is the way God brings glory to himself—doing amazing work through ordinary people. That’s why God wants to send US, not some superhero, not someone famous or rich or powerful—US. And when we say “Yes!” to God, then God comes alongside us in the power of the Holy Spirit, and makes all things possible. Who’ll be a witness for my Lord?
Prayer: Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.