Your mission . . .
Play video of MI tape recorder scene. The Mission Impossible TV shows or movies are about a group of spies that are part of an organization that doesn’t “exist” called the Impossible Mission Force. They are tasked with stopping enemy forces while also trying to prevent impending global disaster. They are given missions from a tape recorder that self-destructs five seconds after listening to it. They never turn down the impossible missions nor do they ever fail to complete the missions and save the world. But, of course, it is television. We can learn a couple of things from these missions. First, there is an importance to the mission. Normally, national security is at stake. Second, there is a cost to the mission. The cost could be captured by the enemy or to be killed, in which either case they would be disavowed. Third, there are resources for the mission. Their resources are the team they assemble to take on and complete the missions. They don’t work alone to get the missions done.
This reminds me of the many mission trips I have been on with Habitat for Humanity. The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to build affordable housing for families that need a home. The importance of those trips was to supply the labor and the money to make that happen. The cost of the mission trip was the money we raised for supplies, meals for the trip, and a donation to leave with the Habitat chapter we worked with. The resources of the mission were the tools and other supplies we took with us and, of course, the team of youth and adults that were assembled to do the work. I never went alone which was important because I know less than nothing about building a house or using a hammer. I always made sure I took people who understood all that foreign stuff. I spent many mission trips making lunches, picking up supplies or whatever else needed to be done besides construction. Also, Habitat for Humanity usually supplied a foreman on the worksite to teach us and guide us as to what needed to be done. Mission trips also take a lot of planning before they can happen. This is called the pre-mission stage which I will talk about later.
This morning we are going to see a group of people who were assembled to go on a mission trip. They have been in the pre-mission stage for the past three years. It may seem like an impossible mission to them but they do not turn the mission down and before their lives are over they will successfully complete the mission. There is an importance to their mission, a cost for their mission, and they are given resources for the mission. The reason we need to take notice to their mission is because it is also our mission, as Christians, today. What John wants us to understand from this passage is that our mission (should we decide to accept it) is of the utmost importance. That is our big idea and why the mission was so important for the disciples then and for us today is what we will learn from our passage this morning.
But before we open the scriptures let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning and glean your truth from it, we ask for the Holy Spirit to illuminate our hearts and minds to what you want us to know, learn and believe. Help us to use your word as a light for our path and as a sword to fight the world’s and Satan’s influence on our lives. Thank you for the privilege of studying your word and may we never take it for granted. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I am going to continue to use the analogy of a mission trip as we look at this passage. There are two points, the pre-mission trip stage and the final countdown. The pre-mission trip is found in John chapter 20 verses 19 and 20. This is what God’s word says, 19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Before you embark on a mission trip there are certain things you need to do to get ready. Those things will vary depending on the type of mission trip you are going on. You might need to learn a new language or you might need to learn how to be sensitive to the needs of the people you will be serving. You will also need to plan for what you will be doing on your mission trip and gather the needed supplies for it.
A number of years ago, our church took a mission trip to Mississippi to work with the Choctaw Indians. The plan was to build a pavilion for the church and to provide a VBS for the children. The planning for this trip took more than six months. We worked on lessons for the VBS and we decided who was going to take the lead in certain roles and who would be helping them. Those who were going to be building the pavilion had to decide what tools were needed and how much to bring because of limited vehicle space. We had to plan meals for each day which included what we were going to eat, who was going to be in charge of making each meal and who was going to be cleaning up after each meal. Planning also went into what the evening devotions were going to be. We also needed to do fundraising for this mission trip. We needed to pay for our meals, gas and other things including the supplies to build the pavilion and supplies needed for the VBS. We all sent support letters to family and friends and had a fundraising meal. Many of you sitting here this morning or listening online helped support that mission trip and it would not have happened if not for your support. Mission trips take planning-months and even years of planning depending on where you are going, what you will be doing and how much support you need to raise.
It was no different for Jesus’ disciples. For them the pre-mission trip stage had taken three years of planning. Jesus had called them to follow him and had then spent that time teaching them and preparing them for this moment. But even after three years of planning they were still not prepared to leave. Partly because their leader, their Rabbi, their Lord had just been crucified and they were not thinking about all the training and preparation they had gone through. But there was still some preparation and teaching that needed to be done to get the disciples ready to go on their mission trip.
The first thing that the disciples needed was to see the risen Jesus. They had heard from Mary that he was alive but they had yet to see him personally. In our passage, we see that on the evening of resurrection day the disciples are gathered together with the doors locked because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. It doesn’t say exactly where they were but they may have been in the same place where the Last Supper was held before Jesus was crucified. All of a sudden Jesus was standing among them. He seemingly materialized right before their eyes and greeted them with “Peace be with you.” The disciples were probably not expecting this greeting from Jesus after abandoning him on Good Friday.
This greeting of “peace” or “shalom” was the common greeting of the day. It means more than the absence of stress, it means “well-being” or “may you be saved from trouble, may God give you every good thing.” When you say, “Peace be with you” to someone, you are wishing on them life at its best under the gracious hand of God. But what did Jesus mean here? Luke 24:36-37 says, “While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” I am sure that Jesus wanted to calm their fears but I think his greeting of “peace” had a deeper meaning, as well. Think about Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.” He had now completed what he came to earth to do. He became our sin so that we could be reconciled to God. There could now be peace between God and man. Peace is a gift of the kingdom of God and Jesus through his death and resurrection on the cross delivered that peace to the disciples. This was a promised peace as we see in John 14:27a, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Jesus promised to give them his peace and here he keeps his promise.
We also know from Luke that they were still frightened even after his greeting of peace. So Jesus showed them the physical proof of his resurrection so that they would believe that it was really him. Our passage says that Jesus shows them his hands and his side. John is the only one to mention the wound in his side. This would have been important in proving to the disciples that he was truly their resurrected Lord. Any other crucifixion victim could only have shown the wounds in their hands and feet. Jesus was unique in that he had the added wound in his side from the Roman soldiers’ spear. This demonstrates the sovereignty of God in that every little detail of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection was taken care of by the Father.
After showing them his hands and side they believed that it was really him and were overjoyed. This was another fulfillment of a promise Jesus made to the disciples in John 16:22, which says, “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” Again Jesus kept his promise. They are overjoyed, because now like Mary they had an encounter with the living, risen Christ. They are almost ready to go on their mission trip to change the world and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Why are these verses important for us? Because before we can go on our mission trip to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, there are a few things that must happen. We must first have a personal relationship with Jesus. We must have daily encounters with the living, risen person of Jesus Christ. That is where our faith is born and where it develops and matures. Without daily encounters with the living, risen Christ we can’t begin to understand the Great Commission and what it truly means for us and every Christian in the world. I think sometimes, we as Christians (me included), walk through our days on this earth like zombies, getting up, going to school or to work, going back home and we never think about or pursue our purpose and mission on this earth. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months and months turn to years and we are still in the pre-mission stage. Why is this? I believe it is because we don’t truly know and believe that Jesus is alive. We don’t believe that we have the same power in us that he had. We don’t live in that power because we have never experienced the resurrected, living, breathing Jesus Christ in our lives. Just like the disciples needed to know and believe that Jesus had risen from the dead before they could begin their mission, we need to know and believe that Jesus is alive and has the power to do anything and everything before we can ever go on the mission he has called us to. That brings us to our first next step which is to “know and believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and that we have the same power in us that Jesus has as we prepare to be on mission for him.”
Our second point this morning is the final countdown. As we come to T minus fifty days, Jesus commissions his disciples for the mission, empowers them for the mission and delegates his authority to them for the mission. We see this in verses 21-23, this is what God’s word says, 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
Jesus repeats “shalom” to the disciples which shows them how important his peace is and will be as they embark on their mission trip. They will need his peace as he sends them out into an unfriendly world to spread the gospel. Just as with the first mention of peace, he wants them to know that his peace comes as a result of his death and resurrection. No matter what they will go through, they can have hope in his resurrection and have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead to complete their mission.
Jesus now formally commissions his disciples just as he was commissioned by his Father. Just as Jesus was the Father’s hands and feet, the disciples are now Jesus’s hands and feet working in the world by being witnesses to the reality of God and the truth of Jesus’ words. This commission is given importance because it is linked to the mission of the Son. They are not Jesus’ replacement or substitute in the mission; their mission is the continuation of the same mission Jesus had on the earth. Westcott says, “The disciples were commissioned to carry on Christ’s work, and not to begin a new one.” Their mission proceeds from his and it is only now that Jesus has accomplished his part of the mission that the disciples are sent. Jesus’ mission continues and is effective in the ministry of the disciples. Their mission is of the utmost importance because it is the continuation of Jesus’ mission. (Big Idea)
This mission is stated in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 which says, 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” As Christians, we are also commissioned and commanded to continue the mission started by Jesus and continued by the disciples. It is important because we continue the very work on this earth that Jesus did while he was here.
After Jesus commissions the disciples, he gives them an important resource they will need to fulfill their mission. He empowers them with the Holy Spirit by breathing on them. Jesus breathing on the disciples would have reminded them of the creation of mankind in Genesis 2 when God breathed into Adam and he became a living being. John wants us to see that this is the beginning of the new life of believers in the risen Lord. This is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the disciples at Pentecost. This giving of the Spirit does not result in the same power we see in Acts when the Spirit is given then. Here Jesus is giving them an indwelling of the Holy Spirit that would remain in their hearts and prepare them for that moment fifty days later when the Holy Spirit would come upon them and make them effective witnesses to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I like how Carson and Greene explain this. Greene says, “Jesus conferred on them light and knowledge of divine truth which up until then they had not possessed. They were ignorant concerning the necessity for his death and the surety of his resurrection. But when he breathed on them he bestowed on them the Spirit of knowledge and understanding.” And Carson says, “This is symbolic in that Jesus is teaching the disciples who the Spirit is. Until they understood who the Spirit was they were in no position to receive his outpouring. The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost was dependent upon this action by Jesus.” Nothing less than the power which brought Jesus through his death and resurrection to the right hand of God the Father is the power given to the disciples to fulfill their mission.
After Jesus commissions and empowers the disciples, he delegates his authority upon them. We see this is verse 23 where he talks about the forgiving or not forgiving of people’s sins. Jesus is not giving the disciples the authority to forgive or not forgive people’s sins here. What he is saying is as they preach the good news of the gospel they have the privilege to let people know that Jesus has come to earth, died for their sins and can now be reconciled with God. The forgiving or not forgiving of people’s sins is the result of how they react to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will either repent, be saved and their sins are forgiven or they will not accept the salvation of Jesus Christ freely given to them and their sins will not be forgiven. The passive voice implies it is God who is doing the acting and forgiving sins not the disciples.
As Christians we are all commissioned, empowered and delegated Jesus’ authority for the mission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. This is what he has called and commanded us to do. It is of the utmost importance because we continue Jesus’ mission on the earth, but it is also important because it’s not national security at stake but the eternal security of every person on the planet, including our families, our friends, our neighbors, etc. There is a cost to be on this mission. There was a cost for Jesus which was his death on the cross. There was a cost for his disciples which for most of them was a violent death or at the very least persecution. And there is a cost for all of us to be on this mission which may include the loss of our families, our friends, our comfort, our wills and yes, even our lives for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Luke 9:23 says, 23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” And 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” To be a disciple of Jesus, going out into the world on mission, is like carrying a cross as Jesus did to Calvary. We must be willing to even die for his sake as we fulfill the mission that Jesus has called us to. Lastly, we have the same resource to continue the mission of Jesus and the disciples which is the Holy Spirit. We have been given the very breath of the living, risen Christ in us and we have the same power available to us that rose Jesus from the grave. Wait for the tape recorder to pop up.
So, your mission, should you decide to accept it is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples for Jesus Christ. The eternal security of everyone on the planet is at stake. You may be persecuted and may even lose your life for your faith but take courage because Jesus Christ has overcome the grave and you have the power of the living, risen Christ breathed into you which is the Holy Spirit. Your mission though will never self-destruct. It will always be waiting for those who call themselves Christ followers. But this life at some point will self-destruct, and then it may be too late, if you decide today to put your mission off until the future. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to “accept the mission given to me by Jesus Christ to pursue, grow and multiply disciples.”
As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we thank you for the mission you have given to us and commanded us to live out. Help us to believe that you are truly risen and that we have the same power within us that raised you from the grave. Help us to accept your mission of pursuing, growing and multiplying disciples. Help us to not delay our mission any longer and help us to be on mission for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.