Pastor Choi talks about the message of the risen Christ to His people. His message to His disciples on the first Easter Day would be the same to us in the 21st century in America. He would speak to us: stop crying, for I am with you. Shalom. Receive the Holy Spirit. Forgive.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
The Easter Message of the Risen Christ John 20:1-23
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
If the risen Christ appeared to us again this morning, what words do you think He would say to us? I believe He would give us the same message that He had given to His disciples 2000 years ago: one in the morning and one in the evening. That’s what you are about to hear from me this morning: the message of the risen Christ to Easter people.
The message was (is, and will be the same): stop crying, for I am with you. I give my peace to you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Forgive. Let’s go over them one by one.
Why are you crying (v. 13, v. 15)? When Mary Magdalene couldn’t find Jesus’ body in the tomb, she went back to Peter and John and reported that the tomb was empty. The two men ran to the tomb to check it out, looked inside and didn’t see Jesus’ body, either. Then, they went back to their home. Thank God, Mary lingered a little longer. When she peeked inside the empty tomb, two angels spoke to her saying, “Woman, why are you crying?” After telling them that she was looking for Jesus’ missing body, Mary turned around saw Jesus standing right behind her. At first, she didn’t recognize Him (perhaps it has something to do with Christ’s resurrection body). She rather thought Him a gardener. The risen Christ asked her the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you crying?” By the way, the term “woman” here is not a derogatory term for a female. Rather, it was a dear and affectionate term to call a woman at the time: like we say today, “My dear lady, my dearest, honey, darling, sweetheart, and so on.” Jesus said, “My dear lady, why are you crying?”
What do you see in the words of Jesus? Here, I see Jesus’ deepest concerns for Mary. I see Jesus the caring and compassionate who was right there for her when she was crying. E.g. Have you ever been with someone who was crying? You don’t have to say many words to comfort them. All you have to do is to be there.
Do you see what I see in the story? Jesus saw the tears of Mary. Likewise, the same risen Lord sees your tears today. So does our Heavenly Father. In other words, our Lord is not so detached from our daily struggles. He is not a God who is aloof from us. Rather, He knows everything about you and your life. He is fully aware of what’s going on in your life right now and He knows what you are up against. He sees your tears and feels your pain. He knows you and calls you by name (v. 16. See also John 10:4, 27, Isaiah 45:3-4). He deeply cares about you. So, when you are alone crying next time, please remember that Jesus sees your tears and He is with you.
One more thing about Mary quickly: When Jesus opened Mary’s eyes so that she could recognize Him standing right next to her, instantly her sorrow turned into joy and ecstasy. May the Lord open your eyes to see the risen Lord right there right beside you. He will turn your sorrows into joy.
Peace be unto you (v. 19, v. 21). It was Easter evening. Several hours passed since Mary first encountered the risen Christ. The rest of the disciples (except Thomas) were gathered in one place. Gripped with fear of the Jewish authorities, they locked their doors and windows. Then, the risen Christ, out of nowhere, appeared in their midst and said to them: “Shalom.”
I believe the risen Christ would bring the same greetings to us: Shalom! Peace be unto you. Of course, He is not talking about the world peace. Rather, He means the peace in our hearts. Notice in today’s text: Jesus said “Shalom” twice, because He wanted His disciples to have it in their hearts. Is there anything you and I desire more than peace in our hearts? The same Christ wants us to have such peace–the peace that overcomes our fears and anxieties.
Did you know that such peace is available to us? Indeed Jesus promised that peace—the peace of Christ, and the peace that the world cannot give or take away from us. Listen to Jesus in John 14:27: 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. It is the same peace that we experience when we pray—the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
Receive the Holy Spirit (v. 22). Please note here in verse 22. When Christ commands the disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, it was not an option or suggestion. It was a command. It’s a must. The same command applies to us as well. Every believer in Christ must receive the Holy Spirit.
Some of us wonder why we need the Holy Spirit: after all, isn’t God or Jesus enough for us? Here’s why we need the Holy Spirit: first, without the Holy Spirit, we cannot confess that Jesus is our Savior and Lord. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to believe in the name of Jesus. Next, the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge to us that He is with us until the Day of Judgment. Every believer in Christ has that seal of salvation. Finally, the Holy Spirit is not limited with time and space. He can be everywhere, so, God is with billions of believers through His spirit.
The trouble is that many of us don’t think we need the Holy Spirit. Or, some of us don’t know whether we have received the Holy Spirit or not. Let me ask you a question. Do you have the Holy Spirit? If you are not sure, here’s a simple test: From the bottom of your heart, can you say that Jesus is your Lord and Savior? I mean, you wouldn’t deny Him even if it means imprisonment or worse, the death? If you confess in such a sincere manner that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you do have the Holy Spirit in you. Never ever doubt that. He dwells in your heart.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is the Spirit of God. He is the third being of the triune God. What does He do in us? Dwelling in our heart, He is our resident counselor, comforter, and teacher. He guides us to the truth. He reminds us of Jesus’ teachings. He convicts our sins and nudges us to repent our sins. He even intercedes for us in unspeakable sighs when we don’t know what to say in prayer (Romans 8:27).
Forgive (v. 23): Consider this: out of so many things Jesus could have said to the disciples on that very first Easter evening, He included this one: forgive. It is crucial for us to forgive.
You might just have discovered that Christ has given us the awesome authority and power to forgive others’ sins. In reality, though, seldom have we the Protestants practiced this privilege in the name of Christ. The only case I know this practiced on a regular basis is in the Catholic Church where priests remit the sins of the people who come to the confession.
Now, I want to say one thing to those who may focus on the second part of v. 23, “if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” I am sure most of us have one or two individuals in our lives whom we haven’t forgiven (or would not forgive)—those who trespassed against us big time. E.g. Once I heard a believer saying, “I would never forgive so and so.”
Perhaps you would never forgive the sins of your adversaries because you think they don’t deserve your forgiveness. Think again. What makes you think you deserve unlimited forgiveness from God when you don’t reciprocate the same grace for your fellow humans? Despite the fact that none of us deserves God’s unconditional love and grace, God still forgives us. The same thing God expects us to do for our fellow humans: forgive. Furthermore, from a practical perspective, ask yourself: is it really good for me to keep their sins un-forgiven forever? The answer is “No,” because it is eternally bad for the both parties; you and them if you haven’t. Here’s why: because your own sins remain un-forgiven forever along with theirs, if you don’t forgive. Don’t you understand?
I must remind you of Jesus’ own words: Unless you forgive their sins from your heart, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins, either (Matthew 18:35). If their sins are not forgiven by you, then neither is yours by God.
Here’s another reminder. Remember the Lord’s Prayer where we say “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”? It is conditional. Unless you forgive them, your sins will remain un-forgiven, too.
Recap: The risen Christ says to the Easter people: My dear one, stop crying. I am with you. Shalom to you. Receive the Holy Spirit and forgive. Let’s pray.