Today’s Reading: John 20
What if Jesus showed up to your Sunday night service today?
I know we talk about Resurrection morning, but not many talk about what happened that night. Resurrection night was a huge event for the disciples. I’m afraid if Jesus showed up to one of our twenty-first-century Sunday evening church services, He wouldn’t find many there. And Jesus had an important Sunday-night message for the church.
Today we have landed in our 260 journey on John 20. It’s Resurrection day— but not the morning. It’s the evening. Let’s read the passage:
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.” (verse 19)
The Sunday evening church service is slowly fading out of church life. I grew up in a time when Sunday night service was “the” service to go to. There would be less traditional hymns and more choruses. There were water baptisms, altar calls for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and as a child, the best was that there was always the possibility of an “after glow.” Us “old timers” know that to mean eating after church in the fellowship hall.
Since I grew up in the church, I can tell you that I have been water baptized on a Sunday night, filled with the Holy Spirit on a Sunday night, seen great gospel bands and Christian movies on a Sunday night, and most importantly in my youth, eaten good cake and punch.
Traditionally, Sunday night service was a little more casual for the members. But it was a night that allowed more freedom and had a greater expectation for “the spirit to move.” Unfortunately, today the Sunday night service is becoming an extinct species. Let me say, I am not saying there is something magical about Sunday night, I am just talking about what I experienced. And I’m also talking about the time Jesus chose to give really important directions to His disciples.
Many of us pastors dread the Sunday night service when the morning service is a holiday service, such as Mother’s Day and Easter. Most people have no motivation to get back to church those nights, especially after eating a big meal and meeting with family. Thank God the resurrection of Jesus did not take place in our time . . . or Jesus would have had to accomplish everything in the morning service, because no one would have been at the night service.
And yet Resurrection night was just as important as Resurrection morning. It’s in the evening that Jesus offered a three- point message, and every point was the same:
Point 1: Peace be with you (verse 19)
Point 2: Peace be with you (verse 21)
Point 3: Peace be with you (verse 26)
Jesus comes to the house of the disciples, closed doors and all. Looks a little like our churches on Sunday night. But this is Jesus, so He walks through the walls. The doors are shut, yet Jesus gets in. The risen Christ does not know the barricades of locked doors or locked hearts. The risen Christ is not limited by our closed windows or closed minds.
I’ve always appreciated the suggestion of C. S. Lewis, that the risen Jesus could walk through walls because he is more real than them—in the same way that an airplane can move through the clouds that look so solid.
What was so significant about Resurrection evening? Each of the three times He stated “Peace be with you” was important. The first “Peace be with you” was a challenge to bring Christianity outside the walls of our meeting places. The disciples were afraid, and Jesus told them, in essence, Don’t meet in your little clique. There is a whole world out there that needs to know I am alive, so go in peace.
The second time Jesus says “Peace be with you” in verse 21, comes with a breathing of the Holy Spirit on them. He was essentially saying, “Not only am I sending you out beyond these walls, I will not send you alone. You will have the Holy Spirit going with you, so you can go in peace.” When we go outside our religious walls, we go with His presence.
And finally, the third “Peace be with you” in verse 26 is pretty special. This one came eight days later. Let’s read it: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus’ statement came eight days later for one man, Thomas. Verse 24 tells us that for point 1 and 2, “Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them.” So Jesus came eight days later to say the same words. Why? Because one guy needed to hear it.
Just when you think, I blew it, I messed up, I missed God, Jesus shows up again. Jesus died for the world, but most importantly, Jesus died for me and Thomas and you. I think Jesus offered a point 3 for one guy.
Resurrection night doesn’t even get any props, but it should. Because we need to hear Jesus’ words: “Peace be with you.”