Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter

Text: John 20:19-31
It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," he said. After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. (Verses 19-20)

Running on empty?

“Running on empty” – you’ve probably heard the phrase or maybe used it yourself. It’s a description of how you are feeling, how you are coping, how well you are dealing with what’s happening in your life.  Of course, “running on empty” refers to a car that’s almost out of fuel and about to come to a dead stop.  Maybe it’s starting to sputter and cough and unless something happens soon and the tank is refilled, the engine will die and the car will go no further. 

Maybe that’s how you have felt at some time.  The circumstances in your life have overwhelmed you; your resources to cope have been thoroughly drained, you’re exhausted and worn down, and just wishing that things were different.  Like a car low on fuel, you are coughing and sputtering.

Following Jesus’ death, the disciples were “running on empty”.  It’s late Easter Day and the disciples were scared to death, hiding in a room with the doors locked.  Peter and John had seen the empty tomb.  Mary told them how she had seen the Lord.  But this only added to their confusion. They knew for sure that Jesus had died.  They had laid him in the tomb.  A dead body, now an empty tomb, a report of seeing Jesus alive – what are they to believe.  John in his gospel makes a point of saying that even though Peter and John had seen the empty tomb they still didn’t understand that Jesus had risen from the dead.  

Maybe some of the disciples were asking questions like,
“After seeing what had been done to Jesus, no-one can live again after that. 
Had they been wrong about Jesus?  
Had they been foolish to think that Jesus was the Messiah?” 
The disciples were “running on empty”. 

When those whom he loves are running on empty, Jesus doesn’t wait for them to come to him.  He comes to them.  He takes the first step and goes to where they are.  In the midst of the disciples fear, confusion and questioning, Jesus shows up.  When you’re running on empty, it can feel like God’s a million kms away but know this: he’s closer than you realize.  He’s here and he’s near and he wants to help today.

I’d like to make four observations about our Jesus’ resurrection text today.
Firstly, when you’re “running on empty” Jesus gives encouragement.  Notice the very first thing Jesus says to the disciples, “Peace be with you.”  In other words, “Calm down you guys!  Chill out!  Take a deep breath.  Relax. It’s going to be ok.” 

That’s not what they were expecting!  They were expecting Jesus to give them grilling with questions like,
“Why did you abandon me?
Where were you when I needed you the most?
Why don’t you believe the report of Mary that I have risen from the dead?”

But Jesus doesn’t criticise.  He knows how they are feeling already.  He knows how any of us are feeling at any moment especially when we are “running on empty”.  He knows about the confusion, the doubts, the anxiety, the stress, the sickness, the weariness that fills our lives and he comes to us and quietly says, “Peace be with you!  Know that I am here with you.  I am walking this journey with you.  You’re not alone.  You can talk to me in prayer.  You can lean on me when you are weak.  I’m always here to refill your tank when you are running low”.

Secondly, when we are “running on empty” Jesus shows us his love.  As soon as Jesus had spoken his words of peace to his disciples in order to calm them, he showed them the scars on his hands and in his side.  He’s not only identifying himself as the same person whom they saw nailed to the cross.  If not at that very moment, but later as they reflected on the time they gazed on the wounds of Christ, they realised how great and how deep and how strong the Lord loved them and all humanity.  There could no explanation why Jesus endured so much other than to say, “He died because of his love for us”.  Later John wrote, “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us (1 John 3:16).

When you and I are “running on empty” we know that the Saviour, who was wounded and died for us, loves us totally and completely.  If he can love us all the way to the cross, he won’t give up on us now.  When everything is falling apart and nothing is going right, peace and joy don’t come from what is happening around us rather they come from our relationship with Jesus.  The risen Jesus gives us the confidence to trust his love, and to believe that whatever happens his strength will enable us to go through everything, even death itself.

Thirdly, when we are “running on empty” Jesus offers us forgiveness.  He did that to the disciples when he came into the room and said, “Peace be with you”.  Forgiveness is a huge re-energizer, because the things that cause us to run out of energy and drain us emotionally and physically are guilt, remorse and resentment.  They make us unhappy.  They suck the energy out of us.  They absorb our thoughts and control our actions.  How do we let go of our guilt and how can we let go of our resentment against other people?  There’s only one way to do that.  Forgiveness. 

Jesus forgives us.  His love shown on the cross.  His scars and words of peace prove that.  Then he says, “If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” He expects us to forgive one another.  Show them some grace.  If we don’t, our resentment and guilt will keep us “running on empty”.  We’ll be stuck in the past and that will prevent us from moving on.  So what we need to do is forgive. And sometimes forgive those who refuse to accept our hand of friendship.

You and I know that forgiveness isn’t easy and it’s not fun.  We prefer to hang on to our grudges and blame everyone else.  The risen Jesus empowers us to reach out with forgiveness.  Jesus knows it’s what we and the world need to move on beyond resentment and anger.  He empowers us, his disciples, to lead the way to show grace and mercy to others.

Fourthly, when we are “running on empty” Jesus gives us hope.  The disciples were really downhearted as they hid behind locked doors; their fear and doubt drained their tanks. 

Thomas wasn’t there when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples and when he was told about Jesus’ appearance, he simply said what he honestly thought, “I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”  Thomas was “running on empty”.  He couldn’t possibly see how a dead man could come alive again.  Like the other disciples, when he had heard that Jesus had died, he had lost all hope.  Grief and despair had drained his tank.  Hope had vanished.

Even though Jesus invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail marks in his hands and side, he didn’t need to.  He simply knelt before Jesus saying, “My Lord and my God”.  Thomas’ tank might have been running low before this moment but he was suddenly renewed, refreshed and energised when he saw the risen Jesus.  He travelled across nations proclaiming the exciting news about God’s love for everyone.

The risen Jesus fills us with hope. 
When the chips are down and trouble is overwhelming us, we have a Saviour who will stand by us and help us.
When our lives are threatened by sickness or enemies, Jesus will give us the courage.
When death looms large, Jesus has won the victory for us and we will not fear death.
As someone has said, “Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest”.

We’ve seen from our reading today that
when we’re “running on empty” the risen Jesus gives us encouragement with his calming, peaceful presence in the middle of everything that is chaotic in our lives;
when we’re “running on empty” Jesus show us how much he loves us as he invites us to gaze upon his scars;
when we’re “running on empty” Jesus offers us forgiveness when guilt and remorse suck the energy out of our lives;
when we’re “running on empty” Jesus gives us hope that sees in our Saviour a bright future and motivates us to new possibilities.

All of this leads us to this point – the presence of the living Jesus gives us a new reason to live, a new purpose, a new challenge, a new way of looking at ourselves and the world around us.  The presence of the living Jesus gives us, the church, a new purpose for our existence and new challenges and new ways at looking at Jesus final words to us, “Go and make disciples.”

Whether as individuals or as a church, there will be times, probably more times than we actually recognise or even care to admit, when we are “running on empty” and if we’re not “running on empty” we get hooked into the “half empty tank syndrome” – in other words, we become discouraged, disheartened, and lose hope even though the tank is still half full.  If you are that way inclined then you are “running on empty” when you don’t need to “run on empty”.

Thomas and the disciples were really ‘running on empty” and look at the change that the risen Jesus brought into their lives.  The encouragement, love, forgiveness and hope that the risen Jesus brings into our lives changes us to positive, powerful, joyful people ready to show Jesus to as many people as possible.  Let the joy of Easter fill your lives and make worshipping and serving your Lord and his people the most joy-filled thing you can do. 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
12th April 2015
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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