God Running is a place for anyone who wants to draw closer to Jesus, love God well, and love the people around them the way Jesus wants us to.
Last week we looked at how Jesus’ Father is also our Father, and Jesus’ God is also our God. If you’re interested in learning more go to our last blog post from the book of John: Who is Your Father?.
Today we’ll look at Jesus’ second appearance after his resurrection.
We left off where Jesus, newly resurrected, standing outside the empty tomb, said to Mary, “. . . go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Jesus In Their Midst
So Mary Magdalene went and did as Jesus instructed. She told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” — and that he had said these things to her.
That same evening, Sunday evening, the disciples were in a room with the doors bolted shut because they were afraid of the Jews. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you,” and he showed them the wounds in his wrists where they nailed him to the cross, and the wound in his side where they pierced him with the lance.
The disciples were so glad when they saw him.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” Then he said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
I’m so happy I’m not Jesus. Because if I showed up after the resurrection there’s a great likelihood I would have said, “What is the matter with you people? I told you I would die and after three days rise again! You just don’t listen!” I can see myself lecturing the disciples. I might think I’d feel better if I could make them understand how they didn’t get it.
But Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus recognized the disciples are like little children (and so are you, and so am I). For the most part trying to do the best they can, but stumbling and falling from time to time. Their efforts, and their understanding are awkward.
Jesus’ very first words out of his mouth were, “Peace be with you.” And he showed them his wounds.
And then he said again, “Peace be with you.”
First there was the grace he showed the world as he died there on the cross and said, “Father forgive them . . .” Now we see his grace again as he says to his disciples, “Peace be with you.” He forgives them for not understanding what he explained to them multiple times.
After saying “Peace be with you” for the second time, Jesus says to them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Craig Keener said this about Jesus’ statement that he was sending out the disciples even as God had sent Jesus: “In Jewish tradition prophets often appointed their successors. Judaism sometimes conceived of prophets as God’s agents; the sender authorized agents with his authority to the extent that they accurately represented him.”
And then Keener says this about what Jesus said concerning the disciples and forgiveness: “Acting as God’s agents the disciples could pronounce the divine prerogative on his authority (i.e., pronouncing it when he would do so).” (Keener, 317)
COVID and Forgiveness
When COVID-19 first started, I thought it might last a few months. Wow, did I ever miscalculate that one. Here we are six or so months in and Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, named Portland (the town I live in) as one of nine new cities that may be considered hot spots for the virus.
I’m going to confess something to you. I’m worn down. I require a certain amount of connection with other believers who desire to love Jesus well and love people well. Without those connections, I am not my best self. In fact I am far from my best self. (And, on top of that — I’m a hugger.) Like a lot of people, the number of friends and family I connect with face to face is limited. I’m surprised at the impact this is having on me. And one of the impacts is this: I’m struggling to find it in my heart to forgive — even little things.
So I’m writing this post to myself as much as I am to anyone.
Forgiveness and Peace
Maybe it’s no accident that Jesus said to the disciples, twice, “Peace be with you” and then went on to breath on them the Holy Spirit and share with them about forgiveness. Because when you can’t let go, when you can’t show grace, when you can’t release your anger and resentment — when you can’t forgive, you lose God’s peace.
I’ve observed many friends and family members whose peace was disrupted by unforgiveness. The woman with tremendous potential who remains in poverty because she’s overwhelmed with anger toward her parents. The negotiator who can’t come to agreement because he won’t forgive the union president. The woman who heard what was said behind her back, and can’t let it go.
They’re peace is gone, because of their unforgiveness.
There’s a great article in USA Today about what makes people happy. One sentence in particular stands out and is relevant to our discussion about the connection between forgiveness and peace. The sentence is this: “. . . forgiveness is the trait most strongly linked to happiness, says University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson.”
Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. No wonder Jesus emphasized it so. His desire is for us to enter into an abundant life, walking with Him here on earth, and dwelling with Him later in heaven. His desire is for us to enter into his peace. (John 10:10) But to live that abundant life on earth He tells us, we must learn to forgive. (Matthew 6:14, 18:21-22, 18:23-35, Mark 11:25)
Do you want to experience God’s peace? And beyond that, do you want to love like Jesus, unencumbered? Do you want to be free from anger, resentment, and disappointment? And do you want to be happy? Then learn to forgive. Forgive everything, of everyone. Forgive 77 times. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Jesus loved people by forgiving, he forgave the paralytic, he forgave the woman who came to him at dinner, and he forgave us all when he hung there, dying, on the cross. (Matthew 9:2-7, Luke 7:48, Luke 23:34)
Jesus had the authority to forgive and he forgave freely.
As agents on Jesus’ behalf he gave the disciples the authority to forgive (although it’s God who forgives, and He only uses the apostles as a vessel). You and I also have the authority to forgive. We can forgive anyone who trespasses against us.
So to live like Jesus, forgive.
You’re the one who will be blessed if you do.
You’re the one who will experience God’s peace.
Father, please breathe on us and let us receive Your Holy Spirit. Have mercy on us and help us to forgive. Inspire us to forgive by Your Holy Spirit’s power. Make us more into the likeness of Jesus in this way. Please.
In Jesus’ name we ask it.
Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary, InterVarsity Press, 1993
Kurt Bennett, Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus), Enoch Media, 2020
Marilyn Elias, Psychologists now know what makes people happy, USA TODAY, 12/8/2002
Image of The Resurrected Christ Appearing to His Disciples by Luca Signorelli via Wikimedia Commons
Newly released book by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.