Sermon for April 24, 2022

Oppositional Spirits

John 20:22-29New International Version

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.”

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:22 can be a hard thing to understand.  Why?  Well, when you see this, we see Jesus imparting the Holy Spirit.  This can be quite confusing.  We often celebrate the Book of Acts and the Day of Pentecost as the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit.  We are not wrong in either assumption, but we are wrong in the form of the baptism.  There is a reason why we get the story of Doubting Thomas immediately after this comment. 

First off, there is something we need to remember about the Resurrected Jesus that is quite a bit different than before his death.  Jesus now has been reborn, born again.  This language is identical to Genesis 2:7.

Genesis 2:7 (NIV): 7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

As John’s Gospel reports the Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit, this is not the Helper yet.  Remember, Jesus said:

John 16:7 New International Version

7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Now, this is not the first time that Jesus gives them a bit of his power.  Remember:

Luke 9:1–2 (NIV): 9 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

But this time it is different.  Let me set up the premise.  In our story today, Thomas was not with the other 10 on the evening of the same day as the Resurrection, what we call Easter Sunday.  We do not know why.  However, it seems that John uses Thomas’ example to perfectly end his gospel.  In the Greek, Thomas says “ho theos”, the only time the Gospel of John uses such Greek grammar and direct confirmation as “THE GOD!”  Most English translation put my LORD and my God.  The Greek directly has Thomas calling Jesus GOD!

However, if we want to get the full scope of this story, we need to look at how Luke records this story.

Luke 24:36–45 (NIV): 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

*Underline mine

So, if we compare the two, John said Jesus’ breathed on them and the purpose of this is revealed in Luke, so that they could understand Old Testament Scripture to see their fulfilment made by Jesus.  You see, there had been teachers that were teaching the Scripture how they interpreted it.  They were doing so in the wrong spirit, so much so, they didn’t even recognize GOD when he showed up in the flesh!  The interpretation they had been proclaiming had been all wrong.  When Jesus breathed on his disciples, they now saw GOD’s inspired words through Moses and the Prophets in the proper context.  Luke, however, goes deeper into the Resurrected body of Jesus.

These are not in order on purpose:

1) Jesus ate

2) Jesus was not a spirit (ghost)

3) He bared all the scars of his torment and crucifixion, he has a physical body.  This is an important aspect to investigate.  Jesus says, “Look, I am FLESH and BONE!”  That is a new revelation!  Why?

As you sit here, you stand in front of a former phlebotomist.  A phlebotomist is taught the many ways on how to get blood out of you via venipuncture.  Why do doctors want so many blood tests in the first place?  Well, because it is you blood that brings life to all parts of your body.  It carries oxygen and protein.  It carries sugar and hormones.  And since it supplies every part of your body, it can help a doctor know when some part of your body is sick.  The Bible is consistent is showing that blood is life.

Genesis 9:4 (NIV): 4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

Leviticus 17:11 (NIV): 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Deuteronomy 12:23 (NIV): 23 But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.

John was familiar with this idea:

John 6:53–54 (NIV): 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.

When Jesus breathed on him, Genesis, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy had a deeper meaning.  Therefore, we must pay attention to what Jesus says about this in Luke’s Gospel:

Luke 24:39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

Jesus says that now he has “flesh and bones” not “flesh and blood”.  A question one must ask their self is, how can a person live without blood?  It would be like trying to drive a car with no oil products like motor oil and gasoline.  However, Paul makes this assessment about this very issue:

1 Corinthians 15:44–50 (NIV): 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

The cliff notes of this passage are these:

Adam and his body consist of the elements of the earth and then God gave him His spirit.  After Adam and Eve sinned, God said this:

Genesis 3:19 (NIV): 19 By the sweat of your brow

         you will eat your food

         until you return to the ground,

         since from it you were taken;

         for dust you are

         and to dust you will return.”

Now, the second Adam, Jesus, came from heaven as an eternal being, not ever personally experiencing death.  That Spirit was place in the womb of his mother Mary, a person of the dust.  Thus, God incarnate, both flesh and blood and God.  It is that blood part that brings life to us that needed to be bled out of Jesus on the cross.  When Jesus is resurrected, he now has a body that doesn’t operate the same way as ours.  There is no blood.  He is flesh and bone.  It is his eternal spirit that gives life to his body.  He is a “New Creation”! 

Jesus eats.  Jesus talks.  Jesus has scars from his wounds.  But Jesus can just appear wherever he wants to be.  There is no place that isn’t assessable to Jesus.  Fort Knox could not keep Jesus out.  Area 51 could not keep Jesus out.  He is a new unique creation!  He promised this!

Isaiah 43:18–19 (NIV): 18 “Forget the former things;

         do not dwell on the past.

      19 See, I am doing a new thing!

         Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

         I am making a way in the wilderness

         and streams in the wasteland.

Springs popping up in the desert.  Dry dirt given living water.  New life because the old life led to death!  God speaks through Ezekiel calls this the “Valley of the dry bones”

Ezekiel 37:1–10 (NIV): 37 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’ ”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ ” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Is the Old Testament opening itself up to you?  Come on, let the breath of God fall on you!

Ephesians 2:14–18 (NIV): 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:16–21 (NIV): 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The worldly perspective was the Messiah ruling from the throne of David and governing Israel as the nation over all other nations of the world.  One nation, under God!  But God instead has a better plan.  One of peace, and love, and reconciliation.  The world wanted war and bloodshed.  Jesus came to shed his blood so that all people could be reconciled to God!  Jesus repeats this to John:

Revelation 21:1–7 (NIV): 21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Jesus on the cross said:

John 19:28–30 (NIV): 28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The author of Hebrews expounds this:

Hebrews 9:12–15 (NIV): 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Hebrews 9:24–26 (NIV): 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The moral of the story…NO MORE BLOOD!

There are two competing spirits when it comes to reading and interpreting Scripture.  One demands vengeance and judgement.  The other finds peace and reconciliation.  Which spirit is in you?

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