Sermon 04-11-2021: “The Five Ps of Resurrection Faith”

Scripture: John 20: 19-31

One of the best things I’ve done in ministry—indeed, one of the best things I’ve done in my life—was to go to Kenya, in East Africa, on two different trips. Kenya is a place where our United Methodist Church is growing explosively. We simply can’t start churches fast enough there; we can’t train and equip pastors fast enough there. So on two occasions I went to Nakuru, Kenya, to teach church history, United Methodist theology and doctrine, and liturgy to a group of highly effective, very enthusiastic, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled indigenous pastors who couldn’t otherwise begin to afford a seminary education on their own. So these classes I taught were a small step in the direction of a seminary education.

My friend and seminary classmate—I’ll call her Laura—was the one who told me about this teaching opportunity. She called me out of the blue one day and told me that the large Methodist church where she worked was paying for her to go and teach these classes in Kenya. She was leaving later that month, but her church was sponsoring another trip later in the year. She said, “I think you should consider doing it, Brent. In fact I’ll recommend that the church send you next time… that they pay for your trip… because you’re so brilliant.

And of course I agreed with her… So she signed me up! I was scheduled to go.

But I was anxious to hear how her trip went when she returned a few weeks later. So I called her up. She said, “Brent, I have never been more afraid in my life! I thought I was going to die when I was in Kenya.” 

I mean, in fairness to Laura, Kenya is a desperately poor third-world country by our standards. Life there is much more rugged than it is here. 

But she described a few experiences that made her feel deeply uncomfortable… afraid… even afraid for her life. She had a panic attack at one point. Not to mention she was afraid of getting sick from eating or drinking the wrong thing—or getting malaria or yellow fever or some other disease. 

“It was so bad,” she told me, “that I worried that I would never see my kids again!”

Then she said, in almost the next breath—and I’m not exaggerating—“By the way, I’ve got your airline ticket here, and you’re scheduled to leave in two months.” Gulp!

Of course I was thinking, “I don’t want to go now! I don’t want to die!” I’ve told you before. I’m a big chicken!

Needless to say, Laura’s experience was not at all my experience. I’m not exaggerating when I say that those two trips were among the best things I’ve ever done in life! And they wouldn’t have happened at all if I had simply stayed in my comfort zone—and avoided all these things that make me afraid!

In fact, in my 37 years as a professing Christian, I have rarely if ever grown closer to Jesus without first experiencing fear. Fear has a unique ability of reminding me that I am not ultimately in control of my life… of bringing me to my knees in prayer like nothing else… of forcing me to actually put my faith into practice and trust in Jesus!

And in 37 years of being a fearful disciple of Jesus Christ, I can testify to you that Jesus always, always, always shows up… sooner or later… when I’m afraid. Usually later than I want him to… but he always shows up and puts my fears at ease.

This has happened so often in my life that you’d think I’d have learned the lesson that I don’t need to be afraid. But I haven’t!

Like me, the disciples in today’s scripture haven’t learned this lesson, either. They’ve had plenty of opportunities for Jesus to show them that they have no reason to be afraid. I’m thinking, for instance, of those two occasions, in the midst of life-threatening storms on the Sea of Galilee, when they were afraid—one time Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the boat; the other time he wasn’t physically with them at first, but he walked out to them on the water and came inside the boat. Either way, Jesus showed up and he showed off and reminded them that he was with them, that he was taking care of them, that they were in good hands because they were in his hands.

Fear provides an opportunity for Jesus to show up and show off!

Which is precisely what he does in today’s scripture… but only after the disciples become deathly afraid. Verse 19: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews…” And please notice the helpful footnote in the ESV: In Greek, the word for “Jews” “refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time.” These weren’t Jews in general, but rather, people who had governmental authority to arrest these disciples and even have them executed.

But my point is, Jesus shows up and show off in the midst of their fears! 

And this is the first of the five “Ps” in my sermon. You’ll notice my sermon is called the five “Ps” of resurrection faith. The first “P” is this: Christ is present: If we believe in our resurrected Lord Jesus, that means that he will never leave us. Even if, for a little while, he allows us to think that he’s left us, he hasn’t. And fear becomes an opportunity for Jesus to show up and show off!

The second P is peace. Notice three times in today’s scripture, Jesus pronounces peace on his disciples. 

Many of you will remember that great song by the Eagles, “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” You know who doesn’t know that song? Josh Villars. He doesn’t know any song written before about 2010. The Eagles were a very successful country-rock band, Josh. But you know the song: “I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling…” We usually think of peace that way… It’s something we feel. It’s subjective. But that’s not primarily what Jesus means when, three times—in verses 19, 21, and 26—he says, “Peace be with you.” He isn’t talking mostly about feelings. He’s talking about something objective… something that happened on the cross—which is made manifest by his resurrection. In other words, the resurrection proves that Jesus was telling the truth when he spoke his final words from the cross in John 19:30: “It is finished.”

What is finished?

Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays that his Father would take this “cup” away from him. “Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”1 This refers to the “cup of God’s judgment and wrath,” which Old Testament prophets warn will be poured out on God’s enemies who refuse to repent of their sins. God’s enemies will have to drink this cup of wrath. 

But now, instead of God’s enemies drinking this cup of wrath, Jesus himself will voluntarily do so—for sinners like us, so we will be saved from wrath, judgment, and hell.

When Jesus says, “It is finished,” he means nothing less than this: “For those who place their faith in me, I have finished suffering the penalty you would otherwise suffer because of your sins; I have finished enduring the wrath you would otherwise have to endure because of your sins; I have finished experiencing the hell that you would otherwise have to experience because of your sins.” 

Like the old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe/ Sin had left a crimson stain/ He washed it white as snow.”

And now, as Paul says in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”2

This “peace” that Jesus pronounces means that something objective has been accomplished for us through the cross—and the resurrection proves it. After all, Jesus could have said, “It is finished” and been lying, or mistaken, or crazy. But no, the resurrection proves he was telling the truth!

So this peace of Christ is not “a peaceful, easy feeling,” but the peace of Christ should result in a peaceful feeling, at least most of the time! 

After all, when do we usually feel a “peaceful, easy feeling”? 

When we feel good about ourselves… when we feel a strong sense of self-worth. 

Everyone tries to find self-worth somewhere. We may look for it in a romantic relationship. So long as things are going well, we feel good about ourselves; we experience peace. But if the relationship is on the rocks or falls apart, so do we

Or maybe we try to find self-worth in our career. So long as we’re successful, climbing the ladder, and making a lot of money, we feel good about ourselves; we experience peace. But when we lose the big client, or lose the big contract, or lose our job, or our business fails, we fall apart.

In my first job out of college, I worked in large-system sales with AT&T. I was assigned a mentor, named Alec, a very successful salesman. Alec had won all kinds of awards in his career; he had been flown all over the world on exotic vacations at the company’s expense. He told me more than once that he wasn’t motivated by money, although he had plenty of it. “I’m motivated by recognition,” he said. “That’s what I crave more than untying. That’s what fills up my tank.”

And I came close to saying to him, “Well, in that case, how about signing over to me your commission checks, because I’m really in this for the money!”

But the truth is, now I know exactly what Alec meant—maybe you do, too… People like me are tempted to find our self-worth in other people’s opinions of us. We live in fear of other people’s judgment of us. We desperately want to be liked and respected and well-thought-of. We want to be praised and affirmed and recognized. And so long as we’re getting that, we feel peace. But the moment someone says a critical, or unkind, or judgmental word about us, we fall apart.

When we look for our self-worth in anything other than God, when we look to other people or things to fill up our tank in a way that only God can fill up our tank, the peace we experience is fleeting and temporary. You’ll never get enough love or attention, or money or success, or praise and recognition—or anything else—to make you feel good about yourself if what gets you out of bed in the morning are things like love, attention, money, success, praise, and recognition!

Do you see what I mean?

Now consider this: God himself, the Creator the universe, loved you so much and wanted so badly for you to be part of his family that he paid an infinite price to rescue you from your sins and make you part of his family—and when I say he paid an infinite price, I mean it. It cost him his Son Jesus on the cross. 

Talk about a solid foundation for self-worth and for self-esteem! That’s how much you’re worth to God! He paid an infinite price to save you. Why would you need to look anywhere else to find self-worth? You’re infinitely worthy to God! And that should help you experience peace.

And this brings us to the third P: power. Look at verse 22: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” 

Now, this can be a little confusing because we know that just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem, where, ten days later, they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit. And that happened about ten days after his ascension of Jesus to heaven, during a Jewish festival known as Pentecost. You can read about this in Acts chapter 2. 

So… Did the disciples receive the Holy Spirit twice—once when Jesus breathed on them in John 20, and again, several weeks later, in Acts chapter 2 at Pentecost? Or did they receive a sprinkling of the Holy Spirit in John 20 and a full immersion in Acts 2.

I don’t think so. Remember how I said on Maundy Thursday that when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, this was a living parable of the way his death on the cross would cleanse them from sin—how the foot-washing pointed toward the cross? I think he’s doing something similar here: Jesus is acting out a parable in John 20, which would later come to life at Pentecost. It’s as if he’s saying, “Just as I breathed on you now, I will soon give you my breath or spirit at Pentecost—and “breath” is the same Greek word as “spirit.”

So I think it’s a living parable of what Christ will do later at Pentecost.

Regardless, we know from Acts 1:8 what the the giving of the Spirit means: it means power for us who are followers of Jesus. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

I’ll say more about the Holy Spirit when we get to Pentecost Sunday in a few weeks, but here’s what I need to say now: we Wesleyan Christians don’t believe that baptism by the Holy Spirit is a secondary gift given to Christians who are especially holy people—no, Christ gives his Spirit to everyone who is born again through faith. In other words, if you’re a Christian, you already have the Holy Spirit living within you right now!

The Holy Spirit wants to do powerful things for you and in you and through you! And together—all of us brothers and sisters in Christ at Toccoa First Methodist—he wants to do powerful things through us as a church!

And the main reason he gives us his Holy Spirit is because of what he says to his disciples in verse 21: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” “Even so” means “in the same way,” “just as.” This has sometimes been called John’s version of the Great Commission: We are being sent by our Father… get this… in the same way that the Father sent… Jesus?

And this brings us to our fourth P: purpose

And what a purpose it is!

Jesus tells us that our Father sends us into the world the same way he sent Jesus into the world. And how did he send Jesus? Think of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

If disciples like us are sent “just as” Jesus was sent or “in the same way” Jesus was sent, can we dare believe something like this: “For God so loved the world, that he sent Christians like [fill in the blank] out into the world, that whoever believes them, and their message about Jesus, should not perish but have eternal life”?3 I think that’s a fair way of understanding our purpose.

Our Father is sending us. We are Christ’s ambassadors, the Bible says4. Our purpose is to represent Christ in this world. Our purpose is to glorify Christ in this world—that is, to make Jesus Christ look great… to at least try to make him look as great as he already is!

And some of you are thinking, “Who am I that God would send me?” Well, you’re nobody… but you have the Holy Spirit, which means that you have all the power you need to accomplish what God is calling you to accomplish.

Speaking of which, Jared Butler plays for the Baylor Bears basketball team. They beat Gonzaga last Monday and won their first national title. Butler also won “Most Outstanding Player” of the Final Four. A reporter asked him what it’s like to win both a championship and a “Most Outstanding Player” award. He said, “I’m not trying to preach a prosperity gospel, but our Lord and Savior, [Jesus Christ,] he gets us through everything. Jesus… was with us tonight; he was with us all season; he just sustained us.”

And of course Butler knows how easy it is to talk about how great Jesus is after you win a championship, but that was the reason why he said, “I’m not trying to preach a prosperity gospel.” He knows it’s easy to talk about how great Jesus is when you’re winning. His point is, Jesus deserves all the glory—whether, from a worldly perspective, he happens to be winning or losing.

But Butler also knows that a global television network doesn’t put a microphone in front of your face when you lose. So he’s going to use this opportunity to fulfill his purpose in life, which is not to win basketball championships, as great as those are… And as great as those are, Jared Butler knows that knowing Jesus is ever greater… and he’s going to tell the world about it! And he’s going to make Jesus look great in the process!

Jesus sent Jared Butler to Baylor… to the Final Four… to the championship… and to that microphone.

And so he sends us… 

Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, God has given us the power by the Holy Spirit to fulfill our purpose and to make Jesus look great! This is what Jesus means in the Sermon on the Mount, when he says that we are to be the salt of the earth—imagine God spreading us out like salt, so that we can bring the seasoning of the gospel wherever we are—that’s our purpose.

Poor Thomas, of course, wasn’t even in that upper room on Easter Sunday evening when the resurrected Jesus visited the ten other disciples. We don’t where he was. But he missed it. And despite what the other ten disciples told him, he said, “I won’t believe unless I can see and touch the scars from the nails in his hands and the spear in his side.”

And so what does Jesus do? He shows up… verse 26: “Eight days later…” That means a week later, counting the first Sunday… But Jesus shows up for his disciple. He always shows up for his disciples… and gives him exactly what he asks for: “See my hands… See my side… Feel them if you like.” 

Why, it’s almost as if Jesus overheard Thomas telling the other ten what he said he needed… because Jesus did overhear Thomas… Because even if Jesus wasn’t there in the flesh… He was still there.

Jesus knows what we need… and he promises to give us what we need… But, like Thomas, we don’t usually get it when we want it. But we get it when we need it. At the perfect time. 

Thomas wasn’t complaining after Jesus showed up. In fact, in verse 28, he responds to Jesus with the deepest, truest confession of faith of anyone in the gospels: “My Lord and my God!” This is the first time in the gospels that someone comes right out and calls Jesus God

Who knows? Maybe Jesus knew that this difficult waiting was what Thomas needed to come to this full recognition of who Jesus is. 

Regardless, Jesus knew the waiting was good for him. So he came to Thomas at the perfect time.

And this brings us to our last “P”: patience. So if we have resurrection faith, we must be patient.

Five “Ps” for those of us who have resurrection faith: Presence—Christ is with us. Peace—Christ has accomplished what was necessary to reconcile us with God. Power—Christ has given us his Holy Spirit. Purpose—Our Father sends us into the world just as he sent his Son. And Patience—Christ will give us what we need at the perfect time. So we can wait patiently.


  1. Mark 14:36 ESV
  2. Romans 5:1 NLT
  3.  These words paraphrase Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 1163.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:20

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