Welcome to the United Presbyterian Church in Ingram, PA
Bringing Christ to the People and the People to Christ


A Community
John 20: 19-23
April 14, 2024

It is most likely that the disciples continued to meet in the upper room where the last meal with Jesus had been held. This surely would seem to have been a comfort zone for them. Yet there still existed within them a sense of terror. They were afraid that the Jewish leaders and maybe even the Romans would be after them as well. They sat there and listened for any movement or footstep; for any knock at the door where the leaders were awaiting to arrest them. In this atmosphere Jesus suddenly appeared to them and gave to them the ordinary eastern greeting “Peace be with you.” Yet this phrase which we use every Sunday as we greet people means more than “may you be saved from trouble.” Literally it means, “May God give you every good thing.”

But this salutation was not just given once by Jesus it was spoken twice with an addition to “go forth.” This is the commission to the disciples which the Church must never forget.

He said to them that as God had sent Him, so He now sends them. This is sometimes called the Charter of the Church and means three things.

First it means that Jesus needs the Church. This is why Paul has referred to the Church as “the body of Christ.” Jesus came with a message for all people but now he was going back to the Father and the message could never have gone out unless it was the Church who took it. The Church was to be the mouth to speak for Jesus; the feet to run upon His errands; His hands to do His work. Jesus could never become the possession and the Savior of the world unless the Church took His story to all of the world. Jesus is dependent on His Church.

It means that the Church needs Jesus. A person who is going to be sent out needs someone to send them; they need a message to take and needs the power and authority to back up that message. The Church needs someone to whom they can turn to in times of trouble or doubt. The Church needs Jesus for without Jesus there is no message, without Jesus the Church has no power; without Jesus the Church has no one to turn to when the Church is up against it; with Jesus the Church has nothing to enlighten its mind; to encourage the Church; to strengthen them. The Church is dependent on Jesus.

Finally, the sending out of the Church by Jesus is parallel to the sending out of Jesus by God. But no one can read the story of the fourth Gospel without seeing that the relationship between Jesus and God was continually dependent on Jesus’ perfect obedience, perfect submission and perfect love. Therefor it follows that the Church must render until Jesus perfect obedience, perfect submission, perfect love. The Church should never be out to put forth its own message, but must be obedient and faithful to the message of Jesus Christ. The Church must not try to solve its own problems but must seek the will and guidance of Jesus.
Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave to them the Holy Spirit. There is no doubt that when John was writing his gospel, he was thinking in terms of the creation in the Old Testament. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” We find in Ezekiel when he saw the valley of the dead, dry bones and when he heard God say to the wind; “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain that they may live.” The coming of the Holy Spirit is like a new creation; it is the wakening of life from the dead. When the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church she is reawakened and recreated for her task.

Finally, and rather interestingly, Jesus said, “If you remit the sins of anyone, they are remitted; if you retain them, they are retained.” We must be careful to fully understand this sentence. One thing is quite certain that no person can remit the sins of another. However, if a person comes to us and is truly repentant for the sins that they have committed they can be reminded that through Jesus Christ their sins are forgiven. But equally, if they feel that they are not sincere in their repentance then we have the right to remind them that they will not be forgiven until they are. This sentence does not mean that the power to forgive was ever entrusted to any person; it means that the power to proclaim that forgiveness was so entrusted; and it means that the power to warn that that forgiveness is not open to the impenitent was also entrusted to them.

We the Church are a community of believers who have a message given by one who can back it up. We are a community who has a strong backing when things get rough. We are a community that has been given the responsibility to convey forgiveness through Jesus to the penitent in heart, and to warn the impenitent that they are forfeiting the mercy of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Wayne