United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

“Where Would You Have Been?”

By Rev. Mike Capron
April 23, 2017

John 20

To really consider John 20, you need to cast your mind back to Good Friday. Imagine yourself there as one of the disciples. Jesus has been taken, tried and killed.

  1. How are you handling it? What is your condition?

    Are you in mourning, like Mary? 

    Are you sad over the death of a loved one?

    Are you angry because no one believes you about something that happened?

    Are you disappointed like John?  Did you go running off full tilt over a shred of hope, only to find emptiness when you got there?

    Are you the kind who stays with the group?  Do you feel safe behind your locked doors, in privacy and in secret?

    Or are you the kind that hits the road when things get tight.  Luke’s gospel tells us of Clopas and another disciple who had left Jerusalem that day.

    Are you off by yourself, like Thomas?

    Or perhaps you are done with this Jesus thing.  You are ready for the next phase of your life, the next spiritual practice that seems appealing in the moment. 

    It really matters little. 

    Because Jesus is not done with you. 

    Jesus will not leave you alone. 

    Jesus will meet you even while you are on the road. 

    Jesus will pass right through your locked doors and all the other barriers you throw up. 

    Jesus will bring hope to your disappointment and honor to your testimony. 

    And he will call your name while you are mourning. 


    And when he calls your name, your eyes will get big with surprise and with Mary you will recognize Jesus and state who he is!

    For he is teacher, master, Lord.

    You have known him all your life and yet never fully grasped who he is!

    He is the forgiver of sins,
    the conqueror of death,
    the healer of diseases,
    the one who rips barriers asunder,
    The Prince of Peace and the judge of all!

    <softly>--and those titles do not even begin to do him justice.

    He is the lamb upon the thrown of whom endless throngs of angels sing. 

    Through him everything that has been made was made. 

    He is the resurrection, the life and the light of the world!

    <softly>--and yet he comes among us with gentleness, quietly, softly, unlooked for, and he speaks these words. 

    Peace be with you.  Shalom, Peace…


    And there is a part of us that says—peace, I don’t have any peace.  I don’t have time for peace. 

    I’m too worried!

    I’m in too much pain.

    I don’t have a job. 

    I’m too sick. 

    I’m too old, too young, too busy, too everything!

    But Jesus doesn’t listen to our excuses. 

    He shows the holes in his hands and shows where the spear pierced his side, as if to say that physical infirmities and anxieties are no barrier. 

    So he says again: “Peace be with you.”, but he doesn’t stop there. 

    He continues: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

    And we say: “What?!  You’re sending me?  I’m not even sure I believe in you. I’m not worthy; I’m not ready. 

    My faith isn’t strong enough. 

    I don’t know my Bible well enough. 

    I haven’t been to church enough. 

    And the Christ who has been through all his own ordeals draws in a very deep breath and breathes on you—and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

    And you breathe in—and breathe out—and you are just starting to relax when he says: “Oh, and if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

    And you are back to saying “What?!”

    How can I forgive sins? 

    How can I retain sins?  <pause>

    The same way Jesus does in John 20. 

    Whenever anyone is feeling bad about betraying you or saying they aren’t your friend, or feeling unworthy or feeling unready—you can just say: “Peace be with you.” 

    Or maybe “Chill out man—its okay.” 

    I just heard about a couple of brothers who hadn’t spoken in decades. One of them just called the other and said, “Can we just forget about that thing that happened?” And his brother, said “Sure. Let’s move on.”

    Forgiving people and assuring them of your unwavering love has a tremendously liberating effect. 

    And similarly, constantly reminding people of their failures and flaws can really bind up a relationship and keep people stuck. 

    And there is one group of people here who have more power to forgive or retain sins than any other. 

    I’m talking about those under age 20.

    As you yourselves know, teenagers care a lot about what their peers think of them. 

    So you can either be a person who is forgiving and encouraging to your classmates—or you can be someone who keeps throwing their failures back in their faces. 

    So be gentle; be a bringer of peace like Jesus.  It is what he is sending us to do.


    The disciples got a chance to practice all of this with Thomas. 

    He came back to the group and they all jumped him, talking excitedly about how Jesus had been there and given them the Holy Spirit. 

    But for whatever reason, he wouldn’t listen. 

    Maybe he was feeling guilty for running out on them.  Maybe he was feeling jealous.  Maybe his sadness and grief were just too deep for the hope to penetrate. 

    Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

    They probably argued with him a little at first.  But after that, I hope they just listened to his pain. 

    That’s what you have to do when someone is really hurting—just listen. 

    He probably went on and on—“He was crucified.  He was killed.  He can’t be alive.  He just can’t be.” 

    He probably just kept on saying that stuff all week long.  And they probably just kept nodding, and pouring him tea, and sitting with him—right up until the moment Jesus came again, and said again: “Peace be with you.”—and Thomas got wide eyed and exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!”


    This is what it is about my friends. 

    Jesus comes to us again and again, through all obstacles, and brings us peace. 

    Sometimes it is confusing.  Sometimes we resist it.  Sometimes we throw up barriers to try and keep him out. 

    But there he is, saying: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 

    So be people of peace. 

    Be a blessing to everyone you meet. 

    If you have been resisting the Peace of Christ, and would like to stop fighting it and embrace it, just do that.

    It’s easy.  Just get wide-eyed and say who he is ;-).


    May the peace of the Lord be with you…  Amen.