"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." (John 20:19-20)
Easter is the most important time of any year for any Christian. It is the celebration and remembering that Jesus Christ the Son of God, God in the flesh, rose from the dead. He came back to life, leaving His tomb empty after dying a most undeserved, miserable death -- hanging on a cross -- to provide the one and only way that we can be forgiven for our sins:
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures." (1 Cor 15:3-4)
"Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen: And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain -- you are still unforgiven in your sins.... But Christ is indeed risen from the dead, for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive...(i.e. forgiven by God for our sins through repentance and faith in Jesus)." (1 Cor 15:12-22)
"Neither is there salvation in any other besides Jesus Christ: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Peace Be Unto You
The living God gives us richly all things to enjoy (2 Timothy 6:17). As Ecclesiastes 5:18 says, "Behold...: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion."
More than any time in history, many of us are blessed to do exactly that. We are blessed with material prosperity and historic opportunity. We have made progress only dreamed of by our ancestors and the generations that preceded us. Many of us have struggled hard, coming up from little or nothing to achieve what we have today. We struggled, yes, but God has been gracious and we have achieved. For us, life is good.
But material progress does not bring peace inside. In the midst of material abundance for many, the problems faced today by African Americans and other Christians of African and other descents around the world are monumental. Fear is rampant in our communities. Uncertainty is widespread and growing. From Africa to America, from Palestine to Israel, from ghetto to suburb to mansion, peace in the human heart, not material prosperity, is the world's greatest need.
Worse, for a large and growing number of people feeling hopeless is a constant fact of life. Growing numbers of our children and young people walk the streets without guidance, without hope or even worthwhile dreams. Growing numbers of adults and parents feel they are losing control, that there is nothing they can do.
Knowledge of our traditions is vanishing. Faith in our institutions, even the church, is eroding by the day as a larger and larger population in our communities grow up without any church background. Some parents don't even want their children to go to church. Too often schools today work hard to encourage and reinforce that attitude.
The results are predictable and evident: growing crime, plunging interest in anything (education, marriage, etc.) that requires commit or devotion, personal callousness and loss of decency, propriety, moral lower limits, and respecting self and others. We are becoming a people without peace.
What do we Christians have to offer? What difference can we really make?
What Christians have to offer is the power of our resurrected Savior. The difference we can make through His power is to turn things around for individuals, for communities, for nations. To inspire hope in hopelessness, to bring peace to those for whom peace is not even a dream.
The answer is for every committed Christian to allow ourselves to be used by God to bring faith in Jesus Christ back to our communities. To work for God to once again make Jesus Christ, the Bible and His church the foundation of African America for the people who have left that foundation and for the new generation who have never had it.
Sound impossible? It shouldn't. "For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37). The secret of how to accomplish this seemingly impossible goal is found in what Jesus did each time He told His disciples that short but precious message 'Peace by unto you.'
Intervening in the lives of other people
The secret is surprisingly simple. The secret of unlocking Jesus Christ's resurrection power for is to intervene in the lives of other people.
Intervening means 'stepping in and doing something'. It means caring enough to act. First of all, intervening means taking the time to pray as for others' needs as for our own. It means making the effort and sacrifice needed to become a part of somebody else's life. It means both being a friend and a supporter, and also working and even pushing to make changes that will help somebody else be a better person and do better.
One of the most precious examples of intervention I have personally seen involves a young boy at our church who, at age two, was taken in by our church mothers off the streets where he had been abandoned and had lived without shelter. The boy is six or seven years old now and has overcome monumental challenges (such as hyper-aggressiveness) caused by having to fight for everything, even scraps of food, against children much bigger than he was. After lots of work and love he is a much more peaceful boy.
That is the type of drastic commitment we must be prepared to give when God calls us to if we are to make drastic change in this world for Him. Every one of us has at least one person in our life that we can profoundly touch. Change begins with touching that one person.
That is what Jesus did after He came out of the grave that first Easter Sunday. "Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19).
When Jesus rose from the dead He didn't just go back to heaven. He began right away to intervene in the lives of His disciples. We who are born again, who will be resurrected with Him when He returns, are to follow His example and do the same for others.
"And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." (John 20:20).
When we demonstrate the resurrection power of Jesus Christ by intervening in others' lives to make a drastic difference they too will be glad they saw the Lord -- in us.
Training those we help
" Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (John 20:21)
Training those we touch to follow our risen, resurrected, living Savior is the next step. We train through our clean, scriptually consistent lives, our love, our patience and through explicitly sharing the scriptures and our faith in Christ with those in whose lives God blesses us to touch and influence:
"And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses,
commit to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also"
(2 Timothy 2:2).
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).
There will always be something in our lives that will reach and touch a life we intervene in on Christ's behalf. If we are blessed that they are Christians then it is our duty to train and encourage them to serve Christ even better. If God blesses us to touch non-Christians then trust God's word that what we do and say for Him will always have a godly impact in their lives.
Intervening for the long term
" And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you." (John 20:26)
When impacting other peoples' lives for Jesus Christ be prepared for the long term. When Jesus rose from the dead that He did not just intervene for one day -- he visited his disciples again and again, staying with them until the job was done:
"...Jesus was taken up to heaven, after he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments to the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he showed himself alive after his suffering and death by many infallible proofs, being seen by the apostles forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:2-3)
Intervening on Jesus Christ's behalf often requires persistence and long term commitment. Results sometimes come only after long periods of periods of time. We may not see visible results for many years. Jesus said "...but he that endures to the end shall be saved." (Matt 10:22). Intervening in others' lives is not salvation itself, but the principle holds.
Appreciate small things
There will always be a temptation to believe we have to impact the world on a large scale. We can always look around and see more problems than we can ever solve, believing that our faithful efforts for Jesus Christ are not enough. How can we impact the community more? How can we change the nation, the world?
The key is beginning with one person. Just one. Expand from there. When Jesus rose from the dead He was just one man -- but what a man. God in the flesh. He had only a small, unimpressive group of followers, but look what He did with them. Step out in faith, peace and hope on Jesus' words: "as My Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (John 20:21)
Peace be unto you.
Copyright © by Robert Ash
Rev. Robert Ash is co-pastor
and youth minister of Euphrates Missionary Baptist Church in Oakland,
California. He has 18 years of preaching, teaching, evangelism and apologetics
experience in church, prison, college campus, and street ministry. He
holds a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley
and a master's degree from Stanford University.
This article is used by permission.