Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 4-7-24  “Leaders First”

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John 20: 19-23

The story related in our gospel this morning happened “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked in fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” What amazing Savior Jesus is. Peace was exactly what the disciples needed at that moment. Peace was exactly what they needed in that moment when their minds resembled the storms in the lake of Galilee. How you ever wonder how many questions the disciples had. They had questions like, what is going to happen to us now that Jesus is dead? Who took Jesus’ body? And why? Should we believe Mary? Is Jesus really alive? In the middle of this storm Jesus came to them, as he did when they were in the middle of the lake in Galilee. This time, however, he did not complain about their faith, this time he brought Peace. Peace was exactly what their minds and hearts needed. And after they were at peace, Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

Scholars called this part of the gospel, “The Johannine Pentecost.” In John’s Gospel Jesus does not wait the Day of Pentecost to impart the Holy Spirit. Here, the Spirit comes on Easter, during the first post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples. The pouring of the Holy Spirit in John is more particular, intimate is we want; “The Johannine Pentecost” is focused on preparing, giving identity, and sending of a community. After this intimate and personal Pentecost, everything changed for the disciples. Everything changed in their lives, all the questions they had were answered. The question of what are we going to do next? was answered right in that moment, rejoice! ; the question of who took the body? was answered too, the answer was, nobody, He walked away from the tomb; the question, should we believe Mary? was answered with a big, yes, we will believe, it’s true she saw the Lord and we too have seen the Lord; He is alive.

To me, my sisters and brothers what John is describing in chapter 20 is his account of a new creation, the creation of a new men and women in Jesus. John is telling us that after the risen Christ breathed the Holy Spirit on his disciples everything was new, a new community was born. A community no from the fallen Adam, but from the risen and triumphant Christ. To explain better what I mean, let me read Genesis 1:7, 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. Before God’s breath, Adam was dead; after God breath on him, Adam came alive, but in chapter three because his disobedience, Adam died, and with him all his descendants; all humankind inherited the toll of sin, which is death. In John 20: 21 we find that Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”  In here John is describing the same action of breathing we find in Genesis. Except that here is not to a single man, but to a group of people that later will become his body. Seems to me that Jesus is telling them, as Adam was dead, you were also dead in your doubts, you were dead because of your attitude on Friday, you were dead in your fear, but now I am breathing on you the power to overcome all that. I am breathing on you the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit living in you, I will make a new people, a new creation. Peter in his First Letter chapter 2, verse 9, describes that people as chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, God’s special possession.

Now, is the Johannine Pentecost contradicting chapter 2 of the book of Acts, when the Holy Spirit came over 120 who were in the Upper Room waiting for the promise and tongues of fire where upon them and they spoke different languages? Not at all, what I think John is telling us is that when God wants to do something with His Church, He will begin first with His leaders, and whatever God wants to do with the world, He will do it first with His Church. First the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples as preparation for what God was going to do with the rest of his followers during Pentecost.  

In Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given to the whole community of believers, in preparation for what God was going to do with the world. Why do I believe this? Because only when we have experienced God’s presence in our lives, thru the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can be His witness, His messengers. Peter would never have been able to explain what was happening at Pentecost if he had not experienced first his own personal Pentecost in the Upper Room. Therefore, the Church of Jesus Christ will never be able to change the world if we do not allow God to fill us with the Holy Spirit first. This is my brothers and sisters, what I believed the message that the “Johannine Pentecost” has for us today.  

My brothers and sisters, what would you like to happen in our church? What would you like God to do in our midst? Whatever that it is, God wants to begin with you; God wants to make out of you, out of all of us channels of blessings. Remember the song Pass It On? “It only takes a spark to get a fire going and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That is how it is with God’s love once you have experienced it; you spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.” If we want to have a church that freely, joyfully and without any shyness worship God, that kind of worship must begin with you and me. If we want God to open the doors for new ministries, all those ministries must begin with you and me; if we want to have a financially strong church, a church that does not have to ask every end and beginning of the year to pay for our past due bills, the practice of bringing to the Lord what belongs to the Lord must begin with you and me. Remember, when God openly sent the Holy Spirit to the church at Pentecost, fifty days before He had sent it to the leaders in a little room somewhere in Jerusalem.

This principle of the leaders first is found all over the Bible. God called Abraham. Abraham believed and was obedient to God and out of him, God made a nation and asked the nation to act faithfully like Abraham; God called Moses when he was alone somewhere in the wilderness and with him brought blessings and freedom and fulfilled the promise of a new land for Israel. In the New Testament in Acts 16: 30-31, we find the conversion of the jailer in Philippi. When the jailer asked: what can I do to be saved, the answer he received from Paul was: believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, -you and your household. Salvation began with one, and then was extended to his whole household.

When we open the door of our heart to Jesus, we become doorways where Jesus can enter our family, our school, our church, our job, and our community. When we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, we become holders of that transforming power and through us God can reach and transformed others too. Everything begins with me; great things had begun with one person; the change in a church begins with their leaders. God works with and through the leaders first.

My brothers and sisters allow God to work in a powerful way in this church, by allowing Him to fill your life with His Holy Spirit, and remember, whatever you want to happen in our church, must happen in you first; whatever you want God to do in your church, you must allow him to do it in your life first. The greatest celebration in Johannine Pentecost is that all of us are, can be sparks God can and will use to set up a big fire in our church and in our community.

I will end my meditation with 2 Timothy 1:6-7, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”

Would you like to be the spark God will use to set this church in fire?  

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