Well, we did it! My brother and I successfully pulled off the big surprise and showed up at our parents' house Friday night for their big 50th Anniversary Party (thanks to all of you for keeping it a secret). As we pulled up to their house, we stealthily crept up to the house without being detected. I peaked into the window and saw them sitting there in the living room, and then I burst in and yelled, "WHAT ARE YOU GUYS TALKING ABOUT IN HERE?!?" I wish you could've seen the shocked look on the faces of everyone there behind closed doors...and I wish I had gotten it on camera.
There was a time that happened in the Bible, too! John tells us the story of "when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders...". That's when Jesus pulled off His own surprise entrance and "came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'" (I know, I know - Jesus is better at this than I am!)
The disciples that showed up that day never saw Him coming, and then they were never the same when He did. But isn't that how it should be with us?!? I confess to you that there have been times I gathered with other believers and didn't really expect anything special or extraordinary or even holy to happen. There have also been times where I saw those things happen and forgot about them. I really shouldn't want either of them to happen. I should always be expecting God to show up where two or three are gathered in His name. And I should always give thanks for the times He does. Read the next part of John 20 to find out what happened next:
After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw The Lord. Again 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. if you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.' (John 20:20-23).
I am encouraged by the challenge Jesus gives them here - Jesus didn't just show up behind closed doors like some kind of cheap magic trick. He came to tell them it was time to go...and then sent the out in the direction He wanted them to go. He is still looking for us to do the same! So when praying this week, here are a couple of things to be asking God to do as we go out for Him:
Pray that we will remember we are not alone
Jesus played His own game of show-and-tell here. He showed them His hands and side and then told them to go...and I don't think this was optional. Since they were being told to go, He was reminding them that they wouldn't be going alone. He would be there with them, through the Holy Spirit. He also wanted them to receive the Holy Spirit...in other words, He wanted them to open the door to Him. We should be praying that we do the same. When we go where God sends us, we need to remember He is with us. He is in us, able to hear us and help us do the work He called us to do. And since He is right there, we don't have to rely on our own strength to do that.
Pray that we will remember He has changed us
At this point in the story, Jesus had done the incredible...He died and rose again so they could live with Him and be like Him. And since they were being made like Him, they didn't have to live like they used to anymore. I think it is important that He showed up and changed all of that for us. Now, because of Him, I am no longer the same. I am being made new!
There is so much that can be said about that, so maybe you and I should do something about that. Maybe there is somebody in your life that you need to surprise today. Maybe there is a loved one that you can just burst in on and share that Good News with today. Maybe there is an old friend that needs to hear from you again. Or maybe you need to remind yourself of that. Whoever it is, be praying for that opportunity. Be praying for who God sends you to, and also pray that they would be overjoyed as well!