As I grow older, I’ve discovered that life is supposed to be simple, but we always complicate it, and I often wonder why. Children are simple, and Jesus taught us to become like children. He said,
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3).
Whenever Jesus begins his statement using “Truly I tell you,” he wants us to give serious attention. It means we must put it into practice and never take it lightly. I am also intrigued by the words “change and become,” as if childlikeness is a state of maturity for us to attain. That’s very profound and ironic.
When we were young, we couldn’t wait to grow up, but after growing up, we lost our childhood simplicity because we made life complicated. So Jesus wants us to change and become like children again. Otherwise, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
So, what takes away our innocence? That reminds me of a story about a group of scientists experimenting on monkeys. They put five monkeys in a room with a ladder in the middle. Then they hung a bunch of bananas above the top of the ladder.
As soon as the monkeys saw the bananas, they climbed the ladder to get them to eat. But before they reached the top, a sprinkler would get triggered and spray water on them. Since monkeys don’t like to get wet, they rushed down, and the sprinkler stopped spraying on them. They went up again and got wet again before reaching the bananas.
After several failed attempts, they stopped climbing the ladder. Then the scientists swapped one of the five monkeys with a new one. The new monkey would immediately climb the ladder to obtain the banana, but to his surprise, the other four would pull him down. He couldn’t understand because he had never experienced getting sprinkled. After a while, he also stopped trying to climb.
The scientists then swap another monkey with an old one. As always, the new monkey would rush up the ladder, but the other four would pull her down. Remember, one of the four had never experienced getting wet, but he joined the original three to pull the new monkey down.
The scientists then swapped the monkeys one by one until all five monkeys were new. None of them had experienced getting hosed. But none of them ever tried to climb the ladder to reach for the bananas. None of them knew why. It became their tradition.
That experiment can be interpreted from multiple dimensions. From one perspective, it tells us that those who had failed in life would discourage you from trying to fulfill your dreams. From another perspective, the new monkeys are like innocent children, but society passes its baggage on them and complicates their lives.
Everyone is carrying a heavy burden and has lost their childhood innocence. We have lost our childhood dream of reaching for the stars. Heaven becomes so far away. Jesus tells us that heaven is still attainable if we change and become like children again.
In other words, we have made life complicated by believing in other people, but Jesus is telling us that life is simple, don’t complicate it. Based on today’s scripture lesson, we will examine how to change and become like children—how to make life simple and keep it from getting complicated. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today—the Second Sunday of Easter—is from the Gospel According to John 20:29-31. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “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.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (Jn 20:19–31).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
This passage is John’s version of the Pentecost. I like it because it’s simple and practical. Luke’s version of the Pentecost is more complicated. The Holy Spirit came down on the disciples like the flames of fire on their heads, and they were able to speak foreign tongues. John makes complicated things simple. He began but saying,
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19).
Jesus’ first word after his resurrection is, “Peace be with you.” At this moment, the disciples were living in fear because they were afraid of getting arrested. When John talks about the Jews, he means religious authority. He is not talking about the Jews as a race because Jesus and the disciples are all Jews. They fear the religious leaders because those were like the loser monkeys trying to pull them down the ladder to heaven.
The good news is that Jesus doesn’t scold us for living in fear. He didn’t say, “You guys are such cowards. Why are you hiding here?” Instead, he says, “Peace be with you!” So the first step to simplifying our lives is to receive Jesus’ peace.
1. Receive Jesus’ Peace
Jesus promised us peace before he went to the cross. He said,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27).
His peace is different from what the world gives us because what the world gives us is temporal, but His peace is eternal. How does he give us eternal peace? The next verse says,
“After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20).
When the disciples saw him, some thought he was a ghost. It isn’t easy to believe in the resurrection. Obviously, it doesn’t happen so often. It’s understandable. So, Jesus showed them his hands and his sides. Even though it didn’t say it here, Jesus must have let them touch his wounds because you cannot touch a ghost since a ghost doesn’t have a solid body.
Thomas wasn’t there and said he wouldn’t believe him until he touched his wounds. His wounds prove his resurrection was real, and they rejoiced for witnessing eternity. Jesus later told Thomas,
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29).
Thomas was lucky that Jesus was there physically to show him the wounds. We belong to the second category. We don’t have Jesus here physically to show us the wounds, but we are blessed for believing without seeing. How can we believe the resurrection, then? We believe it because of the witnesses. John wrote his gospel so we can believe,
But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (Jn 20: 31).
His resurrection proves that he is the Son of God, meaning he is sinless. Only a sinless person can substitute for our sins. If he were only a man, he would be a sinner, and his death does not pay our debt.
We have peace knowing we don’t have to carry the baggage passing down on us. When we have peace, we are like children. We can climb the ladder again without fear of getting pulled down. We can show them we can get the banana without fear. Even if we may get wet, our life is safe because through believing, we have life in His name. A life without guilt is a life of freedom and simplicity.
2. Receive his Great Commission
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21).
After receiving His peace, we are commissioned to be peacemakers. The Father sent Jesus to reconcile the world; we are commissioned to carry on that mission. As I said last week, we have greatness thrust upon us. This greatness is to unload the baggage of complications from others’ shoulders so they can live a simple life. They can also change and become like children.
The pandemic, the war, the recession, and the inflation have made many people’s life really complicated. No matter who caused it and what caused it, every monkey in the room is a victim. Everyone today needs the message of simplicity because their burden is heavy. Jesus said,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28–30).
If God sent Jesus to lighten people’s burdens, Jesus is sending us to do the same. If we can learn from Jesus’ gentle and humble heart, which is simplicity, people find rest in us and learn from us. It gives us opportunities to teach, and we also learn deeper by teaching.
How do we do that? Jesus doesn’t give us any assignment without giving us the equipment. John makes this very simple. He wants us to receive the Holy Spirit through simply breathing.
3. Receive the Power of the Holy Spirit
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22).
How do you receive the Holy Spirit? Many people think the Holy Spirit comes like flames of fire, but John makes it simple. It’s just a simple breath. I learned this from Bill Bright, the founder of the Campus Crusade for Christ. He said all we need to do is breathe and believe; the Holy Spirit is with us.
The Holy Spirit is in the atmosphere because Jesus breathed into it. Even Genesis begins by saying,
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:2).
We know there are different airwaves in the air. That’s how we are able to receive radio signals, wifi signals, and cell signals. It can be a good analogy for the breath we breathe. Based on Bill Bright, our belief determines the airwave you breathe in.
Just as Jesus breathed on the disciples, telling them to receive the Holy Spirit. At that moment, the disciples were full of faith. They believed Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, because of his resurrection. The air they breathe in is the Holy Spirit because of their belief.
The word Spirit in both Hebrew (Ruach) and Greek (Pnévma) means “air,” “wind,” or “breath.” So, the Holy Spirit is the Holy Air or Divine Wind. What I like about John is that we don’t have to wait for the flame of fire to come down from heaven to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to be like the Pentecostal churches bouncing and the floor and hanging on the chandelier to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
All we need is to breathe and believe, and the Holy Spirit is with us. It’s simple but powerful. Jesus then said,
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23).
Jesus commissions us to deliver the message of forgiveness. Then, why does he say the second part, “if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” It is because what we have is the power of the Holy Spirit. If Jesus gives us only the first part, our forgiveness doesn’t mean much.
Your forgiveness is meaningful only when you have the power not to forgive. Then you are really forgiving. Jesus forgave us not because He had no other options but because He chose to. He wants us to do the same.
Remember, when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter took out his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers. Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword in the sheath.” (John 18:11). Jesus doesn’t mind us holding a sword, but he wants us to keep the sword in the sheath.
It means Jesus wants us to have the power to do both good and evil but choose to do good. That’s the meaning of verse 23.
The paradox is when you become like children, you open your life to Providence, just like an infant that does nothing, but everything is provided, and just like birds in the air that do not sow or reap, yet God provides them. So, let’s simplify our lives by claiming these three gifts Jesus offers us at Easter:
1. Receive Jesus’ Peace
2. Receive Jesus’ Commission
3. Receive Jesus’ Holy Spirit
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.