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John 20:19, NIV 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"
May 20, 2012I read this and know how the events will turn out. These timid disciples would become bold evangelists, taking their story into the vast Roman Empire.
But on that evening "of the first day of the week", the disciples could not foresee what the future would hold for them. They did not know what to do--today, tomorrow or the day after that. They did not dare to dream about anything good that could happen beyond their locked doors.
Here's what they did know. Jesus had been crucified and was buried. Peter and John had responded to Mary Magdalene's announcement that the stone was rolled away from the entrance of Jesus' tomb and the grave was empty. Those two disciples discovered only the grave clothes when they went to check for themselves. Later that morning, Mary claimed to have seen and talked with a living Jesus.
Why Jesus would reveal himself to a woman and not to his trusted disciples, they did not know. Or even if they should believe Mary's report? Their troubled minds strained to remember the words Jesus had spoken to them during the last days they were together. What was it Jesus had told them as he prepared to leave them?
Clearly, they were afraid. They kept their doors locked. Who wouldn't after witnessing what they had. They had no protection against the might of Roman soldiers, nor against the whims of their own religious officials. People lie. Truth cannot prevail when evil reigns.
Then in the midst of all their worries, Jesus appeared. He didn't even knock. Just appeared out of thin air. There he was standing among them and telling them to be at peace!
Peace is a huge umbrella. It pretty well covers everything that is troubling. For these disciples it suggested an entirely different way of responding to the events of the past week. Peace could put their minds at rest. Individually and collectively, they were not alone, forsaken, abandoned, neither were they powerless and without adequate resources. Jesus didn't want them to be in conflict within or without, nor with each other.
Is peace a state of one's mind? Is peace able to conquer fear? Could it be a reality for these disciples at this difficult and pivotal point of their lives? Could the peace they experienced when Jesus lived among them remain with them in his absence? Might the peace of their beloved Teacher quell the tensions and disagreements they were having with each other? Will peace give them the freedom to hope and dream and live again? Jesus seemed to think so.
Peace was the necessary ingredient absent from their frightened lives. Their first step to being re-born.
John 20:20, NIV 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
May 22, 2012We do not know the nature of Jesus' resurrected body, but in this verse he showed his disciples the nail holes in his hands and the wound from the sword piercing his side. Will Jesus carry these identifying marks throughout eternity?
Would the disciples not have known for sure it was Jesus without seeing the wounds? Or does John tell us this in order that future generations may believe and know it was really Jesus resurrected from the dead? I suspect the disciples would have recognized Jesus without seeing his wounds, and the telling of this detail is for our benefit.
The entire gospel of John is about believing. Believing that Jesus was sent from God, that Jesus spoke the truth from God. In the midst of all our unknowing, we are asked to believe in a loving heavenly Father. Think of the implications of that.
One implication is the same reaction the disciples had--joy. The joy that comes from loving someone and being loved. God our loving Father; Jesus our loving Savior; the Holy Spirit our loving Companion. The Christian faith makes astounding statements about who we are and whose we are, and also about our relationships to each other.
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. But get this--there is also great joy in heaven when one of us believes. Jesus mentioned something about this in Luke 15:7. He said when one of us turns from what we are doing and faces our true home where our Father is, there is great joy in heaven. There is joy in being loved, whether we are human or divine.
It is by faith that we believe what we have not seen. It is by faith we have peace. It is by faith we love our Lord and know that we are loved unconditionally.
John 20:21-22, NIV 21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
May 23, 2012 These two lines are packed with instructives for the Christian. Peace, power, faith, mission. It's all there. The disciples were to continue God's work in the world, to continue doing what Jesus did. Were they still overjoyed when they heard they were being sent? I would think fear returned, considering what had happened to Jesus and how he had gotten those nail holes.
Ralph Cushman wrote a book on Pentecost in which he made this observation: It seems almost unthinkable that on the first Easter evening the risen Christ should have said to these fear-smitten souls in that upper room, "As the Father has sent me, even so send I you". What is the use of sending men like these to Christianize the world? What chance is there of doing anything with disciples who huddle behind bolted doors? . . . Surely, some change must come over these men and women.
John includes the gift of the Holy Spirit in his gospel, on Easter evening with no fanfare. Luke describes in Acts 2 the coming of the Holy Spirit, 50 days later with surprising drama and sound effects. John ends his gospel without informing the reader about the changes that took place within the lives of the disciples. Luke devoted the whole book of Acts to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The weak become strong. The timid become bold witnesses.
There's no laying on of hands. Jesus simply breathes on his disciples. There's a song in our hymnal, "Breathe on Me, Breath of God." It's a prayer that God will fill me with new life, that I will belong wholly to God to the point where I glow with divine fire. You can't hide all that behind locked doors! It must burst forth and make an impact on the world.
John 20:21-22, NIV 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
May 24, 2012Jesus linked the gift of the Holy Spirit with forgiveness or retention of sins. The disciples had just seen the wounds of the resurrected Jesus. Seeing is a very important topic in John's gospel. Specifically, seeing Jesus as sent from God. Therefore, sin is that which blinds people to the revelation of God in Jesus. Those who believed could see. Those who refused to believe were blind.
You might remember that the religious officials got upset with Jesusbecause he claimed to forgive sins, when only God is able to do that. Now Jesus is telling his disciples they too will forgive sins. Sounds like they are headed straight into controversy.
Verse 23 is very difficult to explain. Especially so for Protestants who usually confess their sins privately in the presence of God alone. What kind of power is this which Jesus gave his disciples to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sins!!! We do not like the idea that another human has such power over another human, or such influence with the Almighty.
The unintended consequence of this verse is the abuse of power that accompanies it. Which makes me wonder why Jesus said it. He had spent his three years in ministry embroiled in conflict with the religious authorities over just such matters. Jesus called them blind guides who lead people into ditches. Jesus knew those who "see" can be corrupted, so why would he utter this directive?
Why would anyone want the power to forgive or retain another person's sins. Is it ever right to refuse to forgive? Is there ever a time when our refusal to forgive leads to healing, wholeness and the kingdom of God? I don't remember any gospel stories wherein Jesus refused to forgive.
Forgiveness and peace seem to go hand in hand. In our Holy Communion liturgy, we confess our sins, and then move among the congregation to extend peace to everyone. That same symbolism can be applied to all our relationships.
For me, the emphasis in this verse is on confession. And maybe Jesus is getting at the importance of confessing our sins out loud to our fellow believers. We live within a community, not in isolation. The model here was for the disciples, all of whom probably felt guilty in some way for the death of Jesus. Therefore, share your confession. Forgive and strengthen each other. Confession and forgiveness frees us to begin anew, and that's where these disciples were at the moment.
I don't think it wise to think of ourselves as having the right to retain someone else's sins. That's building a roadblock which refuses to allow another person access to God's grace. If you refuse forgiveness, both you and that person get stuck in the past. It's like holding onto someone and making it very difficult for them to move forward.
For a good confession three things are necessary: an examination of conscience, sorrow, and a determination to avoid sin. --Saint Alphosus Luguori. Forgiveness requires two things: mercy and grace; perhaps three: the "hole"y hands of Jesus