Those of us who gathered together last week courtesy of Zoom will recall that we considered how Mary Magdalene and some of the other women went to the tomb early on the first day of the week and were both alarmed and astonished that the stone guarding the tomb had been rolled away. There was no sign of Jesus. Mary ran to Simon Peter and the disciple Jesus loved and told them what they had found. J, the disciple Jesus loved, went into the tomb while Mary stayed outside but looked in. She saw two angels, but she didn’t recognise the risen Jesus when he said “Woman, why are you crying?” She told Him, and He said “don’t hold on to me because I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary went to the disciples with the news “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
On the evening of the first day of the week
So it was that on the evening of the first day of the week the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. We should never underestimate the fear of the disciples that evening. They were sure that the Jewish leaders of the day would come for them, and do to them what they had done to Jesus. They would be listening for any strange noises, for the sound of unfamiliar voices, for the sound of footsteps on the stairs. They would be in fear of being put to death in the same terrible way that their Lord Jesus had suffered.
In trying to understand the tension and the fear the disciples felt at that time I found myself thinking of the plight of Jewish men, women and children in those dark, dark evil days of the holocaust! I visualise Jewish families, including the children, trying to find somewhere to hide in their home – perhaps in a cupboard, or in a loft or under floor boards. As the avenging forces approached they would be terrified in case one of them sneezed, or the baby cried, or someone had betrayed them, or their hiding place was just not good enough. Anyone who tried to help them in their plight as many did; would suffer the same end – and probably their families too.
Into that room with the doors locked, came Jesus who stood among them and said “Peace be with you.” How could it be Jesus, he had been crucified, dead and buried. As if he really needed to prove His identity Jesus showed his disciples his hands and his side. Their fears and their anxieties disappeared at once. They were overjoyed when they saw it was the Lord. Have you ever had an experience like that? You meet someone, seemingly a stranger, but as you talk and as you notice the other person’s mannerism it suddenly dawns on you that you know who that person is? It doesn’t happen very often perhaps, but when it does it is an absolute delight and lifts our spirits dramatically. It happened for Jesus’ disciples that day – even more so because they had seen Jesus die and now discover he is alive.
Jesus’ answer!? “Peace be with you.” – The peace that passes all understanding!
Remember that if you are struggling with some problem. Take it to the Lord in prayer.
The Commissioning of the Church
Now, the message of Jesus was spreading and indeed it must spread further. More and more people needed to receive the peace that Jesus administered. Jesus could not, in bodily form, spread this peace of God to a spiritually hungry world in each and every generation without the Church of Jesus Christ to share and to continue this work.
However, the Church could not undertake this work without Jesus. So here, Jesus commissions the Church: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Do you remember how in Genesis 2:7 at the beginning of creation, 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? Do you remember how Ezekiel was called by God to prophesy to the breath in the valley of dry bones – the bones of which the Lord said “I will make breath enter into you and you will come alive?”
Ezekiel prophesied as he was commanded. And as he was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together bone to bone – then the same with the tendons and the skin. Prophesy to the breath and say “This is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” Jesus breathed on the disciples 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.”
Now what this means is that to the Church was entrusted to proclaim the forgiveness of sins and also to warn that forgiveness is not open to the impenitent sinner. Jesus breathed on His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit which resides in the Church to this day. What trust our Lord has placed in the witness of His Church!
What about Thomas (also known as Didymus?
Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. They told him that they had seen the Lord. Well, said Thomas “unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later the disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them this time. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” And to Thomas He said, “Put your finger here; see my hands; Reach out your hand and put into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus responded, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
What is the purpose of John’s Gospel? Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
THIS IS JESUS’ GIFT TO HIS CHURCH, THE GIFT THAT WE MUST OFFER TO THE WORLD. PEACE BE WITH YOU!
ABBA FATHER WE ARE YOURS!
Rev. Bob Anderson Minister
Reading – John 20:19-31
John 20:19-31New International VersionJesus Appears to His Disciples19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 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. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”Jesus Appears to Thomas24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”The Purpose of John’s Gospel30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.