John 20:19-31: 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.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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.”
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.” 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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 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.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 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.
For us, all the excitement is over! Jesus is alive, Easter Sunday is a week behind us, and so it’s back to our regular schedules.
For the disciples, nothing has been settled. This passage from the next to last Chapter of John’s Gospel (could be the last words of John depending on your position on Chapter 21 – there’s your homework) finds the disciples stuck between exhilaration and abject fear!! Yes, Jesus is alive, but no, they are not safe. Those who backed the Crucifixion, are none too pleased to hear about a potential Resurrection. Thus the doors are locked and the disciples would just as soon no one knocked.
So, as Jesus was wont to do, He didn’t knock, he just showed up inside the door. This appearance is exclusive to John’s Gospel, although there are some connections to this story in Luke.
There are three things for us to take note of in this passage, and to be sure we get to all three things, each follows Jesus saying “Peace be with you.” The author wanted to be sure we got the clue.
The first “peace be with you” lead to Jesus showing His hands and feet, obviously so the disciples could see the scars and know that Jesus’ death was real, just as was his resurrection quite real at that very moment. While we might see this as a rather small part of the story, for Jesus’ followers this is of huge importance. This was proof of what they thought they believed, hoped they believed and even though they wavered a bit, what they hoped to claim for themselves. Jesus was alive and all those rather apocalyptic comments about him dying and coming back, were in fact true. From being enthusiastic, yet not understanding followers; to fearing that it has all been a big misunderstanding and they had given their allegiance to the wrong one; to suddenly a great exhale and the revelation that they were in fact still in the good graces of the Master and that perhaps there was a future.
Jesus wastes little time in getting to the point. “Peace be with you.” Suddenly Jesus tells them to go out as He has been sent out by God and then breathes on them and says “receive the Holy Spirit.” We who have been raised in the church, survived Confirmation class, and paid attention in church, especially on the High Days and Holy Days, ever since, have somewhat of an understanding of this Holy Spirit. One might think this moment could be a little disconcerting for our happy band of suddenly redeemed disciples. They had heard the talk, but not necessarily understood what Jesus meant in saying the Counsellor, the Guide, the Spirit would be coming along to keep them on the straight and narrow.
We have an intermission in this point of the story. Jesus disappears as quickly as he appeared and Thomas comes sauntering in the door. He steadfastly refuses to believe what they have just witnessed, unless he gets a first-hand view of the resurrected Jesus. It’s a long intermission, because it takes a full week before Jesus comes back, to the same room, in the same house, most likely behind the same locked door. We can only speculate, but one would think that Jerusalem was still in a bit of an uproar with some saying He was resurrected and others suggesting you’d have to be daft to believe that. Me thinks the disciples were still keeping a low profile.
And the conversation begins with “Peace be with you.” In other words, pay attention there is more for you to learn. This time Thomas is with the group and he gets his first-hand look. Are we not just a little surprised that Jesus doesn’t castigate him for not believing? Aren’t we a tad befuddled that Thomas gets a pass on the lecture we expect? In fact, Jesus calls Thomas blessed!
So, “peace be with you!” Where have you encountered the risen Jesus this week? Have you stayed with the adventure and continued to think about what the gift that Jesus has given means to us?
“Peace be with you!” Are we sent? What does it mean to receive the Holy Spirit? Will it change our lives? It certainly will for Brycen who joins our group of Jesus’ followers by the Sacrament of Baptism at the 8:30 service. But what for the rest of us? Has the story lost momentum this week?
“Peace be with you!” Jesus wants us to see and to know and to live and to love and to grow in our faith. Doubt will always be part of this journey as we can see clearly that it was for Thomas. Doubt is a constant companion, but one that we need use to help us find our faith and install it into every part of our lives.
Peace be with you as you live out your lives of faith!