‘Peace be with you…’ (John 20:26)
Read John 20:19-31
The season of Easter allows the Church to look at how the early church understood the Easter story and what difference that experience made as it sought to witness boldly to its truth and power. Following the Resurrection, John answers the question as to what difference the Resurrection of Christ makes in the lives of those who come to believe it. And on the same evening of that first day of the week, John begins to answer that question by depicting the followers of Christ hiding, huddled together behind locked doors, hiding in fear of the religious authorities. In essence, what happened earlier at the tomb doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference!
I remember some time ago, before I came here, talking to someone who had just joined the church. But later, after the wonderful celebration of that day, he confessed that he found himself asking the question – what now? And in a sense, by beginning his story with the disciples all huddled together in fear, keeping out of sight, John now sets the stage to answer that question – what now? – in terms of the Resurrection.
As the disciples are together behind the locked doors, Jesus appears and brings greetings by offering peace to them. It was what they needed in a time of chaos and fear. But then that shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus has a way of knowing about us and He brings us just what we need. However, Jesus has a much larger purpose here as he has come to help the disciples experience the fullness of His Resurrection.
For the other Gospel writers it was important that the Resurrection be confirmed with appearances of Jesus in a risen form. To see Jesus is to believe. Evidently an empty tomb is not enough. But for john, Jesus has more in mind, however, than merely appearing. John relates how Jesus fulfils his promise of a counsellor that would come and be with them. Therefore, in the upper room Jesus breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit and gives them power and authority to forgive sins. Jesus seems to have a purpose as to how he wants to leave the disciples who cannot follow him. In that room he gives them a purpose, a presence, and an authority. In essence, Jesus commissions them to go.
John also wants readers to understand that this new work of God in Christ is now in the hands of these who have dared to follow Jesus. Through these Disciples, the church is commissioned by Christ to witness to the power of Resurrection living and John wants the Church to claim the purpose for which it was created and commissioned. He wants the Church to trust the presence of the Holy Spirit as it seeks to lead and guide its ministry to a broken and hurting world. Such is the nature of the church and what Jesus calls it to be.
After Jesus departs they witness to Thomas, who was absent from the upper room, but as Thomas hears their story he responds by saying the only way he will believe is to see it for himself. And once again the biblical narrative describes us for who we are. Like Thomas, we all want to taste, touch, smell, see, and hear the fullness of something before we will accept its claim. Isn’t this an honest portrayal of who we are. So where then does this leave us?
Much is made of the doubts of Thomas in this passage, but maybe the real message of this story is that when we experience the presence of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we are never the same – either way. Or at least we should never be the same. We may have doubts, questions or concerns, and the story of Thomas lets us see that it is okay to have these. However, such an experience should not only transform who we are, indeed that is only really the beginning, such an experience should empower us to boldly bear witness to our Lord and Saviour.
Through such an experience we too are commissioned and sent. We too are given power and authority. And we too are provided with a presence and called to a purpose. Ultimately, our mission now, is like the mission of those first century apostles. We are the ones who are now to go and make others aware of the difference knowing Jesus Christ in our lives makes. That together, as we too stand in such an experience, we can do little else but echo the words of Thomas, …My Lord and my God.
Lord, as we stand in Your Risen presence, help as to allow You to transform us from within. That by the Holy Spirit, no matter what fears, doubts or concerns we may have, we may boldly go in Your name, proclaiming the Gospel message far and wide in all we say and do. And all this we ask in Jesus name. Amen
Sunday Evening – National Call To Prayer
As has been the case over the past few weeks, the leaders of all Churches have come together to call us to prayer at 7.00pm this Sunday evening. Underneath is a prayer by the leaders of all churches that could be used to begin this time of prayer. The full statement can be found on the Church of Scotland website where it also lists all those leaders whom signed that statement.
Living God, speak into the depths of our experience,
Speak the word that stills our fears
And calms our anxieties:
‘Peace be with you.’
Speak your word to the lonely and to the broken,
To the bereaved and to those whose world has crumbled:
‘Peace be with you.’
Faithful God, speak to us behind locked doors
As we remember others, who risk their own safety,
In order to serve others:
Peace be with them.
Carers and nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers,
Delivery drivers and shop assistants:
Peace be with them.
God who inspires Hope, speak to us in the present
And speak to us of the future,
For though the doors are locked, in time they shall be open:
Peace shall be renewed.
For those who lead the life of our Nation: Our Queen Elizabeth,
First Minister and Prime Minister, and all who shape our common life,
For us all: Peace shall be renewed.
God whose name is love and whose gift is love,
Open our hearts to know you and to love you,
To love you and to love our neighbour
And as we do, to hear again: ‘Peace be with you.’
May we find our strength in you,
And hear again:
‘Peace be with you.’