John 20:19-23 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."
Spend some time on these three pieces of context in v. 19:
Evening. The first day of the week.
Doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.
The disciples were the followers of Jesus, now on the run. Afraid. These are the people to which the risen Jesus appears. But let's capture the moment just before He appears, and remember where we are in the story.
1. ...Huddled disciples
These disciples were used to huddling. In Luke 10 Jesus huddled up with his disciples and told them: There's a lot of work to be done, and nobody to do it. I'm sending you out, all along the Galilean countryside. You're gonna go into a town you never been to, and just see if you can stay with the people. It's a crazy violent place, full of suspicious and desperate people. You're going to be like sheep among wolves.
I can imagine the conversation between the disciples and Jesus: "What should we pack" When you get among these strangers, don't bring anything...don't bring cash, no luggage, no ID, nothing. "OK...but shouldn't we bring something, we're visitors right?" You do bring something: Peace. If they accept you, eat their food, whatever food they set in front of you, because you know when you break bread with someone, the point is not the bread, but the person you're with. Be there. Oh, and you know, heal the sick, drive out the demons, and announce the kingdom of God is here. If they listen to you, they're listening to me. If they reject you...it's not you they're rejecting. They're rejecting me and the Father who sent me.
Ok, go ahead. Go
And so this was what the disciples had got used to, that they would huddle and be sent. Amazing things would happen- wow Jesus, we drove out demons! Healed people!
So my question is, how do people who've experienced such power wind up with...
2. doors locked for fears of the Jewish leaders.
Luke 22 talks about betrayal, the last supper. It's heating up. The opposition is rising. They're in Jerusalem, the center of action, and here's where the confrontation between their Movement Leader and the powers-that-be is gonna be.
Remember who you're dealing with here: Jerusalem, the powerful capital city of Judea, currently colonized by the mighty Roman empire. The Romans, whose version of peace is enforced with a fearful vengeance - pax romana, the Roman Peace, which was basically peace at the point of a sword. Rome was a brutal, brutal empire and if you crossed Caesar, your head might be on a stake. Or body on a cross, as the case may be. Roman peace brought by a Roman sword.
And into these layers of violence and "peace" perpetrated by fear, Jesus walks...
In Luke 22:36 Jesus says, now is the time to confront these powers! it's time to fight back. I get this mental picture of Simon the Zealot saying, "Finally!" and pulls out his two concealed weapons and the disciples are like, "Look, here's two swords" and Jesus says, "OK, that's enough."
Because of course, Jesus is not talking about violent overthrow, even though that's what they'll accuse him of when they're looking for an excuse to crucify.
In John 18:36, the soldiers come, Peter draws a sword and cuts off a servant's ear. As Jesus heals the ear and rebukes Peter, Jesus makes it crystal clear that this aint' about fighting their war their way.
3. On the evening of that first day of the week...
It's nighttime. And it's important to remember that it's the first day of the week and what's on the disciple's hearts. They've been through a crazy week. This time last week they'd just entered Jerusalem triumphant. And in a week's time, Jesus their leader confronted the powers - and lost. And yesterday, on the Sabbath, ashamed that they'd almost all fled, they couldn't even bury the body. At this point, besides Mary's proclamation, Jesus is gone.
And so, it is into this moment of fear and violence...
Jesus enters. He walks through locked doors, but he's flesh and bone. It says, "Jesus came, and he stood in the midst of them." What makes the huddle of disciples is not that they get along or their friendship or their powers. It's him. It's because he's there.
And he says, "Peace be with you." The word for "be with you," is the same word as when he said, "eat whatever they set before you." Jesus comes and he serves peace. All the brokenness between Jesus and these disciples...he's walked through the locked doors.
And he shows them his hands, and his side. This is the reassurance that you know that he's in the flesh. This is not a ghost, not a mirage, this is not, "maybe there's life after death." This is the same one that the Father sent, the wounded healer. This is resurrection.
Again he says, "Peace be with you." And then, to his huddle, this same-old but totally new Jesus tells them anew: "the Father sent me, and I'm sending you."
For us readers of John, all the echoes of John 1 start rushing in: The Word became flesh and he dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
For the disciples, they must have heard again: You go and you bring peace to these violent and fearful people, sheep without a shepherd. And in the same way that the Father sent me, not a lightning bolt, not an army, not an advertising campaign. Just me, my body and my peace.
Peter, Paul, John, the disciples and US are given this vocational mission to incarnational peace.
We have been sent for the transformation of the world, starting from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Finally, it says "he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
Remember John 1 begins with "in the beginning was the Word?" It's like a new Genesis. It's the first day of the week. The Holy Spirit hovers, like breath. And Jesus speaks, and the Spirit fills and gives life to these quintessences of dust. You see what's going on here? It's creation, part 2. It's a new creation. A new world breaking in.
What we're talking about is THE RENEWAL OF ALL THINGS. "Behold, I make all things new."
And you know what's crazy about that? In Genesis, God makes creation and he says to Adam and Eve, I want you to name the animals. And now, Jesus says, "if you call someone forgiven, they're forgiven. If you don't, they're not."
Why would Jesus give such incredible power to such flawed people? Because Jesus says, "I'm sending you, and you come and bring my peace, in your flesh, and if they reject you, they reject me and my Father. But if they accept you, they accept me, and I'll come in and eat with them and they with me. Because you're my children. You're my people. You're my new creation."
Forgiveness is the reconciliation of new creation with old people.
So what are we to do? We transcend the fear and violence of the world and become agents of peace, sent by Jesus. Transent.