Remember how the women hurried from the tomb in fear and joy? The disciples haven’t yet received any joy! We learn that the disciples are afraid of the Jewish Leaders – this won’t be a fear of mockery, but a genuine fear of death. They came for Jesus, now they’re coming for his followers. What would you do?
Put simply: they are on lockdown
19 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.”
Into the middle of their locked room, Jesus appears and stands among them. He shows them his hands and side. He bears the scars of his crucifixion ordeal, which also vouches for his identity. This is no ghost, no idealised-perfect version of Jesus – as ghosts often are. Nor is it a spooky phantom that scares them.
This encounter with the risen Jesus turns their fear to joy.
We are all, in our own ways, suffering in the lockdown. Shut away for fear of an invisible virus that has killed, and will kill. We are prevented from gathering together for church. And into this room, your house, your rooms, Jesus comes. Doors and walls are no barrier to the risen Jesus.
“Peace be with you!” Jesus says. Twice. This peace isn’t simply an absence of conflict like a war, but a deeper inner comfort that allows us to face the challenges of each day.
Where do you need peace today? Are you anxious about leaving the house to go shopping? Are relationships at home tense and strained? Is the constant noise and mess stressing you out? Are you worrying because you have an underlying condition that makes you more vulnerable? Are you frustrated being separated from loved-ones?
Take some time to sit and imagine Jesus being stood in front of you: prayer can often be made easier by using your imagination. Imagine what it would feel like to see Jesus. Imagine what you would most want to tell him. Finally, imagine him saying to you, “peace be with you.”
Finally, Jesus commissions the disciples. Just as Jesus was sent on a mission, so we are sent on a mission. What is your mission for Jesus today? We can often think of serving God in the future, but one suggestion for the start of each day is to ask, “God, send me someone to serve today.” To help with this we are given the Holy Spirit, so ask “God, fill me afresh with the Spirit.” Jesus ends with a note of practical honesty – in our life together we are going to make mistakes, and others will upset and sin against us. So we are also sent to forgive. Ask, “God, forgive this or that person.” Forgiveness can be hard, so two ways of thinking about it: forgiveness is letting a person of YOUR hook. They’re not off God’s hook, but you choose not to ‘hold onto’ the anger, bitterness or frustration. It doesn’t make a bad thing good, it’s about a bad thing not polluting you; secondly, you might think of forgiveness as a choice not to keep bringing something up. After you have told a person about their mistake, rather than dwelling on a past memory, you choose to never mention it again. Is there anyone you need to forgive today?
The risen Jesus is in our homes, breathing his peaceful spirit on us, in order that we might serve him and forgive others. May something of this risen life break out in your homes today.