May 26, 2020
John 20:19-23 NRSV
Piney Flats UMC
Three Rivers District
19 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
It was the first Easter... It was evening... The disciples had gathered behind locked doors in fear of the Jews, obviously giving no credence to Mary who had just exclaimed in verse 18: “I have seen the Lord.”
No doubt the events of past days gave them ample reasons to feel impending peril, even the threat of death.
Jesus came to stand among them, saying, “peace be with you.” This was a greeting the disciples could recognize. But, as Jesus had promised, it came in a way that would bring joy from their weeping and mourning (see John 14:27 – 16:24). We can readily share the disciples’ sense of fulfillment through the miraculous presence of Jesus. Peace, shalom, that radical harmony of all of God’s creation, now rested upon them and within them. Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”It was reflective of God’s breathing life into humanity in Genesis 2:7 and of the new creation prophesied in Ezekiel 37:9.
Today the church survives and prospers despite humanity’s stubbornness and proclivity to sin— despite religious persecution, and pandemics. God has proven his faithfulness, breathing into humanity fullness of life and his very essence. Extending forgiveness of sin to his followers is not so much about penance for individual deeds. Rather, it is about the faith community’s spirit-empowered mission to continue Jesus’ work of making God known to the world and through that work bringing the world to judgment and decision through its response to Jesus.
O God, Our Creator and Holy Guide, breathe into us your holy essence. Help us truly experience your peace. Empower us to lead others to know you and bow to your sovereignty, justice, and grace. AMEN