Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to bear the cost
Of giving up our false self.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear you,
To follow you in all of life,
In the way of resurrection.
Season of Easter, Week Two
This week the lectionary guide leads us into John’s gospel narrative (20:19-31) and back into the upper room in Jerusalem, where the disciples, disillusioned and afraid, huddle in their collective and separate grief. The doors are locked because they fear the wrath of the religious authorities. If Jesus had been arrested and crucified on charges of saying he was King of the Jews, what might happen to them, his closest followers? When they hear what the women say about the resurrection, about the angel’s message, and about seeing Jesus, they are unable to believe what they hear. Not yet.
Easter and its brilliant light of resurrection is hidden from their sight.
As we wait here, the day gradually draws to a close. The sun sets. Shadows fall across the room. Suddenly they realize that someone else is standing among them, and then they hear the voice: “Peace be with you.” They had heard that voice before! Could it be? Jesus – standing there in the room, showing them his hands and his side – wounds of crucifixion and a sword’s piercing.
Like a new tide, joy ripples into their soul, recognition begins to unlock the closed doors of their minds, and hope begins to flow again. . . . Jesus is risen, just as he said!
A week later Thomas—who still cannot believe–is among them when Jesus appears, again entering the room in a way that defies human understanding. Jesus extends the same greeting, “Peace be with you,” and prompts Thomas to see and to touch his hands and his side.
Jesus draws these followers into a new solidarity with himself and God’s desires. Just as God sent him into the world, so Jesus now sends them. And just as the Holy Spirit had come upon Jesus as he began his ministry, so Jesus now breathes upon them and says, “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.” With these words Jesus not only confers a God-given authority upon his followers but also reminds them of what kingdom authority is about: the freedom and compassionate power to forgive. At the heart of Jesus’ teaching, his life and his self-giving death, shines this release from bondage. He came to set the captives free. Matthew, the former tax collector, remembers this well: Jesus came to call not the righteous but sinners (Matthew 9:13). All of them could call to mind the prayer Jesus taught them: “Forgive us our debts, as w also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
We are given to learn here that the mark of the Holy Spirit’s presence upon and within us will be the gift of the peace of Jesus within and among us, and a recognition of Jesus’ presence among us. Another mark will be our response to sin—within ourselves and others. Forgiveness is to be offered. Forgiveness is not automatic or easy, but to be given. Our responses to the promptings of the Spirit of Christ have eternal implications and shape the kingdom.
As you enter this narrative in John 20 this week,
- seek to be present to the grief and loss of these early disciples
- seek to be present to Jesus as he comes through the walls of your own fears, and shows you the marks of his crucifixion and offers you peace.
- Be still as he breathes upon you and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
- be aware of how Jesus’ presence, his death, his peace, and the in-breathing of the Holy Spirit upon and within you free you to offer forgiveness, and hear Jesus’ word of sending to you.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Take some time to reflect on where you are – in your life and your vocation. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see God’s purpose and God’s sending in who you are, and where you are, what you do.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence
In this Holy Week,
And to learn God’s way
Through death to resurrection,
Season of Easter: Week Two
4/1 Monday: John 20:19-23
4/2 Tuesday: John 20:24-31
4/3 Wednesday: Psalm 118:14-29
4/4 Thursday: Acts 5:27-32
4/5 Friday: Revelation 1:4-8
4/6 Saturday: John 20:19-23
4/7 Sunday: John 20:24-31