12 June 2011

"After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord." (v. 20)


Confidence is something which needs careful handling. While we may have reasons for confidence, how do we avoid it spilling over into self-righteousness or domination of those who take a different view from our own?

John wrote his Gospel for a church community which was small, weak and fearful of persecution. In a world full of hostility, how were they to find confidence? At the end of his Gospel John offers stories of Jesus raised from death, repeatedly offering reasons for confidence.

The first reason is that Jesus gives peace. When he says, "Peace be with you" (v. 19), it isn't just a formal greeting. Twice over he says it (vv. 19, 21), offering peace as a gift.

Then he shows them the violence done to him (v. 20), because that violence has been overcome. Violent domination has not had the last word.

Next, he affirms them as those who are 'sent' (v. 21). Being 'sent' is no small thing. It is the same word from which 'apostle' comes. To be 'sent' is to be given authority and purpose; it is to be trusted with an important task. Jesus breathes on them (v. 22). It reminds the reader of what God did for the first human being (Genesis 2:7). He makes his followers a new creation; just like the dry bones Ezekiel saw brought back to life by the breath of God (Ezekiel 37).

The gift of the Holy Spirit is already implied, because in Greek ('pneuma') and Hebrew ('ruach') the word for 'breath' is the same as 'spirit'. Now it is made explicit. Jesus asks them to "receive the Holy Spirit" (v. 22), and the reader is reminded that they too can receive God's constant presence.

And lastly, Jesus empowers by reminding them that they, not their persecutors, have authority (v. 23). They know the difference between sin and goodness, and they are given authority to forgive sin.

So, if you see your community of faith as small and weak, here are things to build confidence. However, this should not be seen as reason to try to re-assert Christian domination. This is not about domination. It is a confidence based on Jesus, who carries scars of self-giving love. Our confidence is based on the Way of Jesus, who gave everything. It is not a confidence to dominate, but a confidence to give of ourselves.

To Ponder

Is the church as you know it strong or weak, confident or anxious? How might it increase its confidence?

If you imagine Jesus saying these words to you, how does it affect your confidence as a person?

Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Lunn

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