Sunday 28 April 2019

Bible Book:

Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.' (vs. 21-22)

John 20:19-31 Sunday 28 April 2019

Psalm: Psalm 150


The story of ‘doubting Thomas’ is probably the most frequent focus of sermons on this passage. It deserves the attention that it gets but there are other elements in this passage which we should not miss.

Mary Magdalene is told to “go to my brothers” and tell them that Jesus is ascending “to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”. The disciples are Jesus’ brothers. He is “the firstborn within a large family” (Romans 8:29). Jesus is to us, as he is to Thomas, “my Lord and my God”, but he is also one of us – the oldest within a large family of brothers and sisters.

It is intriguing that Jesus tells Mary not to hold on to him “because I have not yet ascended to the Father”. There is an echo here of John 16:7, that it is to the advantage of the disciples that Jesus goes away, because then ‘the Advocate’, the Holy Spirit, will come. It is an essential aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity that the presence of the Holy Spirit does not mean the absence of Jesus. The ascended Christ is present in and by the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ. American monk Thomas Keating writes that Jesus has ascended into ‘the heart of the world’ – not "above the bright blue sky". Keating here is paraphrasing the second part of Ephesians 4:10. The ascended Jesus is closer to us than he was to his first disciples.

In the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples are still in a state of confusion and fear. Jesus comes to them and says, “Peace be with you”. Then he says that he is sending them in the same way that the Father sent him. Jesus doesn’t say, “I am sending you out to be heroes”; he is sending them to follow in the way that he was sent – the way of the cross.


To Ponder:

  • What does it mean for you that you are one of Jesus’ many brothers and sisters?
  • When, in the midst of confusion and fear in your own life, have you heard, or needed to hear Jesus saying, “Peace be with you”?
  • How close does Jesus seem, to you yourself?
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