24 Apr 2022
The Gospel. St. John xx. 19.
The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.
Today, we think about that night of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday night, when these events in today's Gospel took place. Though the doors were shut, Jesus appears to His disciples in the Upper Room, the same place where they had celebrated the Last Supper with Jesus on the previous Thursday and which we remember every time we celebrate Holy Communion. Now He stands before them and says, "Peace be with you." The doors were locked, but their friend and master Jesus came to them. Nothing was going to keep Him out. There was no mistake. It was totally, utterly undeniable. The greatest shock of their lives! Imagine, then, if this were the greatest shock in yours. That Jesus has come through many barriers and entered into your life.
Jesus showed them His hands and his side. He showed them the wounds. For Him, for them, for us, these are the marks of victory. As a warrior king, He had entered into battle with the powers of darkness and had defeated them through death. The disciples believed and understood: Jesus is Lord! It is He whom we worship today.
You remember the Gospel reading last week and the story of the Resurrection--Peter and John running to the tomb. They looked in, they saw, they believed. Then, that same night, here they are in the Upper Room, behind locked doors, cowering in fear? We know that Thomas had said that he would not believe unless he felt the wounds of crucifixion on Jesus for himself!
In John's Gospel, when Jesus died on the cross, He cried out with a loud voice and handed over His Spirit. He handed over the Holy Spirit to His Church. But they had not received the fullness of the Spirit so it would be on this night that they would receive the Holy Spirit in a new and special way.
The next thing that we notice is the way the Gospel speaks of the disciples. Who were the disciples? These apostles were disciples; they were true followers of Jesus. To be a disciple, you must be a follower of Christ. That is as true today as it was nearly 2,000 years ago.
The whole Christian Church started with just those few there in the Upper Room—like we here at Good Shepherd this morning. Jesus says to them, "Peace be with you," for peace is what He had promised to his disciples the previous Thursday.
Peace, then, was His going-away gift, and now He is offering His disciples a peace to fill their hearts and consciences. He was saying to them and us here today, do not let your past get you down. Shake it off, rise up above it, and humbly accept God’s grace. He said, “Yes, you now have the peace that your faith has granted to you—your eyes have seen that I am truly risen. You can be at peace with your God for I have reconciled you to your Father."
Then, Jesus gives them their mission, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." The Father sent Jesus into the world for one purpose: to bring together all of mankind to the love of the heavenly Father. For this He came into the world and preached and taught. For this He suffered and died on the Cross. Now this is what the Church is all about: all of us are to carry on His ministry.
How do we do what Jesus has asked us to do? First, we must try to be a model of virtue, honesty, humility, patient endurance…and, yes, joy--despite the problems we must deal with daily. If someone in your life shows themselves open to the Message, open yourself--tell them when they need to know. A kind and understanding word can open the door to eternal life for them. Develop your own special way as a Christian to work out that mission from Jesus because you too have been sent.
He breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound." For this the Church exists. We are the Body of Christ.
Source: First Sunday after Easter--April 30, 2000
Fr. William Sisterman
St. Dunstan's Anglican Church, Minneapolis, MN
Bishop Edwin Tompkins