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 barred for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:19-23
I’ve always enjoyed the resurrection stories in John, the way that the disciples (except Thomas) are all hiding away in the upper room afraid of the leaders of the temple and the Pharisees. Hidden away just as their ancestors were at the time of Moses during the Passover. Then, suddenly, Jesus appears within their midst. He says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Breathing the Holy Spirit upon them, he proclaims, “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.”
Jesus is offering them shalom in the midst of their fear. But, that's not all. He's giving them a mission, sending them as his father sent him. Jesus is sending them out into the world to serve; to forgive sins. Jesus is sending them out to be to be God's representative in the world.
What amazes me about the disciples that day is that they stayed. They could have, should have, run out into the wilderness on Friday. Maybe they just didn’t know what to do now that Jesus was gone. Whatever the reason, they stayed hidden away in that locked upper room.
I often wondered what it would be like in that upper room. I never thought I would experience something like it, but in a way we have experienced it this year. We’re all locked away ourselves. Our current times can be scary, but like the Israelites of the Passover, we can’t see the danger. But it’s still there. We’re not staying locked away just out of fear. We are doing it out of love. Love for the other so that we don’t help to spread this terrible disease. Love for those who may be older, who may have a pre-existing condition, or for one reason or another can’t fight this sickness off.
Now, we might want to say “I’ve had enough. I want to go out and about” but that’s not answering the call of Jesus. Jesus sends us as the father sent him, to do the loving thing and the loving thing for us is to stay put. We are so close. Many have received the vaccine and as each day passes, more are receiving this gift from God working through science and medical professionals. How fitting that the vaccine is reaching out to almost all people. In a way, this gives us new life to carry out the mission of Christ. I also believe that the same Spirit that Jesus breathed into the first disciples is holding us together as one, even when we’re apart; giving us the courage to stay in for the other as we near the end of this time of isolation.
This is truly one of those times when we realize that Easter isn’t about me. Easter isn’t about what I want. Easter is about what the other needs. You will learn, if you have not already, that one of my favorite sayings is “people are always more important than things”. In this last year we have been able to show this by our actions to protect the other. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus empowers us to show the love of Christ. We are called to serve Christ by serving one another.
I pray for us during this time of new life, as we journey out of our long year of separation and struggle. I pray that we continue to serve by our words and our actions. I pray that when we once again gather together, that we do so caring for each other as we bring praise to the God of love who has led us through our long struggle.