All across the world at this moment, folks are being told to stay at home. To restrict their travel and personal interaction as much as possible. All thanks to a tiny little piece of viral RNA called Covid19. Many have shut their doors and their lives in fear of what could happen. And, to be accurate, many more have also shut their doors out of obedience to directions for their governing authorities. So, it was interesting this morning as I read again that moment when Jesus appeared after His resurrection to the disciples in John 20:19-23.
From the Gospel of John. “So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews…” Except for the cause of the fear, this sounds familiar. The doors shut. It is essential to understand that this was real fear from a real threat. Just like today. Then Jesus showed up.
The first words Jesus speaks changes everything. “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Many times in the Gospels, when fear is overtaking the human soul, Jesus speaks peace. Fear is not battled with a plan, nor is it conquered with money. Fear is calmed by God’s peace, flooding our souls like water quenching a fire.
Jesus then demonstrated His death and resurrection by showing the disciples His nail-scarred hands and spear pierced side. Not even death, the greatest of all fears, could hold Jesus. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the scars and fully recognized Jesus. Peace and joy filled the room, banishing fear.
But Jesus wasn’t finished, he again speaks peace and gives them a mission and purpose. “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Even while many are sheltering in place, staying home, or quarantined, God is still sending us out – without even leaving our homes. Letters, phone calls, emails, blog posts, video streams, and video conferencing are just some of the means the Father is sending us. But also, through doing what we can with what we have. Volunteers are packing lunches for school-aged children, for example.
Neither did Jesus just expect the disciples to bravely walk out and change the world on their own. John records, And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This was something new. Something unheard of. Occasionally before this time, the Holy Spirit would temporarily empower someone. What Jesus expressed, and as we see in Acts, this is something permanent. The Holy Spirit within believers; leading, comforting, convicting, and empowering them.
Jesus’ final word to the disciples that day empowered them to speak forgiveness. Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:19–23, NASB95) During this time of fear and staying at home, Jesus’ followers need to lead the way in forgiveness. Times like these tend towards blaming and fault-finding. Especially as we near the peak of the infection. We can either join the anger or speak forgiveness, understanding, and peace.
It is not immediately evident, but everything Jesus said and did in these few verses leads us to peace. Jesus spoke peace twice. The visible scars of His crucifixion shout that we have peace with God. The fear of not knowing our own purpose is banished by the peace of Jesus, who sends us all out with a message of peace. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a constant reminder of God’s peace through His leading, comforting, convicting, and empowering. Forgiveness paves the way for peace with each other.
Receive Christ’s peace and be a lighthouse of peace for others during this storm of fear and anxiety. Peace be with you and within you today in Christ.