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Peace Be With You


Prayer

Risen Christ,

for whom no door is locked, no entrance barred:

open the doors of our hearts,

that we may seek the good of others

and walk the joyful road of sacrifice and peace,

to the praise of God the Father.

Amen.

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 locked for fear of the Jews, 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.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

John 20:19-end

"When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week..."

We are in an enforced lockdown. The disciples had chosen to lock themselves in because they were afraid . Note that 'that day' refers to the day that the women found that Jesus' body was missing. They encounter Jesus and run to tell the other disciples. The gospel reading takes place on the evening of what we know as Easter Day - the Sunday. For the Jews this is the first day of their week after their rest day on the sabbath, Saturday.


"...and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews"

This is a voluntary lockdown. The disciples are afraid. They are meeting together no doubt to discuss what has happened and to decide what to do. John would normally say the twelve if it was just the core disciples so this is a gathering of the followers of Jesus - the faith community, not just the leadership. They have good reason to be afraid. If they profess to be a follower of Jesus they risk loosing their community. We know from John chapter 9 that anyone who professes Jesus as messiah will be excluded from the synagogue. This is their community, their family, their life. They have got to be sure. Do they believe the women? Could it be possible that Jesus has risen from the dead? Does it make sense of some of the things that Jesus had taught them? Is this what he meant? Dare they believe? It is a difficult choice when it might mean being ostracised from your family, when it might mean the risk of persecution or hatred.


We are locked down in small family units, in couples, or on our own. On this night the disciples have locked themselves in a room together. They hope that they can trust each other and to make sure that no-one stumbles in uninvited to betray them, they need to work out what to do, they have locked the doors. You can imagine their unease, looking at each other with fear, hoping that they can trust each other. Was there a hubbub of noise and conversation as they discussed and wondered? Imagine how that noise died down when in verse 19...


"Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ "

Imagine that. Jesus appearing where you are now to say to you, 'peace be with you.'

I wonder what that peace would mean to you? Peace in a time of fear. Peace in a time of uncertainty.


The impossible becomes possible and Jesus appears in the locked room. He greets them in the customary way; 'Peace be with you'. This is a conventional greeting.


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

You can imagine their astonishment, the outpouring of relief – Jesus is back, surely this changes everything. What must that have felt like, what their expectations were. Maybe they thought that everything would be okay because Jesus was back. Maybe they thought that with the power he had he could make everything better, put everything right, then...


"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.’"

Jesus says again 'Peace be with you'. Peace in a time of fear. Peace in a time of uncertainty.


Imagine that. Jesus appearing where you are now to say to you, 'Peace be with you'. The first time Jesus says the words it could be a greeting; this second time is now unmistakably words of comfort. These are words that we need to hear too in this time of lockdown when we have our own fears and concerns. Fears about the virus, fears about food, fears about our estranged families, fears about our loved ones, fears for our key workers, fears about our jobs and livelihood, fears for the economy, fears for what future might look like.


Can you imagine Jesus appearing within your locked room, what might he say to you? But it is not just the words that Jesus says, he greets them with peace, he says that they are sent by the Father in the same way that he was sent and then he breathes on them the breath of the Holy Spirit.


Jesus breathes on them. To get a bit technical, this is the only time that this particular verb for to breathe is used in the New Testament. It is the same verb as used in Genesis when God breathes life into Adam, the first human. It also recalls the breath of life In Ezekiel 37:9; remember how life is breathed into dry bones? Jesus breathes on the disciples. It is an act of creation, it's like a new second Creation.


Imagine Jesus in our midst, in your locked room, wishing you peace, commissioning you and then breathing on you the breath of the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in Jesus receive new life as children of God, and the Holy Spirit is the breath that sustains that new life.


There is a lovely example of Caedmon from 600 AD. Caedmon was not very articulate, he wasn't able to speak. He was an illiterate herdsman who kept the animals of the monastery when Hilda was abbess. One night there is a feast and as usual the harp was passed from one to another to take turns in singing. Caedmon was embarrassed as he could not sing so he leaves early, returns home and falls asleep in the barn. When he sleeps he dreams that he sings a song of the first creation, and when he wakes he still remembers the song. He tells his boss who tells the Abbess and she discovers that Caedmon can sing. In fact, he hears scripture and is then able to sing it in his native tongue. He was considered remarkable, this man who previously had no voice, who was embarrassed because he could not make a contribution can now communicate the word of God to people in a new way, in a way that they understand. If we are open to the breath of the holy spirit, if we allow the peace of God, if we welcome Jesus, what difference can be made in our lives? Maybe like Caedmon we will find that we are capable of something we did not think possible.


Because the disciples accepted the commission from Jesus we now have the gospels – generations of people have heard the good news. What commission might God have for us? It is okay to be suspicious, to have doubts, to not be fully convinced. Read the rest of the reading:


"But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."


Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe! It is okay to have doubts, to wrestle with unbelief. Thomas only believed when he saw for himself. We can pray for the power of the Holy Spirit and allow the breath of the Holy Spirit to change us.


Welcome Jesus into your space, into your locked room and allow yourself to be changed by him.


Peace be with you.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in Heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread,

forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil;

for the kingdom, the power

and the glory are yours,

now and forever.

Amen.

You may like to listen to our Podcast which accompanies this blog. Click here.

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St Andrews, Dentons Green
Dentons Green Lane, St Helens, WA10 6RU

Ready to welcome you, looking forward to getting to know you, hoping to share in your journey of faith.

Email:

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Phone: 07847 740456

Registered Charity: 1163794

St Andrews, Dentons Green takes its duty and obligation to protect all extremely seriously. We have adopted the national Church of England's robust procedures and guidelines. You can find out more about the national policies and procedures at www.churchofengland.org/safeguarding.

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