May 1 | John 20:19-23
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Peace be With You
by Elaine Pierce
It's easy to overlook these five verses. Right before this, we read the dramatic story of when Mary recognizes the Risen Christ at the tomb. Right after this, we read about how Thomas refuses to believe that Jesus is alive until he sees him face to face (despite all the other disciples assuring him that, yes, Jesus is alive).
These five verses almost seem anticlimactic. The disciples are together in a locked room. Jesus somehow (scripture doesn't tell us how) enters the room, and says "Peace be with you!" The disciples express their amazement and joy at seeing Jesus, and he again says "Peace be with you!" And then he breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit.
Why do you suppose they are in a locked room? Scripture tells us the door is locked "for fear of the Jews." As far as the Jewish leadership knew, Jesus was dead, and the rabble rousing band of disciples of the Rabbi, Jesus, had been effectively crushed. They no longer were a threat to the Jewish power structure, and yet, they were afraid. They had lost their leader, their vision, their mooring. They huddled together in a locked room.
These five verses tell the story of the evening of the first day of the week, the same day that Mary met Jesus at the tomb and shared this life-changing news with the disciples. But they were not ready to trust her words. They gathered in fear. And yet, Jesus doesn't give up on them. Twice in these verses, and again in verse 26, he says "Peace be with you." He shows them his hands and side where the Roman soldiers pierced him as he died on the cross. He gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.