On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors 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 side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (verses 19-22)
Oh, how the disciples needed this moment. The cross had devastated them. Early reports of the resurrection had only confused them. Oh, how they needed Jesus to come and stand among them.
He speaks “Peace.” This is not our trimmed-down version, meaning simply an absence of conflict and war, or even an absence of anxiety. Rather, this is the full-bodied Hebrew concept of “shalom”, meaning fullness of health and well-being, a positive concept brimming with possibilities, in line with Jesus’ promise to bring us “life … to the full” (John 10:10)
For those disciples, the despair of the past days would have dissolved in that word, anchored by the sighting of his physical body, crucifixion wounds yet visible, and brimming with life.
But even the sighting is not enough to eradicate fear. Jesus speaks the blessing a second time, “Peace be with you”, this time giving a vision of the fullness of life he is calling them into: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (verse 21). This is truly life to the full: to step into the very mission that Jesus has received from his Father; to seek and to save the lost; to be light for the world; to lay down life that others may live.
There is obviously unparalleled uniqueness to Jesus’ finished work on the cross. His saving sacrifice need never be repeated. Yet the disciples are sent into the rest of their lives moving in the outflow of that great work, impassioned from this point on to see Jesus’ salvation applied to the lame, the blind, the imprisoned – sinners all – setting captives free.
But such mission – just like Jesus – is completely beyond them. How can they possibly step into it? How can they conceivably comply? The answer comes on Jesus’ breath. He breathes on them, saying, “Receive my empowering breath. As at Creation. As in the Valley of Dry Bones. Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The full impartation would come on the Day of Pentecost, with flames of fire, and tongues loosened with divine praise, and great power. But the promise is here, in this upper room, more than enough to undergird the calling.
Peace. Full-bodied. Sent. Like Jesus. Empowered. With the breath of the Spirit.
Dear Lord Jesus, I receive your peace afresh. From your nail-pierced hands into my empty ones. I submit to your Spirit’s presence, empowering me as I am sent, just like you.
Father, your heart for the world is unchanged, your mission ongoing. With the peace of Jesus and empowering of the Spirit I step into it anew.
Reflect: Take time right now in Jesus’ presence. Allow him to speak “Peace” into your circumstance. Watch for his peace to equip you today as you are sent, like him.