This is part of our Easter week series from Ross Paterson's daily devotional Facebook post. Like our page to keep up with our latest devotionals and news.
John 20:19-31 is a familiar passage. It is also a highly concentrated one whose rich content comes as we dig into it and open it up.
Firstly, “Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you…’” (verse 20). “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you!’” (verse 21). Jesus gives a traditional Jewish greeting – “Shalom Aleichem, Peace be with you”. But it is so much more than that. “The disciples were confused and afraid behind locked doors. What would He say to them? Would He berate them for their disloyalty and failure to believe? Would He turn on them and lash them with a where-were-you-when-I-needed-you kind of speech? No. He simply lavished upon them His love.”
“Now, when they were feeling bewildered and deeply ashamed, to hear Jesus speaking peace to them, showing that He wasn’t holding their failures against them, heralded a new beginning. He didn’t rebuke them for their fear, lack of understanding and disbelief. Rather, He helped them understand that it was really Him.”
In speaking His peace “the point of reference has shifted from the authorities to the resurrected Lord (verse 20). The human situation was the same, but the disciples gained a different perspective. The presence of the supernatural led to the change from being fearful to being overjoyed, a change in the emotional state” (Selwyn Hughes).
“Shalom on Easter evening is the equivalent of ‘It is finished’ on the cross, for the peace of reconciliation and the life from God is now imparted” (George Beasley-Murray).
Has Easter deepened His peace, His shalom, in me?
- “It is not clear how Jesus’ command to ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (verse 22) relates to what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2).” But Selwyn Hughes sheds light on that. “Prior to His death on the cross, Jesus, like everyone else, depended on the air for His physical existence. He breathed in and He breathed out, and the regular respiration contributed, as it does with us all, to His proper physiological functioning. However, following the resurrection, He no longer depended on the air of Palestine for His existence; He had exchanged the natural for the supernatural. He was alive in the power of an endless life. So when He turned to His disciples and breathed on them it was not the mere exhalation of air that they felt; it was the energy of eternity. In other words – it was the breath of God!”
Jesus was breathing the breath of new life, born again life, into the disciples. That is the point for us – Easter is not just a festival. It is designed to bring life of a different, an eternal, kind into out battered lives.
- “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (verse 21). “This is not just a social call. Rather, it is a commissioning.” “It is not aimed solely at providing them with personal comfort. When they receive His peace, they also receive His commissioning. John’s version of the great commission (Matt 28:19-20) occurs here on the evening of Resurrection Day.”
What a challenge that is. It was such an early point for Jesus to command them to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But here is the point: “Jesus sends out His deeply flawed disciples to be His witnesses. He doesn’t wait until we’re perfect but works with the grain of who we are, shaping and changing us as we relate to Him (2 Cor 3:18).”
He did not wait then; He should not wait now for us to go to the end of the earth! No excuses!
- Then there is Thomas. “We call him ‘doubting Thomas’ – an unfair label if there ever was one. It’s sad how we pick up what we consider a negative in a person and make him or her carry that label for a lifetime, or, in Thomas’s case – two millennia. Thomas entered for a little while into the darkness of spiritual doubt, but he came out of that experience with a firmer faith than ever before. The darkness served only to deepen his love for Jesus. When I once visited Chennai, India, I heard of some of the treasures that came out of Thomas’s darkness, as I was told how Thomas visited that continent and gave his life for the founding of a church which is there to this day. The ‘St Thomas Christians’, as they are called, are some of the finest believers I have ever met” (Selwyn Hughes).
Am I, are you, carrying a label from the past? “Thomas had his doubts allayed in one glorious moment of illumination. He became a believer and an achiever – and then he went places. So, my friend, can you!” Let Jesus speak His life-changing peace into any label from the past under which you live.