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Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Again Jesus said

I have been suffering with the post Easter blues.

I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a thing. Certainly, as a Christian, it feels rather strange to admit to be struggling after the celebration of the resurrection. But this week has been difficult.

Lock-down continues. The death-toll in our country rises. We live in a state of uncertainty and, for many of us, anxiety. And Easter hasn't changed that. Not in the surface of things anyway.
It is difficult to hold on to resurrection hope in the midst of a pandemic.

Since Sunday, I have been reading the end of John's gospel where John recounts the ways in which the risen Jesus appears to his friends. It is quite beautiful:

"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, 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." (John 20:19-22)

There is something so incredibly human about this account. One of the things I love about the Bible is that it's too real and too strange to make up. If you were writing an account of the Saviour of the world you probably wouldn't choose to do it like John did. You'd make the disciples braver, bolder, quicker to believe. You'd leave out the confusing bits. The weird bits. The disappointing bits where God's people do things that are shocking and awful and bizarre.

But here we have the disciples - who have already been told by Mary that Jesus is alive - and they are hiding. They, too, are suffering from post Easter blues. James and John, nick-named the Sons of Thunder, are hiding. They have been stripped of confidence, of bravado, of faith. And they are afraid. They are waiting for their own arrests, their own crucifixions. Cowering in a locked room. 

In it is into this place of fear and self imposed lock-down, that Jesus enters. He doesn't berate them for not believing. He doesn't tell them off for their lack of faith. He doesn't criticise their failure to grasp hold of the truth of the resurrection. He simply says, "Peace be with you." (20:19) 

I cannot imagine words more needed to those broken men. And I cannot imagine words more needed to us at this moment.

Peace be with you. 

And then, beautifully, wonderfully, Jesus says it again, "Peace be with you." 

My soul needs to hear that twice today. My soul needs to hear the risen Jesus speak peace. 

And then, perhaps more beautifully, Jesus does the strangest thing: he breathes on them. At least it's strange until you think about who Jesus is, about whose breath is being breathed. This is the Creator King of the universe breathing life - resurrection life - once more. (Genesis 2:7) Filling the disciples' tired hearts and souls with life. He breathes himself, his Spirit, his life, into them.

There is such comfort in this account. Such honesty. Jesus knows what the disciples most need in that moment. He knows what it is that we need today too : a reassurance of his peace, and the imparting of his life. And both of these can happen through our locked doors. 

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