The Gospel this week takes place on Sunday evening, the same day that Jesus is Risen from the dead, filled with the eternal life of God. The disciples have heard the whisperings that Jesus is Risen, but they are not celebrating. We wonder why not.
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
The disciples are afraid. Why? They remember Jesus' death and they are full of fear. This is only the third day since they saw him die on the cross. They do not want to die like that, too. The whisperings that Jesus is alive do not comfort them. They are hiding in this house with the doors locked.
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.
Whisperings cannot comfort the disciples, but Jesus can! Here he is! He is alive! The disciples can see the marks of death on him, but he stands among them, fully alive.
This Risen life of Jesus is a different sort of life, isn't it? Locked doors would keep us out, but do they keep Jesus out? No. In this Risen life, nothing keeps Jesus away from his disciples. Now they rejoice.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Why is Jesus repeating himself? We remember that repetition in the Bible points to something important. Jesus wants us to know something.
Jesus stands there, full of Risen life, full of the abundant life of God, and his word to the disciples is peace.
Jesus stands there, the Plan of God complete in him, and his word to the disciples is peace.
Jesus stands there, the Parousia person, and his word is peace.
What can we say then about the Kingdom of God? What is it like?
It must be full of peace.
Jesus, the Parousia person, shares the peace of the Kingdom with the disciples. It is not his wish to keep the Kingdom all to himself. He gives his peace to them, and he sends them out. What are they to do? Where are they to go? What will they do with this peace that Jesus has given them?
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 breathes on them. That sounds weird to us, doesn't it? In this time of pandemic, we are careful not to breathe on each other. We wear masks to protect each other from our breath.
But the disciples do not need to be protected from Jesus' breath. Jesus breathes because he is not a ghost. He breathes because he is alive. The life he breathes is the eternal life of God, the life that can never end in death, the life of the Kingdom. Jesus breathes this Risen life on the disciples and tells them that this is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is life! The Holy Spirit is the life of God. Jesus gives it to the disciples. Why? He has a job for them, doesn't he? They are to forgive sins. Forgiveness--that is God's work, isn't it? Now Jesus tells the disciples that they have a share in God's work here on earth. They are to forgive.
What does forgiveness do? Forgiveness heals. It mends things that are broken. It draws us closer to God. It builds the Kingdom of God--the Kingdom of peace--here on earth.
The Holy Spirit and this work, Jesus gives to the disciples, all the disciples in the room. But we wonder, just these disciples? They have all died now. Is the work of building the Kingdom of God finished? Oh no. We just have to look around us to see how much our world needs forgiveness, healing, peace. Who will do this work now?
We are given the Holy Spirit at our Baptism--the Holy Spirit who is the life of God. The Holy Spirit is given to us. The work of building the Kingdom is given to us. We can forgive with the help of the Holy Spirit. We can work with Jesus to spread the peace of Christ throughout the whole world.