As Christians we believe He literally, physically, rose from the dead to authenticate His Messianic claims, and to affirm that His death on the cross was indeed the sacrificial death He claimed it would be – “my blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins.”
In one of the Apostle John’s accounts of His resurrection appearances, there is an important message Jesus gives His disciples, and I believe to the Church today as followers of Jesus. In John 20, we are told that Jesus appears to the disciples on the Sunday evening after His crucifixion as they were huddled away fearing for their lives behind a locked door. Leon Morris, the Australian Scholar, notes: What was the point of John mentioning that the door was locked? The point he adds is that Jesus miraculously stood in their midst showing them His hands and side where He had received wounds on the cross. Luke tells us in his account in Lk. 24:37 that they were startled and frightened thinking they had seen a ghost.
When the disciples realize it is Jesus, they are overjoyed. Jesus gives them the normal Hebrew greeting: shalom Aleichem – peace be with you. No blame. No rebuke. No condemnation. After their greetings, Jesus gives them four things in this encounter.
Firstly, He gives them His Peace. (v. 21). His peace is the peace that passes all understanding. Jesus said: These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble (tribulation), but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Shalom is more that just a greeting. On this occasion, it had more of a literal meaning. Shalom is a tangible PEACE when the Lord is present. It affects all of who we are. For the follower of Jesus, when He is present, there is His Peace.
Secondly, He gives them an Assignment. (v. 21) I am sending you. They are given a mission: to go. They are not to hide in fear; not to hide their light under the table; not to live in worry and tension. No, they are to go. They are given a mission to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father , the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching all that Jesus taught (Mt.28:19).
Thirdly, He gives them an example of how to do their assignment (v. 21) As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. How did the Father send Jesus? He left His place in Heaven. He entered into our world as a baby. He grew up like we did – as messy and awkward as that is. He taught. He served. He healed. He helped people. And He laid down His life. John Stott, Bible scholar and priest said, “It was total identification, though without any loss of identity, for in becoming one of us, He did not cease to be himself.” This is how the Father sent him, and that is the example He left for the disciples. They were to go and do the same thing. They were to leave the comfort of their own worlds and go. They were to teach, serve, heal, bless, and to lay down their lives for their fellow human beings. F.F. Bruce put it this way, “The Son’s mission in the world is entrusted to them.”
Fourthly, Jesus gives them the power to be able to do the mission in the manner Jesus asks (v. 22). Receive the Holy Spirit. This mission cannot be done on their own or in their own strength. Actually, it is impossible to do the mission without the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to follow Jesus without the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who equips followers of Jesus and empowers them to do evangelism and ministry in His Name.
Jesus told His disciples on another occasion to wait for the gift His Father was going to give them – this is what we celebrate on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit baptized and fi lled them with His Presence and they exhibited various gifts of the Spirit to proclaim the message of salvation. Here Jesus breathes on them and gives them a taste of the Spirit which was actualized on Pentecost.
What has changed for the modern day follower of Jesus? I would argue nothing except the date and the individuals. Jesus still wants us to live in His peace. He has given us a mission: to go and reach North America (and anyone in the world) with the transforming love of Jesus. And He has given us the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer and the Church to fulfill the mission of Jesus. So let’s walk in His peace. So let’s go following His example. And as we go, let us be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America