Chapter 20:19-23 (ESV) - On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Question to consider: Why were the disciples gathered together?
Yesterday I mentioned some things that John had written which would have been embarrassing to the disciples. I’m sure today’s passage could be added to that list. John was most likely highlighting the fact that Jesus miraculously appeared to them from behind a locked door, but the admission that it was locked due to their fear was certainly not something to brag about.
Since Jesus spoke in Aramaic, “Peace be with you” would have been, “Shlam lkwn” or “Shalom aleichem” in Hebrew. It was a common greeting, and people usually responded, “aleichem shalom”. In churches today, it is common for the pastor to say, “Peace be with you,” and the congregation to respond, “and also with you”. Essentially, John was saying that Jesus appeared out of nowhere through a locked door and greeted them like He’d just shown up to a normal dinner party.
In Luke’s account, we learned that a couple of Jesus’ followers who were not part of the remaining eleven disciples (one of whom was Cleopas) had an encounter earlier with Jesus while walking on the road to Emmaus. They didn’t realize it was Jesus until He revealed Himself to them after revealing how the scriptures had all pointed to His death and resurrection. Jesus showed up while they were relaying this information to the other disciples, and according to Luke, Jesus showed them His scars and invited them to touch them because they had a look of horror like they had seen a ghost. Luke also mentioned that Jesus went over to their table and ate a piece of fish to further prove He was there in the flesh.
The second time Jesus said to them, “Shalom aleichem,” it was not as a greeting but to calm them down so that they could receive the message from Him that God desired for them to be sent out into the world (apostles means “those who are sent”) just as Jesus had been sent into the world so that they could bring people to repentance and grant them God’s forgiveness. In the Lutheran church, we call this the “Office of the keys” because Jesus had originally pointed to this commission after Peter confessed that He was the Christ. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Jesus breathed out the Holy Spirit on them to prepare them for this purpose. There would be a time in the near future when Jesus would ascend to heaven to take His place at the right hand of God, and the Holy Spirit would descend upon them and dwell within them just as He did upon Jesus at His baptism. At that moment, their mission would begin, and they would give this message of forgiveness to a crowd of thousands of Jews from all over the Roman empire who had gathered to celebrate Pentecost. The people would miraculously hear this message in their own native tongue, and thousands would receive it and launch the church in Jerusalem.
Dear Lord, thank You for ministering to Your disciples and equipping them to carry out Your commission to make disciples of all nations. Thank You for sustaining our own faith through Your Word and Holy Spirit so that we may also be sent out into a world that still needs the forgiveness that only You can provide. Amen.