When we think of creation as an event that happened a long time ago in a garden far, far away, we can easily forget that creation is the ongoing activity of God, here and now, made visible through the resurrection.
In this week’s lectionary text of John 20:19-31, we see Jesus, the resurrected murder victim, re-creating the world and inviting us to participate in the ongoing act of creation.
1. “The doors… were locked… Jesus came and stood among them” (John 20:19).
The murder victim lovingly breaks into the locked prison of his disciples. Jesus returns as the Good Thief intent on taking only one thing. He comes to take away the sins of the world. This is not a violent break-in. It is a peaceful presence – a coming among us in a way that makes it clear Jesus has always been with us.
2. “Peace be with you” (vs.19).
Peace is the first word of new creation! Jesus doesn’t begin with a rant about how the disciples abandoned him and were complicit in his murder. Jesus begins by declaring peace.
3. “He showed them his hands and his side… then the disciples rejoiced” (vs. 20).
The murdered one shows his wounds. It is through Jesus’ wounds that the disciples recognize him. What’s odd is that they rejoice… not in the wounds themselves, but in the way Jesus becomes visible through them. Jesus is ALWAYS revealed as the wounded one. Jesus bears his wounds without resentment, vengeance, or wrath, and it’s in this way we recognize Jesus as the Christ. The wounded one does not shame us. Instead, he calls forth our deepest joy.
4. “Peace be with you” (vs. 21).
Jesus declares peace again. Wow, still no hint of resentment! The murdered one is filled with one reality… PEACE.
5. “As the Father sent me so I send you” (vs. 21).
Jesus commissions his disciples. He sends them out of their fear-filled prison the same way he entered – peacefully, as a Good Thief. We are commissioned to enter the prisons of this world in the same way Jesus enters ours.
6. “He Breathed on them and said, receive the Holy Spirit” (vs. 22).
God animates creation with God’s breath. The Spirit (which means breath) breathed life into the watery chaos in Genesis. On the cross, Jesus released his last breath into the violent chaos of this world. And now in the Resurrection he breathes again into the disciples’ prisons of shame. Jesus breathes on us, in us, and through us the breath of life that we might become fully human and be one with God.
7. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (vs. 23).
The breath of life empowers the disciples to do what God does. This is the clincher. This is the whole point of receiving the Spirit. It is the whole point of the Gospel revelation. This is the reality that has been hidden since the foundation of the world (Matthew 13:35). It is so utterly simple that it is easily missed. God forgives! And we are invited to do the same.
Creation advances one way – through forgiveness! When we forgive, we participate in the ongoing work of Creation. To make the point more emphatically, Jesus reminds us that when we withhold forgiveness, we interrupt and diminish creation.
8. “But Thomas…” (vs. 24)
Thomas missed the big show. The absence of Thomas invites an encore presentation from Jesus. So, a week later Jesus breaks into another locked room, and once again declares peace, and once again shows his wounds (vs. 26-27). Once again there is sight.
Thomas comforts those of us who just don’t seem to get it, who are always late to the party, who refuse, reject, doubt, and deny. Such blessed ones call forth yet more grace and mercy from God. Interestingly, it is Thomas, the late-coming doubter, who not only touches the wounds of Jesus, but also offers the clearest, most personal declaration of Jesus in Scripture, “My Lord and my God” (vs. 28).
This passage is a foundational passage for us at Street Psalms. It has shaped our community as well as our training for many years now. We are ALL being re-created in Christ, especially the “least of these.” May this bring you joy.