Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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.”
– John 20:21-23
The resurrection cannot not be explained. It must be experienced!
A few years ago I was sharing about my own experience of the risen Christ. I was speaking in parables and one young man urged me to “explain” myself more clearly. I was tempted to try. And then, in a flash of inspiration (sometimes my “inspirations” go terribly wrong), I paused for a moment and asked if he was married. He was thrown by the question, but he willingly played along and answered, “Yes.” Here’s the risky part… I asked him if he would explain to the group what it was like to make love to his wife. There were a few nervous chuckles and an uncomfortable pause.
And then he began to offer what I sensed was going to be a truly awkward explanation. I quickly stopped him and spared us all. Relieved, we laughed.
When it comes to life’s deepest mysteries, experience trumps explanation every time! In fact, explanation tends to diminish the experience. When it comes to the resurrection the Gospels offer no explanation as to how it happened. There is no privileged insider information. Instead, we are given a series of personal encounters with the risen Christ and these encounters change the world.
What stands out in this week’s text is the intimacy of the encounter. It was evening on the first day of the week (we are in the first day of creation). The disciples hid behind locked doors in fear. Chaos and darkness reigned. Jesus passed through the locked doors and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” He vulnerably showed the disciples his wounds. And then the risen/wounded one re-creates the world with a stunning act of intimacy. He “breathed on them.”
The breath of God is the kiss of God that remakes the world. In this divine kiss Jesus is modeling the very core of mission, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Can we see? In kissing us into existence Jesus empowers us to do the same – to forgive as God forgives, in a courageous act of union and communion. This is the meaning of the kiss. This is how creation unfolds. If we insist on an explanation, this is it!
Sadly, too many of us have yet to experience the kiss of the risen Christ. As a result we retain the sins of others and spend precious time and energy justifying it. All of creation groans.
Mercifully, the risen Christ continues to enter locked rooms, blowing kisses into the chaos of our lives. All he asks is that we receive them, knowing full well that one who has been kissed by God will naturally and eagerly participate in the ongoing act of Creation itself. Now that’s Good News!