The store near our house is nearly done with the clearing of Easter goodies, but in church communities all over the world, the 50-day celebration of Easter has just begun (or is about to begin this weekend in the Orthodox Church).
Today I’m pondering a passage from John’s gospel that will be read in many churches for the Second Sunday of the Easter Season. In this passage, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors in fear. They must have been afraid that if their leader, Jesus, was killed, they might be next on the list for the same treatment for following him.
Suddenly, the Risen Jesus appears in their midst. Peace be with you, he says. I think it’s important to notice what Jesus did not say. He could have easily said, where were you guys when I needed you? You said you would stick by me no matter what happened! He could have castigated Peter for denying him three times before the cock crowed. But no…Jesus says, Peace be with you!
Not only does Jesus offer them peace. He gives them a special calling: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They, too, are called by God to carry on the work of Jesus Christ–and he gives them the spiritual strength and gifts they need to do this ministry by breathing on them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”
As I mentioned in the post about Jesus breathing his last breath on the cross, the words for breath and spirit are often closely related in the original languages of the bible. Jesus handed over his spirit to the Father when he died on the cross. The Father breathed life into Christ again in the Resurrection–a new kind of life, an eternally living, breathing, incarnated and risen way of existence.
Now Jesus is passing his Holy Spirit into the disciples to empower them to carry on his work. This Holy Spirit has been “breathed” into followers of Jesus throughout all the centuries since that time.
Today, Jesus “breathes” his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, into each one of us who seeks to believe and follow in his path.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts this day with your peace, inner strength, and gifts to serve others with love!
Until next time, Amen!
Photo: Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean — photo by Julie McCarty–all rights reserved.