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.
One thing that we find in John’s gospel is that true disciples of Jesus go to tell others about him. In chapter 4, the Samaritan woman at the well had to go to tell her neighbours “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (4:29) Even though she did command any respect in Jewish culture, she was shown to be one who was becoming a true disciple of Jesus.
Now in chapter 20 we come to the resurrection. All the gospels agree that it was the women amongst Jesus’ disciples who went to the tomb, and that they found the tomb empty. In John’s gospel we have the beautiful account of Mary Magdalene lingering in the garden, tearful: she is the first to meet the risen Lord Jesus. He addresses her by name: she recognises him, and then he sends her to tell the disciples that Jesus says “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (20:17) Mary goes, the first to tell of the resurrection “I have seen the Lord!
Later that day Jesus goes to the room where the disciples are together. They have locked themselves in out of fear, quite understandably given that their Lord has been crucified. The locked door is no obstacle to the risen Jesus: he joins them in the room, says “Peace be with you” and shows them his hands and side. The disciples are overjoyed to see their Lord.
Now that they are witnesses of the risen Lord, they too are to go to speak of him. Jesus sends them and breathes on them as an expression of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The disciples are sent because God is the God of mission. The Father has sent Jesus. Jesus has now accomplished much of what the Father sent him to do. He has shared our life and he has died and risen. The sending continues. God himself is sent in the person of the Holy Spirit: Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to the disciples so that they can share in God’s sending.
The disciples are to share in God’s work of forgiving sin. Sent by God, commissioned by Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, they are to declare God’s work of the forgiveness of sins, the gateway to a living relationship with the Father.
The work goes on. The Holy Spirit is still sent to the church. The risen Lord Jesus still sends his disciples. The Father is still the God who sends in order that he might reach out to all kinds of people.
Questions for discussion:
1. In what ways are we sent by God now?
2. We do not see the risen Christ in the same way that the first disciples did: what good news do we have to share?
3. How does the Holy Spirit help us in the work that Jesus sends us to do?
4. How can the church help its members to do the work that Jesus sends us to do?
5. What human resources does the church need for its work? How can we ensure that those needs are met?