John 20: 19 – 23
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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.’
This is a short passage, but there is a lot going on. Imagine the scene: Peter and the beloved disciple have returned from their sprint to Jesus’ tomb, none the wiser about what has happened. They make their way to where the rest of the disciples have been hiding since Jesus’ arrest and death. The rest have barricaded themselves in, for fear of what might happen if they are found there by the Judeans. They have been there for a number of days, and have had to rely on reports from others about what has happened: from the women, and some of the disciples brave enough to go outside. They knock on the door, make it clear who they are, and are let in.
They explain that the stone was rolled away when they arrived, but there was no body inside the tomb, and Jesus’ burial robes, the linen cloths, were strangely deliberately arranged. They have no more to tell, and they wait. Eventually Jesus arrives. John does not write that he entered through any door, but simply that he came and stood among them. He shows them his wounds, just as he will do to Thomas later on, and blesses them after they are convinced that he is indeed their teacher.
It is important, then, for John that Jesus’ has the same body as before. Despite the fact that he was not recognised immediately by Mary in the previous passage, which may have indicated he had been physically changed somewhat, he is able to show them his stigmata and the hole in his side caused by the Roman soldier’s spear. He definitely has the same body.
His language or tone is similar to when he last spoke to the disciples too. Previously in Jesus’ ministry, he himself was the focal point of his movement. Now he is not just showing the disciples what to do to continue it, but compelling them. He offers them his peace, twice, through the power of the Holy Spirit. He promised this in 14:27 and 16:33 and has now fulfilled it. Through God’s peace, and through the Holy Spirit he asks them to forgive and take on sin, and sinful behaviour. Jesus has been doing this throughout his ministry and they will keep it going. Were they good enough for this? Are we good enough for this now? No, of course not. But God enables it, wills it even. God helps us through the power of the Holy Spirit.