John 20:19-29
Peace To You

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Peace Be With You

1.  "The disciples saw the Lord and rejoiced," (verse twenty).  Don't you think it's odd?  I don't mean when the crucified Lord appears after coming back from the dead so much but that the disciples "rejoiced."  Would you be so happy if for instance your grandpa was already deceased and one night he suddenly showed up?  That would be scary.  But, then again since he is somebody we really used to love and miss, we might think, "Though you're a ghost, you're all right.  I want you to appear."  But, really give this situation here some thought.  You betrayed a certain person, and then the betrayed person dies still betrayed.  By the time you thought you would apologize to that person, he or she was no longer living.  Whenever your heart recalls it, you ache inside.  Well, what if that person upped and showed up in person all of a sudden some evening hour?!  Would you be happy?  I don't think you would be rejoicing.  This would be fearful.  No doubt you would be getting on your knees and crying out with tears, "Please forgive me.  I was wrong!"  When Jesus appeared among his disciples, if I could make this comparison, the situation was kind of like that.

2.  Since I don't think it was Jesus' appearance itself that brought them joy, I'd say that their joy came from a special deed Jesus did or a message he gave them.  What did the Lord do or what did he say to them?  Please look at the scriptures.  Jesus stood in their midst.  Then he said, "Peace be with you."  After saying that, he showed them his hands and his side.  That was it.  We want to think about the meaning of this very carefully as we begin.

3.  In his hands there were the marks that he was nailed to the cross.  In his side there were the marks that he was pierced by the spear of a soldier.  Those scars would in their way tell the story that the person standing right before their eyes was certainly the crucified Jesus.  The scars on his hand and his side must have been enough to make them remember their shameful sin.  In this sense, the Christ who showed them his hands and side was first of all the Christ who exposes the sin of humanity and holds one accountable.

4.  But, he says to them, "Peace be with you."  This phrase is the common greeting for the Jews.  However, though it might be the same word, this word has a special meaning while spoken by the crucified [Christ].  When Christ with his wounds from the cross because of humanity's sins says "Peace be with you," this word clearly takes the meaning of forgiveness of sins.  Because it is by getting sin forgiven that peace is made available.  In short, Christ is also standing here simultaneously as one who brings them forgiveness of sin.  As John the Baptist once said, Jesus was slain as "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," (1:29).  Even after the Lord rose from the dead he spoke as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The scars of the cross are transformed into the sign of the forgiveness of sin by his words of "Peace be with you."

5.  Then again Jesus spoke to them and said, "Peace be with you.  As my father has sent me, I too send you," (verse twenty-one).  They were [so] afraid they had the door to the house locked.  Because of their fear they were locked up tight in their own [little] world.  But then unexpectedly they were to be sent out into the world by Christ.  They had their fear removed and were sent to the world.  Their liberation from their fear did not come about because the dreadful circumstances they were in had been taken away.  It came by accepting the peace of Christ along with the forgiveness of sin.  Then, those who accepted the peace of Christ received the holy puff of air from Christ and were sent outward.

6.  The Lord blew his breath on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone's sins, those sins will be forgiven.  If you don't forgive someone's sins, they will remain unforgiven," (verses twenty-two and twenty-three).  It was the forgiveness of sins that he entrusted to them.  They would soon go out into the world carrying the message of the forgiveness of sin and bringing with them the peace of Christ that they had received.

7.  By the way, at the beginning of today's scripture passage, the scriptures purposefully state that it was "the first day of the week."  By writing it like this, the figure of the later church which would come to gather for worship on "the first day of the week" is superimposed over the figure of [these disciples].  Of course, even our own figure is laid upon this as well.  As persons who have received the peace of Christ we too are sent into the world carrying the peace of Christ and bearing the message of the forgiveness of sin.  The fact that the church is put into the world, that christians are made to live in this world has this such a meaning.

Be Believers

8.  So, let's read the next part.  Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve, was not there with them in that place when Jesus had come.  He was told by them about the Lord's resurrection. In hearing about it he said, "Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and unless I put my hand into his side, I will never believe," (verse twenty-five).  Because of this statement this man is called "Doubting Thomas."

9.  Funny thing is but why did Thomas even say it in those such words?  Since it is unreasonable that a dead person would rise from the dead, did he mean that he required a rational explanation and real proof?  But then, normally, we wouldn't conceive of it as something like "putting a finger in a nail scar."  Since the other disciples said that we "saw the Lord," wouldn't [a normal response be] "I won't believe it till I see it myself!"?  Or more than likely if we had said anything it might have been something like this, "I won't believe it till I see his face."

10.  To be brief, the nail marks and the wound on the side of his stomach had a special significance for Thomas.  Jesus' life and existence to Thomas meant only a man nailed to a cross and a man pierced by a spear in his side and nothing but that.  Thomas couldn't recall anything except that.  He couldn't think of one thing about the days in Galilee that he spent joyfully working hard with Jesus or the smiles of Jesus in those hours.  The only image of Jesus in his head was during his sufferings when he died.

11.  Thomas was the kind of man who was willing to die with Jesus.  It might only be in The Gospel Of John but, it tells us several statements from Thomas.  When Jesus was about to go again to Bethany near Jerusalem, Thomas said to his fellow disciples, "Aren't we going with him to die, also?," (chapter eleven and verse sixteen).  And we have the time when the Lord sitting at the last supper had said, "Don't let your hearts be disturbed.  Believe in God.  And believe in me.  In my father's house there are many places to dwell.  If there weren't, would I have said that I am going [there] to prepare places for you?  If I am going and I am preparing places for you, I will come back, I will welcome you to me there..." (14:1-3).  Then Thomas immediately came in with this, "Lord, where are you going?  We don't get it.  How can we know this path?"  Thomas was wanting to go along to the end.  That's why he wanted to know where the Lord was about to go to.  He was intending to proceed along with him even unto death.

12.  But, Thomas couldn't follow him.  Leaving Thomas behind, Jesus died so awfully.  At the very last of it all, Thomas abandoned Jesus.  There he was with the guilt of his sin, weighing upon his back heavily like lead metal.  There are some things people can't change.  The most [impossible thing to change] is one's past.  Our hands won't reach to the past.  No one can re-live the past.  Thomas knew that.  That's why he just lived with the guilt of his sin on his shoulders.  No matter how heavy it might get, he will just live carrying the debt of his sin for the rest of his life.  Since Thomas felt like this, the words of the other disciples that we "saw the Lord" were but a joke [of some kind].  So, he said, "Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks, and unless I put my hand into his side, I will never believe."

13.  If Thomas wasn't a mere rationalist, neither was he a skeptic either.  He was a character who wanted to be totally sincere.  He was a man who took a hard look at his past.  He was not the kind to forget Jesus' nail scars and side wounds from the cross.  If we forget something in this world, there are plenty of people who will think as if our past is over too.  If it doesn't come to mind, there are many who will think that the burden of their sins are gone.  Far different from those who thought like that, the man Thomas was very much an upright and sincere human being.

14.  But, Jesus did not desire that Thomas live just carrying the debt of his sin on and on and on.  The Lord showed himself to Thomas too.  He said to Thomas, "Peace be with you."  And the Lord said to him, "Touch your finger right here and see my hands.  Also, reach out your hands and put them in my side.  Don't be an unbeliever, be a believer."  You may touch my wounds again.  You can see my hands.  [You can do this] not because the past is gone like water under the bridge.*  My wounds are certainly there.  The truth doesn't disappear.  But, Thomas was there as a man forgiven by Jesus and given peace.  Consequently, Thomas laid prostrate before the Lord and said, "My Lord, my God."  He was no longer a man living in continual shouldering of his sin.  He is following Christ as Lord and as God.  Just like the other disciples he was also granted the peace of Christ, was made a worshipper of the Lord, and was sent into the world as just such as person.  [Now he could] live and go outside and go into the future.  This is one thing that happened the eighth day after the resurrection of Christ, the same Lord's Day.

15.  This eighth day has cycled around repeatedly.  Even today, it is on that day.  Thomas saw the Lord of the resurrection.  We do not see him.  However, the difference is essentially unimportant; for, the Lord said this to Thomas, "Did you believe because you saw me?   The person who believes even though he or she does not see me is blessed."  Before Thomas saw the Lord, the message of the Lord's resurrection and the forgiveness of sin had already been passed on to him.  The same good news is being passed on to us as well.  The Lord said to Thomas, "Don't be an unbeliever, be a believer."  He is calling out in the same way to us, too.  As worshippers of the Lord and as persons sent out by the Lord, we too begin to walk to the outside and into the future.

*Flowing water symbolizes forgiveness in Japan.

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