Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Peace to You (John 20:19-21)

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

After Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, he then appeared to Peter (aka Simon) alone. This appearance is not mentioned in St. John’s Gospel but is attested to in two other places, Luke 24:36-43 and 1 Cor. 15:5). Now, for the first time, he appears to the eleven disciples (minus Thomas, of course!) as a group.

The disciples, fearing that the Jewish authorities might come after the followers of the “blasphemer” and “insurrectionist” that they had just condemned, were cowering behind doors that the NKJV says were “shut.” But the Greek word also implies that they were locked. Also, the fact that the text says “doors” and not just “door” implies that there were two doors locked—an inner and an outer door. Clearly, the disciples were terrified and were not taking any chances. Peter and John had ventured to make a quick trip to the tomb, hurrying back, but the others had not even been that bold! Contrast their lack of courage with that of the myrrh bearing women!

Imagine the disciples’ shock when, despite being behind two locked doors, without any warning, Jesus appeared! St. Luke, narrating the same incident, tell us that they at first thought that they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:37). But Jesus greets them warmly with the standard Jewish greeting “peace be with you” (Hebrew “Shalom,” a greeting used by Hebrew speakers to this day). But, as Fr. Farley affirms, Jesus is using the word as more than a standard greeting:

“[The disciples’ hearts had been troubled and filled with uncertainty and fear; they had sorrow like a woman in childbirth (14:27; 16:22). Now was the time for all that anguish to melt away and give place before the Lord’s invincible peace. The Lord was not just greeting them; He was bestowing His peace—a peace that the world could never give and which it could never take away” (347).

To give them further assurance that it was really him, and that he was not just a ghost, Jesus has them use their eyes as well as their ears: he shows them his hands and his side, where the wounds are still obvious. There can now be no doubt in their minds who is now standing in front of them. And so they rejoiced in the knowledge that it really was him.

The fact that Jesus’ wounds are still present on his resurrected body is very interesting. For, in Fr. Farley’s words, “In the resurrected bodies of men, all wounds will be healed and all diseases overcome. The physical body dies and is sown in weakness, but it will be raised in power (1 Cor. 15:43). In the case of the Lord, however, His wounds were not defects to be overcome, but trophies to be treasured. Thus His wounds remain—no longer gaping and ugly injuries, but marks of glory. As the hymns for Thomas Sunday declare, to touch these wounds meant to touch fire” (348).

Jesus then gives them his peace again. The first time, he gave them his peace in order to calm their fear. This time, he gives it because he is about to send them on a mission: “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” They would soon “go into all the world and make disciples of all nations,” as he later state right before ascending into heaven (Matt. 28:18). But first he must equip them for a very important part of that mission.


charlene said...

Father James,
I find it really interesting that the suffering of the apostles is compared in the scriptures to the pain of a woman in childbirth. (By the way, I am with the guys on this one: both my children came through adoption, not childbirth.) I imagine that in biblical times, far more women died in childbith than today, hence the fear they might not live through it. No modern liesaving techniques nwhen things went wrong. And all childbirths were "natural" back then: no pain medications to take the edge off, no neat surgical incisions to prevent tearing. And ihere were surely more infants that were born dead or died shortly after birth, leaving the fear of having gone through 9 months for nothing but sorrow in the end. I think this was a very powerful analogy to describe the suffering of the apostles, having lost Jesus, being in fear for their own lives, and wondering how they could possibly accomplish anything in the future.
When Bishop Basil was here, he spoke of the peace and joy we feel during the liturgy. Could we imply here, without too much of a stretch, that Jesus is saying to his disciplessomething akin to,"Trust me, all will be well, fell that inner peCE that you have felt before when I was in your midst"?

Anonymous said...

Bless, Father:

This great post sparked a thought:

Here's a little tidbit that I've picked up from the New Testament course here at St. Vlad's:

Without denying the inspiration and the factuality of the events in the New Testament, particularly the Resurrection, one way in which we've been studying the Gospels is as a reinterpration of the "symbolic world" (i.e. system of meanings that define our views on life) of Judaism in light of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, which demanded for a reinterpration of the world as the disciples knew it (these were earth-shattering events, after all!)

In particular regards to the Resurrection, our professor's theory was thus: Christians sometimes tend to see the Resurrection as nothing more than a biological resucitation. It was posed in class that the way the Gospel writers viewed it was twofold:

1) The emphasis on the empty tomb in the Gospels is a testament to the fact that Christ really is risen;

2) The post-Resurrection appearances of Christ are a testament to the fact that Christ remains with us in the "between time" (between the Ascension and the Parousia)...i.e. "Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the age..."

Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Fr. James Early said...

Charlene, I don't think that this is at all a stretch. I think that this is exactly what Jesus means.

Jason said...

Fr. James,

This is off-topic, but will your blog make a note of it when your book comes out? BTW, when will that be?


Fr. James Early said...


Thank you for asking about my book. I will indeed write a special post when the book is out. It seems to be delayed yet again. I am hoping it will be out next month.