Reflections on the Orthodox faith and life in this crazy 21st century world by an Orthodox priest and a few of his friends.
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.