John 20:19-31

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This story of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples is the first appearance to the disciples in the Gospel of John. It follows the appearance to Mary Magdalene, which was a complete surprise to her. So also, Jesus' appearance is a complete surprise to the disciples. It confirms what Mary Magdalene had told them: Jesus was alive. That tone of surprise is essential to the telling of the story.

The context, both political and psychological, is named at the beginning of the story. The doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear of those who had killed Jesus, and who were quite possibly on a campaign to find, arrest, and execute Jesus' followers. In the midst of this fear, Jesus comes and says, "Peace be with you." Clearly,the disciples were afraid. But it is also very probable that they were angry. In the midst of what had happened they were angry at the death of Jesus and his being executed. Part of their fear was this complex of emotions.

Jesus' greeting is a response to their present emotional situation. In the midst of their anger, their fear, their terror, and their uncertainty, Jesus' first words respond to their situation: "Peace be with you." Peace be in you, peace be your response to this situation.Why? At one level it is because a possible response of theirs was the same response as at the arrest, which was to strike out and resort to violence. It was to try to respond to their anger and frustration with hatred. Jesus' words are a response. His greeting is also a wish for them as to how they can respond to what has happened. He does not respond with hostility or with expressions of vengeance for those who had killed him; rather, his first response is peace.

The sending of the disciples follows from the way the Father has sent Jesus on a mission of peace, love, and reconciliation. As the Father has sent Jesus, so also he sends the disciples. They are to extend this mission of peace and the extension of God's love in the world. The gift of the Holy Spirit is their empowerment. The Spirit is what will give themthe energy, the inspiration, and the power to undertake this new mission. The Spirit is their authority.

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