That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:19-22 (New Living Translation)
John’s Gospel tells us how it was the evening of resurrection day. Some of the women had told the other disciples a wild story that Jesus had come back to life. These followers of Jesus, in a locked room, were trying to believe the story but they just couldn’t shake the fear. What if the Jewish leaders started rounding up those who had followed Jesus? What if they put each of them on trial like they did Jesus? Jesus was crucified. They saw him dead, not mostly dead, really dead. What would the soldiers and religious leaders do to them? They made sure the door was closed and bolted from the inside and prayed like crazy. This atmosphere would have created a strong desire to pray.
Suddenly, Jesus stood right there with them. John knew right away it was Jesus, but how did Jesus get into the room? You know that startled feeling you get when you don’t hear someone coming and suddenly they are there? I think that is how John felt. “Oh I didn’t hear you come in. Wait, how did you get in here? I thought we had the door locked. Who let Jesus in?”
I can just see Jesus smiling and saying, “Peace, man.” Okay, or maybe more like, “Peace be with you.” The Old Testament version of this greeting is “Shalom to you” and it was an everyday greeting, but here Jesus has loaded this word with theological significance.
The Hebrew word, shalom, refers most commonly to a person being uninjured and safe, whole and sound. In the New Testament, shalom is revealed as the reconciliation of all things to God through the work of Christ … Shalom experienced is multidimensional, complete well-being – physical, psychological, social, and spiritual; it flows from all of one’s relationships being put right – with God, with(in) oneself, and with others.”
Jesus indeed brings Shalom to his followers. He reconciles all things to God. He is reconciling his followers to God and he wants his followers to be at peace. He shows them his hands and his side, to display to them that his wounds and his great love for them have reconciled them to God. The same is true for us. We have been reconciled to God by the wounds, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is the context of shalom within which Jesus says his next words. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Jesus has done the work of reconciliation on the cross and brought us peace. Now we get to join him and his father in the work of reconciliation. We have peace and now we get to offer this peace to others. For you see, we do have something to offer to this world. We can offer them the unconditional love of Jesus who reconciles the world by his submission to the cross. And let me assure you, this world is looking for unconditional love. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn will give you “likes” and even “loves” if you give the world the right things. But Jesus gives us real love, unconditional love.
Not only does Jesus invite us into reconciliation with God and invite us to join him in his Father’s work, but he gives us the power to do so. John tells us that Jesus’ next words were, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and then he breathes on them. Practically speaking, this empowerment by the Holy Spirit means that they – and we - don’t need to be scared of passing on the faith to others. We have the same power in us which raised up Jesus Christ from the dead.
Certainly, the world needs more unconditional love. We all want more unconditional love. Our friends want to hear more about unconditional love. They no longer know that there is such a thing as unconditional love. They have become so used to Facebook "likes" and "loves" and think these are the major kinds of love that are in the world. We can show them what Jesus has done for them, mostly with our lives, and also with our words. The unconditional love of Jesus that we have experienced and the faith we embody will be passed on to others as we simply allow ourselves to be authentic. If we will be ourselves and be authentic and vulnerable with others, the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of others as they see faith lived out in us.