Readings 1 John 5:1-6 and John 20:19-31
Of the death of Jesus, Mark writes, Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Matthew writes, Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.
Luke writes, Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.
John writes, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
And now, here in the locked room with his fearful disciples, Jesus stands among them and breathes again, giving them the Spirit. That which was given up, lost, and commended is once again Jesus’ to give. Jesus lives and breathes: the breath of resurrection, the breath of victory, the breath of salvation is breathed upon his disciples. Jesus stands amongst his disciples and gives to them the Spirit that was upon him in his ministry. The very things that crucifixion seemed to snuff out (his breath and Spirit) are here revealed as vibrant, present, and ready to be bestowed. The cross was not the end, death did not win the day, the tomb could not hold him – hell has been harrowed, death robbed of its sting, and here (as testament to that victory) Jesus demonstrates that he is the one who can lay down his life and take it up again, breath his last and then breath again, give up his Spirit and then give it again.
And in this power, in this breath and Spirit, the Christian is created.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
The Christian is one who has received the Spirit of Christ to follow in the way of Christ. The one who has received the breath of new life in order to live the life of Christ. The one who has been forgiven in order to take up the ministry of forgiveness. The one who has received the peace of Christ in order to proclaim peace on earth. The Christian is the one who is sent by Jesus in the same way Jesus himself was sent. The Christian is one who has received the breath and the Spirit and thus can live according to these words of Christ:
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
The Christian (and thus the church) is created in the breath of resurrection and the giving of Holy Spirit in order to do the works that Christ himself has done. The Spirit makes it possible for the Christian to live in the way Christ lived, minister in the way Christ ministered, to be (as the church) the very body of Christ in the world today. As Christ himself kept no power, blessing, or gift to himself (even his breath and Spirit is proved to be not his own but ours) so we keep no power, blessing, or gift to ourselves. All we have received from Christ is ours to serve and bless others. All we have gained from Christ’s perfect righteousness is gained so we may become the righteousness of God for the world. Having been reconciled to God in Christ, Christ has made us ambassadors of reconciliation.
The peace Christ offers, the hope Christ brings, the affirmation of his presence and power to the disciples is not solely an act of consolation (though it is that) it is an act of commissioning. Following their scattering at the threat of the cross, Jesus spends the days and weeks following his resurrection gathering up those who were lost. In his tender mercy he restores them as his friends and disciples. Having been restored, they are then sent as he himself was sent - to do greater works than these. Sent as he himself was sent – with the power and peace of the Spirit. Sent as he himself was sent – to make disciples. Sent as he himself was sent – to proclaim good news and the deliverance of the captives. Sent as he himself was sent – to forgive sins and make a new family. Sent as he himself was sent – that we might have life and have it in abundance!
In the season of Easter we celebrate: Christ is risen. The cross could not claim his last breath, death could not claim his Spirit, and the tomb could not claim his body – these were his to lay down and his to take up again. And having taken them up he gives them generously to those who follow after him, so that we might live as he lives for the world he loves!
Image: Nalini Jayasuriya (Sri Lankan, 1927–2014), The Great Commission, 2002. Mixed media on canvas, 28 × 53 in.
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