October 9, 2023
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ “
At this point in John’s gospel, the disciples are devastated, disoriented, and afraid. Just a few days earlier, they watched Jesus die. They saw him breathe his last breath. And as the rock rolled into place and sealed the tomb, their worlds turned upside down. Now, they are gathered in a locked room, unconvinced that Jesus is alive again. John’s gospel doesn’t explain how, but suddenly Jesus appears in their midst and offers words of peace as He displays the scars on his hands and side. And, we are told, the disciples are glad to see the Lord. Then again, Jesus offers words of peace. But these words of peace probably weren’t what they expected. Jesus gives them peace as he sends them out.
We often think of peace as the absence of hardship, conflict, strife, or challenge. Perhaps for the disciples, peace would have sounded more like staying put than going out. Their idea of peace probably included a day-to-day ministry with Jesus, not going out into the unknown without him physically by their side. If we are honest, we often resonate with them–we’d rather stay in our comfort zones socially, financially, spiritually, and relationally. But, in this passage, Jesus does not offer peace in staying. Instead, he offers a peace that sends them out. His mission is clear: to spread the good news of the resurrection to the world. And he invites his disciples to join him. It has been the mission of God all along.
Peace is found in sending because they do not go out alone. Rather, they are sent out with great power–with the very presence and power of the Triune God. They are given the confidence that they are not commissioned by mistake but with the same intentionality and purpose as Jesus himself, sent by the Father out of his great love. Jesus, the one sent from God (John 3:17) is now the Sender, making it clear that the mission of God continues as the disciples go forth and spread the good news. They are sent by Jesus and given the Holy Spirit. The Jesus who just a few days earlier breathed his last breath, now breathes the very source of life on them, giving John’s readers a glimpse of what will come later and more fully at Pentecost. They are sent out with power and with peace, to be agents of peace.
Their commission is ours as well. We are sent ones, going out with the power and peace of the Triune God. May we be faithful to this invitation as we go out from our comfort zones, and may we truly embody a peaceful presence in a world that so desperately needs it.
Stephanie Formenti holds a MA in Theological Studies and oversees discipleship ministries in the chapel department at Covenant College. She is married to Gustavo, and together they served in South Africa and Brazil before calling the Chattanooga area home. She is mom to three children and is a member at New City Fellowship East Lake, where Gustavo is a pastor.