Scars to Show
The Gospel of John was written at about A.D. 85 a considerable number of years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was written at a time when Christians were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus, the Son of God. John wrote the Gospel not only for his own Christian community but also for all Christians everywhere and for all times. In part, he wrote it to deal with their fears and suffering, and to strengthen their faith in Jesus as a way to restore life in them. It is in this context that we examine the Bible text before us.
It is written that the disciples had come together in the upper room, they had locked the door for fear of the Jews. In the midst of their fears Jesus came and stood amongst them and said, “Peace be with you!” They were the first words of the resurrected Jesus to his disciples. When Jesus says something, it becomes a reality. He has the power to change our lives. Those words “Peace be with you!” would have had a calming effect upon the disciples. They are healing words, comforting words; they are words that are the fruit of forgiveness and of restored relationships.
After Jesus had comforted them, he showed them his hands and side, the scars of his torment and death on the cross. This would have been an uncomfortable moment for them as they remembered their failures, abandonment, and lack of faith in Jesus. That was a time when their fears robbed them of life and left them with guilt. That moment of remembrance in the upper room was short lived as Jesus’ words to them, “Peace be with you” turned their fear and guilt into joy. They had received forgiveness through the giving of the peace. Furthermore, when Jesus showed them his hands and side it also meant that he had overcome death, and that there is life after death. Jesus revealed himself as the Lord of eternal life for everyone. His appearance in the upper room gave them the encouragement and confidence to step out of their fear and into life with him. His presence in their midst and the giving of peace turned their fear into joy.
Like the disciples, we too have fears, various kinds of fears that keep us locked away from life. Through fear we can make wrong decisions in our life that can lead us into further pain. Sometimes, decisions made in fear are made because of the lack of faith in Jesus and his promise of life for us all. We all have various fears in our life for example: talking to people even here in our congregation, a fear in public speaking, a fear of talking about Jesus to others, a fear for the well being of our children, a fear in saying sorry, a fear of cancer, a fear of pain and death, a fear in starting something new, a fear of financial loss and insecurity, and then there are the numerous phobias of snakes, spiders, elevators and so on. The list is endless in the things that inhibit us from a fulfilled life and rob us of peace. In the words to his disciples, Jesus also says to you, “Peace be with you!”
Jesus continued and said to his disciples in the upper room, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
Again, the words “Peace be with you” also prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit. Our relationship that has been blemished by our unfaithfulness has been restored by Jesus. He has forgiven us our sins and continues daily to forgive us as he comes into our lives through his Word. We are prepared through his Word to receive the Holy Spirit. In our very own Lutheran communion liturgy the Peace is said by the Pastor before the distribution of the bread and cup through which we also receive the Holy Spirit. Just a note: In our Lutheran theology, it teaches that we receive the Holy Spirit through the Holy Word of God, through Holy Baptism, and through Holy Communion.
Therefore, as Jesus has prepared us and given us the Holy Spirit we can go out from our own room of fear and go out in peace, joy, and a life in Jesus. He has come to us in the midst of our fears and restored us to life, and in like manner he calls all of us to go and do the same. We can go out to bring peace into people’s lives. There are people amongst us: in our family, friends, neighbours, in our congregation who have various spiritual, emotional, and physical sufferings while others amongst us have the scars to show that they have risen from it and now have a new life. Those with the scars to show can bring life to those who are still suffering. At times it is difficult for a person who suffers to see further than the pain and fear within them, unless someone can help them by showing their own scars and the new life that they have now. People need to see that there is life after death; they need to see and hear that there is life after pain and suffering.
The Para Olympics is a good example and witness of people with disabilities who have scars to show and yet have risen above them and into life. They would be an encouragement for many who suffer similar tragedies. Likewise, Christians who have struggled and grown in their faith need to share their experiences so that others who are silently suffering and doubting their faith in Jesus can be helped and rise once more into life with Jesus. There is a time to speak about Jesus and his saving work for all people, and another time to simply meet that person’s immediate need whatever it may be to give them peace.
Jesus continued and said, “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” In the context of the gathered disciples in the upper room and the grace of Jesus in the midst of them, then those who have scars to show are called out to go and to forgive, to provide healing, and to give peace to all in need so that they may have life. Through the giving of peace to others they are prepared to receive the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of the saving grace that Jesus has provided for them. But for those who cannot forgive, then it is impossible for them to give peace since they are in need of it themselves. Although, Jesus was the innocent victim of our sins, yet he rose above seeking justice or vengeance and instead gave us peace with him. Can you do the same? And finally, in the words of Jesus, I say to all of you, “Peace be with you!” Amen.