So, when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
–John 20: 19-22 NASB
What were you doing three days ago? If you’re reading this on the day it is first posted, then today is Friday. What were you doing this past Tuesday? What kind of day was it for you? Did anything happen that changed the trajectory of your week? Do you remember any specific conversations you had with Jesus that day? Did you read any specific passages of scripture that stuck in your mind?
While reading the scripture passage today, it can be hard for us to put it into the same emotional context as when it originally happened. But three days before Jesus’ famous entrance into the locked room, He had been preparing the disciples for His departure. Three days before He spoke peace to them, He spoke words that sent them into disquiet and confusion. “Lord, we do not know where You are going; how do we know the way?” (John 14:5 NASB); “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about” (John 16:18 NASB).
That Thursday evening Jesus knew that a lot of what He was telling them was going over their heads and not landing in their hearts – at that moment, they simply didn’t have the capacity to understand. So, He also told them something else, something that even if they didn’t understand it fully, it was meant to bring them comfort: “But now I am going to Him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:5-7 NASB).
Sitting there in that locked room that day, fearing what the Jews might do to them, my guess is that none of them were thinking, “Gee, I wonder when that Helper Jesus told us about is going to show up? I wonder if we’ll recognize him when he gets here?” If we’re to take the chronology of verses 19-21 as true, it’s not until after Jesus shows them His hands and His side that it says, “The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord” (emphasis mine).
And I bet the rejoicing was loud and boisterous, with lots of hugging and crying and shouting and laughing. And in the midst of all of the rejoicing, Jesus breathes out words of comfort and truth: “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you . . . Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Maybe this week has brought new challenges to your life. It’s natural to respond to challenges with some measure of confusion, “What am I supposed to do about this?” and the often unspoken fear underlying the confusion, “Do I have what it takes to meet this challenge?” In our confusion and fear, we’re invited to remember the promised Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent into His followers as they are sent into the world, to face the challenges of this world in His power. You do not have what it takes to meet the challenges of this life in and of yourself; but you do have the power of the Holy Spirit to help you as you are sent. Take a minute and become aware of the way in which you specifically need the Holy Spirit in your life today. Then tell Him of your need and your desire to allow Him to fill that need in you today.