Resurrection and relationship

The doors were tightly locked shut. Inside the room that Sunday evening, the occupants shifted nervously in their chairs or paced the floor. Nerves were frayed. Emotions were stretched to breaking point.

The despair had been hard to bear. All their hopes and dreams had been cruelly shattered. Not just an intellectual argument lost, or a Scriptural interpretation defeated, but a brutal, sickening death by execution had ended it all. What they had come to believe in – who they had come to believe in – was gone.

The One they had hoped was the Messiah was dead and buried. The One who they had looked for to save Israel from their sins was no more. More, their close, much-loved friend had been horribly maimed and killed. Death – the ultimate, tragic, final end.


They remembered with startling clarity their last night and final meal together. He had washed their feet! The job of the most menial servant. He had specifically told them “I will not leave you as orphans; I will cometo you”. He had said, “Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 20:19-20). What did that mean? He had left them. He promised to send them the Comforter (verse 16). Well, they were in sore need of comfort.

And he had promised them peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (verse 27). Right now, that seemed a very long way from their experience. Had it all been a mistake? Had he let them down? Where were those promises right now?

He told them over and over that night to love one another. He said it was a new command, to love one another as he had loved them. They weren’t feeling the love. Further, he told them that as the Father loved him, so he had loved them. Wow, that was a whole lot of love – love beyond measure – to be talking about. He told them to abide, remain, or make their home in this love (15:9). His prayer was that they would be “one”, as he and the Father were “one” (16:11) – whatever that meant. Well, they were one in grief, sadness and loss, but apart from that it all didn’t make much sense.

Threat and confusion

And then they had realised their own safety and survival was under threat. Anxiety and worry blossomed into heart-pumping stress as they thought of all the powerful forces that had come together to destroy Jesus. The High Priest, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who had been set on killing Jesus. Would they be next? Why would they be left free to wander around now that their leader had been killed?

And if that wasn’t enough, now there was an element of confusion entering their group. Mary had run crying to Peter and John that Sunday morning and told them they had taken Jesus’ body out of the tomb, “and we don’t know where they have put him!” she exclaimed (John 20:2). Mary, Joanna, and the other women who had gone to the tomb had then told all of the apostles. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).

Nevertheless John and Peter had run to the tomb to find out what was going on. John got there first, looked in, saw the linen and the empty tomb. Peter ran up and went straight inside. John followed him in. Peter bent over and peered intently at the strips of linen, then went back “wondering to himself” (Luke 24:12). Something stirred deep in John. He went quiet. And “believed” (John 20:8). Yet as a group, they did not understand or comprehend. “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (verse 9).

As they were thinking through all these things, their heads about to burst with contradictory thoughts and emotions, Mary came back to the assembled disciples and announced that she had actually seen Jesus – the risen Lord. What were they to make of this?

Relationship and Mission

Still in a state of fear that Sunday evening, suddenly Jesus appeared in their midst. It was true. He was alive, risen, resurrected. He stood among them, and his first words to them were “Peace be with you!” (verse 19). Here was that peace he had promised. Not just the absence of trials, suffering and difficulties. But peace in the midst of whatever life throws at us. Not just peace in a worldly sense, but “my peace”, as he had promised them. We actually share in the peace of Jesus himself. Not our worked-up peace, but his generously given and shared peace.

Because Jesus isn’t just a dead Saviour. He is a living one. He hasn’t just done his work, the work of Atonement and the work of the High Priest (the whole book of Hebrews), but he has an ongoing, continuing ministry. A ministry to us, and one in which we are invited to participate. Jesus ascended back to the Father, sharing the glory they have had since before time, and continues his ministry and mission through the Spirit.

A second time he said to them “Peace be with you!” and then he said “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (verse 21). He sends us to be a part of his mission from the Father, of love and service to all mankind. Of “loving one another as I have loved you”. Of humbly, graciously and faithfully being Christ to all we meet, to those in our circle of friendship and acquaintance. Caring for the lost, lonely, hurting and marginalised. Helping the broken and needy. Sharing practical help, hope and encouragement as we spread the love and life of God. As we participate in Christ’s peace, we participate in his mission. (We don’t have to panic and stress about our sending – we rest in Christ and his peace and ministry.)

And then Jesus says a third thing to the assembled disciples that night. He breathed on them and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” (or, in a direct play on words, “Receive the Holy Breath”) (verse 22).

This peace, this love, this sending, this mission is in and through the Holy Spirit, the promised Comforter who would be with us and in us. This is how we are one, as the Father, Son and Spirit are one. Through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father, Jesus continues the Father’s mission on earth – in us, and through us.

By Jesus, through the Spirit, we are made sons of the Father, adopted as much loved children. We are included in that circle of life and love that is our Triune God. Paul could say “we are raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). He could even say “God has raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”, to show the richness of his grace and kindness (Ephesians 2:6). This is the new life of the new covenant, resurrected life, shared life with Jesus. Life in relationship with the Triune God and one another.

Peace. Spirit. Sending. Participation. Relationship – for ever. This is why we joyously celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter time.

-John McLean