19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
I’m sure we have all heard the expression that something beautiful or scary or amazing to see can “take our breath away”. We have probably also experienced moments in our lives when we’ve attempted something like riding a roller coaster at King’s Island, or jumping into a cold lake, or maybe experiencing the birth of a child where it “took our breath away”.
Perhaps we have also had moments in our lives filled with fear or anxiety, times where we feel like our breath has been taken away.
Or maybe we are like the writer of this song, Anna Nalick, “Breathe (2 AM)” that says:
There’s a light at each end of this tunnel,
You shout ’cause you’re just as far in as you’ll ever be out
And these mistakes you’ve made, you’ll just make them again
Breathe, just breathe
We maybe feel trapped in situations that we feel like we can’t get out of on our own. We feel caught and out of breath and in need of a “light at the end of a tunnel” or maybe out lives are like being underwater and we need to get to the surface for some air, to breathe. We get caught in these moments and wonder “what’s next?” And, can we handle what’s next?
Our text this morning has a lot to do with moments like this, moments in our lives when we need to breathe, breathing that brings life, and not just any life, but life as it was meant to be lived.
Right after Jesus’ death on a Roman cross and resurrection from the dead. Jesus appears to his disciples. I’m sure they were overwhelmed, in shock, and wondering what was going to happen next.
They were locked in a room, afraid of the same folks who had just crucified Jesus and fearful that they would be after them as well. They were wondering if there was a light at the end of the tunnel of fear that they were experiencing, the uncertainty was overwhelming, not sure what to think about what’s going to happen next. The room was shut, and probably the lives of those disciples were in a state of being shut down from fear. There was probably a war of emotions going on within them.
Into this room, this state of anxiety, Jesus appears and has the greeting “Peace to you”. The word “peace” in this context is a common word, but in this context, it meant the world to the disciples. They needed peace.
They had to be overwhelmed in seeing Jesus, but Jesus’ physical presence was also comforting. Our passage this morning says that they rejoiced and they were strengthened by having seen the Lord.
Jesus gives a charge to those disciples, an imperative command. Just as the Father had sent Jesus to the world, Jesus was now sending the disciples out from behind shut doors into a crazy world desperate for hope. A world full of fear, full of conflict…a world desperately in need of peace.
Then, something happens, Jesus breathed on them. This word “breathe” in this passage is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 where God breathes life into humanity, giving us life. Jesus is in effect saying that he is the Son of God, God in the flesh, giving life to the disciples. Jesus was not only bringing peace to the disciples, but breathing life into them. The verse goes on to say that Jesus gives another imperative, to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus was breathing the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, God’s presence on to the disciples. The Holy Spirit, God’s Spirit, the unifying power of God would bring the disciples together, giving them confidence and power to be who God created them to be.
In verse 24 of this passage, we see that one of the 12 disciples, Thomas, wasn’t around to see Jesus the first time he appeared in that room. 8 days later though, they are hanging out and Jesus appears. It’s interesting to note that these same disciples who had just been blessed by Jesus showing up and breathing on them are scared and locked up in that room again! Yet, Jesus breaks through the walls again…gives them a peace blessing and then addresses Thomas. Thomas wants more tangible evidence, so Jesus gives it to them. Jesus doesn’t want to shame Thomas, this passage isn’t here to give reference to Thomas’ unbelief, but it’s here to give hope to those who haven’t seen. The writer of this passage is giving a direct address to those reading in verse 31 that these things have been written for you…for us.
Friends, we may be living in fear, in anxiety. We may have just witnessed Jesus’ very resurrection in our lives…we may even have lived our lives in expectation of God’s faithfulness to us. Yet, here’s Jesus…appearing before us, walking through any barriers that we may be hiding behind. Calling us out of the four walls we’ve enclosed ourselves in…giving us himself, breathing new life into us, and calling us towards the next thing…a full life with him! Thomas and the rest of the disciples were living in fear, in disappointment. They were tired. Yet Jesus came to them, and comes to us…he invites us to know his scars, to touch the pain that has been inflicted upon him…to believe that he has overcome all things, even death, and so can we as we are Christ’s body!