Summary: Jesus' Easter evening appearance to the disciples launched their ministry after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into them.
So, here it is, the evening of the first Easter Sunday. What an insane week for the disciples. No wonder they were hiding behind locked doors. Just think about it for a minute. Barely a week prior, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to people shouting:
“Praise God! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD! Hail to the King of Israel!” (John 12:13 NLT)
They celebrated the Passover together in the Upper Room; Jesus washed their feet before the meal.
It was at this meal Jesus predicted one of the twelve, Judas, would betray him. He also prophesied Peter’s three-fold denial.
Over the next few days, Jesus taught them about things like Heaven (14:6), the Holy Spirit (14:15), staying connected to Him (15)…He gave them a new commandment, you remember, he said: “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (John 15:12 NLT)
He warned them that the world wouldn’t be impressed with their newfound faith, but also explained the Spirit’s presence with them.
Jesus again and again predicted his own passion, death and resurrection.
And, in what we refer to as his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed for the disciples: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21 NLT) (Somebody’s going to write a dissertation on that one day.)
After a fitful night of prayer and discernment in a garden called Gethsemane, Jesus was indeed betrayed by Judas, one of the original twelve. He was tried by a kangaroo court of corrupt Jewish leaders, mocked, beaten and turned over to the roman authorities.
Finally, in exasperation, Pontius Pilot had Jesus flogged and then crucified.
You know what happened next, we’ve talked about it over Holy Week. We walked along with Jesus as we experienced the “Final Journey.” (The Final Journey is our version of Stations of the Cross with dramatic readings and a set designed to represent the last hours of Jesus life on earth.)
After slow death on a cruel Roman cross, Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb and left for dead.
Oh, but we all know better than that don’t we? We were here last week, weren’t we? We remember Mary Magdalene discovering the empty tomb, running to find Peter and John, returning with them to the tomb, only to be left behind in bewilderment. Until…until Jesus spoke to her.
“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” (John 20:15 NLT)
Of course Mary finally recognizes Jesus and runs to tell the others. “I have seen the Lord.”
Now, along in here somewhere, between when Mary Magdalene sees Jesus and when Jesus apparently walked through locked doors to join the disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus connected with two travelers walking along what we have come to know as the Emmaus Road. That story is recorded in Luke’s Gospel as taking place on Easter Sunday as well.
So, when we read the disciples are locked away behind closed doors it’s understandable because they’ve been through a lot already. Add to everything they’ve been through the very real danger of being hunted down by either the Jewish leaders or the Roman guard and you have the makings of a very highly stressed group of people.
Experts tell us human beings are stressed by danger. What is called a “fight or flight” reaction is the usual stressed response. The disciples opted for flight. They ran away. Had Jesus not come to see them that night, they may have never ventured out into the light of day again.
Perhaps Jesus understood their condition, perhaps he knew their fears, perhaps he knew that without a visit from their teacher his earthly efforts would have died that night. So, Jesus enters… “Peace be with you,” he says. Much has been made of this greeting, but Leonard Sweet insists it was just a casual greeting of the day, much like I might simply say, “Hey, how y’all doin’?” My insurance agent is an elderly gentleman originally from Mississippi. He always greets my call by saying, “Hey, how you?” Today, Middle-Easterners greet one another saying, “Shalom alekem” “peace be with you.” “Hey, how you?”
Perhaps Jesus’ casual greeting was meant to alleviate their fears. Sweet calls it almost comically mundane.
Despite the casual greeting, there is obviously a purpose to the meeting. Jesus shows his friends his hands and side. Instantly they are filled with Joy. The women, Peter and John, the Emmaus Road travelers were right, Jesus IS alive!
As the excitement in the room settled a bit, Jesus looked at those gathered there, once again offered his Peace greeting, then he did a strange thing. Look at the passage: