Reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter, May 22nd
As the reality of the Resurrection sank into the minds and hearts of the first disciples of Jesus, they must have been faced with many questions. He was the same person, yet different! He wasn’t an angel or a spirit because he interacted with them – they could touch him; he ate and spoke to them – yet he could appear through locked doors and they didn’t always immediately recognise him. What they were experiencing was utterly new and utterly unexpected.
A central question for them must have been, “What now?” Did his resurrection complete his mission or was there more? After all, his resurrection had shown that his message of love and forgiveness was correct all along. Did there need to be more? Could they not simply bask in his resurrection knowing that they, and Jesus, had been vindicated by God?
And what of their hope that he was the long-awaited Messiah? They knew that the Messiah would usher in the Kingdom of God, defeat his enemies once and for all, restore God’s chosen people as rightful rulers of the Earth, and then take his place as King of the eternal Kingdom of peace and justice.
There was no sign of that at all. Why were the hated Romans still ruling them and every day desecrating the Temple? Everyone knew the Romans would only be defeated by might and power. If Jesus was Messiah, where was this might to come from? Surely, he was not expecting them to raise an army, was he?
Everything was utterly different to what they expected. Everything was new, and strange and confusing.
There was a joy that he had risen, and they could see him again and talk to him again. His resurrection was victory for them and in this there was hope and a certainty that God was still on their side.
Yet the risen Lord was different in some way and in this there was doubt and confusion. Those who had killed Jesus were still out there and they were still powerful. The disciples had every reason to believe that they would be next to die. It must have been an almost surreal time for them, a strange mix of hope and fear, joy and sadness, confusion and certainty.
They huddled together, locked away, trying to make sense of all that was happening.
Did they miss something? Had Jesus prepared them for this, and had they misunderstood? Surely, if they went back over what he said to them, the stories he told, the things he did, they would find the hints they missed, and they would be able to piece together the future for themselves.
I can so easily imagine them doing this in their locked and bolted rooms – remembering, re-telling, pondering, discussing, praying, disagreeing, arguing, searching……
…And what we have in today’s Gospel, are some of the results of this searching. They are remembering things he said to them, only now they can see what they missed originally. He was telling them what to expect; He was telling them what would happen; He was promising them that he would never leave them; He was offering them a peace the world could never offer because his was offering them God’s own peace.
Sometimes these Gospels can seem repetitive, like single statements put together in a kind of list. They appear like this because that is what they are: individual memories of things Jesus said to them, only now, after the resurrection, they see meanings they missed when he first said them. He was promising them things – wonderful things – and they missed them. He was leaving them gifts – wonderful gifts – and they didn’t see them. He was telling them not to be afraid, that his Spirit would be given to them, and, somehow, they forgot it!
It happens to all of us. People say things to us or do things for us and it is only later that the penny drops and we suddenly see what they meant. It is the ‘light-bulb’ moment, the ‘ah-ha’ moment, the ‘eureka’ moment, the moment of insight, which makes everything different afterwards.
These moments come suddenly, but usually they are the result of questioning, doubting, pondering, searching. Pentecost, which we are preparing to celebrate in a couple of weeks, is the great ‘ah-ha’ moment of the early Church. It is when everything Jesus said and did ‘suddenly’ made sense. The peace Jesus offered; saying that the ‘father and I are one’; coming to ‘make their home within us’; all of it suddenly falls into place, because Jesus did die on the cross, drawing all sin and evil onto himself, and he did rise from the dead, in glory, and he will be with us forever because his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will be “with us always, to the end of time.”
When we read the Gospel today, we are, I think, being invited to take each statement: –
“If you love me, keep my word…”
“We will come and make our home in you…”
“My word is the word of the one who sent me…”
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be sent by the Father in my name…”
“…to teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you…”
“Peace I leave you…”
“A peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you…”
“Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid…”
“I am going to the Father…”
“When all this happens, believe in me.”
…and read it, as the disciples in their locked room read it, in the light of the Cross and Resurrection. All of Jesus’ life was inevitably leading to Easter. The disciples didn’t see it at the time, how could they? It was new and unexpected. It was a totally new way of being Messiah, and it could only be the risen Lord who showed them this.
But when they did see what they had missed… a fire was ignited in their hearts which could never be extinguished.
We are the inheritors of that same fire.
Look at the news tonight; look at yet more images of poverty and disaster and war and death, and, for a moment hear Jesus whisper in our ear, “Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid…. my Spirit, the Holy Spirit, like the dew-fall, is in all of these places. You cannot see the dew fall but it sure wets you! Maybe you don’t see my Spirit either, but it is there. Trust me. I know. The Father and I are one.”
This is who we are called to be. It is the fire ignited on the first Pentecost…It is the Holy Spirit…It is Jesus, risen from the dead.
If you have any comments, questions or thoughts on this scripture reflection, please feel welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org