On Easter Sunday morning I stood staring at the Bougainvillea (it’s a bush, in case you are wondering) growing in our back yard. It’s amazing the difference one day can make! Where we live, the Bougainvilleas die back during the winter. The thorny branches looked dead and dangerous. I wonder if the crown of thorns was made of similar branches. The dead branches gave little hope for the future. I spent part of Holy Saturday cutting away these branches. They filled half of our garbage can. The dead branches made it difficult to see the new growth coming from the stump of the bush. Where there had been death, all I could now see was life and hope!
If I was going to rewrite history, after Jesus’ death I would have the disciples in a secure room planning for the future; taking everything Jesus taught them and figuring out the best ways to share these lessons with a hurting world. In my version they would be filled with hope and excitement for the future Jesus made possible. This, however, is not what happened.
John 20:19 describes how on the first day of the week, after Jesus died on the cross, all of the disciples (except one) were in a locked house. Why were the doors locked? They were afraid of what the Jews (their own people) would do to them. Where was their focus? It was on fear and death. They were paralyzed by what the future might bring. If Jesus could die on the cross, what would happen to them? They didn’t see the miracle coming their way.
In this very same verse, we are told that the resurrected Jesus came and stood in the room with them (we aren’t told if he was closer than six feet). He said, “Peace be with you”. Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced! John 20:21-23 continues the story by saying: “Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them” (yes, without a mask) “and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’”
It’s amazing the difference one day can make! Jesus moved the disciple’s focus off fear and death, and back to their role as one of his disciples. He was preparing them to be sent out into the world on his behalf. This time, though, they combined receiving the Holy Spirit with the reinforced knowledge that not even death was more powerful than God! How well did Jesus get his disciples ready for their mission?
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, where is our focus? As Christian disciples, we are also being transformed by Christ to be able to share Christ with the world. Do we accept the power and hope Christ is giving to us, to share with others?
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: One of my favorite verses comes in the Book of Acts. The disciples had been afraid of being arrested, then it happened! Here is what we are told in Acts 5:40-42: “…and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.” What a change the disciples made!