Environmental Stewardship Commission
(MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota
Lectionary Reflection
Second Sunday of Easter, Gospel Lesson
Year A, Year B, and Year C

John 20: 19-31

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." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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 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."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 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."

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." 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." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" 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."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Reflection on John 20: 19-31
by John Gibbs, Ph D
written for Year A, Second Sunday of Easter

 "Becoming People Who Are Safe for the World"
(Ecological Covenant)

So inclusive a term as "life" (20:31) has in many quarters been reduced to the confine of one individual, a reader of the Fourth Gospel.  However, the perspective of this gospel is not so narrow.

An author whose Prologue reaches back to the Creation, who interprets Jesus in terms of the originating Word (logos) or Wisdom of God, whose "Book of Signs" (as CH Dodd described chapters 2-12) presents Jesus as Bread of Life and Water and Light and True Shepherd---that author does not lose his cosmic perspective when he states why ("so that," 20:31) he wrote this gospel.

What does it mean to "have life in his name"?  It means to participate in "the life" (not life in general merely) that "was the light of all people" (John. 1:4).  It means becoming "children of God" who live in service of the Creator's purpose, who brought into existence not only you and me but also "all things" (1:3).

To "have life in his name" is to participate in, and be faithful to, the "Peace" that Jesus brought to his resurrection community.  "Peace be with you" was his steadying word, three times spoken: first, for the disciple-group within themselves (20:19); second, for those being "sent" into the world at large (20:21; and third, for Thomas the Doubter and all those after him who "have not seen and yet have come to believe" (20:26; cf. 20:29).

Three times Jesus chooses from all available vocabulary the word "Peace" that had so long and rich a meaning.  Peace embraces: wholeness of life, health and soundness of body and spirit, restoration from brokenness into unity, a state of harmony between you and me and between all humans and their earth-home.  It is the Peace of connectivity, communication, all Creation in its pristine wholeness.  John wrote his gospel so that we could, by "believing" in Jesus the Messiah, participate in all that life of Peace.  By so doing, we become people who are safe for the world.
 

Reflection on John 20: 19-31
by John Gibbs, Ph D
written for Year B, Second Sunday of Easter

What is repeated is emphasized.  “Peace be with you” is the clear emphasis of this text.

Peace displaces fear, for it enters where doors had been locked out of fear (20:19).  Peace is what the crucified hands and side proclaim—really an astounding contrast between the chaos of horrible death and, on the other hand, the stable peace that the Crucified One brings.  This peace is “sent,” it is on the move, being dynamic in its inner stability: “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (20:21).  Peace comes alike to those who saw Jesus then and to those who later had no chance to see his physical/spiritual existence on earth (20:29).

The Risen One, who is our Peace, overcomes fear and death and the stillness of inaction (being “sent” nowhere, having no purpose).  Such peace is “life” (20:31), and it was for the sake of this peaceful existence that the Fourth Gospel was written.  It is not a peace that can be contained within the fellowship of the saints, not a peace that is the special privilege of the Church to keep within itself for itself.

It is a peace that is sent, that moves on through God’s People into the world at large, including the whole creation, as the Prologue to this gospel makes clear.  Likely that prologue was written after the gospel was written.  If so, the cosmic language in this introduction is all the more important as a way of summarizing the message of the whole gospel.

The purpose of this gospel (20:31) is not to report exhaustively all the indications (“signs”) of Jesus the Christ’s true identity, but to report selectively those “signs” (those inspired “Ah Ha” moments) that disclose both who Jesus was for us and who we are becoming (what “life” we will have) in relation to his essential character (“name”).  This gospel begins at the creation, presents the One who is our Peace, and aims toward our living out in all relationships the vibrant life of the One whose name we bear.  It is not curiosity that is being satisfied, not for Thomas nor for the other disciples nor for us, but it is a life that is being transferred.  Seeing is not believing.  Believing is seeing.

Especially within contemporary imperial America, with its audacious uses of unilateral military power, it is especially important that the nature of God’s peace be made unmistakably clear.  This is not the peace of imperial Rome, but instead the most fundamental challenge to that imperial kind of peace.  The presence of the U.S. flag within our sanctuaries has misled many people.  “Peace be with you” does not bless the status quo of our economics and politics.  This peace is on a mission, it was “sent” to us, it “sends” us on beyond where we have been, and it embraces the whole creation.
 

Reflection on John 20: 19-31
by Teri Mann
written for Year C, Second Sunday of Easter

The Story of Doubting Thomas

Most of us are familiar with this story, but have we considered the profanity of the words and actions of Christ?  "Peace with with you."  "Peace be with you.  As the Father sent me, so I send you."  He breathed on them 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."  "Do not doubt but believe"

"Peace be with you," repeated many times in this gospel.  "Peace be ...".  A present time statement, that calms us and assures us of Christ's presence, and of our existence in that presence.  "... with you." joined together, with us.
"As the Father sent me, so I send you."  Acknowledgement of our shared position, a part of the process. of life.  A shared position of responsibility, of action.

He breathed on them 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."  A powerful statement, breathing on them, reminiscent on the breath of life, receiving the Holy Spirit, again a charge to action.  To forgive or hold on.  That we have the power has Christ has to forgive sins.  That we have the power to forgive or to retain sins.  and We have just been charged to be sent out like Christ was sent out by the Father.  Wow,  what does he want us to do?  What did he do with that same sending out?

"Do not doubt but believe."  again a powerful action statement, that pushes us to action, to set aside our doubts of the process and believe.  That our doubts can be acknowledged but that we have the charge to believe, to trust that we have been sent by Christ as the Father sent Christ, being given the gift of the the Holy Spirit, to forgive sins or to be burdened by retaining them and to believe.

Copyright statement

To Reflections on other Readings for Year A, Easter 2:
Old Testament
(Hebrew Scripture)
Genesis 9:8-16
Psalm 111  or
Psalm  118:19-24
 
New Testament
1 Peter 1:3-9 or 
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
no reflection available
Gospel
John 20:19-31
this page
General Reflection on these Readings for the Easter Season

To Reflections on other Readings for Year B, Easter 2:
First Reading
Acts 3:12a, 13-15, 17-26
or 
Isaiah 26:2-9,19
no reflection available
Psalm 111  or
Psalm  118:19-24
 
New Testament
1 John 5:1-6 
or
Acts 3:12a,13-15,17-26 
 
Gospel
John 20:19-31
this page

To Reflections on other Readings for Year C, Easter 2:
First Reading
Acts 5:12a, 17-22, 25-29 or 
Job 42:1-6
no reflection available
Psalm 111  or
Psalm  118:19-24
 
New Testament
Revelation 1:(1-8) 9-19
or
Acts 5:12a, 17-22, 25-29 
 
Gospel
John 20:19-31
this page


John Gibbs, a retired theologian, attends Trinity Episcopal Church, Park Rapids, MN.   He originally wrote his Year A  reflection in 2002 and his Year B reflection in 2003.  He and we welcome your comments.
Teri Mann is a member of St. James' Episcopal Church, Fergus Falls, MN. She originally wrote this reflection in 1998.  Teri and we welcome your comments.

Please address your comments or additional reflections to John Gibbs, Teri Mann, or any MEESC member, or mail them to:
 

MEESC
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The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the web site.


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