The great mission

The great mission by the Prince of Peace

The Lord and Creator meeting his apostles
John 20:19–23

It is only after his resurrection that the Lord is greeting the apostles with: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19.21)! He is the Prince of Peace. What was foretold by Isaiah (9:6), what the angels announced at the beginning: “Peace on earth!” (Luke 2:14), now is taking place. Jesus confirms and applies his word from the Last Supper: “My peace I give you” (John 14:27).

The Lord is joining his apostles there where they are, closed, frightened, behind the barrier and expecting to be killed as their Master was. Their sentiments could be: disappointment, despair, disorientation and disbelief. Into their deepest unrest Jesus brings peace. This happens in the evening, like it was three days before, when they were celebrating Passover.

Then, on that evening, on the Mount of Olives the Lord had to say for the second time that he was Jesus they were looking for. Now, on the Easter evening he is also repeating twice his greeting: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19.21) The apostles could well fall down at the first greeting like the people who came to Gethsemane. His coming was so unexpected, surprising and extraordinary. He was dead, the door was closed, and the disciples were fully concerned with their fear. In the Old Testament it is especially Jonah who is known for the need to be sent on his mission for the second time.

The special sign to recognize the Lord on the Easter evening are the wounds. Luke’s Gospel is very direct mentioning that out of joy the disciples were not able to believe (Luke 24:41). Jesus shows his hands and his side. The role of John could be the crucial one. In John’s Gospel Jesus is not showing his hands and his legs like in Luke (24:40), but his side. It was the beloved apostle who leaned on the side of the Lord during the Last Supper (13:25); it was him who testified that his side was pierced on the cross (John 19:35); and he went to the grave, and he saw and believed (John 20:8).

“Seeing the Lord” is the biblical experience of the highest value. The prophet testifies about his vocation: “I saw the Lord” (Isaiah 5:1); similar report there is from Amos (Amos 9:1). It is something similar to Moses who was talking to God face to face (Numbers 12:8). The apostles standing in front of Jesus encounter the living God.

The Resurrection of the Lord is for the apostles not only a joyful celebration and peaceful contemplation of Christ. It is a mission. As the Father sent Jesus, so is he sending them” (John 20:21). The Father sent him to live on earth, to be human, to go through the entire process of being born and becoming adult, to pray and work, to receive baptism, to be servant of the hungry and sick, to be the Good Shepherd, giving his life for many… That is how the Father sent him. That is how he sends them.

It is in the description of the creation of the humankind that God breathed on the newly formed man. He gave him the breath of life to make him living being (Gen 2:7). Now Jesus is breathing on the apostles to give them the Holy Spirit – the Divine Breath. This is the new creation.

Interesting enough the mission given to the apostles is reduced to our sins. This way it becomes clear that the peace they received from the Lord was not only about their fear of the Jews, but this was also the peace concerning their uneasiness and unrest of the soul burdened by sin: Peter denied knowing Jesus; three chosen apostles – Peter, James, John – didn’t stay with him watching and praying, not for one hour (Mark 14:37); they all went away and left his Master alone although they all promised to stay loyal even if they have to die with him (Mark 14:31). “Peace be with you!” is the divine forgiveness for the apostles. This is the mission given to them for the whole world.

For personal reflection:
What is it in my life that the Lord had to tell me twice?
How do I see the risen Lord with his wounded hands and heart?
Am I engaged enough in the mission the Lord has given to me?

7 August 2011

Fr. Niko Bilić SJ



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