19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
I may or may not have talked about the word “peace” before, but I have only recently discovered what it truly means. The Greek word used in the original text is eirene from the root word eiro, which means, “to join”. Maybe it was just me, but I never really thought of “peace” meaning “unity” before I learned the meaning of it. I usually thought of butterflies and rainbows and tranquility. Certainly, these things can be representative of peace if you look at it from a certain perspective. Even around Christmas time we talk about Jesus as the Prince of Peace, yet do we truly understand what that implies?
It means unity with God. Now, I previously would skip over the phrase “peace be with you” since it is a common Middle Eastern phrase and greeting. In this instance, I think it is more than just a formal greeting to the disciples. We read in verse 19 that the disciples were hiding in fear. I mean, their teacher and leader was just brutally drug into the courts, sentences, beaten and crucified. Now the body is missing. What does Jesus do when He comes back? He continues to give them instruction. After the commotion of the disciples realizing that it is truly Him, He says it again to make sure they get it…peace be with you. He follows it up with a charge, that He is sending them.
We read this back in John 14:27, when Jesus was talking to the disciples before His crucifixion. I believe His statement here served two purposes. For one, it let the disciples know that it was Him. He came back and started telling them the same things He told them before He died in private. Secondly, it was a reminder of what they are now to do.
This whole exchange is representative of what it means to be a Christian. First, we find unity with God, (imparted on us by Christ), then we receive the Holy Spirit, and then we are sent out. I think some people might have a problem with what He says in verse 23. We saw in Jesus’ ministry how radical it seemed to the religious leaders that Jesus was walking around telling people that their sins were forgiven. This was because according to their precepts, only God can forgive sins. So, the implication here is that if someone claims to be able to forgive someone of their sins, they are then acting like God.
What we must understand here is that the impartation of the Holy Spirit is the gift of the power of God. As recipients of this gift, why do we still cower in fear like was see in verse 19? Fear is the opposite of faith. This is why it is our faith that gives us the ability to utilize the power of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. If faith and belief is our trust in God, then for what are you not trusting God?
I feel the need to explain a key to this “equation”. It is easy for us to read through this and only see the end, that we have the power of God. We cannot forget, however, that there are two elements preceding: peace (unity) and being sent. The power of the Holy Spirit isn’t just some magical mystery that we get to walk around with throwing fireballs into the sky to look cool. Rather, it is used in conjunction with our relationship with God. This involves not only knowing Him intimately (peace), but also hearing His direction (being sent). It is then that we use this power to carry out what He has sent us to do.
I know when I read passages like this I tend to get excited and start looking for sick people to heal, demons to cast out, or even water to walk on. However, it is our unity with God and aligning ourselves with His Will that He sends us when we are ready.
Some of us have no desire to be sent by God to do anything. That’s ok, it just means you are still working on the “peace” part. Others have been sent and are going. Some are already exercising the power God has given them to carry out His will. I don’t necessarily think this is just a 3 step process, rather it is an ongoing cycle. As our relationship with God grows, He sends us out in different ways with growing responsibility to use His power in an increasing capacity.
Are you at peace with God? Are you in unity with Him? What fears are holding you back? Why don’t you have faith?