John’s Gospel account tells us that it is Easter evening. Earlier in the day Peter and the beloved disciple had gone to the tomb – in the early morning, after Mary Magdalene came and told them that Jesus body was not in the tomb. They were perplexed and went back to where they were staying.
Mary, in the garden, saw the risen Jesus but thought he was a gardener. Eventually she recognized him after he called her by name. She went back to the disciples telling them “I have seen the Lord.”
They remain in the house – with door locked out of fear. Fear of being arrested by the Roman authorities and executed themselves. That night Jesus comes to them in the locked room, and stood among them – saying peace be with you. We can only imagine how frightening this would have been for them. No wonder his first words are words of assurance and calm – peace be with you.
Then to further assure them that it is him – he shows them his wounds so they know it was really their teacher and friend.
Jesus then breathed on them. That may initially make no sense to us – until we remember that wind, spirit and breath all have the same root word in Hebrew and in Greek – Pneuma – (like pneumatic or pneumonia). We may recall that in Genesis after God created humanity he breathed into them the breath of life. So Jesus breathing on them is a way of saying that they were being given the Holy Spirit. And with that gifting of the Spirit they receive a commission – they are sent….
However the book of Acts tells us that it was not until the feast of Pentecost – 50 days later – when the apostles most obviously and pointedly left the security of the upper room and the Spirit comes upon them dramatically as they became the ones who tell the story of faith and of Jesus to others.
If we really think about it this it speaks deeply about how we too are nurtured and grow in our spiritual life.
The Spirit of God is not a one time gift given at baptism. God gives the gift of the Spirit’s indwelling presence in many ways and at many times. This gifting of the spirit is a gift of love.
Similarly we don’t love our children once and then tell them to make it last for the rest of their life. We find many ways and times and occasions to let them know – we do this from infancy for as long as we are able. We also do the same sort of things with siblings, parents, friends, and spouses.
We know from our experience there are also many ways and times in which the kernel of faith within us and in others is be fed and nurtured as we grow into an active faithful life of loving God and of loving neighbor.
These disciples huddled in the upper room behind the locked door have begun the journey that gets them to Pentecost and beyond.
irst, they told their news to Thomas – and Thomas wanted the same kind of opportunity they had had to see and experience the presence of the risen Jesus. And it happened.
Even in the confines of that upper room they continued that growth in knowledge and spiritual understanding first by sharing story, and in breaking the bread and sharing the cup with one another. This growing grace within took them out of the upper room on Pentecost, and then helped them continue sharing their story of Jesus in places close & familiar and out into the vast unknown .
We know that we too have been given the Spirit in baptism, in communion, in confirmation, and in countless other ways. We have been given the peace of Christ, and through scripture, baptism and liturgy we have been told that we, like those first followers, are being sent out into the world to that place our gifts and values intersect with the worlds pressing needs. That is our Pentecost… our opportunity to emerge from the upper room and become emboldened to proclaim in deed and in word God’s love for all people and God’s desire for wholeness and healing for all creation and for all God’s people.
Like the disciples and apostles getting to that point is a process of telling our story, of hearing the story of faith others tell us, of receiving the grace and the gift of the Spirit that enables us to continue to believe in and grow into this commission we have been given
To be followers of Jesus
to be witnesses, to be doing the work entrusted to us – to be the heart, voice and hands of Christ in the world
Jesus said to them – to you:
Peace be with you – as the father has sent me so I send you…
Receive the Holy Spirit…
And you shall be my witnesses.