Today the story of Jesus visiting his followers on the first Easter Sunday is in the Gospel of John 20:19-31. (To see the words of the Gospel, click here.)
It is the first day, Easter Sunday; the whole world has changed. Look at the close followers of Jesus. What are they doing? They are hiding and thinking and worrying, why? On Good Friday they all ran away. They left Jesus to suffer and die an awful death; nailing to a cross was the worst suffering the Romans could cause a person. Who stayed with Jesus? A few brave followers, some women, a young man. They stayed with Jesus to the end.
The other followers, where were they? Hiding, afraid, locked in a room. Then early on Sunday morning the women came; they knocked on the door. They were very excited. They said the big rock was rolled away; the tomb was empty. They saw angels; the angels said, “Jesus is not here; he has risen. He is gloriously alive. Go, tell his followers.” Peter went to see; it was true! The tomb was empty; the body of Jesus was gone. What did it mean?
The men waited; they were nervous, afraid. They loved Jesus, yes, but they were weak. They were not brave enough to stay with Jesus when he died. They wondered was it true? Jesus alive? Maybe they remembered the times Jesus said he was going to suffer, die and rise to new life. They did not believe it then; but now maybe it is true. Jesus truly died on Friday; did Jesus rise to new life? They were nervous, afraid; will Jesus reject them? Will Jesus want to punish them? They do not know.
They are embarrassed, afraid. Then they feel something happening in the room; they look up. Jesus appears. Jesus’s first words are what? “Peace be with you.” They cannot believe it. Jesus has to say it again, “Peace be with you.” The words mean Jesus does not reject them, does not want to punish them. He wants to forgive them. He uses the word “Peace”; it means full life with God, to be fully happy with God.
Immediately Jesus wants them to know clearly it is Jesus himself alive with them. He says, “Look at my hands and feet. You see the holes from the nails. It is me really alive. Touch me. I am not a ghost. It is me, truly me, alive with you.”
What does it mean on that first Easter morning? Jesus wants to forgive them; he knows they are weak; they failed; they sinned. No matter. Jesus wants a relationship with them again; he wants union with them. He says, “Touch me; see it is really me. Now you and I are united again. I Jesus forgive you for everything.”
Jesus wants the same with you and me. You and I love Jesus? Yes! Perfectly? No, not always. Sometimes we fail, avoid him, sin, prefer my way, not Jesus’s way; yes. But no matter; Jesus wants full life with me, with you. Jesus wants full union with you, with me.
Then Jesus breathes on them. He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It means Jesus gives his life-breath to them, and to us. His life is in them, and in us.
Then we have the story of Thomas. We think Thomas was not there because he did not care; he did not believe Jesus was really alive. We think Jesus should reject Thomas; Jesus should pick someone else, a better person. No. Jesus wants union with Thomas; Jesus wants a relationship with Thomas. So Jesus asks Thomas to touch him and know Jesus is truly alive again. Jesus wants union with Thomas and with us always.
Did they understand Jesus fully? No. But they knew Jesus showed them how God wanted them to live and to be happy. By union with Jesus they and we know we will be happy and have peace.
The followers loved Jesus, yes. But their faith was not always strong. It is the same with us. You and I love Jesus, but sometimes we are weak; our faith is weak. What to do?
Let me tell a story: A man was on vacation. He went to a small cabin in the forest. He was alone, feeling lonely, depressed. Something was wrong in his life. He could not feel God was with him. God seemed far away; God didn’t care. The man’s faith was weak; maybe he was losing his faith. He prayed to God. He promised he would do anything God wanted; he wanted God in his life; he wanted peace in his heart. He promised God, “I will do anything you want.” Then something strange and wonderful happened. He felt God began to talk to him. God said, “Begin to live the way Jesus wants you to live. Do good things for other people. Help them; serve them. Stop thinking about yourself always. Think about the good you can do for other people.” Then the man made a decision, “I will learn what Jesus wants me to do and I will do it.” He began to do everything differently, to have a different life. He failed many times; he sinned a lot. But he began to change, to live the way Jesus wants. The man found peace in his life. He found God again in his life; his faith became more strong every day.
When we feel our faith is weak, we need to live the way Jesus wants, to do what Jesus wants, and we will have faith again; we will know God is with us always.
We are like the followers of Jesus on Easter. Sometimes we feel lost, confused, weak, sinful. But Jesus always comes into our lives and wants a deeper union with us. He does not reject us; he wants to forgive us; he wants to lead us closer to him. When we accept Jesus more fully into our lives, then we know peace, happiness, joy, and all good things.