Introduction to this study
For the second Sunday of the 50-day long Easter season, we encounter the risen Jesus and his disciples two more times. We also hear about peace and about the Holy Spirit.
19 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 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, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 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.
Backtracking: John 20:1-18
In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus’ empty grave “while it was still dark.” She runs and tells Peter and John Jesus no longer is in the grave! The tomb is empty, and the linen cloths/shroud are empty. Depending on the translation or version, the gospel reading for Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, uses the word tomb eight or nine times! Mary Magdalene recognizes the risen Jesus only after he addresses her by name.
“Peace be with you: so I send you!”
Both times, on Easter evening and the following week, the doors were locked, but even locked doors cannot prevent the Risen Christ from entering a space and being with us. After speaking peace on the gathered assembly (twice!), Jesus breathed on them. The only other occurrence of this Greek word for breathe in the Bible is in a translation of Genesis 2:7 “And God formed the man (a-dam) of dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being.” Humans then carried the breath of the divine within themselves.
1. How would you react or respond if someone entered a room despite closed or locked doors and windows? (The Greek uses the exact same word translated here as both locked and shut—you can’t get in easily.)
2. What is this about closed, locked doors? Here in the city? In rural areas? Metaphorically in our own lives and hearts?
3. What does “peace be with you” mean to you?
4. Passing of the peace on Sunday morning?
5. Does “so I send you” remind you of any other scripture passages? Where does God send us?
In the second paragraph, one week later, Jesus’ disciples again gathered together at the same place, and this time Thomas was with them.
6. What do you think of Thomas’ not quite believing it truly was the risen Christ? Of his needing or demanding physical evidence?
7. Do you think there are differing levels or trust and belief? Or does a person believe or not?
8. What spiritual, physical, or natural expressions of God’s presence do we find in our lives?
9. The presence and gift of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ in the sacraments?
Where we live: according to scripture
Jesus came to his disciples to guide them through that first week after his crucifixion. He blessed them with his presence, his peace and his Holy Spirit. Here in the gospel of John, Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit on the evening of the Day of Resurrection.
10. What does having the Holy Spirit in your life mean for you every day?
11. What does your having the Holy Spirit in your life mean for others around you?
12. When has God given you the gift of peace?
13. How is the Holy Spirit at work in your life?
Where we live: Easter is Fifty Days
Easter is not a single Sunday; Easter is not even two or three Sunday. Easter is a week of weeks (7 x 7). The Day of Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Easter! We also know every Sunday is a “little Easter,” one reason many people do not observe their Lenten fasts and disciplines on the Sundays in Lent.
14. How do we live in the Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ as Easter people every single day?
Final thoughts: What insights have you gained in this study?