On the evening of that first Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to the disciples (excluding Judas and Thomas) in the upper room, where he showed them his wounded hands and feet. John describes this in John 20:19-23. This narrative is followed by the story of Jesus’ engagement with Thomas. And John ends the chapter with a reflection on his version of the Gospel – that he has selected from the numerous stories about Jesus these few, whose purpose it to facilitate our belief in Jesus, so that we may enjoy the fullness of Life.
John’s purpose in the John 20 narrative is to guide the church towards the end of the first century to be a resurrection church – a church that is centred on the risen Christ, empowered by Holy Spirit and focused on Christ’s work of forgiveness and reconciliation. But this is hard when you are 60 or more years away from the living Christ Jesus. Because of this distance in time (most of the eye witnesses had passed on) John’s message is of particular relevance for us who live two thousand years distant.
This is quite a long sermon for me and our parish – sorry about that! But I hope it moves quite briskly and provides some food for thought about a fascinating and rich passage in the Gospel narrative. To assist with the denseness of the message, I provided my congregation with a slip of paper with the nine points (yes, nine!) written down. Here they are:
- This is the start of Sunday worship for Christians – resurrection Sunday.
- Jesus’ body is still physical, but also transformed – it does not conform to the laws of nature.
- Christ stands in the middle of us, and is the centre focus of Christian life and worship.
- Jesus’ presence bring peace (Shalom) and is his central message.
- Jesus’ transformed body retains the wounds in his hands and side, and are assimilated into the triune Godhead at the ascension, so that there is now woundedness within the being of God.
- Jesus commissions his disciples (including us) to be his presence in the world – when people see us, they should see Christ.
- Jesus imparts Holy Spirit to us – we have Holy Spirit in us, not as power and gifts, but as the relational presence of God within us.
- We are given the ministry of forgiveness, which Paul calls the ministry of reconciliation.
- All of this culminates in a statement of faith – a creed – ‘My Lord and my God’.