Breath

Fear and hope were a discomfiting mixture for the followers of Jesus.
They gathered in the evening, all except Thomas, to hear again the stories of the witnesses. With what they had been through, they needed more than excited women and men who had failed when the moment of testing came—they all fit that category!—to dare to believe that Jesus was alive. The Jews were still in power and Roman soldiers patrolled every street and alleyway on full alert, all looking for the followers of Jesus. There were plenty of crosses available for rebels such as these misguided fools.

For this feast, fear was the only menu item and there was plenty to go around. All of them feasted, except for Mary and the other women—they had no doubt. Other sources tell of us of other encounters between women and the corporeal figure claiming to be Jesus in the garden of the tomb. Peter seemed on the verge of believing but they all knew he could change directions at a moment’s notice. Who could believe John, the dreamer, the mystic, whose overriding love for Jesus could lead to error as likely as to truth?

Gathered together that evening as the same watching full moon, only somewhat reduced in size from the night in Gethsemane, looked down, lighting the world around their closed windows and tightly shut doors. There was no singing, no mirth, only fear and faith doing an uncomfortable dance.

“Jesus Came and stood in the midst…”
With no suspended cymbal roll or trumpet fanfare, (We would add those things much later.) Jesus suddenly stood among them. Mary Magdalene may have, for an instant, heard a chorus of angel voices singing in that same strange harmony employed by the two angels in the tomb, but we cannot be sure. Jesus had breached no door nor any window, but there He was—very present and very real. It seemed there was no air to be had in that room though each observer sought in unison to breath. Could their eyes deceive them? In the hearts, the combat between fear and faith rose to a heretofore unseen violence. Into this pitched battle Jesus spoke, His voice clear and unmistakable.

“Peace be with you.”

Fear, like a defeated foe, forsook this battleground and faith took the field. Jesus held out his hands for inspection. He pulled back His shining white robe for their eyes to see scars where nails had pierced them marking his graceful hands and where a deep gash marred His side. These were all they needed to completely believe—Jesus was alive and He was with them!

Slowly at first and then with a rush, they closed the circle around Him, hesitantly and joyfully touching Him—again. With each touch, faith mounted in each heart. With faith, a solemn call to mission began to sound in each of them. Jesus confirmed this inner impulse,

“Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

Remembering His Words
Each of them, as the Spirit led them, remembered in unison all the words of Jesus predicting their joy after their sorrow. It was only the beginning of such an inborn education. He had told them about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to come. When the sounds of wonder receded a bit, Jesus, gathering their complete attention, breathed on them, saying:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The forgiveness of Jesus through their witness to the Jesus Story would change the world one heart at a time.

Scriptures:
John 20:19-23

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Romans 6:5-11 NKJV
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, You are the Victor—You conquered death; there is no doubt. You are the Redeemer—You destroyed sin, the destroyer. You are the King—You rule over death, hell, and the grave. You hold the keys to them all! I will follow You because by faith I have seen the scars in Your hands and feet and in Your side. “Draw me nearer, nearer, Blessed Lord!” Somehow, Your open wounds still heal those who are sick and release those who are bound. Your blood, poured out once and for all, still flows to our salvation, healing, and to our victory over evil. Amen and amen.

Song:
I Am Thine, O Lord

Words: Fanny Crosby; Music: W. Howard Doane

1. I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice
And it spoke Thy love to me.
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Refrain:
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To the cross when Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

2. Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the power of grace divine.
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope
And my will be lost in Thine.

Refrain

3. O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend.
When I knee in prayer and with Thee My Lord
And commune as friend with friend.

Refrain

4. There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.

Refrain

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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