Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Breathed upon. No one likes being breathed on. Usually because there is a case of halitosis. Even when they’ve disguised the smell with mint or some such, the fact is that fallen human breath isn’t much of an improvement on dog breath. It has the tinge of corruption about it. It smells like it comes from an organism that is decomposing (which is truly what is constantly happening.) The same is true of all parts of the body, which is why we wash, bath, and (hopefully) brush our teeth. But not so for this man, Jesus, the one who has conquered death.
And so when Jesus, still the same day as Easter, fresh from the grace came and stood among His disciples and breathed upon them, it was like something they’d never experienced before. His breath was like the spring breeze, only sweeter. It was the smell of life, the sweet scent of eternity was upon it, and so, of course, it was alive with the Holy Spirit.
“Receive the Holy Spirit” our Lord said, as His breath was breathed out on them. They received the breath of a Man who would never die again, in whom there was no corruption. They saw flesh that was truly our flesh (they could still see the marks from the nails and spear!) and yet flesh totally unlike any flesh they had encountered before. He appeared out of nowhere – on the inside of their locked doors. In that flesh, He would just as suddenly vanish. And yet it was real, honest-to-goodness human flesh and blood He bore – and yet the breath! So sweet and so alive!
Breath of the Living Lord, air of the resurrection, the sweet breath of life, the fragrance of undying love, it blows on the disciples. And not just to give them tingles and make their hair stand on end. It blows with Words, with a change of status and a commission.
“Peace be with you,” from Him whose words mean and do something. This is peace with God given from the Word made flesh. As He taught them in the upper room on Thursday, “my peace I give to you, not as the world gives. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus doesn’t give a prayer and wish for peace but Himself, gives peace for you now.
Peace with God. Peace that only the crucified and risen Lord gives and proclaims. By His Spirit He changes who they are and what it is they do. No longer are they disciples, students, learners. Now they are apostles, ones who are sent. “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Sent to forgive sins. Their forgiveness is Jesus’ forgiveness.
The Risen One puts His forgiveness on the very lips of His now apostles, the sent ones. He gives them a word of peace that He sends them to speak to people huddling in the darkness in fear. A word of pardon for their betrayals. A word of grace for their ingratitude. A word of life for their embrace of death. A word alive with the Holy Spirit, a word that carries with it the sweet scent of incorruption, of the life that is to come.
And the point is that He went and brought this word of forgiveness to them behind their locked doors and in their fears. He came and showed them His body risen, His scars glorified, His life eternal. He said to them: “Peace.” Now, as the Father sent me. Sent me not just into the flesh, but sent me to you now where you were hiding in your fear, so I send you to them. To those who are hiding in fear. To Adam and Eve lurking behind the trees of the garden, wearing their pitiful fig leaves. To those who are hiding in the fear of their sin – thinking that there’s no hope for them, they’ve just done too much, and they are too awful to be forgiven – to them He sends His sent ones with a message of peace.
Jesus doesn’t chastise them for being weak and having doubts, (all of them do, they are all hiding in fear), He does not curse and say they aren’t good enough but He says, “Peace be with you.” And in doing so, in glorious resurrection Jesus is restoring to us the very breath of life, the breath given to us in the garden at creation, the Spirit of God.
And that you might not be in doubt at all, He sends His sent ones forth with a word of forgiveness that is targeted. Always remember that, the Lord’s Word, “in the stead and by the command of Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Not just a general proclamation that there is such a forgiveness, but a personal word spoken personally to sinners who hide in the dark. Even to Thomases who pay the penalty for missing Sunday Church and suffer the weakening of their faith. Just as the Risen One came to Him again in the assembly a week later and spoke a very personal word directly to him moving him from doubt to the bold confession: “My Lord and my God!” – even so He continues to meet His doubting disciples exactly where they are, in all their fear and uncertainties. He still breathes on them a word of forgiveness that carries the Holy Spirit who gives and strengthens faith and enables the confession: “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus still greets you with the same dialogue you and I regularly have, “the Lord be with you… and with your Spirit (or and also with you.)” We have this dialogue after the Lord’s Words in the Lord’s Supper as here Jesus comes and greets you, “the peace of the Lord be with you always,” and you respond in confidence that this is true, this is yours, Amen.
Risen from the grave He came into the locked doors of your heart and baptized you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Risen from the tomb He comes into your midst today to free you from your doubts concerning Him. He no longer says put your finger here but He does say, “Take and eat, take and drink for the forgiveness of sins.” He does not visibly display His wounds to you but He visibly gives you His flesh and blood to eat and to drink.
Jesus comes behind your locked doors, stands in front of your fear, and brings you a word of forgiveness and life that is anchored in His wounds, guaranteed by His risen body and alive with the undying breath of His Spirit. A word that breaks the shackles of the sin that haunts you and brings you exactly what He said: “Peace!”
Our sins forgiven, our life secured. And the breath of life will have on it in the tinge of the resurrection, the sweet smell of a life that never ends. The Holy Spirit, the breath of life is restored to you.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.