Locked In and Locked Out: Reflections on John 20:19-29

The firstgift Jesus offers is peace.He has promised in 14:27 to give his followers peace, and now, as the Risen Lord, he does so. Three times in this passage he says, "Peace be with you." It is at the same time both an ordinary greeting and an extraordinary greeting.

The number three is a familiar number in the gospels. Jesus undergoes three temptations by Satan. Jesus prays three times in Gethsemane that "this cup pass from me" in Mark's version. Peter denies Jesus three times. Then at the end of John's gospel, Jesus asks him three times if he loves him and he offers Peter forgiveness. The resurrected Jesus, who can pass through locked doors, offers the blessing/greeting "Peace be with you" three times.

The second gift Jesus brings is purpose. New Testament scholar Robert Kysar puts it well when he comments,

Christ's peace is not a passive contentment. He gives the disciples a second gift, a mission. Believers now becomes apostles (apostoloi) because Christ sends (apostello) them into the world. God's sending Christ is the pattern for Christ's sending the disciples. They are sent out of God's love for the world and for the world's redemption (Kysar, 159).

The third gift Jesus gives us is power. John's Pentecost involves no rowdy crowd and no tongues of fire. John's Pentecost is just a resurrected savior with a spiritual body who can pass through walls breathing the Spirit into our tired, fearful bodies. "He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit'" (Jn. 20:23).

When does Jesus come with this peace, purpose and power? When people are locked in grief—like Mary; locked in fear—like the disciples; and locked in darkness—like the world.

Knock on any door in your community, says Gordon Lathrop, and you'll find some kind of agony. We are called to leave the rooms we've locked ourselves in and go out—emboldened by the knowledge that we bear the peace, purpose, and power of one who bears the scars of his own pain, and can pass through any walls that lock us in or out.

Sources Consulted

Robert Kysar, Preaching John (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002).

4/1/2013 4:00:00 AM
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  • Alyce McKenzie
    About Alyce McKenzie
    Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
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