Year B Pentecost: John 20,19-23

20:19   In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week,

the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.

Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, 'Peace be with you,'

20:20   and, after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side.

The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord,

20:21   and he said to them again, 'Peace be with you. '

As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.'

20:22   After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit.

20:23   If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven;

if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained.


Mary Magdalene had discovered that Jesus’ tomb was empty. Peter and John had had a look and had made the same observation and had returned home. Then the risen Jesus had appeared to Mary Magdalene. Now we hear how he appeared to his disciples although they had hidden themselves behind closed doors. For fear, John says. I think for shame as well.


‘Peace be with you. Shalom.’ This greeting of Jesus is almost unbelievable. Shouldn’t he have said, ‘You, pack of losers, where were you when I needed you most? You who said that you would give your life for me? The three best years of my life I have spent with you and look at the result...’ Something like that? Nothing of that. On the contrary. ‘Peace!’ And it is no mistake: he repeats it. And then, to crown it all he sends them out, to do the same things he did before. He sends them, the losers of the age. He entrusts his spirit to them. Unbelievable.

This is exactly what Thomas says when he hears about it. ‘Did he say “Peace”? And he gave you a mission? You must have been dreaming. We would wish that it is like that. But didn’t he talk about his horrible sufferings? Was it really him? Did you see the wounds and the scars of his passion, the signs of the pain as a result of our failures as well? No, if it is true what you are saying - but it isn’t of course... But if so, then we are confronted with the mystery of the Holy One - blessed be his name; the One of whom our Holy Books tell us. So much forgiveness: it is impossible. I cannot believe what you are telling me, unless I may touch the wounds we caused him, and hear him say, ‘Peace be with you.’ But alas, our world is not like that.’

Our world isn’t, but our God: He is. So Jesus appeared again. And now Thomas was there as well. He invited Thomas, ‘See my wounds; feel the reality of the scars... Peace be with you.’

Thomas is the first to recognize the size of the mystery he is confronted with, ‘My Lord and my God.’

These words remind us of the very first lines of John’s Gospel, ‘In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God...’

Picture Meditation

For the picture meditation I choose a painting of Peter Clare, illustrating Jesus’ words as quoted in Matthew 10:09-14, the so-called ‘Mission Speech’ of Jesus. On this occasion he sent out his disciples for a period of learning. Jesus and his disciples are to be seen in an oval – today we would say: a bubble. It is striking that green plants are growing inside the bubble. On the left: Jesus in red. In front of him his disciples. The last one, who is turning away, may be Judas.

They are surrounded by scenes where people are to be seen in all kinds of troubles. The green plants which we see inside the bubble are nowhere to be found. A disciple of Jesus is present in every scene. They bring Jesus’ message of love and healing by doing Jesus’ things.

I take the time to discern what happens in every scene and what might be the role of Jesus’ disciple there. Is there a scene or situation in which my own experience is reflected? Is my need for help pictured somewhere? Or the moment when I was helping others?

Very nice is the little picture – inside the bubble - of two children playing football: the Lord also sends his disciples to people at play.

When I look at the world of today, where would Jesus’ disciples be most needed? And when I look at the circle of my family and friends…?

For whom am I a disciple of Jesus, actually?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ