So Jesus Sends You

John 20:19-31
Len Scales
April 11, 2021
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We’ve spent the last seven weeks in dialogue with Jesus during his farewell discourse in the second half of John, and as we live into the post-resurrection Easter season, we are sticking with the disciples a little longer.

In today’s Gospel reading, we find the disciples locked behind closed doors. Mary Magdalene has seen the risen Jesus and heard him speak her name, she’s told the rest of the disciples, and still they are hidden away. Their fear and grief remain. I imagine the disciples are bewildered and exhausted. It is there in the rawest memories of trauma that Jesus shows up and says “Peace be with you.”

Jesus offers peace to them, shows them his wounds, and sends them out as the Father has sent him.

Grief, trauma, exhaustion—these are experiences that may hit a little too close right now, more than a year into the pandemic and a fresh national reckoning with the sins of white supremacy and greed. Jesus shows up to us here, in our own homes, with masks in hand, and says, “Peace be with you.” He invites us to look at the wounds of the Body of Christ, the Church, and to then be sent out.

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

How has the Father sent Jesus?

Throughout John, Jesus does many signs. The first half of the gospel, the section before the passages in Nassau’s Lenten series, focuses on these signs.

  • Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding in Cana.
  • Jesus heals those on the margins.
  • Jesus feeds the 5,000 with the help of a young child.
  • Jesus raises his friend Lazarus back to life.

These signs are miracles that disrupt illness and death, they upend the expectations of the crowd, and they care for and celebrate the community.

Even if miracles don’t follow in the wake of our sending, we do have the opportunity to point to signs of Jesus in our own time. Witnessing to the Lord of Life and caring for the world God created leaves marks of love.

In 2018, when Andrew and I led a group of students to the Taizé Community in France, their theme for the year was “Inexhaustible Joy.” I was re-reading the pamphlet the other day searching for some joy. This following piece of wisdom stood out with our series in John and our Scripture passage from today in mind. Taizé shares, “Remaining alongside those who suffer, and weeping with them, can give us the courage, in an attitude of healthy revolt, to denounce injustice, to reject what threatens or destroys life, or to transform an impasse.”

As Jesus comes alongside those who suffer, he not only walked in solidarity with them to the point of death, he changed lives and conquered sin. Jesus’ transformative love is disruptive to all that threatens to pollute creation and hold people captive.

In Dave’s Palm Sunday sermon, he preached about Jesus the Disrupter. This week, we hear Jesus send his disciples, and, in turn, send us who follow him today. I imagine if Jesus and his works are disruptive, so those who follow him are called to be disruptive too—disrupters of systems that fail to care for our neighbors. disrupters of situations infused with hate and ignorance, disrupters of life not marked by the fruit of the Spirit.

Perhaps like the disciples, the disruption Jesus exhibits and sends us forth to continue feels bewildering, scary, or uncomfortable. All those emotions are reasonable in the face of turning the world upside down, and that is why it is such a comfort and encouragement to hear Jesus say three times over, “Peace be with you.”

With the peace of Christ and the Advocate, the Spirit, that continues on with us, we have the courage to look at the scars that disrupt an easy narrative. We can go out together with love into a world in need of empathy. We can be sent to listen to the people of God that show up in the most unexpected places testifying that they have seen the Lord.

When we follow Jesus to the waters of baptism, it is a disruption. We mark the turning from sin to new life. We hear God call together a family in the Church that goes beyond biological genealogy. We are called to care, nurture, and learn from each other as we experience and remember our baptism.

For us today, baptism is usually a welcome disruption, a beautiful one.

There are harder disruptions needed in life too. It is now common on college campuses for students to have active bystander training—it’s a way to plan to disrupt a situation where a friend or peer or stranger might be in harms way. There are several “D’s” to help remember options as an active bystander, the three I want us to think about this morning or direct, distract, and document:

  • Direct—be direct in asking someone to stop
  • Distract—focus on the person targeted and help remove them from the situation
  • Document—record video or write an account of the situation

All of these active bystander disruptions were used last memorial day when George Floyd was killed. The Daily podcast on Thursday, lifted up several of the testimonies this week from the case determining the consequences to Derek Chauvin, the officer who had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for what we now know was over 9 minutes. The collective trauma of those who testified was palpable, even as they had documented, worked to distract, and directly intervene on the scene that day. I pray that Jesus’ words of peace eventually surround and hold these active bystanders as they process their own traumatic wounds.

Are we willing to look at the wounds and hear the witness of:[1]

  • Darnella Frazier, who at 17 recorded the video that has been seen around the world. Her documentation catapulted tens of millions of people to protest and call for changes in society for the wellbeing of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.[2]
  • Donald Williams, 33, a mixed martial artist who directly called out the police in the moment for the life threatening hold Officer Chauvin was using.
  • Charles McMillan, 61, who tried to deescalate the situation by speaking directly to George Floyd attempting to help him calm down while being choked.

I want to make clear that I do not think you have to watch the extrajudicial killing of anyone. I haven’t seen the video and I choose not to voluntarily watch beatings or killings. I am grateful I have that privilege. AND I think it is important to not bypass the real trauma in our world, to listen deeply to the testimonies of those who are witnessing to the wounds in our society.

Are we willing to stand with Jesus and look at the wounds? Are we listening to the unexpected witness like Mary Magdalene? Will we be obedient to Jesus sending us into the world with disruptive signs of love?

In Amy Plantinga Pauw’s commentary on our Scripture reading today, she writes “John 20:19-31 is a guide for being an Easter community where the wounds of crucifixion are not denied, where the continuing reality of death and failure and drama is not covered up, where our laments find a communal home alongside the joy. Resurrection faith means having the courage to look at our wounds” (p.215).

It is disruptive to acknowledge wounds and it is another step to be an active bystander after initial recognition.

Our small, independent acts of disruption are, of course important, but so are our collective acts. Jesus sends us, all those who follow him, to heal and feed and celebrate—these signs are disruptive in the best way for our communities and, eventually, for all of creation.

And as we are sent, we hear, “Peace be with you.”

Peace be with us.

Peace. Peace. Peace.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/08/podcasts/the-daily/derek-chauvin-trial-george-floyd.html?

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html