Gospel Reading:   

John 20:19-23 (Option for year A.B.C)

Vs.19   In the evening of the 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,”

Vs.20   and showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord,

Vs.21   and he said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”

Vs.22   After saying this he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Vs.23   For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

 Historical Situation of Gospel for Pentecost.

John 20: 19 – 23

These five verses comprise the first part the Gospel that was read on the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Jn 20:19 – 31).  The importance of this Gospel is recognized by the fact that it can also be read in years B and C.

Where did it happen?  This took place in Jerusalem, probably in the same Upper Room where, a few days previously, Jesus had manifested His love for His disciples by washing their feet and breaking bread with them.  They in turn had professed their undying love and devotion to Him.

When did it happen?  It was the evening of the first day of the week – Easter Sunday- two days after the horrific events of Good Friday.   In our church tradition Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday.  It has its origins in a Jewish Feast that celebrated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.                                                                         Who was there?  Jesus and the disciples.  Thomas was not present.

Jesus is now in a glorified state.  He is the same person – He “showed them his hands and his side”  to reassure them of this but His bodily form is now different.  This is why He was not immediately recognised on occasions when He appeared after the resurrection.

The disciples, behind closed doors, have been plunged into sadness and grief.  The brutal execution of their friend and leader and their abandonment of Him in different ways – denial, running away – leaves them with feelings of shame and guilt and a deep fear of the Jewish authorities.

What happened:

Jesus came behind closed doors and stood among them.  His first words were “Peace be with you” and He later repeated this.  There were no words of condemnation, accusation or recrimination.  His greeting showed mercy, love and forgiveness.  By showing them his hands and side he was emphasising the reality of Good Friday – there was to be no pretending that it hadn’t happened.  Now that they had been forgiven, they were ready to go out and bring that spirit of forgiveness to others.  The way the gift of the Holy Spirit was transmitted to them by breathing on them has strong echoes of the creation of man in Genesis 2:7 and also in Ezekiel 37: 1-10.  Breath comes from deep within us and Jesus gave of His deep self when He gently breathed on them.


Can you remember an experience when you personally, or your family, or your community, suffered behind the “closed doors” of sickness, grief, failure, or fear, and some “Jesus person” came behind those doors and breathe new life into you- “Receive the Holy Spirit” – and inspired you with a new energy and enthusiasm for life, and filled you with a new belief in yourself and in your future?

–       Remember how that person bent over backwards –came behind “closed doors”- in order to reach you at that time.

–       Remember how that person greeted you from the heart with great sincerity and with understanding and without judgement “Peace be with you” – and it touched you very deeply.

–       Remember how that person was not afraid to be open and vulnerable with you about their own “wounds” in the “hands and side” – and in doing so gave you courage and strength and hope.

–       Remember how that Jesus person gave of himself/herself to you with great gentleness, trust and love – just like “breath” – and gradually awakened new life in you.

OR remember when you have been the one to come “behind the closed doors” and minister to others in their pain.

Can you remember an occasion when, to your surprise, you were given a new task or mission in life, and you felt honoured and privileged to have been chosen and trusted; so much so that it ignited a new spring in your step and fire in your belly?

OR Can you remember entrusting a new task to someone, whom you were now satisfied had learned an important lesson from experience, and was now in a better position to carry it out?

Can you remember a beautiful experience of forgiveness, from somebody you had wronged, and you just knew it was the forgiveness of God working through the other?

OR You were the one to show that forgiveness and you knew in your heart that it could only be God’s doing because you felt incapable of it on your own?

Can you remember an occasion where you were unwilling to show forgiveness to someone who had wronged you; or an occasion where someone had refused to forgive you; and consequently, in both instances, the “sin” still had power over you?