During the lockdown of spring 2020, it sometimes became quite hard to remember what ‘mass gatherings’ used to look like, but one of the more unusual mass gatherings of people in the last couple of generations has been the popularity of re-enacting major battles. I remember watching one about 30 years ago in Suffolk – truthfully I can’t remember which battle was being re-enacted, but I do remember noticing that ‘dying’ in the battle seemed remarkably popular. Later, I wandered past the beer tent and realised why…
What we see here in today’s passage is a far more important re-enactment, one with eternal and global consequences. The Gospel of John is all about new creation, a re-telling of the story of Genesis. It begins in the same way: ‘In the beginning….’ In ch3, Jesus meets Nicodemus and tells him that he must be ‘born again’ i.e. re-created. And here, in John 20, the risen Jesus does something which appears quite odd: he breathes on his disciples. Again, in this season, we’re not too keen on anyone breathing on us, but bear with me, there is a vitally important reason here.
What Jesus does seems odd, until you compare it with Genesis 2 – we looked at it way back on day 2 of these reflections. There we saw God breathe his divine Spirit into human beings. Now, here in John – the ‘re-telling of Genesis’ – our risen Saviour initiates a new act of creation. When Jesus breathes on his disciples, he is effectively saying: ‘you are each God’s new creations now.’ What a thought that is!
When we become Christians we don’t just ‘join a religion’ or ‘try to be good people’. It’s far deeper than that. We start a new life: we become new people, filled with the Spirit of God. Through the work of Christ, God is creating a new humanity, able to worship and serve him, to be the pinnacle of His creation that we were always intended to be. Or as St Paul summarises elsewhere: ‘If anyone is in Christ: new creation! The old has gone, the new is here.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
It might not often feel like that, as we wake up wearily on a wet Wednesday in February, or struggle to say a few prayers before we go to sleep – but that is who we are. Jesus has put His Spirit in us, and we are made new. And we can observe that two consequences of this new life in our passage are peace (v19) and forgiveness (v23). Because we are at peace with God, we can be at peace with ourselves, with others, with our world.
Why not let that peace rest in your heart for a few moments now? You are Jesus’ new creation. Receive the Holy Spirit. Let Him fill you with peace today.