19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
As the Church moves from a season of centering into one of rejoicing, we, the body of Christ, remember and participate in the resurrection. Congregations around the world gathered, hearing the many meanings of the empty tomb. And then, they must decide what to do next.
In John 20: 19-23, the disciples feel utterly defeated. Not only that, but they are also fearful of facing the same brutal persecution their teacher underwent. Amidst the fear and uncertainty, however, Jesus appears among them. The one whom they knew to be dead was alive. And they rejoiced! But Jesus leaves little time for idle praise, and instead sends the disciples out with the Holy Spirit just as he was sent by God. Sent to do what? In the first chapter of John, the author tells us that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (v 18), and chapter three states that God sent the Son to save the world. The disciples received the commission we all receive as believers in Christ, to save the world through God’s grace and truth. With them, we struggle through fear and rejoice in renewal. Then we realize we all must answer the post-Easter question: What next?
What might our lives look like when carried out in the example of the living Christ? Throughout John, as well as the other synoptic gospels, we see Christ consistently caring for those who are the most vulnerable, those whom society had stopped helping or simply hearing long ago. So, to minister to those least among us is to take on the mission of Christ. To minister to them is to save the world. Often times this can seem like an oblique or abstract challenge, one associated with fear, uncertainty, and defeat. However, in Illinois, such an opportunity has arisen that is both clear and concrete. In the devastating budget crisis in our state, the safety nets for the poorest citizens are in danger. The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program is under consideration for a drastic cut, even though the number who depends on it has grown considerably during the economic downturn. This is a program designed to protect children from living in destitution and to provide opportunities for families facing extreme poverty. Are these not the very people Christ left in our care, as he breathed the Holy Spirit onto us? Isn’t protecting these people what is next?
Christ is risen indeed, and as we celebrate the continual resurrection among us, we remember that Christ sends us just as God sent Christ: to plead for the worthiness of all creation, even those whom our culture has discredited. So make a post-Easter phone call to Springfield and fight for the ones Christ cared for most. Tell your legislators you have found what is next.