|photo by Valerie Lynn Jones|
As Passion Week comes to an end, I found myself wondering how Jesus' disciples felt in the days after His death.
Many of them fled as He was arrested then questioned and beaten. One of His closest denied that he knew Him - not once, but three times. After His body was laid in the tomb, the disciples hid together in fear. They did not yet understand what was taking place.
Did they realize they were waiting for Him to rise again? Did they wait with eagerness and hope, or worry and despair? Were they confessing to one another everything they should have done differently? Were they asking each other why?
I wonder if they felt abandoned. Or if they simply felt broken and empty. After spending so much precious time in His presence, listening to His teaching, being filled by His love, and amazed by His powerful works - He was gone. Violently and tragically ripped from their presence. Did they seek God for comfort?
I wondered all this as I pondered my own struggles during Passion Week. The needling temptations, the latent discontent, my feeble attempts to keep leaven out of my spirit and my stomach. And at the end of Lent, in the middle of Passover, after experiencing such a precious closeness...why this uncertain struggle? Is this how the disciples felt?
Then I read how He rises from the dead and He appears to those He loves, saying:
“Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit."It was as if the Creation was taking place all over again - and maybe it was.
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.Jesus fulfilled the most perfect and complete act of drawing us close to Him through His sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. And then He returned to His disciples and He breathed on them. He pulled them up out of despair and grief, out of the haze of confusion, and the ashes of the mourning. And He breathed His breath of life on them.
Receive the Holy Spirit, He said.
The first time since Creation that mankind was so intimately close to God that human breath and God's breath were one. Man's spirit and God's Spirit entwined.
It would have been enough for Jesus to die as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, so that we could stand righteous before God.
But He drew closer.
It would have been enough for Him to die, then rise from the dead on the third day - conquering Satan and the grave - so we could live in victory over spiritual death.
But He drew closer.
He breathes on us and He pours out His Spirit to dwell within us.
I am constantly amazed at how much God desires to be with us.
I am not sure how close to God the disciples felt during those three days without Jesus. But He made it clear that the events of that week were not about what we can do to be close to God. It was about what He did to be close to us - as close as breath itself.
Even Peter, the one who denied knowing Him, received the breath of new life as Jesus lovingly reinstituted Peter's purpose and the Holy Spirit filled Him.
And so as I wonder and ponder my closeness to Him and He reminds me: My Spirit is in you.
This week is not about what I have done or not done, it is about what He has already done and where He now dwells. I have a purpose and everything I need already within me to do His good work and be close to Him.
So breathe. Breathe deeply. Let Me be close to you and rejoice in what I have done!
I went running this morning, for the first time in 40 days. I made my 3.1 miles without stopping and without falling over in pain, praise God! And my time was comparable to what normally run when training: 10min/mile. I certainly did not lose out on much.
But it was a little harder since it had been so long since my lungs filled so deeply with air and my blood became saturated with oxygen. Just feeling fullness of life surging through my veins again...just learning how to breathe again.
Thank you, Lord, for your blood and your breath that permeates every part of who I am - for fullness of life. He is risen indeed!