"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:21)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." (John 20:19-21)

Why didn't Jesus' disciples recognize him?

Jesus said this after he appeared to his disciples following the death of his physical body.

When he appeared to them, they didn't recognize him. So he had to prove his identity by displaying holes in his side and hands:
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
But if Jesus' physical body died, how were they able to see the holes in his hands and side?

This isn't the only relevant question.

If Jesus was appearing in his physical body, how did Jesus get through the locked doors? 

John 20:19 states clearly that the doors were locked. If he appeared in his physical body he would have had to get through the locked doors somehow.

Furthermore, it states that Jesus showed them his hands and side. Why? Because they didn't recognize him. If he was appearing in his physical body he would not have had to prove it was him. They would have immediately recognized him.

Also there is the question about the wounds. The hole in his body's side was where they stabbed his body after the body died. If this were Jesus' physical body, it would be a mess. It would be leaking blood, entrails and decomposing tissues and organs. Jesus would be looking like some sort of blood-soaked zombie.

Instead, Jesus had to "show them" these wounds. This means they were not obvious at first glance. If this were Jesus' physical body, those deep wounds would be pouring out blood - or he would have lost all his blood if not. Maybe he would have had to lift up his robe to show his side, but his hands would be obvious. And his robe would also be soaked in blood from the hole in his side if this were his physical body.

So how is Jesus appearing to them? 

In an angelic ethereal appearance as arranged ultimately by the Supreme Being. This is why Mary didn't recognize him, and why his disciples didn't recognize him until he showed the wounds.

This is because our physical eyes cannot see into the spiritual dimension, nor can they see spiritual living beings. So Jesus had to appear to them in an earthly apparition that took on the appearance they could relate to.

Why did Jesus appear to them? 

It wasn't to somehow prove his greatness. Jesus didn't need to prove that he was great. It wasn't to eat with them.

The reason for his appearance was to illustrate to his followers that we are not these physical bodies. We exist after the physical body dies because we are spirit, not matter. That our identity is not physical - it is spiritual. 

Beneath these temporary physical bodies, we are beings made of spirit. This is why we are not satisfied with the things of this world. This is why we are constantly seeking love. If we were just physical bodies, we would be happy once the body was taken care of.

Ironically, many have completely missed this lesson. Many have become enamored by the concept that Jesus' body "rose from the dead" as if his physical body lifted off into the sky or something. 

Where would that physical body go then? Up into the clouds as Michelangelo imagined?

Where in the clouds?

They imagine that Jesus' physical body is walking around "up there" somewhere in the clouds, complete with the nail holes in his hands and feet and spike hole in his side. They imagine this place where people are just sitting around playing harps all day and having idle gossip in their old physical bodies, while God sort of floats around over them - or sits on a big chair all day - watching and judging.

Besides, they have never explained how those dead physical bodies could get up there after they lie decomposed in the ground - a pile of bones eventually becoming soil.

And as if the Supreme Being has nothing to do but watch and judge. What a boring existence it must be up there in the clouds - what kind of heaven is that?

And by the way, we have completely disproven this notion that people are sitting up in the clouds playing their harps. Once we figured out how to fly airplanes through the clouds we found out there isn't anyone up there at all, let alone playing harps. We didn't find any thrones or old bearded people with long hair either.

These musings about heaven are simply mental speculation, just as the musing that Jesus "rose from the dead" in his physical body.

Jesus - the person - the spirit-person within the physical body that was murdered and eventually decomposed - certainly did rise up out of his body, however.

The reality that we leave our physical bodies after they die has been proven thousands of times in clinical death research over the past four decades. It is a scientific fact, proven in clinical study.

Yet people still think we are nothing but brains and chemicals - as they did during Jesus' time. People doubted there was life after death, despite Jesus' teachings otherwise.

Jesus' students had to take Jesus' word for it that there was a spiritual dimension and we are spiritual beings. They had to take Jesus' word for it that we have the opportunity to return to the spiritual dimension after the death of this body - if we play our cards right.

This, in fact, was Jesus' mission, as he states clearly here.

What does Jesus mean by 'peace be with you'?

Jesus isn't talking about "peace" as in the opposite of war. The word "peace" comes from the Greek word εἰρήνη (eirēnē), which means "tranquility" and "harmony" according to the lexicon. Jesus is wishing them tranquility and harmony. Why does he say this?

Most of us in the physical world is always anxious. We are anxious because we are afraid. Why are we afraid? We are afraid we won't be respected. We are afraid that we will become diseased. We are afraid we won't have enough money. We are afraid we will die.

All of these fears make us anxious because we have little confidence in the physical world. We can see all around us that people are being embarrassed, getting sick, getting in car accidents, becoming poor, and dying. And this makes us fearful.

Why? Because we are falsely identifying with these physical bodies. We do not realize that we - the spirit-person within this body - will never die. We will never be subject to the things our body is subject to such as disease and starvation.

It is like a car driver thinking that when the car runs out of gas the driver will die. The driver of the car should know he can simply get out of the car and walk away if it runs out of gas.

So Jesus' appearance - and his words - were specifically intended to give his students clarity that their concerns of the body were unnecessary.

Why did he have to say this then?

Jesus said peace be with you because he was trying to settle his disciples. They were nervous. They were afraid. His disciples were concerned about getting rounded up and persecuted, as evidenced in the verse:
...with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders...
So they were in "fear of the Jewish leaders" because it was the institutional temple leaders who had Jesus' physical body killed. But Jesus is appearing to them to let them know that they don't have to be afraid. Just consider Jesus' statement from Matthew:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Matt. 10:28)
The word "soul" here comes from the Greek word ψυχή (psychē) which means, according to the lexicon, "the vital force which animates the body," and "a living being" and "the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death."

This is clearly part of Jesus' lesson and his reason for appearing to his disciples. Once they understand - from a practical level - that they will live on after the death of their body then they can now go about their mission without fearing death. Jesus is teaching this by example.

How is Jesus going to 'send' them?

Jesus is stating the clear element of his and their mission:
"As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
This states very clearly that Jesus is not God as proclaimed by some. Jesus is clearly stating that he was sent by God. A person who is sent by someone is clearly that person's messenger.

And as they deliver the message, they become that person's representative.

Thus we can accept - as Jesus defines himself - that he is God's representative.

Jesus wants his disciples to pass on his teachings.

First Jesus says "As" - what does this mean? "As" is being translated from the Greek word καθώς (kathōs), which means, "in proportion as," "in the degree that" and "just as".

So Jesus wants them to do as he has been doing. He wants them to represent him, and because he is representing God, he is wanting them to represent God as well.

This is how God's process of delivering the Truth to us works: The student follows the spiritual teacher and then humbly passes on those same teachings to others, in the service of their teacher. This is precisely what Jesus himself did. It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus accepted John the Baptist as his teacher, and then passed on those same teachings to others. This is made clear - though in general terms, with these three verses:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)
After John was imprisoned, it describes:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)
Later Jesus instructed his students to teach this same teaching:
"As you go, proclaim this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)
(The meaning of 'The kingdom of heaven is near' is discussed here.)

And we see this process of students passing down their teacher's teachings throughout the scriptures, despite many misinterpretations relating to father-son relationships. Check out Joshua's teachings, for example:
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)
Clearly, Joshua is passing on the teachings of his teacher Moses to his own students. Over and over we see this process when we look closely at the lineage of Prophets within the Old Testament.

The bottom line is that Jesus wants his students to become teachers. He is leaving them and returning to the spiritual dimension (in his spiritual form) to be with the Supreme Being. And he wants his students to pass on his teachings of love for God - just as Joshua was passing on Moses' teachings.

And like Joshua, Jesus wanted them to pass on the teachings of love for the Supreme Being, and the fact that the Supreme Being wants us to come home to Him. He wants us to leave our world of self-centeredness and return to the world of love and loving service to Him. This, and only this, can bring us fulfillment because this is the purpose for our being created by Him.

As for the spiritual dimension - there might be some harps there, but people aren't just sitting around on cloud banks with God floating over them. In the spiritual world, God plays with His uncountable playmates who love Him as their heart and soul, each exchanging a unique ever-fresh loving relationship with Him.

God is not an old man with a white beard as imagined by some. He is the most beautiful, ever-youthful, kind, generous, gracious, thoughtful wonderful person. He is the Supreme Being because He is the best. At everything. He has every trait that we admire in others or want others to have - but to perfection. He is the most lovable and the most loving. 

This is why God sent Jesus. To tell us that God is lovable, and should we love Him we will become happy. We will become fulfilled. This is the essence of Jesus' teachings:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)