John 20:19-31 “Locked by Fear; Sent in Peace”
April 29, 2011 – Caitlin Trussell
New Beginnings Church at Denver Women’s Correctional Facility
John 20:19-31 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
Think for a second about fear. Fear as you’ve experienced it in your own life. What does it feel like to be afraid? What does it smell like to be afraid? What does it taste like?
Let’s recap the last three days of the disciples’ lives to this point. One of their own, their friend and fellow disciple Judas, sold out Jesus to the religious leaders and then to the Roman police. Peter lies about knowing Jesus, betrays him three times, to save his own skin. The rest of them are nowhere to be found as Jesus dies by execution on a cross. The air is so thick with the smell of fear for their own lives over the last three days that their stomachs are tight and turning over with nausea, leaving a sour taste in their mouths and no appetite for food. Their shame over their desertion of their friend and leader keeps them up at night, leaving them totally wiped out and with hands that constantly have the shakes. They are in bad shape. And now, afraid that their deaths are next, they are locked in a room – locked in a room in fear, locked up tight in shame.
Fear rules this whole story of Jesus ending up on the cross. The religious leaders were afraid of all that wild life-giving that Jesus was doing – giving sight to the man born blind, raising Lazarus from the dead. The Roman government was afraid of all that wild freedom that Jesus was going on and on about. Everyone so afraid of what Jesus was doing that they thought killing him would solve the problem of Jesus.
And fear lands the followers of Jesus in a locked room. “…and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear.”
And Jesus shows up. After all that’s happened, after the weakness of the disciples and the torture on the cross, Jesus shows up. Take note, it is NOT their faithfulness that lures Jesus to them. And not only does he show up, he shows up with the wounds inflicted by the fear, anger and fragile egos of everyone else.
Jesus doesn’t criticize their fear and doubt but he meets it with himself. He gets it. He just died through it. And death did not have the last word. Jesus shows up in his wounded, resurrected body offering words of peace – “Peace be with you” he says. And he doesn’t say this in a touchy-feely, stars and flowers kind of way. He says this after the ordeal of the cross. He knows what’s possible in the face of fear. And he brings this peace to the disciples who are sent from that room to enter the same reality that they were hiding from. The world around them has not magically changed since Jesus visited. So what did?
Jesus is not blind. Jesus sees who we are, the fear that controls our being, and Jesus moves to where we are just as Jesus went into that locked room with the disciples. We do not surprise Jesus with our actions and, more importantly, our actions, with or without faith, do not determine Jesus’ love for us.
The wounds from cross are where Jesus connects into our own lives – in the fearful, hurt and dark places where crosses stab us, cause pain and bring death. And then, in the midst of all that, Jesus says, “Not so fast – death and pain do not have the last word…by my life-giving life, by my death on the cross and by the Spirit’s power that raised me to life again, God connects you back into God.”
Today, here and now, that is the promise that is for you. God’s love and God’s amazing grace are unleashed through the Spirit of the risen and wounded Jesus and God’s love, God’s amazing grace, meets you where you are, forgives you of all your sins and sends you out in peace.