John 20: 18-22
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.
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.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
It’s still resurrection Sunday in this text. Mary has just encountered the risen, living Jesus and is understandably overwhelmed with excitement and emotion. She immediately rushes home to tell the other disciples.
I would expect the next verse to be describing a victory parade through the streets of Jerusalem with banners declaring ‘Jesus is alive!’, party poppers, music, even a few eggs thrown at the Pharisees. That how I might have responded. However, that’s no exactly what happens.
“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….” (v. 19)
The disciples, well ten of them - Judas is dead and Thomas is otherwise engaged – are hidden in a room with the doors not just shut, but locked. It’s 12-14 hours since Jesus rose from the dead, they have been told the news, yet his followers are paralysed by fear. They’re living like Jesus is still dead. What’s going on?
Firstly, they might have heard that Jesus is alive from Mary – but they haven’t experienced it for themselves. Everyone needs their own personal encounter with the risen Christ. Second-hand accounts won’t do. Living off someone else’s experience will not get you through the difficult times that we all go through in life.
The second reason for their fear is that I genuinely think that they were probably traumatised by everything that had happened over the previous 72 hours. They may have been in a place of shock and exhaustion.
So here they now are, huddled together, locked in a room, terrified of the Jewish authorities. They’re expecting at any moment the same people who crucified their leader will come looking for them and they will suffer the same fate.
We all experience fear in different ways and to varying degrees. Fear speaks to us. It says:
‘I am in danger’
‘I am vulnerable’
‘I need….and might not get it
‘I might lose ...... and I can’t live without it’
‘I could be hurt or die’.
We can all be like Charlie Brown who once said: "I have a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time."
Fear can control us, cripple us, contain us, lock us up, hem us in – and cause us to live life way beyond what God intended for us.
Think about it - the tomb is open, but their door is locked. The disciples are living like Friday happened but Sunday didn’t. They’re stuck at the cross – at the place of their failure when they denied Jesus, at the place of profound pain and paralysing fear, broken dreams and shattered hopes.
They haven’t moved from the cross to the resurrection. They haven’t shifted from death to life. They’re living in defeat not victory.
Right into the middle of their self-imposed prison of fear and hopelessness walks the risen, living Christ. How does Jesus get in? The doors were locked. It’s because this is the resurrected Jesus. He’s still very much human but he has also supernatural attributes. It is a new kind of life. They could touch him and eat with Him – so there was continuity. But He was now immortal – He could never die again – so he could do things no one else could do.
Behind the walls of their failure and the locked doors of their fears, Jesus meets them right where they’re at. And He still meets us where we are today.
For someone who has conquered death and defeated the grave - no wall is thick enough and no lock is strong enough to keep Him out. He walks through walls – walls of fear, walls of shame, walls of doubt, walls of failure, walls of sin, walls of disappointment, walls of guilt, walls of regret, walls of death – nothing can keep Him away. He can heal those places in your soul that no counsellor, doctor, psychiatrist or lover can reach.
When He meets you in your weakness, fear, failure and vulnerability, just look at what He speaks over you:
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!.... Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you!” (v. 19 & 21)
Not condemnation, guilt, shame or anything about their past. Jesus speaks peace, shalom, wholeness. It can be translated: ‘complete, perfect, full peace, nothing missing, nothing broken.’ That’s the peace that Jesus offers each of us today. Wholeness in every part of our being.
Look at the change in the disciples:
“The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (v. 20)
Jesus’ scars have the power to heal my scars. His pain can heal my past. I don’t have to be controlled by crippling fear or held captive by anxiety or restricted and restrained by insecurity and failure. Instead I can live in a place of real, overflowing joy.