John 20: 19-31Piliero
A. Post Easter Appearances of Jesus
Last week we heard the resurrection account from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is the oldest of the Gospels as well as the least descriptive. There are no embellishments. Mark ends shortly after we hear about Jesus’ victory over the tomb without much fanfare. In the words of Dragnet’s Joe Friday Mark it’s ‘just the facts ma’m, just the facts.’ There is a post resurrection appearance but it only takes a verse or two to tell the story.
The Gospel of Matthew also ends quickly with only one appearance of Jesus after his resurrection.
Luke on the other hand tells us the beautiful story which we refer to as the Road to Emmaus where Jesus walks alongside of two disciples and yet they didn’t know who he was. Jesus reveals himself when he blesses the bread and gives it to them; it is after that that they recognize him.
The Gospel of John is clearly the most theologically imbued Gospel. Outside of next week when we will hear from Luke, the next six Sundays we will be focused on John. John contains a high “Christology” meaning that Jesus is already portrayed throughout the Gospel as the risen Son of God.
I know, Christology, right? It’s a seminary ‘SAT’ word! It’s a word that seminary professors use regularly and their students who want to do well in their classes. But high Christology is what makes John such an endearing Gospel to read. Jesus say’s “I am the vine and you are the branches, I am the resurrection and the life, and I am the good shepherd”. After reading the Gospel of John there is no doubt that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
B. Jesus, the Disciples and Thomas
It’s too bad that Thomas didn’t have the Gospel of John in his back pocket to pull out and read when he doubted that Jesus was none other than Jesus the Christ. Would have made it so much easier for Thomas. Throughout time a lot has been written about this doubting Thomas, this somewhat arrogant disciple. Many menacing sermons have been written about Thomas who had a few qualms about who Jesus really was. Guess we all have doubts about our faith at times but there is so much more that is happening in this passage that begs our close reflection.
It still had not been twenty four hours since Mary Magdalene stood weeping at that empty tomb and Jesus, disguised as the gardener, appears to her. She does as he requests and tells the disciples that she has seen her Lord. They didn’t know what to do and they needed some time to process what had all just happened over this particular Passover.
A joyful procession, anxiety in Jerusalem, an intimate meal, betrayal, denial, whipping and weeping, death and then this resurrection. That was their week. It is no wonder that they are hole up in a house with the doors locked. I would be too. Who wouldn’t be afraid?
It’s through these locked up, shut up tight, barred doors that Jesus comes to them. This is his second appearance to his followers after his resurrection.
“Peace” he says, “Peace be with you”. That familiar, strong and calming voice. Perhaps it sounded like a parent’s lullaby, or a favorite hymn from your childhood, or like a beloved story told to you over and over even though you know the end, or even a voice calling the sea to stop raging. It was calm.
In those four words, “Peace be with you”, Jesus is really saying, be still, be calm, relax, let your fear and doubts melt away, let the wholeness of my love reside in your heart. He is saying, I am with you. I will not fail you. Trust in me. I will walk next to you wherever you want and need to go. I’ll be by your side even on those roads that you really shouldn’t be going down. I’ll manage to get in when the doors have been closed.
Jesus shows them his wounds and again says, “Peace be with you. God has sent me, so now I’m sending you.” He breathes on them and at once they are filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives them his peace, he commissions them for greater work and he empowers them to go out and do this work.
But Thomas wasn’t there for the first Jesus sighting, he didn’t hear the others story. Too bad because we know how second hand stories particularly second hand stories of miraculous events, never quite pull the same punch. Well, a week later when they all were gathered in that house, Thomas too, again with the door shut, Jesus comes to them. Once more he says, “Peace be with you.” His reassurance opens their hearts except for Thomas.
But Jesus didn’t tell Thomas off, or give him a good talking to, no reprimands, chastisements, or sarcasm. Simply he says, “Peace” like he did the first time he came to the others and allows Thomas all the time and evidence that he needs to come around.
C. It’s all about Jesus
This passage is not so much about Thomas and his doubts. He’s human just like us. It’s really about Jesus. It’s about his tenacity to find us in our deepest, most locked away places. Those places where we shut him out rather than let him in. It is about his persistent love and his ability to be incredibly patient with our human foibles and less than desirable habits.
Just when the disciples didn’t know what to do next and rather than take a chance on the unknown outside of the walls, they decided to stay behind a locked door. It’s Jesus who comes to them. It’s Jesus who shows them what to do next. It’s Jesus who lifts them up and instills the spirit within them. Even behind closed doors Jesus comes.
D. Our Closed Doors
We’ve all sat behind doors in our lives that have shut out the world, or worse shut out those whom we love. Perhaps there is something overwhelming you and in order to deal with it you just completely close down. I marvel at babies who fall asleep in their carriage even though they are at a parade with noise and music, cannons and people. They just shut down
While it may seem ok at first, the door gets locked and then dead bolted and then even we ourselves can’t get out. It’s not a healthy or good place to be. Thank goodness God doesn’t let us alone but persistently and consistently figures out how to enter in and grants us that beautifully understanding peace.
Remember all the while Jesus says, “Peace”, “Peace be with you.” He says, I bring you my peace of love and patience, understanding and guidance. Be assured that Christ enters into this process with you; he’ll help you with the inner workings of the spirit and discernment. Be open and believe that you will emerge confidently in his name. You will.
May that same Spirit who was breathed on the disciples behind their closed door light upon us to comfort and energize us for whatever the future holds.