Pastor Galen, April 28th 2019
Behind Locked Doors
The door was shut and locked and the disciples were inside, hiding for fear that the authorities who had conspired to have Jesus arrested and crucified may be looking for them too. And now there was the added danger that they might be accused of stealing Jesus’s body.
The women who had gone to the tomb earlier that morning had reported that Jesus’s body was gone. Two angels had appeared to the women and told them that Jesus had risen. Mary Magdalene even declared that Jesus had appeared to her. But how could the other disciples possibly know if it was true? Maybe Mary and the other women had been daydreaming or hallucinating. Maybe they simply wanted it to be true and so they believed it to be so.
And so the disciples sat there with the door locked, waiting, hiding, scared, alternating between hope and doubt, joy, fear, and disbelief.
And then suddenly, there he was, standing in their midst. Jesus, in the flesh! There had been no knock at the door. No one had gone to the door to let him in. He simply appeared out of nowhere, right there in front of them.
At first they may have thought that he was a ghost, but he showed them his hands where he had been nailed to the cross, and his side where he had been pierced with the spear. They realized that he was indeed alive, in the flesh, standing before them, and they were overjoyed
And then Jesus proclaims peace over them and breaths on them the breath of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t condemn them for their doubt or their fear, doesn’t reprimand them for the fact that they deserted him when he was hanging on the cross, or that Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.
Jesus simply meets them right where they are, in all their doubt and their fear, and he proclaims peace to them. And He shows them his hands and his side, evidence of his overwhelming love for them and for all humanity.
Peace be with you.
Jesus proclaims to them, “Peace be with you.” Peace be with you. The same words that we speak to each other every week when we walk in the doors of the church and when we greet one another during our “passing of the peace.” “Peace be with you.” Even in the midst of our doubts and insecurities, even in the midst of our flaws and imperfections, even when we’ve hurt one another, still we proclaim peace and forgiveness to one another.
We forgive one another because we are people who have received God’s forgiveness, because God’s Holy Spirit has been breathed into us. We are people who have received God’s peace, and so we speak peace to one another. We choose to forgive, to let go, to hold short accounts. We are people of Christ’s peace because Christ is our peace, and Christ has proclaimed peace to us.
Of course there are many in our world who do not believe. There are many, like Thomas, who need further proof, who need more than simply eye-witness testimony.
Maybe some of you here this morning are wrestling with doubt. You look around the room and you feel jealous of those who seem to trust God so easily. You wish you had that kind of faith.
To you, I invite you to hear the words of Jesus spoken over you, “Peace be with you.” In all of your doubts and insecurities, Jesus proclaims peace to you. Peace be with you. You don’t need to hide, or be ashamed of your doubts. I invite you to bring your doubts and fears to the Lord. Bring them to Jesus and lay them at his feet, and ask him to give you the kind of experience that you need in order to believe.
There are also many in the community around us, many of our friends and neighbors and coworkers, who wrestle with doubts. Perhaps they used to believe, but something happened that made them doubt. Perhaps the sudden loss of a friend or family member, perhaps a grievance with someone in the church. They began to doubt God’s goodness, God’s mercy, or God’s ability to provide, and they grew further and further away. Maybe they think that God could never forgive them, that God would never accept them back again.
If only they could see the resurrected Christ, if only the could hear him speak the words “Peace be with you.” If only they could see the nail prints in his hands and the wound in his side.
We are the Body of Christ
But it is we, we who are people of Christ’s peace, we who have been filled with the Holy Spirit, we who the Bible calls the “body of Christ” (c.f. 1 Cor. 12:27) who must proclaim Christ’s peace to them, who must convey to them God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Rather than scold or condemn, rather than look down on them for not believing or for wrestling with doubts, rather than judging them for what they’ve done or how they’ve gone astray, let us show them Christ’s body — the Church — in action. Let us speak words of peace, hope, life, and love to them. Let us breathe on them the breath of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, we as Christ’s body have been wounded. Yes we have holes and scars. Yes we have been bruised and beaten. Yes we have failed and fallen short. And yet Christ entrusts us with the responsibility to be Christ’s hands and feet and to carry Christ’s message into all the world, to extend God’s love and grace and forgiveness to those who have gone astray.
And so let’s show them Christ’s hands and feet. Let us be the Body of Christ, in all of our wounded glory. Let us welcome them to see, touch, and experience Christ’s body – the Church – in action.
And so this morning I invite you to come with all of our doubts and fears and insecurities. I invite you to hear Christ’s words “peace be with you.” I invite you to tell God what it is that you desire, what it is that you need. Christ’s arms of love are open and waiting to meet you right where you are.
And for those of us who have experienced God’s love and grace and forgiveness firsthand, let us extend Christ’s peace to those around us. Let us be God’s hands and feet, let’s share the Good news that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Let us forgive others as we have been forgiven, and let us proclaim this message of hope to a world that is desperately longing to see the risen Christ.