John 20:19-31 * The Rev. Helen Havlik * Easter 2 * May 5, 2019
Behold, I make all things new. We’ve heard that, but what does that actually mean to us? Maybe we can’t wait till something changes but maybe we also like things the way they are? Easter is about God doing something new that’s also eternal. Even so, the first disciples, bewildered and confused by what had hap-pened, wait in Jerusalem. On the first day of the week some women find the tomb empty—then Jesus comes to them behind closed doors. He does, right? I’m reading from John, ch. 20, beginning with vs. 19. Listen with me to God’s holy word.
If the disciples lived today, they wouldn’t have just locked the door—they would have gotten a Ring security system and used their cell phones to monitor the windows, too! Not that long ago my parents usually left their doors unlocked. Now even in rural areas that doesn’t happen anymore. Homeland security is on our minds—we’re constantly thinking about safety and security. I suppose the disciples had good reason not to feel safe. They were, afterall, known associates of an executed criminal! They’re without the leader who gave them their marching orders. They have to learn to function without him—and the previous few days have been quite a shock. They need time and space to figure out their next move—and as they meet together that resurrection day, they lock the door, afraid the authorities will find them. If they can help it, they won’t suffer a fate similar to Jesus!
But despite the locked door they find Jesus among them. How does he get in? He must be just a hallucination or a ghost, because flesh and blood people can’t pass through closed doors—right? But what if Jesus at that point is one foot out of our time and one foot in it? What if for a brief time, he straddles heaven and earth, holding together the deep chasm that exists between us and God—what if he’s still here, holding heaven and earth together? That evening, at least, he’s right there for all to see, and he knows how afraid they are. “Peace be with you,” he says to all of them—except for Judas, who’s long gone, and Thomas, who ever since has been famous for not being there. “Peace be with you,” Jesus says, and he shows them his wounds as proof of the reality of his resurrection. Then he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them—just as God breathed life into Adam, Jesus breathes new life into the disciples. And with that act he commissions them—as a group—to carry on his work in the world.
So how come, a week later, the door is still locked? Why does Jesus find them still quaking in their boots? This is the third time in just a few verses that John reports Jesus saying, “Peace be with you!” Don’t they notice things have changed—that the Holy Spirit is now with them? Maybe Thomas holding out is having an effect on them. New, really? Thomas isn’t so sure, is he? Good thing locked doors don’t keep Jesus out. He’s able to get through because they didn’t choose him, he chose them—and he won’t give up on them ever. He even goes through locked doors to convince them that the kingdom of God is on its way to being a reality, just as he’s promised. How lucky are those, John says, who set aside their skepticism and don’t need supernatural proof of love and forgiveness. How lucky are those who know the Spirit is already within them—who unlock the doors and walk into the spring sunshine and proclaim to the world that Christ is risen indeed. They may huddle in a corner for awhile, but they don’t stay there long as they become a blessing to the world, for Christ’s sake. God’s love is big enough and God’s power is strong enough to overcome their confusion and grief, their anger and shame and give them new life—really.
What the disciples do and say from that time forward will bring Jesus’ message and ministry to future generations—that’s us. Eventually those disciples come out of hiding and because of their deep Holy Spirit connection to God and each other they are able to live as the body of Jesus Christ. And we are able to call ourselves Christians because they do. For Christ’s ministry isn’t carried on behind the rock that sealed the tomb—or behind closed doors. We open the door and take his ministry with us into the world, not for our sake, but for his. We didn’t choose him, he chose us—and because he chose us, he gives us what we need to minister in his name, beginning with this new life he offers us, that we celebrate each time we share this holy meal.
The great good news is that he still stands by his choice and trusts us with this gospel message. He trusts even us with his ministry. He breathes on us and gives us his own spirit—his mind, his heart, his eyes to see with and ears to hear with. We can’t do what he did without him and so we have him always, right here as the Holy Spirit within us as individuals and within the community called his body on earth. We don’t need to doubt—we don’t need to hide! Because of our deep connection to God and each other through the Holy Spirit, we, like those first disciples, are able to live the new life as the body of Jesus Christ—really.Share the word!