In The Air Tonight

In the evening of that same day, the first of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.  Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Having said this, he savior showed them the marks of crucifixion.

The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I’m sending you.”  After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.  If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

It happened that one of the twelve, Thomas – nicknamed Didymus, or “Twin” – was absent when Jesus came.  The other disciples kept telling him, “We’ve seen Jesus!”

Thomas’ answer was, “I’ll never believe it without pitting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into the spear wound.”

On the eight-day, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them.  Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them, saying, “Peace be with you.”

Then, to Thomas, Jesus said, “Put your finger and examine my hands.  Put your hand into my side.  Don’t persist in your unbelief, but believe!”  Thomas said n response, “My savior and my God!”  Jesus then said, “You’ve become a believer because you saw me.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus performed many other signs as well – signs not recorded here – in the presence of the disciples.  But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Only Begotten, so that b believing you may have life in Jesus’ name.

John 20:19-31

 

Here we are in the shadow of the glorious Easter parade.  The horns sounded, the great mystery of God has transpired.  The lilies are home.  The perfectly imagined outfits are back in the closet.  The worry of death has subsided.  We now know that the sting of death has no longer a hold on us.

Yup, the mightiest day in the Christian calendar has come and gone.  The zenith of Christendom has arrived and declared it’s victory.  The candy has dwindled and the baskets are almost empty.  Having feasted upon marshmallow shaped bunnies & chicks, delicious angels made of chocolate and those little pieces of original sin, Reese’s’ peanut butter eggs.

We drank the new wine and celebrated the coming of our king.  We have feasted and wept.  We have proclaimed and exclaimed.  We have stayed up late and talked into the night about our thankfulness of this wonderful sacrifice longing for these moments to never end.

For some of us we take in the glory of Easter and breath in a sigh of relief…Glory be to God…Easter is over.  We arrive to this day, the Lord’s Day, the 8th day, the second Sunday of Easter with an Easter Hangover.

How many of us are spiritually and physically exhausted?  I got good news and bad news for you.  The Good news is Easter is not over.  The bad news is Easter is not over.

Thankfully the Gospel story for this morning does a really good job testifying to this.  Today we are invited by Jesus to respond with our lives to the good news of the resurrection.

We start at verse 19, right where we left off last week. Mary Magdalene has seen the risen Lord. Peter and the beloved disciple finished the race to the tomb to see it empty and set off to tell the other disciples what they had seen. And now it is Easter evening. You all have heard the story…

The disciples have heard the tomb is empty.  Peter and the beloved disciple told them the body isn’t there anymore.  Mary told them that she actually saw Jesus, in the garden.  Jesus told her to tell the disciples about his appearing to her, and we assume that this was an experience she could not keep to herself.

 

And how do the other disciples response to the news?  They locked themselves away in fear.

 

Interesting.

 

The text says they did it in fear of the religious leaders.  This makes sense since those were the people responsible for the persecution and death of Jesus, but I believe there was a deeper fear going on here too.

 

These are the closest friends and followers of Jesus who on the day before his arrest, when they were gathered for the Passover meal in the upper room, assured Jesus of their determination to stick with him.  Yet when it got dark, and the soldiers came for him it wasn’t just Judas who betrayed Jesus, they all did.

 

They all ran away.

 

So could it be possible that the disciples are locked up in the house fearful now not just of the Roman soldiers and religious leaders who might try to bring them physical harm but that they are also scared of what might happen if Jesus really isn’t dead?

 

That if what Mary says is true, that he really appeared to her?

 

What if Easter isn’t over and he shows up now?

 

Is the Risen Christ going to say to them “Where were you?”

 

Is Jesus going to spend his time hashing out the situation as he saw it? “You know I had a pretty good view from where I was on Golgotha. I saw the soldiers, I saw my mother, but I didn’t see you!”

 

But that’s not what happened. There were no recriminations, no anger, no condemnation or judgment, nor snarkiness, not even an understandable “venting” of disappointment and hurt.

Instead, the first words Jesus offered were both greeting and gift: “Peace be with you.” He said it a second time so they wouldn’t miss the point: “Peace be with you.”

He knew what was in their hearts and why they had barred the door. He saw right through them and knew that they weren’t re-grouping, getting it together and deciding on their next move, that is, how they were going to carry on Jesus’ legacy or spread his teaching.

 

They were scared and hiding out.

 

Yet, suddenly, in the midst of their fear and confusion, there he was, not with angels, trumpets, hymns or organs, but quietly. He brought only peace, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and a commission.

In fact, he breathed the Spirit into them. It’s kind of like John’s version of “Pentecost” the gift of the Holy Spirit, the birth of the church, but here the Spirit comes not with wind and flame but with Jesus’ own breath, the very life-force of the one raised from the dead who tells them to go out and be peace and forgiveness and love for the world.

Jesus doesn’t judge their shortcomings. He doesn’t call them out for the ways they didn’t live up to their promise to stick with him. Making them feel guilty isn’t the point.

The point here is to get these people out of that room. The point here is to give them enough peace, enough of his spirit—his life and breath—to get them up and moving again. The point here—the point of Easter—is to get frightened, discouraged men and women who are very much inclined to stay put, to stay in the room as long as necessary, to get them up and moving toward the door, toward the streets of the city, toward their homes and families and communities—toward, that is to say, life in this beautiful world now suddenly, dramatically, and profoundly different because Jesus has come to them and breathed on them and sent them.

In moving ahead with this story we then get rather distracted then by Thomas. Good ‘ole Thomas who has this bad rap because when all this went down, he wasn’t there.  Who knows why he isn’t there. Maybe he was outside getting some fresh air, grabbing a smoke. All those disciples crowded together and locked up might have been a bit stifling so he goes for a walk. Perhaps Thomas just needed a break from all of the emotional uproar.  Maybe he just needed to get away.  When he gets back he has all of this pandemonium that he now has to deal with, everyone’s all hysterical and ridiculous about seeing Jesus and Thomas is not having any of it.

 

“Unless I see it too—see the evidence, see the nail holes in his hands—I’m not believing it. No way.”

 

New Testament scholar Raymond Brown, observed that the Greek is extraordinarily emphatic here, something like, “I’ll never believe it; do you think I’m crazy?”  Thomas responds as most people do today to wildly unrealistic situations by saying “Show me.”

We get all distracted by one disciple and his desire for something real, that when it comes down to it, we all would like to have when it comes to our faith, some kind of proof, and call him out for it like he is some sort of heathen.

When one week later, the Sunday after the Easter. The Sunday after the disciples experienced the risen Christ in their midst and heard his commission are back behind the closed doors.

This is their own nonverbal “well Easter is over” kind of response.

Easter lilies are wilting, the Easter leftovers are gone, there is no need to do anything but wait till next year, put away the cross and let’s get back to normal life.  We had our beautiful worship with all the great music, the pews were full, we heard the story and now we can hide out behind locked doors rather than living as Easter people.

It is a great temptation in the life of the church to huddle behind massive, beautiful doors, to hide out when we get discouraged, or fearful or scared.  It is a great temptation as individuals to hide behind the enormous and looming doors of our everyday lives that allow us to hide out from living our faith Monday through Saturday.

I suspect part of the fear of the disciples in really seeing Jesus again was that the message that Jesus taught about giving everything away was real.  The memories of the Rich Young Ruler & the parables of the Pearl, the Parable of the Treasure, the Sermon on the Mount and the call that the first shall be last and the last shall be first was real.  It cost Jesus his life and it was to cost the disciples their life as well.  The disciples coward in fear, afraid that this real Jesus of Easer glory shall come upon them and they will be forced to answer…they gather behind locked doors.

It is a great temptation to draw in on ourselves and believe that our personal and communal lives have nothing to do with loving the world as God does.  This is the dangerous part of Easter…the days after.  We can chose to ignore what we witnessed or we can demand that Jesus meet us where we are at.

 

You know what? Jesus shows up.

 

And Jesus keeps showing up.

 

The doors don’t keep him out.

 

What is extremely powerful about this post- Easter account in the Gospel of John is Jesus keeps showing up to say “Easter isn’t over.”

He keeps showing up.

 

Here I am. Here is God’s peace and forgiveness, for you. Now go out and share it with the world.

You still want to hide?                                   You think doubting will keep me away?

I’m going to keep coming back.                   Easter isn’t over.

Here are the scars. The hands. The side.  This is the suffering of the world.     Touch it.

Here put your finger here.  These are the wars waged in my name.  Here are my suffering children dying of starvation and disease.  Put your hands here.  In the wounds of my people oppressed because of who they love.  Marginalized because of the color of their skin. Injustice heaped upon them due to a system that strips their humanity and suffers them to a slow death.  Put your fingers here, touch my wounds so that you may know that I am truly alive!

 

Now go out into the world and continue to touch the suffering of the world with love, peace and forgiveness.

 

Jesus didn’t appear to the disciples over and over again to prove the resurrection to be true and cure their doubting. He didn’t show up to judge them and their shortcomings.  He kept showing up in order to send the disciples as he had been sent.

Easter then and Easter now is not about hiding behind a wonderful and inspiring worship service where we may or may not feel like we felt Jesus presence one, twice, or fifty some odd times during the year but don’t live it in our everyday lives.

The story is real with us that we are going to doubt. We are going to try to lock ourselves behind the walls of church or our personal lives to hide from the pain of the world. But Jesus keeps coming back to us. He comes back to send us out, empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a witness to the loved, grace, and forgiveness of God as revealed in Jesus the Christ.

 

Easter isn’t over. Thanks be to God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s