From Fear to faith.
What would those disciples be feeling in that room behind locked doors?
It was the Sunday evening, after the crucifixion, after the women had come and told them that Jesus is alive. After Peter and John had run to the tomb and found it empty.
One could imagine they were in a state of shock after his brutal arrest, trial, death and then burial. Yes; Jesus had prophesied the resurrection, but they still hadn’t seen him.
There would have been a great confusion of emotion.
1. They would have been afraid for their own lives. The fear of death is a fear that we all have. It’s to do with our need to survive as people and it’s something that most of us deny at some level until we are really faced with it. I remember when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, even though I wasn’t deeply threatened, I remember realising for the first time, that one day I would die. - It was a very challenging moment. Some of you may know that experience for yourselves.
2. The disciples would have been questioning whether they had been mistaken in putting so much time and effort and trust in Jesus. They had believed he was the Messiah, and then instead of liberating Israel, he was murdered and truly died. We all make mistakes and sometimes, even when we do the right thing, things don’t go as we feel they should and we wonder? Was I right to do that?
3. They would have been afraid of the negative attitudes of those who knew who they were- it would have been a fearful thing to have shown their faces in public- so shame in front of their peers and communities. We put all this time and effort, left our family businesses behind, left our families behind and look where it has led us. What a mess! You can hear the thoughts roll out…
4. And there would have been guilt, not only Judas betrayed Jesus, but Peter denied him and the others all ran away in his darkest hour, even after the Thursday evening when they all swore they would die for him. But their expectations and the reality was not what they had expected. So, they denied and betrayed him in their own ways. They had not remained even a little loyal.
So now they were hidden in a room full of fear and terror wondering what would happen, wondering what it meant that the woman had said they’d seen Jesus.
Into this place of inner turmoil and confusion, Jesus appeared, despite the locked doors. The Saviour so loved them that he would not leave them for too long in this awful state.
He appeared before them and showed them his wounds- the wounds they were in part responsible for, the wounds which on some levels they carried in their hearts, and he said- not ‘peace be with you’, but ‘peace to you’; which may seem inconsequential, but I think ‘peace to you’ seems more direct and personal. And didn’t those guys need some peace and the only source where peace could have come to them would have been Jesus, whom they had so under-estimated. Now, Jesus repeated it- maybe it was too much to take in the first time. ‘Peace to you’. And he says that not just to those guys in the locked room, but to us in those places where we feel afraid and trapped- his peace is the gift of his presence, love, forgiveness and guidance. His peace comes from our being in relationship with him.
He said to them ‘as the Father has sent me, so I send you!’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’. This breathing on them, is the breath of life which God breathed into Adam when he created him from dust. His disciples are made part of the new creation and the first gift which comes from that is the power for mission which is to forgive sins or not.
Jesus’ presence in that room readjusted all that they would have been concerned about.
1. His presence meant that death was overcome
2. Their faith had not been misplaced, but that they had misunderstood the full implications of the things Jesus had said.
3. It also meant that what-ever had happened before this moment was inconsequential for the future, except that it created a moment of comparison for giving a testimony of faith.
4. It meant they were strengthened in spirit to move into the world to take the mission of Jesus forward despite the negativity they would endure.
Their life and their world was turned upside down.
Even with the appearance it seems they were not able to move forward immediately. A week later, when Thomas, who was not there on the first night and refused to believe until he had seen, was there. They were still in the same house of the previous Sunday night, this time the door was shut, but not locked- so maybe they were not so afraid and Thomas was with them. Thomas needed, so he said more proof than just sight, he needed to touch the wounds of Jesus in order for him to believe.
We often speak of Thomas doubting, doubt implies uncertainty, but what we actually have in the Greek are two words which are opposite one another, ‘apistos’- not believing [sometimes interpreted as doubt] and ‘pistos’, which means to believe. Jesus said to Thomas; ‘stop not believing but believe’. Some think this may be wilful unbelief, a holding onto unbelief because to believe is what??? A change in the way life is. A change in generosity. A change in how you live. A letting go of pride or anger!!!
And what did Thomas do? He responded;
‘My Lord and My God’.
This was Jesus, the man he’d followed around Galilee and Jerusalem, the man he’d seen die on the cross. He was calling Jesus God- the name of the Creator of the universe, the Holy One who’d taken Israel out of Egypt and led them through the desert, who’d given the Law at Sinai and all the other stuff we know of from Scripture and consequently he was calling Jesus ‘My Lord’. Meaning the one who will from now on rule my heart and my life.
Jesus went on to say, to us; ‘Blessed are those who have not seen, but believed’.
This is what it means to believe: John says of his Gospel; ‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.’
The question for all of us is, is Jesus really our Lord and our God, is he the one who rules our lives and our hearts, or do we think that if we just follow the rules and be a nice person, loving one another it will be enough. On one level, it is better that, than not being those things, but realise that for God, half- hearted Christianity is never enough, He wants to live in relationship with us. Jesus died to save our lives. He died and rose again so that we may have life to the full through him. That only happens when we are totally surrendered over to him and his will and purpose for us. Of course, the risk is that when we give ourselves to him, our lives will never be what we plan or expect them to be- but they will be better. Of course, that it does not guarantee a comfortable or pain-free life. Jesus was murdered and so were most of his disciples in the end-that is martyred- because in the spirit and the life he gave them they were able to move the Gospel forward even in the face of the most threatening opposition.
[Later today, little Grace will be baptised, but before her baptism, I am going to invite all of you to renew your baptism promises. To recommit your lives to the faith of Jesus Christ. That she inserted into God’s family will grow up knowing how wonderful a God we have. Amen.]
Can you like Thomas honestly say to Jesus ‘my Lord and my God’, and so live it? The risk is that if we do that, we will end up coming out of our locked rooms- our places of fear and begin to live and who knows what amazing things may happen.