19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,  was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:19-31 (ESV)
“Peace be with you.”
With these words Jesus arrests the fears of the disciples. It was fear that had them locked up in that room where they had last celebrated the Passover with Jesus, where Jesus had instituted the Lord’s Supper. The tomb was empty, and the sightings of Jesus were not yet trusted. Peter, and a couple trembling women mumbling incoherently. Did they hallucinate? Was it a ghost? But what about this body? It was gone. Strange the clothes were so neatly folded. Why would the Jews even bother stripping him if they meant to desecrate his body? What would the Romans want with it? And where is it? At any moment they could come for them. Fear and trembling, permeates the room, locked for fear of the Jews.
Fear does that. It locks doors. We lock our cars for fear of having them stolen. Lock our doors at night for fear of a break in. Fear locks doors shut. Fear of cancer and keep even the doctors door locked shut. The person suspecting he has cancer, afraid the doctor might confirm it, and they would rather live as if that lump just didn’t exist. Fear of failure keeps us from trying, afraid to get our hopes up. Fear of God keeps the doors to the church locked, and shut tight, we know what the judgment should be. People do instinctively. And if anyone is uncertain as to what that judgment should be, well there are plenty of people presuming to speak for God willing to confirm your worst fears with their condemnations. If you don’t have the fear of God, well they’ll give it to you. They are certainly willing to share that, though too often afraid themselves to share forgiveness.
Do they trust it themselves, or do they fear it? “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” Psalm 103:4 But it isn’t God that is feared with most people, but his forgiveness, what it might do. I’m always as confused by this as the man who doesn’t want to go to the doctor because he might have cancer. It doesn’t make sense. But there is a lot of fear mongering that goes on today, perhaps it has always been so. And it locks us up in rooms afraid to share. I think most often were afraid people are going to abuse forgiveness. If I forgive them, well they will just take advantage of me. Yes, as they took advantage of Christ, as you take advantage of him every time you receive his body sacrificed for you, every time you receive his blood shed for you. If we forgive them they will sin all the more! Yes, even Paul heard that when he was writing Romans. If we preach forgiveness they won’t ever clean up their act! Yes, this is true, we have firsthand experience of that. But it is not as if rules and laws, brow beatings and guilt trips have ever gotten us to clean up our acts either. Oh, we may have conformed for a time, but most often like a sullen teenager that resents every minute of doing the dishes or mowing the lawn for his parents who make sure he has a bed, and a meal to eat.
Fear, it often keeps us huddled, keeps our faith not only personal but private. Perhaps only ever shared on Sunday mornings in the safety of the sanctuary, but rarely at lunch with a friend. We keep it locked up for fear. Fear of being laughed at. Fear of being criticized and judged. Fear of the tribulation this world gives those who follow him who has overcome this world. The same man who even now stands in your midst and says, “Peace be to you.” No, Jesus won’t be locked out of your life by your fears. Here he now comes with his peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace the comes because God is not afraid to forgive, even when he knows you are going to abuse his forgiveness. Peace be to you! Jesus declares it! He sacrificed himself on the cross, shed his blood and poured it out upon the world that it would intercede for us before God, who is now at peace with you. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that God has declared while we were yet enemies of God. The peace that he declares with his forgiveness when he stands in our midst saying take eat this is my body given for you, take drink this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Put away your fears and believe, this world will give your tribulation but take heart I have overcome this world. See, I have been raised from the dead, I have conquered death in your name. You too have eternal life, you walk in the newness of life. Yes, I rolled away the stone, now the door can no longer be locked, I am the door open to you, open to life.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.