Sunday, April 23, 2017

Unlocking Doors Locked by Fear

Second Sunday in Easter
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, [3] 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.”
It is with these words that Jesus breaks open the locked doors.  The Disciples are afraid of the Jews, and so the doors are locked. It would not have stopped an actual raid with soldiers, but it at least kept them safe from random mischief. So they shut and locked the doors in such a way that they would have to open them if anyone wanted to come in from the outside.
And then there is Jesus. Standing in their midst. Saying peace be with you. Sending them out to do the same to forgive sins, to give the Holy Spirit and burst open doors. This is what he continues to do to this day through his church, through you the body of Christ.
This morning we baptized Ryker and we see this work happening again. Jesus Christ giving peace. Jesus Christ giving the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ breaking down the doors of unbelief even as he rolled away the stone of death the sealed his tomb, and put aside the condemnation of the law of Moses written in stone that you and I may have peace, that you and I could receive the Holy Spirit.
It's fear that locks doors. But it is Jesus who does away with fear. Peace be with you. This is what he comes to give. Probably a translation of the common Jewish greeting shalom. But with Jesus there is power in the words. It is much more than a peaceful feeling that he comes to give. He comes to give the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. He comes to declare peace the cessation of hostilities between God and man in the forgiveness of sins.
Unbelief is often nothing more than an expression of fear for that which people know to be true. The demons know that God is one and they tremble. We can’t do anything for them. But for man? We can give them Jesus. People know that they are sinners. Fear often keeps them from acknowledging it though. It’s irrational, fear. Sometimes I look at how it has worked in my life and the life of others. I remember overhearing a conversation my dad had with mom once about grandpa. He was afraid to go to the doctor because he thought he might have cancer. I thought that was the stupidest thing in the world. But in my early twenties I put off going to the doctor for three months out of the same fear. The idea is if we don’t acknowledge it then it won’t be true. People know they are sinners, and therefore know there is a God and they are afraid, because they are naked and exposed before God. They run and they hide. They put their head in a hole. If I don’t see the lion, maybe the lion won’t see me. Irrational. It locks the doors to faith.
But this is why Jesus came to the disciples. And this is why he comes to you. To dispel fear and to give us peace. That we would unlock the doors and go out to forgive the sins of others even as Jesus sent the disciples with the Holy Spirit that his church would be built and be built up through the forgiveness of sins, upon the confession Thomas shares with Peter. My Lord and my God.

Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesu our Lord. Amen. 

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