Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
In our Gospel reading for this week, from John 20:19-31, there’s something really important, tucked into the text, visible but not very noticeable. Let’s see if we can make some sense of it.
On the evening after the resurrection, I guess around sundown, because it’s still called “the first day of the week” but counting of days usually starts at dark, which would move us into the second day of the week - early evening, Jesus comes to the disciples who are locked into a room together, fearful for their safety. Locking a door is not really that strange. It’s a routine kind of safety precaution, especially in a city, especially when the city is crowded with visitors. It may have been a bit more unusual in 33 A.D., but it is certainly within normal boundaries. The ancient Romans typically locked doors and, if possible, had a guard and maybe a dog.
What’s more important is that the disciples are locked in because they are afraid of the Jews. That’s actually a very important problem. I admit to being in places where, as soon as I got there, I made sure the door was locked and the windows were covered. I preferred to be as invisible as possible and to make it as difficult as reasonably possible for someone to enter the room. Yet in Christ, I know that it is not rational for me to be actually afraid of what could potentially happen. We’ll catch that in a moment.
Jesus comes to the disciples who are locked in. Locks, doors, gates, prisons mean nothing to him. What does he tell the disciples? Among other things, he tells them they don’t need to be afraid. He gives them his peace. He sends them on a mission. He gives them power.
Now here’s the good part. Where are the disciples a week later when Jesus comes back specifically for Thomas who didn’t think they were right about seeing him after the resurrection? They are locked into the same room. Do you think they are fearful? It doesn’t say, but I hardly think John would have mentioned the locked doors if they weren’t fearful.
It takes several encounters with Jesus, over forty days’ time before he ascends to the right hand of the Father, and then it takes the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples for them to actually become fearless. Jesus has told them that they can have peace. He’s shown it to them several times. But they persist. It is only by the coming of the Holy Spirit that they finally become thoroughly convinced that the peace of God is for them.
If Jesus has called us, if we trust that he is the resurrection and the life and that he died and rose again for us, for our salvation, what do we have to fear? When I have been on the road and stayed in the kind of hotel or motel where I wanted to be invisible, I was not fearing for my life or well being. They could certainly have been in jeopardy, but my fear was nothing personal. My family kind of likes me and wants me to return from a trip. In one piece. We don’t have any fear about eternity. That’s not a problem. Yet we may find some situations intimidating.
What are you afraid of? Jesus kept coming back to the disciples, again and again, until they lost their fear. He does the same for us. Do we feel afraid? Let us call upon him, for he is our peace.
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