Jesus opens doors……..

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I have often marveled at the stories of Jesus’ appearance after his resurrection. When I read or hear these stories, I typically say to myself, “I am glad someone met Jesus after his death or I guess I wouldn’t be here now, doing what I am doing, thinking what I am thinking and saying what I am saying.” Another thought pattern follows, “I wish it was me who was behind that closed and locked door or cooking fish on the seashore when Jesus shows up; it would be so much easier to talk about Jesus if I had been there.”

Ponte Vedra Sunrise 4 10 2015

Today, we gather with the disciples who are behind closed and locked doors, hiding out of fear of people who come down so hard on Jesus that we simply could not keep them from killing him. And yet, even after his death we still feel threatened and condemned to the point of hiding. We are a little confused; Mary Magdalene has shared this confusing story about her visit to Jesus’ empty tomb where an angel or an unrecognizable Jesus tells her that his body was not taken, he had risen and she had to go tell the others. The disciples are not sure if Mary Magdalene can be believed.

And then Jesus shows up in that room, the doors are still locked, the disciples are still fearful. Jesus’ first words are “peace be with you”, the disciples are elated. Then Jesus says “Peace be with you. As the Father sends me, so send I you”, and then Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on the disciples and says “if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Apparently the disciple Thomas is out running some errands and does not meet Jesus that time. Thomas still doesn’t understand this deal about the resurrection and doesn’t have any fear about it, has yet to believe anyone who has seen Jesus; he seems to be trying to get on with his life at this point. But Thomas does join the disciples behind closed and locked doors. So Jesus returns a week later when Thomas is with the other disciples. Jesus offers his wounded body as evidence to Thomas and Thomas immediately proclaims Jesus as “My Lord and my God.”

Shortly after this event, Thomas and the other disciples begin to share the gospel message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to everyone who will listen. We learn from the book of Acts as well as the New Testament letters, about the early church and how these people, inspired by their eyewitness experience, took risks and died for Jesus. Thomas eventually travels to India where he eventually met his demise. But it wasn’t before he lived a long life building churches.

As I shared earlier, I understand the story, I get the message of the promise of the resurrection, but I wish in my heart of hearts that I had been there. I prefer to have been able to see Jesus with my own eyes, to have him say to me “peace be with you” and breathe the Holy Spirit on me himself………….I would love to have been Thomas, seeing Jesus offer his wounded body to me as evidence to really understand that Jesus has risen and returned.

I would have liked all of this but it is not to be and neither is it for you. We live in a “time later” and yet we are the living proof today of what happened in that room behind a closed door. Our challenge is to hold on to the faith that Jesus describes with his blessing at the end of his conversation and interaction with Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Blessed are we who have not seen Jesus and yet have come to believe in Jesus. Blessed are we who have been given the free undeserved Grace – and the Holy Spirit that leads us to forgiveness and reconciliation among ourselves and a desire to share that message with the world. Blessed are we.

This is the Easter message and testimony to Jesus’ ongoing presence and activity in the world: Jesus comes in peace and he desires for the people on this earth to be reconciled through the life that he has given for us. And Jesus sends us into the world to to deliver this message for him. Millions upon millions of people have gone before us with no more evidence of proof in the resurrected Lord than we have today and more will follow until our Lord returns.

We have a choice, but not really: we can sit on the sidelines, remain behind our closed doors and be like the unconverted Thomases of the world or we can come in peace and present the Gospel that Thomas ultimately died sharing with others. We can act as if we can’t be bothered with the effort to really know Jesus or we can choose to receive his grace and live in a wonderful time of hope and peace.

“The Church will not and cannot succeed behind closed doors….”

As much as some of us might conveniently use the excuse that we weren’t with the disciples in that closed room, we cannot deny the disciples’ testimony that they gave for Jesus until they died, the testimony that inspired others to tell others who eventually told you and me. Jesus knows that his Holy Spirit is upon us; we just have to receive and recognize his Spirit in us. The Spirit will open the doors and carry on Jesus’ mission to reconcile the world.

The Church will not and cannot succeed behind closed doors; if it does keep them closed, then the Church, as we know it, will die; even though Jesus’ mission will not die. The message of Christ cannot and should never be contained by a door that is intended to be open at all times. Jesus doesn’t say, “here is a gift, now keep it to yourself.” Jesus says “I am sent, and so are you.” The Church is to be in the world, seeking those who live in fear and confusion, giving to those who need to know the peace of God. Otherwise, those fearful disciples would have left that room when things settled down and simply gone back to where they came from, living their normal lives before Jesus came along.

I am glad someone met Jesus after his death because we wouldn’t be here now, doing what we are doing, thinking what we are thinking and saying what we are saying. As much as I wish it were us who gathered behind that closed and locked door and on the seashore cooking fish with Jesus, it is much easier for us to talk about Jesus today because the disciples were there and they shared the promise of the Resurrection to the point that it has reached us and it has saved us. I thank God.

We are the living testimony of Jesus’ words: Blessed are we who have not seen and yet we believe. It is up to us to share this blessing with others who can see Jesus only through us as we open our doors to the world.

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