Opening Locked Doors
Readings: Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 2; Revelation 1:4-8; John 20:19-31
It is evening on the first day of the week. The disciples are huddled behind locked doors. After the death of their beloved leader they are naturally fearful. Jesus’ death had changed everything. Their hopes and dreams had been shattered. They feared for their lives. They had seen their leader cruelly executed. They lived in fear of the consequences of being a follower of Jesus. And so they locked the doors.
Are there doors that we lock for fear? Are there issues that are simply too painful for the Church to look at? Do we close our minds to change because we fear what it will mean in our lives? Does fear keep us from being totally committed to the message of the Gospel? We do not live in a perfect world. We are faced every day with inequities. There are problems we cannot solve. There are situations that seem insurmountable. There are injustices. There are tragedies that cry out for an explanation. There are conflicts that we cannot handle. Sometimes it seems easier and more prudent to huddle behind locked doors.
The disciples did not remain frozen in their fear. They unlocked the doors. They went back out into that same world. They faced those same authorities. They went out preaching and teaching in Jesus’ name. They did it with fervour and commitment. Even jail could not hold them back. “We must obey God rather than humanity,” they declared to the same people in fear of whom they had locked the doors.
What empowered them to unlock the doors, to open themselves up to persecution, to ridicule? What made them willing to live dangerously for their faith? It had to be more than the hope of winning some nebulous crown in another dimension. Their whole outlook changed. Your whole perspective does not shift without a momentous reason. For them to joyfully risk their lives, to endure beatings and imprisonment for the sake of the Gospel, something unimaginable had to have taken place. They were committed. They were totally and utterly convinced of their cause, and equally convinced of the blindness of those around them.
There is only one possible answer to the change. Nothing, not a lock on a door, not the grave, not their betrayal of him, could keep Jesus from coming. He came and stood amongst them, offering peace, offering hope. And it changed them.
“We have seen the Lord,” they said to Thomas. When you have seen the One you thought you was gone forever, standing before you in all of his risen glory, when you are convinced that the power of death is overcome, then everything changes.
Notice that it didn’t change for Thomas, at least not right away! “If I could see, I would believe!” he tells them. He just cannot see the signs of resurrection. In his deep pain and anguish he cannot see that he has missed something. Something has changed. The disciples have been empowered. He cannot see through his sorrow to the hope in their words. He cannot experience the peace that Jesus has brought.
How like Thomas we are! If only I could see, then I would believe. Prove to me that God is alive. Where can I see resurrection in this world in which I live? I see only death.
Think back to your childhood. Consider what you believed. As children we were able to believe the impossible. That ability disappeared as we were taught that the world of imagination is not true. Faith requires that we will ourselves not to disbelieve, that we naively recapture the sense of wonder that we had as children.
Perhaps it is easier to do if we consider some words of Aristotle. “That which is impossible and probable is better than that which is possible and improbable.”
Magic is possible, but it is certainly improbable. We have all watched with amazement as a skilful magician works his magic. Our eyes tell us to believe. We want to believe. We know that it is a trick. We try to figure out how it is done, but underneath it all we just want to believe in the magic. We know that things are not as they appear to be.
We live in an age where impossible things become reality every day. Growing up, Saturday afternoon meant a trip to the movies. When the feature was over we would sit mesmerized by a serial. Each week, they would show a new segment of a science fiction film about space travel. It seemed far beyond the realm of possibility. Rocket ships! Moon landings! Visiting other planets! Yet not many years later, sitting in a campsite my sister and I listened on the car radio as the first people walked on the surface of the moon.
Resurrection on the other hand is impossible; but in the light of the reaction of the disciples it is also probable. If we are a people of the resurrection, then we must live as an Easter people. That may mean a change in direction. It may mean unlocking the doors that keep us trapped in fear. It may mean advocating for justice. It may mean taking a committed stand against society.
It is a standing joke about the Miss World Beauty Pageant as every contestant is asked what their hope is and all make the same reply, “World peace!” But I suspect that if I asked each of you this morning what you hope for that at least somewhere in your first few responses, world peace would appear.
We long for peace and harmony in our world. We hear on the news of terrorist acts in Sri Lanka and we long for peace. We hear of North Korea arming itself and we long for peace. We hear of young people being shot on our city streets and we long for peace. We hear of family violence and we long for peace. We deal with conflict in our personal lives and we long for peace.
And there is Jesus in the midst of us, wounded hands extended, offering peace. In that gesture, offered to us in the same way it was offered to the first disciples of Christ, we recognize and accept God’s love for us. We accept in faith the teaching of the apostles and their proclamation that they “have seen the risen Lord.” Then we allow God’s gracious Spirit, the peace he came to bring, to fill, energize and propel us toward a committal of all we are and have. Then we will know and experience the power of the resurrected Lord in our lives. We too will proclaim, “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”
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