The entire biblical text and the reading below are meant to be read aloud in the company of friends and fellow believers, followed by discussion, confession, and prayer.
Sunday Lectionary Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31
Peace be with you
John 20:19–31 (NLT)
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” 26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” 28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” 30 The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
Sometimes convincing my little daughter that the shadows on her wall are from the curtains is tough.
She believes, and fearfully so, that the shifty dark figures on her wall are her worst fears.
When this fear boils over in her little mind her crying usually floods the whole house in the middle of the night followed by the sound of running little feat heading for daddy’s room. When this happens usually there is very little peace that I can give her. I cannot take the shadows away. I cannot get into her mind and give her my perspective. I can only say “why don’t you climb into bed with mom and dad, it will be OK.”
When my daughter gets older and the projection of her worst fears and insecurities become much more real and bigger than her little bedroom walls what will she do? Who will she come running to? Where will she find peace?
When we read this passage it is easy for us to single out Thomas as the doubting fearful disciple but the truth is they were all hiding fearfully behind locked doors. Similar to the shadows on my daughter’s wall, the disciples had some rather large and looming “monsters” in their hearts and minds as well. You can imagine their thoughts that evening.
“What should we do now that our master is dead?”
“Will the Jewish authorities treat us the same way they did Jesus?”
“Why is He gone and why did He leave us alone?”
John paints a picture of the resurrection’s hope and power. A dark grave and a mighty stone cant’ keep Jesus down and some doubting, hopeless and scared followers behind a locked door can’t keep Jesus out either.
He appears in the midst of doubt, fear, hopelessness and the falling darkness of evening with peace. The peace of the resurrection.
Similar to me inviting my fearful daughter to the comfort of our big safe bed Jesus comes into the darkness and chaos and binds it with peace.
He comes into our darkness and chaos still today.
When our assemblies of Christ followers lock themselves in their culture escaping churches of fear with deadlocks of frozen lifeless dogma and tradition. He stands among us and speaks the peace of the resurrection and invites us to believe that he is Lord.
When our greatest fear of not knowing everything is realized thanks to things like Google, the internet and Facebook or we feel as if we don’t know what to believe anymore… He stands among us and speaks the peace of the resurrection and invites us to believe that he is Lord.
When we grow out of our little “Foxnews” and “tea party” stages of simplicity and realize that everything is spun and free markets are actually about as free as Joan Rivers face is free from a surgeon’s influence… He stands among us and speaks the peace of the resurrection and invites us to believe that he is Lord.
When we experience a sort of “Theological Claustrophobia” and feel that we will never find our way out of the limitations we place on what we think about God… again… He stands among us and speaks the peace of the resurrection and invites us to believe that he is Lord.
When we can no longer cover up our cracks of human brokenness with lies and deceit… He stands among us and speaks the peace of the resurrection and invites us to believe that he is Lord.
And similar to the rest my daughter finds between her mother and I during one of her “scary nights” we rest in the warmth and comfort of the Son who brings peace to those who believe.
Blessed are you, Lord of heaven and earth,
to you be glory and praise for ever.
From the darkness of death you have raised your Christ
to the right hand of your majesty on high.
The pioneer of our faith, his passion accomplished,
has opened for us the way to heaven
and sends on us the promised Spirit.
May we be ready to follow the Way
and so be brought to the glory of his presence
where songs of triumph for ever sound:
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
(From the Anglican Book of Common Worship)
Reflections for the week ahead —
Monday: How would you define fear in a broad sense?
Tuesday: What are your greatest fears?
Wednesday: How do you bring your fears to Jesus on a regular basis? In other words what do your prayers usually consist of regarding these fears?
Thursday: We know that the disciples had heard the good news of Jesus Resurrection but still they feared and doubted. What fears and doubts in your life seem resistant to the hope and peace of the Resurrection?
Friday: Yesterday you were to think of some of your more stubborn fears. Now, like Thomas, confess these fears and doubts to Jesus in prayer. Tim Keller said… “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” Take some time to read 1 Cor 15. How does the Resurrection fit into your thinking and living? Is it an add on or is it at the core?
Saturday: How are you modeling and displaying the power and hope of the Resurrection in your life within your sphere of influence?