As you are reading this, chances are high that you’re in your house and your door is closed and locked. There is a danger to your health outside and you may be feeling scared.
This is not the first time that the followers of Jesus have found themselves hiding out in their homes, scared to go outside. In the Gospel of John, chapter 20, we read:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear. . . Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.” (ESV, John 20:19-21a).
John gives us a chronological marker here: he makes a point in telling us that it was the first day of the week, Sunday. The followers of Jesus are in hiding and they are afraid. Why? Jesus of Nazareth, their leader, the one they believed would restore Israel, had just been executed as a common criminal. The death of Jesus meant the death of their hope. From their perspective, it meant that the Kingdom of God was gone. Christ’s death also meant that they were now in real danger themselves, after all, those who conspired to arrest and kill Jesus might also be looking for them as well, right? What better way to kill Jesus’ revolutionary ideas than to hunt down his followers and throw them in jail…or worse!
So there they are, huddled together, afraid to go outside. Suddenly, supernaturally, Jesus appears in their midst. The very Son of God is alive, standing among them.
But notice what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “you shouldn’t be scared.” He doesn’t say, “I am disappointed with how you are reacting to your circumstances.” There is no hint of a rebuke. Instead, Jesus tells his disciples, “Peace be with you.”
He knows why they are afraid and so he gives them His peace. He had promised to do this before His death (14:27) and now He delivers on that promise. Notice that real peace is not something you and I can conjure up on our own. It is a gift to be received. It is a grace that God dispenses.
As a church, we have been praying that God would eradicate this virus. We have prayed that doctors would discover a vaccine for COVID-19. This is how we ought to pray! However, even if the virus were to disappear tomorrow, you and I would still be in desperate need of heavenly peace. This is why Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). Do you need peace? Ask Jesus.
Jesus’ next action is surprising: He displays his scars. Jesus’ hands and feet had been nailed to a cross and after he had died, a solider pierced his side (19:34). Why does he do this? To prove that he had resurrected from the dead!
One of my favorite songs that we sing on Sunday mornings is the song “Resurrected” by Elevation Worship. The last verse is:
“The tomb where soldiers watched in vain
Was borrowed for three days
His body there would not remain
Our God has robbed the grave!”
It is an incredible sound when the people of God raise their voices and celebrate Jesus’ victory over death. This has been the anthem of the Church for two thousand years and it’s a truth that we must turn to again, especially during a global pandemic.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul writes extensively on the implications of the resurrection of Christ and he concludes chapter 15 like this: “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” When the disciples understood that Jesus had defeated death, the text says that they were ‘glad.’ What an understatement. I am sure it took a few moments for their brains to comprehend what they were seeing. But soon, it clicked for them and they rejoiced. Jesus defeated death. Let that sink in. Death could not hold him. He has silenced forever the boast of sin and grave and the Son of God wants to remind you right now that, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).
Are you locked in your house, worried and afraid? May the peace of God rule in your heart and may the reality of the resurrection of Christ and its implications fill you with increasing joy and faith. Amen!