“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'” John 20:19
Only a few days and weeks before, these disciples were sure they had all the answers. “We will never leave you!” “Though everyone else forsake you I never will!” “Yes we are able to drink from the same cup as you, Jesus!” They argued among one another about who was greatest and who would get privileged seats on the right and left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. They had cast out demons and healed people. Even the religious leaders were a little bit afraid of them. The disciples were a privileged group of men who spent most every hour with Jesus. They had all the answers.
Then Jesus was crucified. And all the answers rang a little hollow. So they huddled up in a room, unsure of what to do next.
The disciples in that room were terribly afraid. Jesus already had appeared to Mary. She had reported that to the 11 remaining disciples, two of them had been to the tomb and saw that His body was gone, but they did not believe Mary. She was delusional. She wanted to see him so badly. She imagined it because someone had desecrated the grave and stolen the body.
John tells us that they had gathered in a room. He also tells us that they had bolted the doors, and they had probably locked the windows. It was dark. They were afraid that the same people that arrested Jesus would come after them. In that feeble, early morning darkness I doubt they said much. Silently they asked all the questions and rehearsed all the doubts and disappointments. “How could this have happened?” “A messiah doesn’t die.” “Why didn’t we stay in Galilee? We told him he should not have come back here to Jerusalem! He even told us he would probably die here.”
Each one had their shattered dreams. “I left everything for this?” “I should have stayed in my boat.” “Where do I go now?”
Each one had their share of guilt. “I ran.” “I denied knowing him.” “We weren’t good enough.” “We weren’t strong enough.” “We weren’t faithful enough.” “We weren’t…enough.”
That dark room was as much a psychological and spiritual commentary on those people as it was a defense against being arrested. The air was thick with failure and disappointment. These were shattered people.
Each one of us has spent some time in that room. Life has not turned out for you the way you had imagined. Your dreams are smashed against cold, hard reality. Or maybe the pressures and strains of life have left you burned out and full of doubt. Something in you died a while back and you don’t even think it will ever live again. You drag yourself into that room, close the doors, bolt the windows and say to anyone who would listen, “leave me alone.”
Jesus understood their questions, just as he understands yours. A few days earlier on the cross he had uttered that unforgettable question, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” He understood darkness and loneliness and disappointment and fear.
So when He came into that room, suddenly appearing the midst of doubting disciples His first words were “Peace to you.”
Wait a minute! Is this any way to run a resurrection? Spielberg should have been in charge of this production. He could have spiced it up a bit. Jesus appears first to Pontius Pilate: “Good morning Pontius! Are your hands still clean?” Then he could move on to the Sanhedrin, that jury of rulers that sentenced him to death: “Hey fellows! You guys want to vote again?” The resurrection needs something big and splashy. “I’m back!!!!” It needed to be something that changed everyone’s mind, showed the bad guys they were wrong, and helped our team to know they were right! That’s the way it should have been!
Instead he appears and says simply, “Peace to you.” That never made sense to me, until I had spent some time in that room.
Jesus knew that what they needed most at that point was reassurance. So he came back to them, appearing in their midst and said, “peace to you.” He was back, and He brought what they needed most.
We all spend time in that room. It’s like a tomb. We put rocks of fear and self-loathing over all the openings.
And here’s the good news: Jesus is really good at removing all kinds of rocks. He’ll take them away from the openings, and He’ll encourage you to stop replacing them with new rocks. Soon the light of His love pours in, and then peace replaces fear.
Are you in that room right now? Easter Sunday is a reminder. Life wins. Good wins. Love wins. Hope wins. And peace reigns.
When all my boastful claims of faith and fidelity ring a little hollow, then I need a simple word from Jesus to remind me of what is real and lasting. And He says “Peace to you.”
Dr. Terry Ellis
March 27, 2016