During these days of isolation when we are shut away in our homes, I have found it a wonderful time that (besides catching up with all of the household chores) I can take time to read and study more of God’s Word. This is especially true for the passages relating to the Easter/Passion events.
One of the themes that has come through to me in various passages is the fear that people felt during this time. This caused many of them to “Self-Isolate” and lock doors. Maybe there is also a sense of fear today as you self-isolate from the pandemic in our world.
We find Peter isolating himself from the situation during the arrest and trial of Jesus, when he was “warming himself” by the fire amongst the household servants and guards in the courtyard. He just wanted to blend in with the crowd and not be noticed, probably out of fear for what might happen to him if it was discovered that he was one of the followers of Jesus. And we all know that he denied being a disciple on three occasions before the annoying, give-away rooster crowed. How different was the Peter of the night in the courtyard, to that of the Peter of the day of Pentecost, which came later. Fear had overwhelmed him and he wanted to hide and be isolated from the perceived consequences of being a follower of Jesus, whilst still curious as to what was going to happen next to the Lord.
The powerful Roman Governor Pontius Pilate was also fearful. He was fearful of the backlash from those above him if he didn’t follow the biddings of the Chief Priests. In John 19:8 “…he was more frightened than ever.” Pilate didn’t want to be reported as a rebel against Caesar as they had insinuated (v.12).
After the death of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for permission to take the body of Jesus. He was described as a “secret Disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders)…” (John 19:38). Nicodemus, another Jewish leader, assisted Joseph. You may recall that Nick had met with Jesus some time earlier “After dark one evening…” (John 3:2) to ask about being born again. Once again, some fear there of being seen with Jesus in daylight and possible consequences. It was much safer to speak secretly after dark.
I also sense some fear by the disciples Peter and John as they approached the tomb on the resurrection morning, after being told by Mary Magdelene that Jesus’ body was no longer there. John just stood at the entrance, looking in at the linen wrappings that had bound Jesus’ body and that the cloth that had covered his head, which was folded up neatly, separate from the other wrappings. Peter on the other hand just bounded in. In John 20:10 we may find one of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Then they went home.” We’re not hanging around here! They were scared! More fear! Mary Magdelene however, overcome with grief stayed by the tomb, but met with Jesus who comforted her in her sorrow. She found the disciples and told them that she had seen Jesus.
Now, it is an understatement to say that the resurrection was an amazing event. Jesus had been raised to life again – miraculous - super natural – but now we see some more super-natural events following the resurrection.
In John 20:19 we find that on “That Sunday evening the disciples were behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.” But then something super-natural happens. The doors were locked, right? “Suddenly Jesus was standing there among them!” Where did he come from? How did he get there? Well, how did he come to life again in the tomb? How did he escape the locked door (or stone) of the tomb? Same answer I would suggest. This is Jesus the Son of God. Nothing is impossible with him – not rising from the dead or entering a room where the door is locked.
His first words when he appeared were, “Peace be with you!” Peace, not fear! After their joy at seeing him, he said again, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
Thomas was not with them on this occasion and when the disciples told him about having seen Jesus he couldn’t believe it. You can’t blame him. This is just too much to take in. So much had taken place over the past few days. You and I would probably have been the same.
Well eight days later the disciples were together, again with the doors locked and this time Thomas was present with them. I don’t know what Jesus was doing in those eight days, and we don’t seem to be told. Maybe he was waiting for the time when they were all together, including Thomas. However, Jesus appeared suddenly again as he had done before (in a locked room), again greeting with the words, “Peace be with you!" Jesus gave Thomas the opportunity to check out his wounds and put his doubts aside and to believe. Thomas did believe. But here is something that is of great encouragement to us today in John 20:29, Jesus said to Thomas, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
We are behind closed doors (mainly out of fear of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus) and we haven’t seen Jesus like the disciples have. For some weeks now we haven’t been able to see Jesus in bread and wine as we are accustomed to doing on Sundays in Holy Communion, yet we should not fear. The peace of the lord is with us as we continue to believe. He is present with us in his supernatural way behind our closed doors, even though we may not see him, or touch him. Doors, and locks and stones against a tomb cannot hold him back. Keep believing, for the day will come when we will not need to hide behind locked doors and when Jesus will return so that we will be with Him forever.
Be encouraged. Do not fear. We are blessed, because we believe and know that Jesus is alive, even though we have not seen him.
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
“Breath on me, breath of God; so shall I never die, But live with Thee the perfect life, Of Thine eternity.” (Edwin Hatch – 1878)
And all of God’s people said… Amen! Praise God!
(Scripture verses from the NLT – Bold face and italics mine)