Behind Locked Doors

It had been three nights and two days. It seemed a lot longer.

It was a small room and they were all tired, hungry and sweaty. Tempers were high. More than a few fistfights had broken out between them. Old animosities were uncovered and festering. They had no one left but each other. They hated no one worst than they hated each other. It was pure misery.

Things had reversed very quickly. Not even a few weeks before, they had been jockeying for position; fighting for titles and places of privilege. Now they were competing to see which of them was least associated with the crucified rabbi.

Which of them could go back to normal life without the stigma of being associated with this failed messiah? Was there any going back? They had locked the doors, out of fear. But more and more, it gradually dawned on them that the world outside was locking them in. They had cast in their lot with this man from Nazareth. He had said, “Follow me” and they did.

Peter and Andrew had left behind their fishing boat. Matthew had left behind his tollbooth. The sons of Zebedee had left the family business. Some had left behind John the Baptist. It was unavoidable. They had each left a part of themselves behind to follow this magician. And why not? He offered them a greater life than the lives they had. And even though they were now denying it to each other, they had each found themselves believing.

What if God cared about their small, insignificant lives? This crazy rabbi had them thinking so. The almighty could have chosen anyone to be the liberating King for Israel, ravished nation that she was. Just imagine a God that would make this nobody from Nazareth the liberator! He could have picked a temple priest, a religious authority; someone on the inside. But no, this Galilean carpenter had them believing that they were being called up with Him into a great cosmic drama! That their lives were that important! A bunch of nobodies on the outside!

Of course, now, in this miserable room looking at each other through squinted eyes, it seemed so ridiculous. How could they have fallen for it? The world has shrunk to this tiny room. We are locked out. The outer darkness. The bitterness and anger that were surface-symptoms of their deeper fear kept them locked away from each other.

A few times, Simon stood up and tried to quote the Teacher. “Fear not, little flock! It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom!” He was hissed at. “Sit down, Peter!” His new name “Peter” was said mockingly. They all started quoting the Teacher, sarcastically.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

They had heard these words thousands of times. It was part of His core teaching. And something happened to them as they recited each line. At first, they would say it mockingly, each man angry that he had believed such naivety so wholeheartedly. But as the rabbi’s words were spoken out loud, the angry sarcasm turned to broken-heartedness. Imagine a world in which the poor in spirit were blessed instead of patronized. Imagine a world in which comfort came to mourners instead of despair. Imagine a world in which the meek were no longer stepped on and exploited. Imagine a world in which longing for righteousness was a satisfying endeavor. The more the Master’s words hung in the air, the more the rawness of their hearts became exposed.

We’ve all fallen for it. We have hopelessly fallen for the God that the Master revealed.

Of course, such a God didn’t exist. This God was a fiction more alluring than reality. The reality is that the rabbi who revealed this God was put to death in the most horrifying way possible. The Pharisees, Priests and Politicians all had a God who was a cosmic tyrant – blessing the savvy and powerful while forgetting the poor and outcast. Jesus was dead. Their God won.

Has a roomful of men ever wept more bitterly? Not only for themselves, but for the dream of their Master! A world created by a God who is such a fierce lover! A rightful king wandering the hills, caring for nobodies! Welcoming in the outsiders!

What a cruel, cruel joke.

The third day was much the same. A woman had come to the door. John and Peter had left. When they came back, they were white with terror. Someone had stolen His body! His death was not enough! Every disciple’s life is in danger. It’s only a matter of time.

What do you do when you are waiting to be found? Hearts racing, hands shaking – a silence so sharp no one could move. Such intense fear made everything freeze.

Then, a voice broke the death-silence:
“Peace be with you.”

No one said anything. Who would have said something so ridiculous and audacious? Who could puncture such a heavy silence with so light a sentiment? Then they looked up, and He was in their midst.

Instantaneously, they were changed. His presence changed everything. The shock and amazement overwhelmed them and they tried to speak but the words came out as ecstatic gibberish. Then came a second wave of terror. What was more frightening than being sought by the authorities? Being visited by a spirit – especially the spirit of a man you abandoned to death.

He extended His hands. Do spirits bleed?

They each, as if in a dream, silently felt His wounds. They were physical. He was there – physically there! He had died, He had been buried and dead for two nights and a day. And now He was here, showing off His wounds as if they were a victory of some sort!

Jesus said these words, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.” And He breathed on them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Those were the words spoken, but the disciples heard volumes. The God revealed by Jesus was not fiction. The vision of reality that had made them weep with raw hearts now made them dance with reckless abandon. He had entered into their shrunken world and enlarged it infinitely. The world outside was no longer a cruel joke; it was full of beauty and adventure! A new creation had just begun; this despairing and distracted world was being remade. The Holy Spirit who had once brooded over the waters of chaos and called forth exquisite artistry was now doing the same within each one of them. Beauty from ashes, joy from mourning.

And the part about forgiving sins? Well, the power of forgiving sins was handed over to a sweaty, miserable group of cowards and deserters. What right had any of them to withhold forgiveness?! They had to begin by forgiving each other and themselves.

In a world in which the God of Jesus is victorious, what sin is too dark to be forgiven?! What death is too deep to be brought back to life?

And so they went out – the sent ones. They were sent out into this forgiven world to seek out the risen Christ wherever He might turn up next.

The Risen Christ has been unleashed on the world. You never know where you’ll find Him next. Forgiving, healing, renewing, reconciling and sending. There is no darkness too deep, and no locked door strong enough to keep Him out. And there is no coward too cowardly to turn brave for the love of Him.

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~ by shardsofeternity on April 1, 2010.

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