When Christ Shows Up
Today’s Gospel text begins with scared disciples in a locked room. I can imagine them sweating profusely and can even see some occasionally checking the doorknob to see that it was locked. Other disciples might have been looking out of a peephole or a window because of the fact they were now fugitives because their beloved leader, Jesus, has been executed to death on the cross by the means of crucifixion. The disciples fear the Roman and religious authorities that murdered Jesus would possibly murder them for being associated with this radical, itinerant preacher from Galilee. There messianic hopes have dissolved into mere survival, coupled by utter confusion and calamity. But the evangelist John records that Mary reports to them that she has seen the risen Christ. I am sure they thought she was delusional to have witnessed Jesus. In John the 20th chapter, around verse nineteen, something happens when Christ shows up to them.
My first point is that when Christ shows up He gives us Peace. This verse says that the first words that Jesus provides to those disciples that have abandoned him and left him on an old rugged cross is Peace, not “How could you leave me abandoned to die?” I thought we were a band of friends that would stick together through the turmoil of death as he looked sarcastically at Peter. But Christ came through the locked doors in His glorified body and brought the fearful men peace. Note that twice He speaks of peace (vv. 19, 21). The first “peace” is peace with God, based on His sacrifice on the cross. That is why He showed them His hands and side. The second peace is the peace of God that comes from His presence with us. The prophet Isaiah declares in Isaiah chapter 26, verse three, that “thou wilt keep him/her in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,” because their trust is in thee. Romans 5:1 tells us that “therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peace be with you, Jesus says. But how can we have peace when the fear of death is so close? How do we garner up peace when news gives us a play by play report of the sick and dead among us? How do we stir up peace when once clear futures are now so bleck and questionable? Where does peace come from when we feel caught in a 2020 adaptation of the movie “Ground Hog Day”? How do we find that peace that Christ promises us? One man said that he had been told that one way to achieve inner peace is to finish the things he’s already started. He said, “Today I finished two bags of potato chips and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” This outlook perhaps can give us temporary peace and helps to relieve stress–not your waistline–but when we allow Christ to show up, he gives us Peace. Allowing Christ to show up is allowing the good of life to be seen. Opening yourself to hope and possibilities. Permitting yourself to dream again and receiving the blessings of the day. For today Christ desires to show up for you and in so doing he is bringing baskets of PEACE!
After he gives us Peace, he gives us Power. Verse twenty-two tells us that “when he said this he breathed on them.” Our Lord’s breathing upon them is reminiscent of Genesis 2:7 when God breathed into Adam. This action toward the disciples was personal and individual, giving them the spiritual power and discernment they would need to fulfill His commission. In Ezekiel 37 we see the dry bones of an old battlefield come together as skeletons and then organs and tissues and kin, but they laid there like corpses until verse 9. “Then said he unto me, ‘Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, “Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”‘ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.”
The fact that Christ breathed on them gave them transforming power that commissioned them to be changed. Christ gave them power through his breath and they were transformed. Christ wants to transform us with his breath….During these last two months my heart has broken time and time again as I hear the stories of family members having to say good bye to loved ones from a far. Seniors and the young alike having to suffer and often unto death without the comfort of their closest family and friends. This setup against a backdrop of crowds of people protesting stay at home orders demanding to go back to work and get back to life. But see, they don’t know Chris who has laid in a hospital bed for two weeks, scared, along and worried. They don’t know Will who was sick unto death and more than anything he longed to feel the touch of his mother and be surrounded by those who could agree in prayer for his life. They don’t know the Joseph who has lost so many of his ministry companions in the last month that he questions how can he go on. And more sadly than all of that…they don’t know that rich donors are inciting them to rage and upheaval just so they can get them back on the wheel of profits with absolutely no care or concern about their well being. We need the breath of God today to transform out hearts like never before. Listen, Jesus came through a closed door then and he can come through closed doors today!
I am so glad that God transformed us….Come here, Moses, tell me what God can do; he can turn a murderer into a leader….Come here, David, tell me what God can do; he can turn a lowly shepherd boy into a king….Come here, Nehemiah, what can God do; God can turn a cup bearer into a wall builder….Come here, Jeremiah, I wonder what God can do; he can turn a cry baby and make them a prophet….Come here, Mary Magdalene, what can God do; he can turn a so-called harlot and make them an apostle and first witness to the Resurrection. Christ’s power is not temporary but everlasting.
When Christ shows up, he gives us Peace, he gives us Power, and lastly, he gives us… Purpose.
This is our purpose. We are to be: a mouth to speak for Jesus; feet to run errands for Jesus, hands to do the work of Jesus, and a heart to love Jesus.
One of the ways that you know a bowler is serious about bowling is that they have custom-made balls. These are constructed to have the appropriate weight and grip so that they fit the bowler’s uniqueness. To have your bowling ball custom-made is to increase the possibility of effective delivery so that you can hit the mark. God has constructed every member of his body in a customized way. God has uniquely crafted every one of us to hit the mark of His purpose and calling on our lives. We are not an assembly line with the same automated parts. We have been uniquely crafted for His purpose.
Jesus still breathes upon us and shows up in our darkest hours and says, “Peace.” What a gift. And in recognition that we are all equally inherited, ours is a common confession: Jesus is Lord.
If your heart is troubled today about the future, I encourage you to grab hold of that promise–God will never forsake you and Jesus is STIL showing up through closed doors. As for the future, that is what the whole Easter event is all about. The same God who raised Christ from the dead watches over you and will not leave or forsake you. Our response in knowing that Christ has shown up to give us Peace, Power and Purpose is to tell it now to all: “the Spirit of God is with us.”
Bishop-Elect Roger Billingsley-Hayes