Jesus enters…even though our doors are locked. Sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Adel Parish Church.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the adverts…’A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’…it’s at this time of year I sometimes feel we should say, ‘Alleluias are for life, not just for Easter Sunday.’
In fact, I have a clergy friend who, about now, starts putting regular posts on social media saying ‘It’s still Easter’, and continues until the Easter season ends after 50 days, at Pentecost.
A timely reminder not just for the secular world – but for us in the church too. There is so much effort involved in the wonderful celebrations of Holy Week and Easter Day, that ‘Alleluia’ can seem a little like a triumphant ‘The end’. Certainly, last Monday, I had no energy for any more Easter! But today’s gospel reading shows us very clearly why those 50 days are important.
As we proclaim ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen’ – with joy on Easter morning, I suspect we imagine the disciples doing the same. At dawn on Easter morning, we read in John’s gospel how Mary met the risen Christ and told the disciples ‘I have seen the Lord’. Even allowing for the male chauvinism of the day…why are they then not out looking…even in the vague hope she might be right?
But no, as we’ve just heard, on the evening of that same day, they were not out and about shouting ‘Alleluia’, looking for the risen Christ, but hiding in a locked room.
We’re told it’s ‘for fear of the Jews’. Yet ‘the Jews’ could easily have arrested them along with Jesus, had they wanted. I wonder – is it really Jesus they’re afraid of? After all, last time they saw him they protested their undying support and then ran away, leaving him to his fate.
Jesus has burst the tomb and is on the loose, but perhaps they aren’t very keen to run into him. Are the disciples locked in by their shame, fear, doubt perhaps?
Whatever is keeping them there doesn’t matter, because Jesus comes to them. He comes to them, where they are, and he says ‘Peace be with you’. Not, ‘Where were you?’, not ‘How could you run off and leave me?’, not even ‘I forgive you’, but ‘Peace be with you’.
‘Then they rejoiced when they saw the Lord’! I bet they did – perhaps partly with relief at knowing they were loved and forgiven.
And yet…and yet, a week later, there they are still shut in that room. This time Thomas is there – doubting Thomas as we remember him; but it seems the others also need convincing, since they’re still not out spreading the good news.
But Jesus comes to them…again without recrimination…offers his peace, and the chance to touch his wounds.
Jesus comes…’even though the doors were locked’.
I’ve heard this story so many times, and I think I’ve always sort of supposed Jesus came through the wall to show he was God. But he’s at pains to show he’s a very human, bodily Jesus. Here he offers his wounded hands and side, in Luke’s gospel he eats a piece of fish. He seems to want them to know he’s the same Jesus they’ve spent the last 3 years with.
I wonder then – does Jesus come in without unlocking the door because he’s leaving this for the disciples to do? He invites them to be part of the new resurrection life he has begun, he offers them the reassurance they need, but leaves them to make their own move when they’re ready.
And so he comes to us, though we lock doors to keep him out. Sometimes the door is locked for fear of what Jesus might find when he enters our lives. Sometimes it’s locked out of disbelief…because the idea of a crucified and risen saviour is so difficult to grasp…or because God seems so absent in the world we see around us. Sometimes it’s locked out of anger, resentment or sorrow.
I think I’ve locked my door for all of those reasons, and probably others besides at different times in my life. But Jesus still enters.
He brings his peace when we’re ready to accept it, to accept we can be forgiven and loved.
He can’t say, as he did to the disciples, touch my hands and side…but he knows our need for something we can touch and hold. So he gives himself to us in bread and wine at the Eucharist. In the last fortnight I’ve shared the Eucharist with a number of people who have had to make do with online offerings for a year – and seen just how much it means to them.
That first Easter wasn’t just one morning of ‘Alleluia he is risen’…it was 40 days of Jesus coming into the locked rooms of people’s lives. Days of giving them physical proof, and of helping them know anything can be forgiven.
There are two beautiful phrases at the end of today’s reading that I want to end with. Jesus says to Thomas, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
…’have come to believe.’ Not – got it, in a flash one Easter morning – but have come to believe. I think today’s gospel tells us that believing is often a gradual process of Jesus coming into our locked rooms and giving us reason to open the door and venture out.
Then the final lines tell us ‘through believing that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, you may have life in his name.’
So ‘Alleluia’ is not just the Easter morning moment of joy, it’s Jesus coming again and again, as many times as we need, to where we are; Jesus saying ‘peace be with you’…whether we have feared, denied, betrayed, ignored him; Jesus giving us the means to touch him in bread and wine; until we are ready to open the door and find that in his name is life indeed.
Alleluia – amen.