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The Doors Being Locked For Fear… (St. John 20.19-31)

Quasimodo Geniti – Second Sunday of Easter

“The Doors Being Locked For Fear…”
Rev. Jacob Sutton, Pastor

St. John 20.19-31

19 April 2020

 

+ In the Name of Jesus +

Being then the evening of that first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for the fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Jn. 20.19)

The doors were in the locked down position, for fear of the Jews. We know that feeling at home, do we not? We don’t lock up in fear of those Jewish authorities who would have gladly sent the disciples of Jesus to the cross as surely as they did the Lord Himself. No, our doors are locked in fear of viral outbreak, contagion, plague, death, which is the same fear the disciples had! A trip to the grocery store or gas station feels like a death-defying stunt to be survived! St. Thomas was not present that first Easter evening – perhaps he was braving the marketplace for supplies.

It was a joy to see members of Immanuel take advantage of the scheduled communions which were offered last week. Time after time you expressed to me and we expressed back the fact that it was nice to see people “in the flesh” and not through a camera. A few of you came in time slots with no one else signed up, and I could see the briefest twinge of disappointment – hoping maybe to see one or two fellow Christians alongside at proper social distancing.

We’ve locked away all the children, too, in this viral outbreak. We’ve locked our children away from each other – except their own siblings. I think they miss out the most on social interaction with their peers in this sad time. And our Christian children miss seeing their fellow Christians of all ages here at the Divine Service. It’s a big part of growing up to be strong adults and faithful Christians.

But it’s all happening for the same basic reason, isn’t it! We are in the same boat as the disciples on the first Easter evening… Behind locked doors for fear of death!

Yet on Easter evening and again a week later, Jesus comes to confront that fear. He enters when and where He pleases, He needs no door. The resurrected Jesus Christ simply makes Himself known, where we are hurting, where we are afraid, where we are tempted, where we are lonely, where we have nowhere to turn.

What does Jesus do when He appears behind the locked doors to confront the fear of death?

First, He speaks His peace upon you. “Peace be with you.” Eternal peace is announced with God the Father, reconciliation with God that He has earned – not just a peace held together by political or military or any earthly force. This is peace that cannot be taken away or taken back, peace with no strings attached. The peace that surpasses all understanding. You are forgiven of sin, you have the way opened to eternal life in heaven, on account of the shedding of His holy, precious blood in His innocent suffering and death on your behalf. You stand righteous before God.

Second, Jesus shows His hands and side. He is the crucified one. Pilate said, “Behold the Man” on Good Friday, but on Easter evening, it was for the disciples the “seeing” talked about by Job:

      …yet in my flesh I shall see God,

      whom I shall see for myself,

      and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

      My heart faints within me! (Job 19:26–27)

The disciples see the true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, who has redeemed them from lost and condemned to righteous, innocent, and blessed – and this One is their Lord. He is my Lord! What a joyful thing to say! “Then the disciples were caused to rejoice, they had seen the Lord.” (Jn. 19.20b) Their Lord. My Lord.

But you and I were not there. That’s why Jesus gave the apostles the Holy Spirit, to breathe out the Good News of the crucified and resurrected Christ to the very ends of this earth, pronouncing on Jesus’ behalf the forgiveness of sins to every believer, all who He gathers into His holy, Christian Church through the call of the Gospel. This stanza of Salvation Unto Us Has Come summarizes this preaching very well:

The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes us conscience-stricken;
But then the Gospel enters in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.  
(LSB 555, stanza 8; public domain)

The same Jesus Christ comes today into this sanctuary and into your homes, behind your locked doors with His peace-giving eternal Gospel. You can’t see Him for now – that’s for the Last Day upon your resurrection – but it is the same living Christ with the same message of peace for you who works through His Word preached by the power of the Holy Spirit.

St. Thomas was out getting the groceries, remember?

We too easily and too often call him “doubting Thomas” and some of our hymns even say so in our hymnal. But instead, maybe Thomas ought to be thought of differently. He is perhaps how you should be in your homes and in your hearts this day: not doubting, but insisting Thomas. Insisting Thomas who insists on seeing and hearing from the same Resurrected Crucified Christ the other apostles saw and heard from.

“You say that you have seen him, fellow disciples,” Thomas seems to say, “but I tell you, unless I have seen with my own eyes the resurrected and crucified, Spirit-giving Christ, who am I going to believe in? What else is there? He is the only one I can believe in. I must have the same vision, O disciples, as you did, because you have been given to see the resurrected Jesus as in fact He comes to us, as the One who still bears in His body the trophies of His passion, and unless I see Him as well, I’m not really a part of your group.” [1]

Thomas is not doubting the fact of the resurrection. He insists upon the grabbing hold of the one who has ascended to the Father, who was lifted up from the earth in order to draw all men to Himself, which is the mysterious glorification of Jesus’ crucifixion. Thomas too wants to rejoice to see the day of the living Christ who was crucified for His trespasses and raised again for His justification. And He did as we heard the Sunday after Easter – this day many years ago – He rejoiced and confessed, “My Lord and My God!”

You too, listening wherever you may be: by the power of the Holy Spirit, be insistent Thomas. Insist to grab hold of the resurrected, crucified One through faith in the Words and promises of Jesus Christ. Who else is there to believe in? Who else has defeated death itself? Who else brings lasting eternal peace? Who else went to the cross and endured all things for you to be forgiven? And when I grab hold of that, by grace, through faith, I will confess that One to be my Lord and my God, that Man is the One to rejoice in, with angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven.

To partake of Christ through faith is to even now possess what is promised, what is hoped for: the same glorified, resurrected, free from pain-heartache-loneliness-isolation-grief-illness-pandemic- free form death – body. That is, you have Jesus’ promise to be a partaker with Him of eternal life, to become like Him in every way. For one day, Christ will enter into another locked room: your grave. He will wake you up, and “will change your lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philip. 3.21)

Hence, all fear and sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within.
Yea, whate’er
I here must bear,
Thou art still my purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless treasure!   
(LSB 743, stanza 6; public domain)

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +


[1] Paraphrase of Dr. William Weinrich, on Issues Etc show “The Resurrection According to John’s Gospel”, re-aired 13 April 2020.

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