May 22, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?...Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear…for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me.”
Psalm 27: 1, 3, 5
“O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s glow its day
May brighter, fairer be.”
Today’s Study Text:
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.’”
John 20: 19-21
“He is Risen” Part 8
“Behind Locked Doors”
“Christian Community can no longer be a grouping of the like-minded. It is a group defined by a single focal point, Jesus Christ, rather than a circle which is defined by its circumference, when the emphasis is on who is inside the line and who is outside…spirituality encourages us to recognize the differences between us, and discover that those differences can be a cause for celebration, rather than a source of fear.”
Wrestling and Resting
Have I ever found myself hiding behind a locked door in fear?
How can I bear witness to Jesus Christ and His’ resurrection if I choose to only associate with those who I feel are just “like me”?
“When you are compelled to weave barbed wire around yourself as a protection against your fellow-citizens, your security is a form of imprisonment – you can only shut others out at the price of shutting yourself in.”
“So I ask you to share my prayer, that ‘the mountain be cast into the depths of the sea,’ the fear be lifted from all our hearts and that we may develop the daring, viscerally moved, shepherdly heart of love along with the creative projects such a heart will enflame as we follow our Lord outside the camp.”
On Being Liked
The door was locked tight. Bolted inside the room were some of Jesus’ closest friends, fearing the onslaught of persecution because of their association with Jesus of Nazareth. The Apostle John states that the disciples, who were being called the “grave-robbers” of Jesus, feared the Jews involved in the activities over the past few days, would now target them.
Our study texts for today, just three verses, really require a week of study. But for the next three days, I want to look at what I’ve found are the highlighted lessons which appear repeatedly in most commentaries that study the words John recorded for his readers down through history.
Because of the time Jesus spent in ministering to people of all ages, nationalities, races, and genders, we might assume that His “embracing” ministry would have rubbed off on His’ followers. Yet now, they are huddled together in a locked room, apparently afraid of what is going on outside. Barbara Essex’s commentary on the texts we are studying today provides a clear insight into how the disciples may have felt at the time of their self-imprisonment: “The disciples and others gathered in Jerusalem were immensed in chaos and confusion – fear, frustration, guilt, grief, doubt, anxiety, suspicion, distrust, restlessness, despondency, and terror.” I think she about covered the variety of emotions that permeated the hearts of the disciples in the bolted-up room that night. Then Pastor Essex continues, “Their leader was dead, and His bloody and wounded body missing. In the midst of their escalating alarm, out of nowhere, Jesus Himself appeared.”
At the height of fear, when these despondent followers were hunkered-down in a locked room, afraid for their own lives, Jesus entered the room. And please note, He didn’t attempt to get the disciples to let Him in by banging on the door with His fists and hollering, “Hey, it’s Me, open the door!” Instead, as Pastor Essex points out, “Jesus showed up, providing words of comfort, assurance, and chastisement. ‘Peace be with you’ was followed by ‘why are you freaking out?’ As He had done so many times in Luke, Jesus asked what was for dinner! It was the same Jesus, yet different - once dead but now alive, caring yet still fussing, Jesus acted as if nothing had happened – He seemed normal, natural, just what they had come to expect.” What a loving Lord! He came to the disciples in a way that helped allay their immediate fears but in addition He addressed the fears of His followers down through time. How? By silently appearing in the middle of a lock-down! Yes, nothing the disciples could put up to bar their perceived enemies could keep out the Lord of life. How thankful I am today to know that no wall, no barrier, no chained doors can block out Jesus’ ability to get to me for He will go to any length, even through a bolted door to make it to any of His precious children who may sit huddled somewhere in the world with their heart frozen by fear.
But Jesus didn’t just go through a locked door to find His fearful friends, He then greeted them with the comforting words, “Peace be with you.” While we could spend a great deal of time on these four words, I want to share what evangelist Dwight L. Moody, penned “A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do; all we have to do is enter into it.” You see, when I accept Jesus as my Savior, as Jesus Himself said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace” (John 16: 33, K.J.V.). Peace is part of the “will” that “heirs of salvation,” that is you and me, are bequeathed. It’s a gift. When we are attached to our Lord and Savior, His peace fills us. But Jesus doesn’t just say, “Have peace right now.” I love the way Chaplain Nancy Blakely writes about Jesus’ behavior in this “locked-room.” “Jesus meets the disciples where they are. Then by inviting the disciples to touch and see, and by eating some fish, He encourages them to move beyond where they are. For in Jesus, death is transcended. Fear turns to joy, but they are still disbelieving and still wondering. Again, we can relate. Our hearts would thrill to see Jesus alive, but it is too much for our feeble minds to reason through to a logical conclusion. Yes, we are glad, but how can this be so? Jesus moves them to the next level. He uses familiar words of Scripture to remind them of the prophecy. Jesus opens their minds to begin to see that death is not the final word. Set free from those bonds, they are commissioned to become witnesses.”
How about you and me? Have we fallen into a pit of fear that keeps us locked-up behind close doors? Or have we become comfortable in a group behind the closed-doors which separate us from “those out there who aren’t like us?” We may try to cover our fears with a false security blanket, but this does nothing but keep us “under wraps.” I found the way D. Cameron Murchison explores the “Behind Locked Door Syndrome,” as I choose to call it, in these pointed words, “A chronic temptation for (you and me) is to stay behind the closed door of the private and personal domain. Behind this door are found the personal, spiritual, and familial dilemmas that occupy humans in their private existence. The message of the gospel is taken seriously and with some urgency behind this door, with the prospect of healing and wholeness embraced enthusiastically for this area of life. On the other side of that door stands the public and social worlds that occupy humans when they venture forth.”
My personal question to Dorothy today is, “How do I bring the “Jesus” of the upper room outside the locked-door of my own fears? What does my life tell those outside the confines of my small world? Do I reflect my “embracing” Jesus who walked this earth spreading compassion and mercy to those who were marginalized by society and mocked by the most religious as “sinners?” As I reflected on the eternal lessons found in three verses of Scripture today, I was reminded of an old hymn that I had played as an accompanist for a friend who so beautifully sang, “So Send I You.” With Jesus walking with us, no fear or no challenge or chain can keep us “bolted” behind locked doors!
“So Send I You”
“So send I you –
My strength to know in weakness,
My joy in grief,
My perfect peace in pain,
To prove My power,
My grace, My promised presence –
So send I you, eternal fruit to gain.
‘As the Father hath sent Me, so send I you.’”
E. Margaret Clarkson
we confess that we have failed,
we have not been what you
intend us to be,
we have not been what we want to be:
We would touch the world with goodness,
but we chase after our own salvation.
We would care for Your creation,
but we squander it with little
thought for those still to come.
We would meet the needs of others,
but we find ourselves reluctant to share.
We would stand for truth,
But we remain silent in the face of evil.
We would live with love and compassion,
but we take on the values of this world.
We would share our faith joyfully,
but we lack courage to trust in You.
We need You, God,
if we are to become who You want us to be.
Transform us by the power of Your Spirit.
Renew our faith day by day
and make it as big as a mustard seed,
full of promise and possibility,
so that we may live with courage and purpose
and see the signs and parables you have for us
in the world today.”
A Restless Hope
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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