Jesus Comes Giving Us What We Need

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Devastation

Most of us have experienced – or will experience – our world coming apart at the seams. We have experienced – or will experience – devastating blows that threaten to undo us. Some of those blows come in the form of natural disasters – floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, and the like. I have been spared that particular kind of devastation, but I’ve seen it. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose everything – right down to the family photos.

Some of those devastating experiences come in the form of sickness or the death of a loved one. Some of those devastating experiences come in the form of a financial setback – the loss of a job – the loss of a home – the prospect of outliving one’s money. When that kind of thing happens to us, we quickly learn what we are made of – and what’s really important to us.

Fear

In our Gospel lesson this coming Sunday (John 20: 19-31) we see how Jesus’ disciples responded in the face of a devastating loss – the devastating loss of Jesus’ death. It wasn’t a pretty picture. Jesus’ disciples were afraid – disheartened – petrified. With all they had been through, these emotions were altogether understandable. They had gone into hiding, and were gathered behind locked doors for fear that the men who had killed Jesus would come after them next.

That was not an unfounded fear. Firefighters know it is important not just to put out the fire, but to extinguish the buried embers that might restart the fire. It would have made perfect sense for the men who killed Jesus to regard His disciples as a firefighter regards a buried ember. It would have made perfect sense for them to finish the job by rounding up and eliminating every last one of Jesus’ disciples.

So on the first day of the week – that first Easter evening – Jesus’ disciples gathered together – huddled shoulder-to-shoulder in their hiding place. They carefully locked the doors in the vain hope that those locks would protect them from Jesus’ enemies. We don’t know what they said to each other – but I can imagine that they kept their voices low so as not to attract attention.

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Peace

Then Jesus came and stood in their midst, saying,

“Peace be to you.” (v. 19)

We aren’t told how Jesus got into that locked room, but  we know it would have been a small matter for a man who, that very morning, had escaped a tomb with a huge rock blocking its entrance.

“Peace be to you.” I am so touched that Jesus would greet his disciples in this way. He must have been tempted to say, “What the heck is wrong with you guys!” He must have been tempted to say, “Get up and get moving!” But Jesus did not chastise them – he blessed them.

“Peace be to you.”

Those words must have so relieved the disciples!

“Peace be to you.” Those words gave hope to those first disciples, I’m sure – but they also give hope to me! When my faith wavers, which it sometimes does, those words tell me that Jesus will come to me – not condemning, but blessing.

“Peace be to you.” When your faith wavers, as it will on occasion, take heart. Remember how Jesus greeted those first disciples in their weakness. Keep in mind that he did not condemn them. He blessed them.  “Peace be to you.”  He gave them what they needed.

That tells us that when we are trying to cope with some sort of disaster in our own lives – and not doing very well with it – we can expect Jesus to come to us – not to condemn us but to bless us – to encourage us – to give us peace.

So I send you

But Jesus did more than that. He said, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (v. 21).  Not only did Jesus not condemn His disciples – He told them that He was going to entrust His Gospel to them. He was placing in their hands everything He had lived for – everything He had died for. He was trusting them to take that Gospel – that Good News – to all the world. We need people to show that kind of trust in us, don’t we!  Jesus was giving his disciples what they needed.

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In his book, Uncommon Friends, James Newton tells the story of Thomas Edison struggling to make a successful light bulb. Just making the glass bulb was a challenge. When Edison finally had a usable bulb, he handed it to a young helper to carry upstairs to the vacuum machine. Just before he got there, the young man dropped it. Edison didn’t rebuke the young man. He just called his team together and went back to work to create another bulb. When they finally got another good one, Edison handed the precious new bulb to the same young man to carry upstairs. He knew there was more than a bulb at stake. The young man’s self-confidence was also on the line.  Edison gave the young man what he needed.

Jesus did that with His disciples – the ones He found cowering behind locked doors. He said, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” Jesus does the same for us. He says to us, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He entrusts us with the whole ball of wax – His precious Gospel – the Good News of His resurrection.

Then Jesus gave his disciples what they really needed. He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” – God’s Spirit – God’s power (v. 22).  Being God-powered, the disciples could and would power their way through every adversity. Being God-powered, they could and would spread the Gospel into all the world. It would take a while, but they would get there.

Thomas

But not Thomas!  Thomas was AWOL – not present when Jesus came – not there to receive Jesus’ blessing – not there to receive the Holy Spirit. Later, the other disciples told Thomas what had happened – that they had seen the risen Lord – but Thomas refused to believe. He said, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (v. 25).

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A week later, Jesus came to the same room. Thomas was present this time. What did Jesus say to Thomas?  Did He say, “Shame on you, Thomas!” Did He say, “You are no longer my disciple. Get out!” Nope! The first thing Jesus said was for all the disciples – including Thomas. Jesus said, “Peace be to you” (v. 26) – a gentle and reassuring word for disciples who had been through a lot. Then Jesus turned to Thomas and said: “Reach here your finger, and see my hands. Reach here your hand, and put it into my side. Don’t be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27).

Think about that for a moment. Thomas had said that he would need two things to believe. (1) He would need to see the print of the nails in Jesus’ hands – (2) and he said that he would need to put his hand into the wound in Jesus’ side. When Jesus came to Thomas, He offered him those two things exactly:

  1. “Reach here your finger, and see my hands.”
  2. “Reach here your hand, and put it into my side.”

In other words, Jesus gave Thomas exactly what Thomas needed. He gave Thomas what Thomas needed in order to believe. He gave Thomas what Thomas needed in order to put the troubled memories behind him and to rise to the possibilities ahead.

Jesus does that for us too

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In the dark moments of our lives, Jesus comes to us, saying, “Peace be to you.”  He comes giving us strength – honoring our faith – shining a ray of light into our darkness.  Jesus comes giving us what we need.

The Lord came to a roomful of disciples who were afraid – unbelieving – and He blessed them.

He came to Thomas who was unbelieving – and He blessed him.

Even in our darkest moments, when we are afraid and unbelieving, Jesus comes to us saying, “Peace be to you” – and offering us what we need.

Peace friends,

Chuck

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