“Behind locked doors”
Interesting timing, this. Jesus rises from the dead early on Sunday morning. In the evening, the disciples meet in secret. What’s happened in between? After all, there are 12 hours at least between the women going to the tomb and and Jesus appearing .
Mary M. and the other women have been to the tomb and discovered it empty.
Mary M. has met with Jesus – and so, Matthew tells us, have the other women as well.
The women go and tell the disciples – but they aren’t believed. Peter and John rush to the tomb.
Peter and John find the tomb empty; they see the grave clothes and suspect something has happened.
Jesus meets with two disciples on the road to Emmaus – they rush back
But by this point Jesus has already encountered Peter (Luke 24:34)
And it is at this point (if Luke 24:36 and John 20:19 are the same encounter) that Jesus appears.
So Jesus meets with the disciples – and ‘the other followers’ – I guess the group of women – at a point where more than a few of them, at least 8, have encountered Jesus. They are starting to understand that Jesus died but is not dead.
Peter isn’t telling, just at this point, exactly what it is that has happened to him. It’s natural to imagine that it has to do with his betrayal – but he’s not talking.
Until the arrival of Jesus in the locked room, everything is confused. Only the two who went to Emmaus have spent more than moments with Jesus, and they didn’t know who he was until he was leaving. So they believe, but they don’t believe. They are excited, but they are frightened. They are all talking, but nobody is listening. They all know something astonishing is happening, but they don’t quite know what.
Sometimes I find it hard to adapt to a new reality. I live as if things are the way they always were. Jesus is risen, and the news is coming in – but until I’ve seen him; until I’ve been convinced, I live as I’ve always lived. My presuppositions prove to be a barrier.
Sometimes I find it hard to accept insights from the wrong people. That was a problem for some of the disciples. It was the women. Then it was Cleopas. If it had been John, or Andrew, then maybe.
Sometimes I find it hard to escape from fear. If Jesus could defeat death, then Romans would be no problem. Nor would the Jewish authorities. But fear isn’t a rational thing; I can be afraid even when I know I don’t need to be.
What’s the solution? What’s the antidote? The short answer is: ‘the presence of Jesus.’ It’s what turns things around for these followers of his. But it only fixes things for a while. See v26? It’s a week later, and they are in the same place. Jesus being alive isn’t what transforms these believers into courageous proclaimers. And that’s why Jesus breathes on them.
This verse (v22) has worried people for ages. Is this Jesus pre-empting Pentecost? No. It’s pretty clear that what Jesus speaks here is an illustrative word – because the disciples are not changed by it, whereas Acts 2 is an effective word: it accomplishes what he says. And what Jesus is saying to them is: “The Holy Spirit is me, with you always. My continuing presence, not just when you can see me, but always.” Future generations won’t see me like this – v29 – but they will still have the HS as my presence with them. Jesus is ‘God with us’ – the HS is ‘Jesus always with us.’
The solution is ‘Jesus with us always’ – the HS. Gal 3:23, 5:18.
The disciples needed to understand that it wasn’t the face of Jesus or the hands of Jesus that unlocked the doors of the room where they had barricaded themselves; it was the HS of Jesus.
We also barricade ourselves away, locking the doors. We retreat within – sometimes within our Christian ghettoes, sometimes allowing ourselves to hear no other opinions, listen to no other music, read no other literature, meet no other people than the ones we already trust. We lock ourselves away.
But see how different everything is when the HS comes (Acts 2:2-6). The believers find themselves outside ‘the room where they were meeting’ almost immediately! No longer behind locked doors, they are in the public place, in the market. Words of ‘Colours of Day’: (SFA 64)
Go through the park, on into the town;
The sun still shines on, it never goes down.
The light of the world is risen again;
The people of darkness are needing a friend.
So light up the fire and let the flame burn,
Open the door, let Jesus return,
Take seeds of His Spirit, let the fruit grow,
Tell the people of Jesus, let His love show.