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John 20:19-23

Pastor’s Notes

Easter Sunday 2010

It seemed that on all accounts death was the final victor. The enemy had won all hope was gone. It wasn’t just that it looked as though they were bound now to remain under enemy occupation but that if death was all there is to look forward to with no one capable of withstanding this greatest of all enemies then what was the point of life? Not only was the new ‘Christian’ faith pointless but so to was the old faith of Judaism. But what pressed down on them so heavily was not thoughts of the future but soul numbing depression of the present. It is hard for us to imagine the atmosphere in that little room when for at least three years they had been learning to turn their thoughts away from themselves and out to others and even more so out to God himself and yet here they were more self centred, shamed, scared and insecure that they had ever been. And what brought about their downfall? It was death. Death had robbed Jesus of his life but fear of death had robbed them of their vitality, their drive, their vision and their hope. They were gutted. That little room with its doors closed for fear of the Jews was as much a coffin with a closed lid as it was a crowded room with locked doors. The confusion of emotions would have been enough to silence their tongues. I mean, what would they say. What could they say. Jesus was dead. He was the centre of all worthwhile communication; the WORD of GOD, for goodness sake. Nothing apart from him had any value and he was gone. If his story could be silenced so easily and so decisively then surely the story of the victor is far greater and far more important. And yet how can we even think that let alone talk that way? Emotions of disappointment because the one on whom they had pinned their hopes was dead. Sorrow, because one with whom they had lived and loved for three years was gone. Shame, because when he needed them most they didn’t speak up in his defense. Anger, because he had offered love and the people gave him hate. Loneliness, because now they felt the rejection of the world. Betrayal, because it seemed hat even God had let them down. Peter was in that room. Peter, whose betrayal of Jesus was the most overt and yet he was there with John to whom Jesus entrusted his mother in that last few minutes. And yet nothing was spoken against either Peter or John. Nobody spoke of the trickery of Judas, who up until the last few hours had been one of their own. Confused emotions and soul numbing silence. But really what could they say. Events that had transpired had said it all. Nothing to say, the enemy had had the last word. And their troubled hearts simply convinced them of the emptiness of any thing they might try to voice. What dominated the atmosphere in that room was isolation, silence and troubled hearts. Death and fear of death had caused them all. But then something happened. Suddenly, unexpectedly into their isolation came a presence, a person, a voice. Isolation was overcome and their silence was shattered. If it had been a Roman soldier that had entered then their isolation and silence would have been shattered as their worst fears realised yet again. The turmoil in their hearts and their troubled souls and consciences would have destroyed them even if the soldiers didn’t. But it wasn’t a soldier it was their Saviour risen from the dead. Their isolation was shattered by the living, visible, tangible bodily presence of a man

they knew to be dead. There was no lecturer in Jewish law telling them, there was no scroll or text book explaining some fancy theological point for them; here was the man; Jesus was alive. Death had not had the last word. The grave was not the victor. God’s enemies and the enemies of his people had not won after all. Jesus was alive. Now wait a minute. If Jesus is alive then were do we stand. We who betrayed him, we who denied him, we who refused to worship him, we who have not served him. Were do we stand who do not love him with our whole hearts and who refused to heed his word and obey his commands? Any thinking Disciple, when confronted by a living corps that suddenly entered a locked room, would simple move from a restless fear of soldiers attacking to a petrifying fear of a VERY holy God. If we betrayed a good man how much worse is it to betray a holy God. So, the isolation was shattered and so too was the silence. Not by words of condemnation but by words of grace. Words perfectly tailored to settle their troubled hearts. Words that can themselves create the very thing they speak. Peace be with you. The first time he speaks peace into their hearts and minds and the second time he speaks to reaffirm the gift and then equip them to share that gift through forgiveness. My friends we live our lives in varying degrees of betrayal. When we fail to love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength and our neighbour as ourselves, or, when we fail to love one another as he has loved us, then we have denied him his rightful place in our lives and we stand condemned by our own guilt. But then into our own little locked rooms - our own little private coffins, if you like, comes the resurrected Lord Jesus and offers those same words; Peace be with you. Then he comes again, sometimes only a short time later, some times many years later and he offers those same words “Peace be with You” but this time he wants us to see his wounded hands and side and to know that he died for me personally. This time he wants me to know him not just as the saviour but as my Saviour. It is this personal relationship with God that we have all lost that Jesus died and rose again to bring us back into. This personal relationship that removed fear and fills our lives with fresh hope and purpose full of grace and mercy. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20,19-23  

centred, shamed, scared and insecure that they had ever been. And what brought about their emotions and soul numbing silence. But really wha...