4/23/06, Easter 2-B

“And The Doors Were Locked”
John 20: 19-23

(119)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.” (20)After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (21)21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (22)When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (23)A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them.” (NRSV)

ur text records the very beginnings of the Christian Church on the first Sunday of Easter evening. It was probably an Apostles’ only meeting of the Twelve, minus Judas the betrayer. These select partners in ministry who had been given a special call to follow Jesus’ traveling ministry throughout Palestine.

It is probable that a few of the disciples were also present at this first formal meeting since the death of Jesus. We would assume that Peter and John, who had shared the Easter Sunrise event of finding the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. They would have invited Mary Magdalene to share her story of actually talking with Jesus just outside of the tomb. Jesus had instructed her to go and tell the other leaders and we can assume that the telling of her story would have been a big item on the agenda that night. Those attending the meeting behind locked doors would have come with a sense of excitement and anticipation.

The text records that the doors were locked for fear of the Jews. They were certainly afraid of the Jews who had led the series of illegal trials that sent Jesus to the Cross. And now the word would get out fast that the Apostles of Jesus were beginning to indicate that they thought Jesus was alive after being tortured to death.

Into this highly charged meeting, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Here he was telling them to calm down. However, it would have been hard to calm down after the trauma that they had gone though during the last few days. And now, the Jesus that they had seen dead was alive and had somehow entered the locked room. Jesus then showed them his nail pierced hands and his side where the Roman soldiers had delivered the death wound into his heart. They must have been filled with all kind of thoughts, but there was no denying that they were actually in the presence of the Risen Christ. The text records that, “they rejoiced” when they realized that this was actually the Lord.

Then Jesus gave them their marching orders for the remainder of their lives, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” These are the same “marching orders” that are still in effect for us. We are still attempting to go proclaim and live out the life of evangelism and missions. This is exactly what we are doing in this worship service. We are re-hearing the story of how we are continuing to be called by Jesus to unlock the doors and go out into the world to share the Good News of salvation.

Then Jesus endowed them with Divine Power and extraordinary ability to lead and carry out Jesus’ plan: “he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Later, the entire Church of thousands would receive the massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but this filling of the Apostles was what they needed to begin to set up the organization of the Church and begin to preach the story of “The Empty Tomb.”

A week later they seemed less fearful. Some of the translations make the distinction of how the doors were only “shut,” and not locked when they met. Later they were free to preach the gospel out in the open and on the Day of Pentecost, thousands met to receive the Power of God from heaven.

Our mission today is to open the doors and remove any barriers that might prevent people from hearing the message of salvation. Sometimes we worship in a manner that seems unusual to un-churches families. We sit in out underused classrooms and discuss what we do not believe more often that what we do hold true in our hearts. We fail to mention the empty tomb and the joy, and peace, new life and salvation that Jesus still offers.

We seem to not be cognizant of the ways in which we metaphorically keep precious souls locked out of our church buildings and our fellowship.

Sometimes people dive by and observe that we do not have sufficient parking lots for their cars. They can tell of a weekday that there is not a paves and accessible place for them to park their second most expensive possession. Marketing folks at K-Mart invented “visible excess parking” decades ago.

Also, if you did not grow up in the church it is sometimes difficult to find an open door. We actually have doors that are locked during worship. Old-timers know that “nobody ever uses that door,” but the family with small children on a rainy day might just need to get in that door. Sometime even churches, who want new visitors, have the doors locked.

How about our church? Are we meeting behind locked doors? What can we do to make room and make a more accessible way for folks to break down our barriers? Or, perhaps we should go outside more in an effort to hook people out there.

What would it take for this local church to unlock the doors, both ways?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
4/23/06, Easter 2-B