Summary: This is about the disciples locking the doors because of fear; Jesus showed up, and they were afraid anyway. This deals with fear in our lives and overcoming it.
John 20:19-20 – Behind Closed Doors
Today we are continuing in our series on Jesus’ resurrection called He is Risen indeed. What did the resurrection mean to the original band of followers, and what does the resurrection mean for us nearly 2000 years later? The truth is, the resurrection has the power to change our lives.
I say that but I’m also well aware that people often like what they are familiar with. Like the fellow who took down the plaque that his wife hung on the wall that said, “Prayer changes things.” He took it down and his wife asked, “What’s the matter? Don’t you believe that prayer changes things?” He said, “Oh, I sure do believe that prayer changes things. I just don’t like change.”
Well, even though the resurrection has the power to change things, sometimes people don’t like change. They like things the way they are. Or at least, they prefer the scary things they are familiar with to the scary things they aren’t familiar with. As they say in politics, sometimes people vote for the devil they know instead of the devil they don’t.
Today’s message is like that. I’m going to look at 2 passages about the same story. The first is from John 20:19-20, and the second is from Luke 24:36-43. Now remember, this is the same story, but it’s told by 2 different people. Like 2 different people seeing the same car accident from different sides of the street. They saw the same thing but from different angles. Well, that’s John and Luke. Let’s read.
Now, the wording for this tells us that Jesus appeared behind closed doors. Exactly what Jesus’ body was like after He rose from the grave is something of a mystery. He was no longer limited by the same things as before. For example, the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb, but it was probably not for Jesus’ sake. He could have gotten out without the stone rolled away, but people would not have been able to look in. The stone was for our sake, not Jesus’.
The way Jesus appeared and disappeared was nothing normal. Yet He was not a ghost either. Jesus showed that to the disciples when He ate food. Ghosts wouldn’t eat food. Most times He allowed people to touch Him, which ghosts couldn’t do either. At one point He even made a fire with bread and fish cooking on it. Obviously His body had substance. All this shows that He works in mysterious ways. What’s more, it shows that a person cannot put God in a box or limit what He can and cannot do. We try to figure Him out, to make sense of Him, to assume that He would never do such and such. Yet time and again, He goes way beyond what we figure He can do, or even what we figure He should do.
So here He was, suddenly appearing behind closed, locked doors. John tells us why they were locked. The disciples were afraid of the Jews. Not all Jews of course; they were Jews, and so was Jesus. But the ruling Jews, the leading Jews, the ones who had Jesus executed for going against their laws and their egos – those were the ones to be feared. The disciples were perhaps afraid that they would be taken too. After all, they were Jesus’ followers – guilty by association. And the body was gone. The Jewish leaders could probably charge them with desecration of a human body, or label them unclean, or excommunicate them from worship, thus ceremonially condemning them to hell, or something along those lines. The disciples had earned their fears.
Then Jesus appeared. Despite their best attempts to keep out the enemy, Jesus appeared. Despite their best efforts to stay as safe as they possible could, Jesus appeared. Notice that even thought they did all they could not to be afraid, Jesus showed up, and what was their response? Luke says they were startled and frightened. Well, how would you feel if you thought you were staring at a ghost? Especially if you didn’t believe in them?
The disciples felt they had a new thing to be afraid of. Instead of fearing religious leaders, they were now afraid of Jesus’ ghost, or so they thought. They had gone from fearing one thing to fearing another.
You know, a lot of people live in fear. They fear dying. They fear losing their jobs. They fear flying or sailing. They fear thunder and lightning. They fear snakes or spiders. They fear big animals or they fear little animals. They fear getting lost or running out of gas. They fear closed spaces or big crowds or tall ladders. They fear people or conversations or loneliness or silence.