Summary: Jesus shows up to the disciples behind locked doors and reminds us: 1) Don't be surprised when he shows up in our lives. 2) Allow him to meet our doubts. 3) Allow him to open our minds to scripture, and 4) Take the witness stand for him.
From Fear to Faith
Rev. Roy Almquist shares a peculiar story from the bloody second Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War. Captain Robert Clark and his men were surrounded by the Confederate forces but refused to surrender. In the terrible battle that ensued, Clark’s entire detachment was overrun. Listed as missing in action, Clark was presumed dead. When his family was notified, they sent a telegram asking for the return of his body. But Captain Clark was not dead. Separated from his detachment, he had hidden behind enemy lines for three days, and although wounded and hungry, Clark was able to make his way back to his headquarters in time to deal with his family’s request. With laconic humor he sent a telegram, which read: “Still have use for the body; will bring it back in person. Your loving son, Robert.” [http://wmchapel.org/2012/04/the-never-ending-easter-dinner-luke-24-36-48/]
This ironic footnote from a terrible war captures something of the astonishment, which the disciples must have felt when Jesus unexpectedly appeared before them when they thought him dead. I want to share with you three or four thoughts the story brings up for me. The first is,
1. Don’t be surprised when Jesus shows up
The disciples have no time to even process the reports of the two disciples on the Walk to Emmaus before they find the risen Jesus standing in their midst. It’s one thing to hear rumors that he is alive; it’s another thing to see him standing there in front of you.
Of course, they shouldn’t have been surprised. Jesus had been teaching them he would die and rise again. Consider Mark 8:31, which says, “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” He repeats that message again in Mark 9, and again in Mark 10. Hear the words of his critics recorded in Matthew 27:63, after Jesus’ death, “Sir,” they said to Pilot, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’” Well, it turned out he wasn’t a deceiver after all.
Does Jesus ever surprise you? He’s like that. You can be full of despair, and then all of a sudden, you feel his presence when you least expected it. You can look out the window and see a beautiful wildflower blowing gently in the wind, and it’s as if Jesus just gives you a hug and whispers hope into your ear. You can be lonely and someone calls or texts and brightens your day, and you know God cares. Jesus shows up in the least expected times, often through a friend’s touch or a sign in nature or a feeling inside that everything’s going to be ok. Don’t be surprised. God knows when you need him. Secondly,
2. Allow Jesus to address your doubts
The disciples were full of doubts, even as Jesus stood right in front of them. I think Jesus is pretty cool here. In verse 36, he shows up behind locked doors (John 20:19), and says, “Peace!” (making the peace symbol). It was a traditional greeting, “Shalom!” But now it is rich with meaning, as the Prince of Peace returns from the dead. Their first reaction is to think he’s a ghost. We might think the same. I love his compassion. He doesn’t ridicule them. He asks them about their troubled hearts and minds. And then he offers just the evidence they need. He shows them the scars in his hands and feet. Yet, even that isn’t enough. Verse 41 captures the complex emotions running through them: “While they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement...” It was too good to be true! Their joy, their amazement keeps them from fully buying that this is Jesus in the flesh. So he eats some broiled fish, to prove to them that he is not a ghost.