Summary: Just like the disciples' hopelessness and despair was turned into joy and peace, so Jesus moves in our lives giving us the peace that passes all understanding.
John 20:19-31 “Shalom”
Does is seem to you that Easter Day was a long time ago? So much has happened this past week and it feels like the loud proclamations, “He is Risen,” and “He is Risen Indeed,” are now only faint whisperings.
Yes, Jesus has risen from the dead. Yes, Jesus has conquered death and he has given us victory over sin, death, and the devil. Yes, Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God and has enabled us to live an abundant life and be truly free. There are times, though, when it doesn’t seem that is the case. Sometimes the challenges and struggles of life bring doubts with them.
Our gospel text today allows us to confess our doubts, address them constructively, and experience “shalom” a peace that encompasses our entire life.
The disciples were huddled together in an upper room; hiding behind closed and locked doors. Even though they knew that Jesus’ tomb was empty and they had been told three times that he was going to be raised from the dead, they still didn’t understand what had happened. Confusion and fear filled the room. It didn’t seem like Jesus had risen from the dead.
It wasn’t until Jesus entered the room that the disciples were able to experience shalom/peace in the midst of their storm tossed emotions and thoughts.
The early Christians who followed the disciples face many of the same storms. They faced persecution, and broken family relationships because of their choice to follow Jesus. There were economic hardships on top of the regular challenges and struggles of life.
The early Christians didn’t have the experience of seeing Jesus and touching his hands and side as the disciples did. Members of the early church only had their faith the Jesus had truly raised from the dead. It was this faith that allowed them to experience shalom/peace in their lives no matter what the situations were that they faced.
We are in a very similar situation as the early Christians. We read the scriptures and the accounts of the empty tomb, but there are times when it is difficult to believe that Jesus really was raised from the dead. We doubt.
LOOKING FOR A SIGN
A month ago I was asked to officiate at a graveside service for a seventeen year-old girl. She had been on a date with her boyfriend, when the car in which she was riding was involved in an accident and she was killed. Her parents received the worst call any parent could receive—the one all parents dread. Two weeks after the accident, when I first meet them, their grief was still palpable. They couldn’t see God in any of what happened. To them Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead. If he had been raised, this wouldn’t have happened to their daughter.
I think everyone of us knows someone who has lost a job—they may be a family members, friend, or neighbor. We’ve seen the drastic changes in their lives unemployment has caused. Perhaps we have even seen them lose their home. They may have confided in us how frustrating it is to look for a job and not find one, to have no response from employers, or to come in second or third in the selection process. They ask themselves where is God in all of this, and wonder if this would have really happened if Jesus truly had been raised from the dead.
The list of trials and tribulations is endless. As we struggle to live faithfully, we wonder why such things happen and why God doesn’t move and show himself. We want to see a sign from God and when we don’t receive that sign, we doubt.
Even with Jesus standing in the middle of the gathering of disciples, they still wanted to touch his hands and his side. They wanted to make sure. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he touched Jesus’ hands and side, also.
In talking with Thomas, Jesus did not condemn him or ridicule him for his doubting and his lack of faith. Rather, Jesus commended those who did not see, but still believe—all of us following the disciples.
PEACE IN JESUS
In this passage of scripture, we see that doubt is a part of faith. Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt may enable us to grow in faith, or to clarify what we believe and how we live out that belief.
When we understand this fact, we realize that peace does not come from an absence of doubt. Nor does peace come from not having any struggles in our lives—though that would be nice.
Peace comes from Jesus and his presence in our lives. Peace comes from Jesus standing in our boat in the middle of the storm. Peace comes from remembering God’s steadfast love, overwhelming grace, and unconditional forgiveness. How do you spell “Peace”? J-E-S-U-S.