“Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.” John 20:19, 20
Jesus had risen from the dead. That’s what Mary Magdalene had told them, anyway. Yet there the disciples were, hiding behind closed doors, afraid.
What would become of them? They had left everything – houses, daily routines, lands, fishing boats, jobs and families to follow this Teacher from Nazareth. But three days ago, He had been crucified. Jesus’ death had put their dreams to death as well – dreams of deliverance and the kingdom of God. It was over. And now that the Jews had killed their Teacher, would they kill the disciples next?
And even if they survived, what were they supposed to do now? After all they had heard and seen and experienced while following Jesus, life could never go back to normal.
Or could it possibly be true? Was Jesus alive? Or was the women’s story simply the nonsense that it seemed?
We might expect the disciples to demonstrate more faith and maturity and spirituality at a time of crisis. They had spent three years doing life with Jesus, after all.
We might expect Jesus to appear to His disciples only after they had pulled themselves together or were emotionally stable. But He didn’t wait for that to happen.
Jesus came to the disciples where they were. Walls and closed doors and fearful disciples don’t stop our Risen Lord.
Jesus stood in their midst and simply said, “Peace be unto you”, or “Peace be with you.” And even before those words came out of Jesus’ mouth, His very presence with the disciples fulfilled His spoken words. Jesus not only gave the disciples peace, as He had promised to do in John 14:27; Jesus is the Prince of peace. Isaiah 9:6
It’s astounding that Jesus never rebuked the disciples. He didn’t say they should have trusted Him more or overcome their fear of the Jews.
He actually addressed their fear without mentioning it, or the external circumstances that caused it.
Neither did Jesus resort to clichés or false hope or warm fuzzy feelings. He never told them that everything would be okay and that life would get back to normal soon. It wouldn’t, you know. There would be persecution and prison and conflict and death.
Instead, Jesus helped them see what they truly needed to know and believe.
He showed them His hands, through which nails had been hammered three days before.
He showed them the wound in His side where the spear had pierced Him.
The wounds were more than proof that this man who suddenly appeared in the room was truly their Teacher and Friend, risen from the dead. Although the disciples didn’t understand everything yet, Those scars were tangible proof of Jesus’ eternal love and absolute power. He had won the victory over sin and death.
This story is not primarily about finding peace in the midst of scary situations, you see. Our deepest need is peace with God.
For this reason, while we were sinners, enemies of God living in rebellion against Him, Jesus died for us. Romans 5:8-10 The punishment Jesus suffered brought us peace. Isaiah 53:5 The blood He shed on the cross brought us near to God. Ephesians 2:13 Because of what He did on Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, all who believe in Jesus can be reconciled to God.
That is the Gospel of peace, the rock on which we can build our lives as disciples of Jesus who trust in Him, weathering the crises and fears that come our way. No matter what happens in this world, we know that someday Jesus will make all things new. Revelation 21:3-5
Perhaps we can relate to this story from John in a deeper way than ever before. Most of us are currently staying behind closed doors more than normal, due to a situation that might be causing fear, anxiety, frustration and hard questions, such as the following, among others.
What’s going to happen to us? How many people will die in the coming months? What will life look life after this is all over? Will things go back to normal? Will we still have jobs and ministries and routines to follow? Or is this the end?
Like the disciples, I often fall short of reasonable expectations as far as faith and maturity and spirituality. Crisis doesn’t always bring out the best in me. I say words I shouldn’t or fail to say words that should be said.
March 22 is a textbook example. It even happened to be the first day of the week, the same day Jesus rose again and appeared to His disciples. I was anxious and crying, shut in with fears which had built a wall around my soul. My faith was wavering; I had no idea of how God was working in my life, let alone in the rest of the world.
That night, even though there was not any right or ideal decision, I was so afraid of making a wrong decision, that it was impossible to just get over it, or analyze the situation logically from all angles, or pull myself together. Even while asking Jesus for wisdom and guidance, I was not fully trusting Him.
But you know what? Jesus didn’t wait until I unlocked the doors by reaching a certain level of trust or emotional stability.
Jesus came through the walls of my fear, and stood with me in an unexpected way. His presence did not changed the situation or answer all of the hard and painful questions. Yet Jesus has spoken peace to my heart, calmed my fears, and continues to be my peace. And as I walk with Him, He will help me to trust Him more and become more like Him.
What are your fears or anxieties today, friends? In what way might you be hiding behind closed doors? Please do not be ashamed, even if you are falling apart. Don’t tell yourself that you should be meeting certain expectations of maturity or stronger faith.
Hear the words of Jesus today, as He comes to you in love and resurrection power, in the midst of any fear you might be facing. “Peace be with you.”
Jesus is alive. The Prince of Peace is with us. So let’s stop being afraid – because of who He is, not because of who we are or because of the circumstances around us. Like the disciples, may we see Jesus and be glad!