An idea for preaching this Sunday: being locked in

Snippets originally from:

The Risen Christ

As Craig Barnes once noted, the fact that on that first Easter evening the disciples were all locked-up and huddled in a room somewhere is emblematic of so much of our lives even to this day. Fear of this or that, anxiety over some aspect of life, makes us lock up the door of our hearts. All of us are familiar with locks. Every door of our houses has a lock. We put sticks in the tracks of our sliding doors so as to make double-sure no one can outwit the door’s normal lock. A front door may have a deadbolt lock and, on top of that, a chain. So every day, and certainly every evening, we click these locks and cinch up these chains and double-check that the windows are also locked. We do this, we think, to keep the world OUT but we all know that sometimes it is also possible to lock ourselves IN.

We have lots of ways to lock ourselves in. We refuse to go out because we’re too ashamed, too blue, or too afraid we will run into so-and-so and, frankly, we can’t stand the thought. Sometimes we stay away from even church for the same reason. We get Caller I.D. on our phones so we can see, well before picking up the receiver, who is calling. And if it’s someone we don’t want to talk to or can’t bear talking to out of shame or fear or whatever, we just don’t answer. Again, we lock ourselves in just as often as we lock the world out.

Shame and fear are cousins. First cousins. If you are ashamed of something that is known already, you are afraid of being seen by people in whose eyes you will catch flickers of disapproval. If you are ashamed of something people do not yet know about, you are afraid that just by being out and about in public, someone will discover it, and it scares you half to death. For every last one of us, there are things we have done whose discovery we fear. For every last one of us, there are things that we simply are that we fear make us unworthy.

If, as John 20 presents it, Easter began with the lamentable sadness of death’s reality in our world, that same day ended with the lamentable sadness of shame. The disciples were ashamed of what they had done, they were ashamed of what their cowardice revealed about who they simply were as men. So they locked the door, telling themselves they were keeping the Jews out when really they were maybe keeping themselves locked in. But then Jesus did what he always does for anyone locked up in his own shame: he comes in anyway. He enters the room, he enters the heart, he breaks into the shame.

John records for us no reaction of the disciples, not initially at least. But he does make clear that Jesus leaves no quarter for fear because he no sooner pops in on them and he says, “Peace to you!” He says it immediately the way he always does. He says “Peace.” He says “Shalom.” He says it’s all right. He speaks a word that is the opposite of fear and so squelches shame, puts away and banishes any thoughts the disciples may have had about Jesus’ bearing a grudge. Jesus never says a word about their past actions, their betrayals and denials. He does not even overtly say, “Forget about it” or “I forgive you.” Instead he gives them a Spirit that tells them, in a way more compelling than words alone, that of course all is forgiven. He even sends them out into the world with a mission of forgiveness. Peace. We think that having a sense of peace means a lack of conflict. But more than that, peace in the sense of “shalom” is that settled sense that everything is in plumb, everything is in its proper place as we are all together webbed into relationships that are mutually edifying and upbuilding.

One of the more famous images of Scripture comes from that line in Revelation when Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Ordinarily when someone knocks at a locked door at your house, you know that it’s up to you to get up and unlock the door and open it. The good news of Easter is that even if you are too afraid to do that, too ashamed or too paralyzed by this or that feature of your own life, the lock won’t stop Jesus. He will appear right in the middle of your locked-up heart and before you even have the chance to say or do a blessed thing, he will say “Peace to you!”

Hear the good news of the Gospel.  Hear it and be exceeding glad!

– Scott Hoezee