What Goes On Behind Closed Doors!

Maybe the angels rolled the stone away. Matthew says it that way. Unbelievers said it was grave robbers. Maybe the Spirit, say some. Some believers across the centuries have said it was Jesus or God himself. What we know is that after Easter, it neither kept Jesus in, nor the believers out. Now it's a week later. And those who've heard that the stone's not an issue are together in one place. Well, all but one. The doors are shut! That's because the believers are still afraid. And then, an amazing thing happens. Behind closed doors, Jesus, crucified and risen, comes to his own. No place in the Book says he broke the doors down. No place says it was a matter of Hollywood special effects. It is left a mystery. But here's the thing, the Risen Christ makes the doors irrelevant. The point is, what was locked up tight to keep peril and pain out, will not shut Jesus out. Why, when it turned out somebody was missing, ol' Thomas, the Resurrected Jesus will come again in the same way, and more, to help us move out and move on to share the Good News. God has raised up Jesus, so that we too will live and not die.
Oh, what a blessing, what goes on behind closed doors.

Behind closed doors, the Risen Christ opens us up and closes fear down. Oh, how Jesus managed to come and stand among the disciples though the doors were locked remains a mystery. But it would seem, to me at least, small potatoes compared to rising from the grave. No, the bigger thing here is penetrating the fear of the believers. The most imposing doors, you see, are those of the human heart. The truth is: we can understand why the disciples locked themselves in that room in fear. We do the same thing. Here it is a week since we heard that God has raised up Jesus from the grave and you and I are still carrying around many of the same frights as before. Allot of us know the old song, "Be not dismayed whate'er betide, God will take care of you… through every day, o'er all the way". But we find it tough to live by. Good news! God knows. The Risen Jesus knows.

So he comes to us, as to those first believers in spite of the doors of fear and doubt and he offers precious gifts, powerful medicine for us. First. He gives us his peace. He offers our souls what's in his. Peace. Completeness, really. A clear sense that God lives in us as we live in God. All that we need, God will provide. We don't have to shudder that people and things outside us will control our life. God will. And he intends only good for us all. And, not even death is stronger than God! (Remember, the One they crucified, God could raise up. And he did!) Second, the Resurrected Christ breathes the Spirit into the believers. Wow! Just as God breathed life into Adam and Eve, Jesus breathes life into us. God is present and alive in us. We know where we came from, and to whom we're returning. I like the way one writer put it when he wrote that we all know about WWJD, what would Jesus do. But the Easter appearance in the upper room oughta ask us if we're ready to FROG. Fully Rely on God! He gives us not only our daily bread, as we pray together, but he also gives us our daily breath! And then too, Jesus through those shut-up doors gives us a task, a mission, a reason for being. To spread his Word. More about that in a minute.

Behind closed doors, the Easter Jesus helps us put aside evidence and take up faith. He shows the disciples his hands and side. When Thomas misses out on this the Lord returns a week later. His offer is extraordinary, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." So many of us close the doors of our hearts and minds against anything we can't prove with our senses or sense with our science. What a mistake. How much we lose in this life. Jesus couldn't be more right when he says to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." This is not so distant a word as another Jesus spoke, "Unless you believe like a little child…."

Madeleine L'Engle gets it right [Penguins and Golden Calves] when she tells of a family with a 3-year-old daughter. The child insists before bed she get time with the brand new baby brother her parents said was a gift from heaven. The parents are wary. They've already let her hold the baby, change the baby. Is she jealous? Feeling displaced? Could she do harm? They give in, but stand in the doorway of the nursery. The little girl leans over the crib and says to her new brother with a soft voice, "Tell me about God. I'm forgetting." Jesus does not stand in the upper room to open the doors to demands-for-proof of heaven. He's there to open the floodgates of faith that find heaven in the presence of the Son Who is Risen. If the only proof is wounded hands and sides, soon not even this will be enough. We will ask for more. No, Easter understands that what we need to go forward from the Upper Room is different. We need the assurance that someone who has just come from God's presence can show us what he looks like and tell us the way home. We need to recover what we knew on the day of our birth. It is for this that God raises up Jesus and calls us to unlock the doors of our souls and unleash the power of our own sweet witness.

Behind closed doors, the Risen Christ unlocks our mission. And he swings eternity wide open, especially to those who have not seen, and yet still believe. Jesus just never gives a gift without the opportunity to give the gift away. Across his ministry, he challenges believers to give away the things he gives, time and again. He empowers people to serve God in his name. (He occasionally encourages us to wait until we've got the whole story straight. For example, he tells the disciples to wait before telling the story of his meeting with Moses and Elijah on the mountain. He tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit before going out to preach the Word.) But in the end, the point is always to enable us to be the very best witnesses for him we can be.

In the devotional, Sowing Seeds of Faith, Larry Davies writes a parable of a goose shot down by a farmer. Merely winged, the gooses lands in another farmer's barnyard where the startled chickens and turkeys are all atwitter at the sight. After the farmer attends to the wound, the other barnyard birds wanted to hear from the goose. "What's it like to fly?" The goose tells endless stories of flying glories, day after day. But… get this… none of the domestic birds ever tries to fly themselves. And once the goose is healed up, the bird continues to talk about flying, but never actually tries to fly again! Davies says we Easter Christians are sometimes just like this. We 're OK at talking in some little upper room or yard where we are feeling secure from our fears, but hesitant to stretch our wings and fly. We're ready to say Jesus is Lord to each other. But we're not willing to strike out in complete faith. Faith that God will be with us, with us when we go in a new direction. And when we dare to bear witness in the world to what it so desperately needs to hear. And what is that? God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself. If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and remember them no more. God has raised up Jesus from the dead, the same one they crucified on the tree for us, and not for us only, but for the whole world and all its transgressions and unfaithfulness. What the world needs to hear is that Jesus is the Way. We know no other.

'Come Easter, wanna know what goes on behind closed doors? The Resurrected Jesus opens us up. We are no longer closed to God because we are no longer shut up in fear. We are no longer locked into evidence that our faith is true. Not because Jesus doesn't give it, but because he says we do not need it. And because he provides a whole host of witnesses that he is a living presence in the lives of others (and ourselves). Behind closed doors, we are not given a secret to hold, but a gospel of salvation to share. We get a reason for being (a mission) and a promise of abiding (living for Jesus, now, and forever).

Have you ever heard this before? Thomas, the last to see Christ Risen in the Upper Room, became missionary to India. He went the farthest. He went with passion. And tradition says, when he converted King Gundaporus to Christ, the King revealed what had changed his heart. Not just the courage of Thomas. Not the arguments of Thomas. Not even his deeds. No, it was the certainty the king felt that he saw the living Christ in the person Thomas. One who had "Seen the Lord". Can the same be said of you? Can the same be said of me? Let it be true, and Easter will forever leave the Upper Room, and forever live in the world in which we live.

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