There aren’t many images more powerful symbolically than that of a locked room. Think of those movie moments when the door is closed and the bolt locked shut. Think of its distinctive sound. Can you hear it? Our passage begins in the dark beside a tomb. This is symbolically where the disciples find themselves as well, in a locked room (vv19, 26). As I write this, most of us can relate to this passage in a way we never have before - contained in our bubbles. We’re told Mary was weeping, the disciples were afraid, Thomas doubted, and though it’s not specifically said, Peter likely felt ashamed. We might be experiencing similar emotions - grief at our loss, fear in the unknown (and the known) and perhaps disbelief to some degree of the reality and significance of the resurrection those near us proclaim?
The great news in this passage is that God is at work even in death, and has the power over it. Amidst the darkness of Holy Saturday, and under the lockdown of the tomb, God was bringing into being resurrection and new creation! The stone is rolled away, and the new day is breaking into the darkness.
What do we see the resurrected Jesus do?
In the morning and in the evening of the first day, he goes to the weeping, the fearful, the ashamed and the doubting.
He seeks them out, calls them by name, and speaks peace to them.
As in Genesis, where in the evening of the first day the man and woman were hiding in fear and shame, Jesus came to them, this time saying peace be with you, for it is finished, the lamb of God has taken away the sins of the world. The grave stone has been rolled away, the curtain torn in two, and the presence of God dwells with humankind.
There are a number of aspects of the good news of Jesus we’ll look at in this passage in the coming weeks, but for now it’s the presence of God I want us to focus on.
The presence of God is good news.
Remember back to Genesis, that it was the absence of God’s presence that sin brought about in the beginning. Heaven and earth were to come together, and we were to experience the reality of the love of God, the love between the Father and the Son, through the Spirit, and were to bear this image through our own love. But humans rejected God, loving other things instead. This sin brought separation from God - the greatest effect of which is death. The humans in Genesis are exiled from the garden. The big thread running throughout scripture therefore isn’t the question of “how do we get to heaven when we die”, it is “How can a holy God dwell with a sinful people?” How can we be restored to the source of all life, and to the love of God? To once again be made in God’s image? The salvation, or “saving” humanity needs is from sin, and therefore its consequences, which includes death.
Jesus, is God’s provision, and the answer to this greatest need. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:13, “but now in Christ, those who were once far off, have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Matthew’s gospel ends with these words of good news - “Behold, I am with you till the end of the age.” Perhaps this is best summed up in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John in his gospel doesn’t tell us these things, he shows us. Jesus, in his resurrection, comes to the weeping, the frightened, and those who doubt. Jesus, the presence of God incarnate, having defeated death, enters into their places of darkness, shame, guilt and fear, and speaks three times, “peace be with you”.
Take some time to be silent and reflect.
What are you experiencing emotionally right now? What is your grief, fear, or locked room?
How is the promise of God’s presence good news to you today?
Hear again the words of Jesus to you:
In your grief and mourning - “Peace be with you” In your fear - “Peace be with you” In your doubts - “Peace be with you” Today we remember and offer praise, for the risen Christ comes to the mourning, fearful, shameful and doubting, and his presence brings us peace. We pray with all the Church - come Lord Jesus.