During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned that we don’t need to be gathered in a public space to celebrate Easter or have the risen Christ come to us. This story in John was often mentioned. A group of people—disciples of Jesus—are fearful. They have shut themselves in and won’t go out because there is something out there that might hurt them, even kill them. In this narrative from John 20 they are afraid of “the Jews.” They are Jews too, of course, but in this Gospel, “Jews” means leaders and authorities. Jesus’ followers fear punishment if they persist in his radical ways.
They are also in shock, closed in on themselves, unable to believe that good news can be true news. So when Mary Magdalene, apostle to the apostles, tells them that she has seen Jesus, they do nothing. The Gospel of John loves face-to-face encounters with Jesus: It’s good to hear about him, but it’s better to meet him. That was Mary’s experience. Likewise, only when Jesus himself appears is the male disciples’ fear replaced by renewed trust in God, the faith that Jesus had taught them.
The disaster of Jesus’ crucifixion was not the end. God still had an ace to play. The shock of Jesus’ return breaks through the inner barriers that the shock of his death had put up. The worst had happened, but it wasn’t the end. The best thing, the thing beyond all imagination, not only can happen; it has happened. The trust in God shattered by Good Friday comes rushing back at the sight and touch of Jesus.
God really does reign over all, and Jesus’ return to life from a brutal death proves it. Now, with trust in God restored, they are sent out to bring the good news of peace and forgiveness.
Risen Christ, when trauma has shocked us into fear and despair, come, stand by us, and give us your peace. Help us believe your good news. Amen.
After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples are unable to remain silent. They go to the Temple to proclaim the gospel. Some people receive the message, while others do not. This causes turmoil within the community, but the apostles stand firm in their testimony, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Psalm 150 might be on the lips of those early apostles. Everything that has breath should praise the Lord! The author of Revelation recounts a vision that he receives from the risen Jesus Christ, who one day will return as Lord of all nations. In John we learn more about the source of the confidence of the apostles. They have experienced Jesus in the flesh, and this experience gives power to their proclamation of the reality of his resurrection.
Read Acts 5:27-32. When has your faith compelled you to rise up, stand up, or kneel down in obedience to God rather than earthly authorities?
Read Psalm 150. When have you praised God with great celebration? When have you praised God with quiet service to creation?
Read Revelation 1:4-8. How do you see peace arising out of violence in the Bible and in the world around you?
Read John 20:19-31. How have your experiences of witnessing violence or the results of violence helped you to understand that violence does not have the last word?
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