Reverend Scott Parker
Wouldn’t it have been great to be one of the 11 disciples on that first day after Jesus rose from the dead? They were all probably running around, jumping for joy! You think THIS celebration is grand? I bet they gathered up all the instruments they could, went to the empty tomb, and worshipped with loud happy songs long into the night.; I can just picture one of the disciples walking up to the Jewish leaders and saying “I’m sad that Jesus is dead—Oh wait, He’s alive! Ha Ha! And the authorities couldn’t touch them. Even The Roman guards were probably sitting around completely stunned and amazed
No, both you and I know that is not what that first day looked like. The Apostle John describes it like this:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Most of our Easter celebrations paint the picture of an Easter morning full of joy and dancing, assurance and hope. Yet, Scripture indicates that for many hours after the resurrection of Jesus, an event which has transformed the course of eternity, the world was completely oblivious, and those closest to Jesus were paralyzed with despair, confusion, doubt and fear.
It’s this blunt honesty that helps me trust the accuracy of the resurrection accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
And we can have that same blunt honesty in our Easter celebration. Jesus Christ is risen: but some of us aren’t quite sure. For some, that might be intellectual doubts-there’s evidence that questions the resurrection; maybe some of us believe in our minds that Jesus is alive, but Jesus doesn’t feel very alive in our hearts; if Jesus is alive, why do we still struggle with the things we do, why do people in the church still treat each other so poorly?
Many of us are celebrating Easter, believing in the resurrection of Jesus, at least wanting to believe, yet we struggle with confusion, doubt, discouragement and fear. When we look at the disciples on that first Easter day, we find we’re not alone.
That’s what the disciples are likely feeling that night following Jesus’ resurrection, hiding in the upper room behind a locked door. Jesus is risen, but they are hiding.
Which is kind of strange when you realize the things these 11 disciples do in the weeks and months and years to come.
Let me share a summary of the lives of the disciples after the resurrection:
PETER: becomes a pillar of the early church, boldly risks imprisonment to preach the gospel, is crucified for his faith.
JAMES (son of Zebadee): leader of the Jerusalem church; believed to be 1st bishop in Spain; put to death by Herod Agrippa
JOHN: leader of the Jerusalem church; died in exile on Patmos
ANDREW: preached gospel in Greece, Asia Minor & Russia; crucified by Romans.
PHILIP: preached gospel in Scythia (Ukraine); crucified in Phrygia (Turkey)
BARTHOLOMEW: ministered to Asia Minor, India, founded Armenian church; flayed alive in Armenia.
MATTHEW: ministered to Persia, Macedonia, Syria, Parthia, Media, Ethiopia; died a martyr
THOMAS: founded the church in India, where he was killed by a spear.
JAMES (son of alphacus): arrested for his faith, thrown off the Temple.
JUDE (Thaddacus): embarked on numerous missionary journeys
SIMON (the Zealot): Missionary to Persia
These do not seem like the same guys hiding in the upper room on the first day of Jesus’ resurrection. They start off as termites, and they become terminators. SOMETHING HAPPENED TO THEM
Intellectual knowledge of the resurrection couldn’t get them out of that locked room. So Jesus goes to them.
That evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors, in fear of the Jewish leaders, when suddenly Jesus was standing there among them! John 20:19 (Living Bible)
They each had a personal experience with the risen Jesus,
and none of them were ever the same.
What did Jesus to do these disciples in the upper room? What was so important that he breaks through their barriers to be with them?
There are 5 things that stand out to me that happens to the disciples in this upper room experience;
1) Jesus Breaks through FEAR with His Fullness
V. 19: Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
Love, provision, security, healing, wholeness = Salvation = all that God has to give!
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Bill Bright, Four Spiritual Laws
“Never had that ‘common word’ been so filled with meaning as when Jesus uttered it on Easter evening. All that the prophets had poured into shalom as the epitome of the blessings of the kingdom of God had essentially been realized in the redemptive deeds of the incarnate Son of God, ‘lifted up’ for the salvation of the world.” George Beasley-Murrary
2) Jesus Breaks through our weakness with His Spirit
It is likely that John is referring to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (several weeks later) in Acts 2, and has condensed it into a single time-period.
“He breathed in:” similar to Gen. 2:7 as God “breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life,” –The Holy Spirit creates new spiritual life in us
New Message Series at 1st Presbyterian, beginning April 22:
ALIVE: Experiencing the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit
3) Jesus Breaks through our sin with forgiveness
V. 23: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven…”
Jesus finds it very important that people know that they are forgiven.
A minister friend of mine recently told me that he has met WW2 veterans who had to kill others in service to their country, and they spent decades afterwards with the weight of those actions, not knowing God’s forgiveness. They need to know.
Those of us who have committed true acts of sin against God: We need to know.
4) Jesus breaks through our paralysis with His Purpose
V. 21:Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
It is very important to Jesus that others experience His Shalom, Presence through the Holy Spirit, and Forgiveness, and Jesus commissions His followers with this work
5) Jesus Breaks through our doubt with assurance:
V. 27: Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
True, Jesus affirms those who believe without having seen proof, yet Jesus honors Thomas’ need for evidence of the resurrection. Neither Jesus, nor Scripture, nor the Church have ever tried to dismiss questions as to the resurrection of Jesus. And when people do honestly seek out evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, they find it. If you are one of those people who aren’t sure about the resurrection of Jesus, I encourage you to investigate it.
But let me share with you what’s really cool about Thomas.
Thomas, the one who expressed the greatest doubt about Jesus’ resurrection, when he eventually DOES encounter Jesus, Thomas gives the greatest confession of faith.
V. 28: Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
This is much bigger than someone intellectually agreeing in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. This is a confession of personal faith and trust . MY Lord, and MY God. Thomas confesses to the risen Jesus that he belongs to Jesus. He loves Jesus and vows to serve him with all his life.
And this is what Jesus was after the whole time
V.31: But these (events) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
This is why the God of the universe became human, and why Jesus died on the cross, and why Jesus broke the power of death and rose from the grave, and why he broke into that locked room.
Now, scholars like to ask all kinds of metaphysical questions about how it was that Jesus could suddenly appear in the middle of the locked room (maybe he was a ghost)
I think that is missing the point. The point is not HOW Jesus got to the disciples in the locked room; the room is THAT Jesus got to the disciples in the locked room. It was so important to Jesus that he meets with his disciples that their fear couldn’t keep him out; the locked door couldn’t keep him out; the laws of physics couldn’t keep him out.
Jesus broke through., and met them in the places of their
FEAR, WEAKNESS, SIN, PARALYSIS and DOUBT.
And Jesus transformed all those dead places in their hearts into something that was as alive as he is.
Prayer to make a Faith Commitment to Jesus Christ:
Dear Lord Jesus, I want you in my life as Savior and Lord. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins, and for rising from the dead so that you can now live in me.
Jesus, I want to experience the new life of love, purpose and joy that you offer. Help me to obey you, trust you, love you and serve you as my Lord and my God. Amen.