April 19, 2020
Following the Resurrection – John 20
How are you continuing to navigate this new normal? How are you adjusting? Here we are 5 weeks into this. Did you ever think it would be this long? I remember sitting at Dix Hills diner for breakfast on Friday, March 13th-discussing whether we should close for a Sunday-and then we’d evaluate during the week to decide what to do for the next Sunday-as if that was even an option to stay open. That seems like ages ago-as does sitting down at a diner for breakfast! This week Monica and I and the kids were supposed to be in Florida at Disneyworld. Today would have been Epcot-so I would have been strolling though fake France eating croissants.
Have you established a new pattern or routine to your life? By this point-quarantine seems like what we do. And going to school or work or the office seems like some vague memory. I read some amusing Twitter posts-one guy said-I just realized all those work meetings I used to sit through really could have just been emails. Or another guy said-Side effect of quarantine is that it’s really hard to end phone calls. Twice today I almost said-okay I have to run-before realizing there’s no where to run to! And I want to ask about couples who are working from home together-how’s that going? Are you both able to get your work done-without getting in each other’s way or on each other’s nerves? I loved the quote from one couple that said-get yourselves an imaginary coworker to blame things on-we have Cheryl and she’s leaving lots of dirty dishes and cups around the house. Don’t we all need an imaginary Cheryl to blame things on at home!
Who’s used this time to get a lot done at home-fixing things, chores to get caught up on, doing some renovation, painting, outside yard work. In our neighborhood by the church lots and lots of people have been doing lawn care. My other favorite post was on Instagram where it said-Man assures his wife he will get around to fixing the leaky faucet during the next global pandemic. Just as soon as another cataclysmic outbreak occurs I’m on it! Maybe you’ve taken that approach too-let’s not rush things during this pandemic. But safe to say we’ve all spent a lot more time at home than we ever have before! Anybody gotten dressed up just to eat a nice meal at home? Home is where we’re living. Who knows when this is over-but we’ll find ourselves saying to people-Wow! I haven’t seen you since the pandemic! But eventually we’ll get out and return to normal life, see people again and have parties and gatherings-even come to church and worship together! But right now it’s home. And as much as you may be going stir crazy or wish things were back to normal-this is where we’re at. Home is where we are. But this morning I want us to see that this is exactly where Jesus comes to meet us-right at home.
If you have your Bible open up to John 20. And this chapter continues on with what we looked at last week for Easter which is the Resurrection. Again-what strikes me so profoundly is that the resurrection is when Jesus went from being really dead-a lifeless corpse buried in a tomb-to being really alive and breathing and walking around. I think it’s so easy to picture the resurrection as Jesus laying there for 3 days in this semi-conscious state just waiting until He’s going to wake back up Easter morning. Like some sort of Uber-nap or weekend hibernation. But that’s not what resurrection is. Resurrection is going from someone’s last breath, their dying breath-and for Jesus that’s when He says-It is finished! And after He says that He dies. No more life in His body. Monica and I and the kids on Easter night watched the Sight&Sound performance of Jesus. It was an excellent production-and one of the things that really struck us was how they got Jesus off the cross. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea got permission from Pilate to take the body and bury it-and the production showed how they had to use a long cloth as a pulley to lower Jesus’ body down from the cross-and it was a lifeless corpse that had no strength in it-it was literally dead weight they carried away to the tomb. But it’s so important to understand what truly took place-that because Jesus really died, He really was resurrected.
And that explains the state of his followers in John 20:11-13. Notice how Mary is weeping-she’s not trying to contain some sort of excitement that Jesus has come back to life. She didn’t come to the tomb that morning in hopes that maybe Jesus rose from the dead. She-and the other women-came to finish off the embalming process a corpse. So Mary’s conclusion of seeing Jesus gone wasn’t resurrection-I just knew He’d rise from the dead-rather her conclusion is that someone’s taken His body. And this is even after the leading question from the angels-Why are you weeping (wink, wink, wink)? There is zero thought of resurrection in Mary’s mind-because Jesus is dead. And dead people who’ve been buried don’t come back to life. It’s a fact that we know now and they knew then. So what does it take for Mary to get it? Jesus Himself-v. 14-16a. Can you imagine what it would be like for the resurrected Jesus to say your name like that! He’s revealing to her that He’s alive-but there’s this great sense of relationship and belonging in how He’s said her name. It’s like-Mary, I’m here, it’s all going to be okay-I’ve returned, you’re mine, there’s nothing to worry about. So v. 16b-18. How should the disciples respond to that? With excitement and joy? With I knew it! especially considering how Jesus told them 3 times He was going to die and be raised back to life. Shouldn’t they have said-Of course, Mary. How did we not see this coming? It’s just like He said-Jesus is resurrected. But that’s not what the disciples concluded-even after Mary’s words-because Jesus is dead-and dead people don’t come back to life.
So look at where they are later that night-v. 19a. Here they are locked up at home! Does that sound familiar? Now you might not have your doors locked all day-but as the disciples are huddled up at home-as you and your family are huddled up at home. They were fearful of the Jews who shouted for Jesus to be crucified-thinking the same fate could befall them. We’re fearful of the global pandemic that could befall us. But here’s what this is driving towards-where does Jesus show up? Was it just that one message to Mary to pass along? Did Jesus just stay in the garden or head outside of town and share the good news of the resurrection from a distance? Or did He instantly ascend to heaven and just give a shout out to the disciples halfway up in the sky? No-v. 19b. Jesus enters their locked house, to be with them, even when the circumstances were scary! And I can’t think of a more relevant truth right now than that. They can’t go outside, they’re too afraid to go outside, their world has gotten really crazy in the last few days as the crowds turned on Jesus and demanded for Him to be crucified. It was scary, uncertain times to say the least. But as they stayed huddled up at home-Jesus comes to them. Just like He does with you and me! Jesus didn’t tell Mary to pass along the message to the disciples that He’s hanging out in the garden disguised as the gardener-and if they want to see Him they need to secretly head out there. No-Jesus comes to them in their home in the midst of their fear. How incredible is that? It drives home the point that He’s not waiting for us to muster up the courage or strength to come to Him-but that He comes to us in our fears and weaknesses.
In fact, that truth couldn’t be more pronounced than at this moment-because for the disciples, their lives had fallen apart. What did Jesus say in John 13-one of you will betray me (that was Judas), one of you will deny me (that was Peter). Then in John 14-one of you will doubt me (that was Thomas who was already questioning the way to God), and one of you still doesn’t know me (that was Philip who asked to see God the Father-and Jesus said-Philip have I been with you so long and you still don’t know me-that anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father?) And then by the time they finished the last supper and went to the garden they all fell asleep while Jesus prayed. After that when the soldiers showed up to arrest Jesus they all fled and abandoned Him. They haven’t seen Jesus since all this happened. Safe to say-this group of disciples had fallen apart. They were very fearful, and huddled up at home with the doors locked. And that’s when Jesus shows up. And He doesn’t say-What was up with you fellas? Could have showed a little more backbone, could have been a bit stronger-why did you have to fall asleep on me? Why did you all run away and hide? Next time I’m picking better disciples! He doesn’t say that. Instead He shows up and says-Peace be with you. And that’s the same thing Jesus says to you and me. Jesus arrives in our fears and failures. And our world has gotten really crazy too. Our world is filled with fears, uncertainties, worries, and anxieties to say the least. We’ve often said in life-who knows what’s up ahead? But right now at this stage in our world we are literally saying that constantly when things are changing week by week, day by day. Who does know what lies up ahead? Nobody! But it’s so good to know that Jesus arrives in our fears and failures. And as I thought about that statement-it’s true-but it’s almost too safe. Because I think what the disciples experienced and what we experience is that Jesus shows up when we’re scared and life is in shambles. It’s fear and failure to the next level. That’s what was going on then-as a ministry, as a group of followers-their life was in shambles. Their world had truly come to standstill as everything they invested in over the past 3 years by following Jesus seemed to stop and come crashing down as He was crucified. What now? What next? Our world has truly come to a standstill and maybe everything you’ve invested your life in has seemed to stop and come to a halt-your career, your business, your investment accounts. Where you once had lots, now you feel like you have nothing-and you’re asking what now, what next? You’re rightly nervous about the economy and what lies ahead for our post-pandemic world-if we get there. So you’re huddled up at home scared and wondering what to do. But that is precisely when Jesus shows up. And what He said to the disciples then is what He says to us now-Peace be with you. Jesus doesn’t show up when you’re scared and life is in shambles just to condemn you or point the finger at you. He doesn’t say-I told you so, look at this mess you’ve made. At our point of greatest weakness and need-when life is in shambles-Jesus comes to bring us peace and salvation.
Look at what He said way back in John 3:17. How great is that! I don’t know about you-but I have lots of things to feel condemned about in my life-plenty of mistakes and failures. But Jesus didn’t come to hold them over my head and say-My, my, my-look at what you’ve done here. Like I’m a little kid who just got caught with muddy shoes in the house or caught with all the answers to the exam written on my hand and the teacher shakes her head in disgust. Jesus didn’t come to shake his head at my mistakes and failures and act appalled. Instead, He came to die for my mistakes and failures; He came to bear all the terrible things I’ve ever done upon Himself in order to save me! And the reality of that, the fulfillment of this verse is vividly shown by His arrival in John 20. Look back at it-v.19b-20. That’s the very heart of the gospel. Here’s Jesus revealing the scars in His hands from the cross and the scar on His side from the spear (which remember proved that He was dead). The evidence that He died for us-more importantly that He died for our sins-is right there. If you’ve asked the question-Could God ever forgive what I’ve done? Could He forgive this? The answer is the scars in His hands and side. They prove that He died for your sins-even the ones you’re most ashamed of. And more than that-He’s proving that He’s conquered death having been resurrected to life, and showing up in this locked home! He’s telling the disciples that their world hasn’t come to a screeching halt, their life isn’t in shambles any more, they don’t have to be scared-and neither do we-because He’s right here. He’s arrived in the central part of our lives by entering our home. And that ultimately points to how Jesus wants to enter our hearts. It represents that personal relationship Jesus has with His followers, that personal relationship Jesus has with you and me when we believe in Him. Back to what we’ve been saying-Jesus shows up when we’re scared and life is in shambles.
Have you let Jesus show up in your life during this time? Do you have a personal relationship with Him? Or maybe you have your doubts still. Maybe your fears are still strong. Maybe you’ve remained skeptical. Maybe something as amazing as the resurrection still has you asking questions. Or whether someone like Jesus would even show up in your life. Take at look at when Jesus shows up next-v. 24-25. The other disciples are so excited and over the moon at seeing Jesus alive. But Doubting Thomas, Downer Thomas has tried to rain on their parade. No, no-listen guys, unless I see the scars myself I’m not believing you. And he’s really specific-like not even just see it-but he wants to literally put his finger into the nail holes. That’s intense-I think just seeing would be enough for me-I don’t need to put my finger into the scar itself. It reminds me of being in school and a kid would get injured and come back to school the next day all bandaged up-and the other kids would say-Can we see it? And it was always a dilemma-do I look when he pulls the bandage away? Don’t want to-but can’t really look away either! That’s Thomas-he wants to see the scars. And yet He’s discounting the witness of the other 10 men-the other 10 disciples that he’s grown close to and journeyed with these past 3 years. Why would he doubt them? And yet look at what Jesus does-v. 26. There’s such an intentionality from Jesus right now. It makes me think of what He said earlier in His ministry about leaving the 99 sheep and going after the lost one. That’s exactly what Jesus is doing with Thomas. The other 10 disciples believe-but Jesus has come for Thomas-for the 1. Jesus shows up when we’re in doubt and despair. And that’s where Thomas is at right now-and that may be where you’re at. You’re doubting what God can do at a time like this, doubting how He change things, doubting that His peace can calm your heart or restore your joy. But look what happens when Thomas encounters the risen Jesus-v. 27-28. When you encounter Jesus, when you come face to face with who He is-our Lord and our God-it changes everything and brings you to a place of worship. This is one of the clearest statements of Jesus’ identity and divinity in the Bible-and it comes from someone who used to doubt, who used to question. But as Jesus shows up in his life, as Jesus enters his home-he immediately realizes that this is His Savior, this is His God.
And listen to Jesus’ response-v. 29. And that verse is Jesus speaking directly to you and me. Thomas and the other disciples literally got to see Jesus. Their eyes saw the scars, they saw His resurrected body. We see Him too-but it’s with the eyes of faith as we read God’s Word. Have you believed in Jesus? Maybe you’ve never surrendered your heart to Him or trusted in Jesus before? There is no better time to let Him show up in your home-and in your heart-than now. That what He’s come to do. Or maybe you’ve trusted in Jesus long ago-maybe you’ve walked with Him for a long time-but somehow during this time, during this Coronavirus pandemic you’ve surrendered your heart to fear, you’ve huddled in at home and kept Jesus locked on the outside. Look at what Jesus says in Rev 3:20. Once again, Jesus is talking about entering your house, about entering your heart to have a real relationship with you. That’s what the language of a meal is all about. He’s not talking about having a meal where you both sit in silence and eat-He’s talking about interaction, fellowship, a real connection and vibrant relationship with you. The gospel is personal. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Jesus comes to invade our lives and enter our space. And that’s a good thing! When I’ve been in India our missions team realized their concept of personal space is very different from ours as Americans. They’re up close and personal with you-everything is tight, people pack in together, men hold hands with their friends! We want our space, we like our space, give me some distance, let me spread out! Jesus comes to enter our space, He comes to invade our space-He’s the original Space Invader (loved that video game as a kid!) He comes to enter our homes, He comes to enter our hearts. Will you let Him in?