[extrapolations on a sermon by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore]
Our weekday service started late on Monday as we waited for an elderly saint who, another parishioner reported, had locked herself out of her car at the grocery store. We all hoped and prayed the CAA would come with their usual quickness to rescue dear Doreen.
Beginning the service about ten minutes before she arrived, we all paused to give her a cheer when she strolled through the sanctuary door. Anne soon got to the same Gospel reading that would have been heard at Sunday service the day before.
“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 20:19)
Reading on through verse 31, Anne then launched into a few funny stories of her own experiences with needing, or lacking, protection.
Few of us in our mostly safe Highlands really need to bolt ourselves, our possessions or our cars from intruders, but we all do. Why? Each of us has fears requiring locks to keep the perceived threat from getting in. As John 20:19 explains, that’s why the disciples had tightly secured the doors of the home they were in. They were sure that those who had killed Jesus would hunt down and murder them as well.
But Jesus being Jesus needed no key to get in. He simply appeared in their midst—likely walking through the walls as easily as he once walked on water.
Our English bibles translate Jesus’ first words to the panicky disciples as “Peace to you”. While he spoke Aramaic, Jesus would have used the far more comprehensive Hebrew word ‘shalom’ here. Vastly more than the simple absence of war or discord, ‘shalom’ encompasses all the following and probably more: completeness, wholeness, health, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, fullness, rest and harmony.
We lock our home doors, our car doors, our safety deposit boxes, and some of us attempt to bolt up our hearts. We may even try to lock Jesus out of some or all parts of our lives. But as he moved through the defenses the frightened disciples had in place, he can break through ours.
Perhaps you’re one of those people who has always felt close to Jesus, so getting to know him was straightforward. Most of us, however, likely sensed him knocking at the doors of our lives, our hearts, for years before we let him in. We understand well the scripture, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If any of you hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with you. And you will eat with me.” (Rev. 3:20). There’s no getting away from the fact that, right there, the implication is he needs our permission.
But then there are the remarkable stories of times he miraculously ‘appears’, ostensibly uninvited. He powerfully visits Paul on the road to Damascus, knocking him to the ground, admonishing and then re-directing him. A recent post on this site showed how Jesus appeared to a Syrian Muslim family, telling them he’d be sending a man to tell them more about him (you can read that here).
This past week’s Gospel reading likewise showed how easily Jesus got through to the disciples gathered in fright behind locked doors a few days after his crucifixion.
So which is it? We have to open the door for him, or he’ll walk through our walls? As with all things Jesus, either or both seems to be the answer. Every situation and every person being unique, he'll do what he knows is best. If we pray according to God’s will, I truly believe we can hasten/empower/work with God to accomplish that. But as these stories make clear, sometimes Jesus will just float or blast his way in anyway, without our or any other earthly permission!