Andrew looked around as he held his finger to his lips. Through the dim candlelight, the expression on the faces of his comrades was very clear:
Eyes were wide.
Perspiration beaded on their foreheads.
They were scared.
Ok. I think they’ve past. It’s alright to whisper (and make sure you whisper!)
Slowly faint murmurs trickled back into the night air.
I thought that was chainmail for sure.
Sooner or later it will be and the soldiers will knock down the door and they’ll corner us and they’ll arrest us and we’ll be crucified too.
They will if you can’t keep your voice down!
It was an undisclosed room in the heart of the city. The building was non-descript and unlabeled. The old sandy bricks blended in with the bricks next door. The lights were low – to not attract attention and the doors were barred – to not let anyone in. Because of the wind, it was hard to hear any noise come from inside the building.
For all intents and purposes, the building was abandoned.
But inside the building? It was full of life – hearts beating at a steady 120 bpm. It looked like a triage unit…for spiritual warriors. These men had seen their leader die no more than three days earlier. It was an awful death. They had seen blood dripping from his forehead, blood spurting out of his wrists, blood falling down his back and blood coughing up and dripping down his beard as his lungs breathed his last.
That’s what the Jewish leaders had done to Jesus.
That’s what the Jewish leaders were going to do to them.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
A few hours ago – one of their friends had told them that Jesus was alive. Some women had seen him. Mary Magdalene had seen him. Peter had seen him. And about half an hour ago – two more disciples had burst through the door saying the same thing.
That should have been exciting.
It was confusing.
Confusing and a bit terrifying.
Because last they saw Jesus – Jesus who loved them – who cared for them – who gave them hope – who gave them purpose and meaning – who healed them and promised them peace – that Jesus – last they saw that Jesus?
They abandoned him.
They left him for dead.
They pretended like they didn’t even care for him.
If the reports were true, then…he had conquered death.
He was unstoppable.
He was God.
And He was out for vengeance.
James could picture it now. Soon Jesus would show up, eyes like fire – and zap them with his miracles. He’d send Legions of demons into Andrew. (Mark 5) He’d stuff Philip full of all 12 baskets of bread. (Jn. 6) He’d warp Peter into a raging sea where he wouldn’t reach down and rescue him from drowning. (Mt. 14) And give the rest of them advanced stages of leprosy. (Lk. 5)
And me? James gulped. He couldn’t escape the feeling that Jesus would call down fire on him – the very fire he had once asked Jesus to call down on those who didn’t follow him. On those who abandoned him. On those who pretended like they didn’t know him.
You know. People like him.
I. Be Afraid to Hide
I know how the disciples feel.
They had sinned against God.
They had sinned against Jesus.
They had done it – even after they had become convinced that Jesus was God.
I’ve done that.
It’s kind of like when you’re shopping at Kohl’s – and there’s a sale, because there’s always a sale – and as you’re rifling through the dresses you catch a glimpse through the CLEARANCE rack of that one friend – that former friend – that you badmouthed and wronged and called four letter names. What do you do? Duck down real low and seem real, real interested in whether that blouse is cotton or polyester.
Or if you’re at a restaurant, having a good time with your family, stuffing a piece of pizza into your mouth and suddenly you almost choke on your pepperoni. There’s that one gal you used to date that ended when you were a jerk. So, what do you do? Keep your eye on where she is sitting and be sure to look everywhere but where she is sitting when you are leaving.
It’s so easy to do that with God.
In fact, it’s really easy.
Here’s a quick 5 steps to avoiding God:
1) Don’t Open your Bible. Read Facebook. Read Harry Potter Books. Just don’t read the book about God and what he expects of us. In fact, to be sure that you don’t open it on accident, why not simply glue it shut?
2) Don’t Even LIKE Any Jesus Things. The Instagram algorithm will see that you liked a passage and they will star to show you (horror of horrors) more Bible passage. Just remember – Swipe left.
3) Screen Pastor’s Calls. In fact – block him and all of the elders completely. Then you won’t even be bothered by guilty feelings for not answering.
4) Never drive by church. In fact, enter it into your GPS as a route to completely avoid church. Live right next to church? Simple. Just get an UBER and sit in the back with a blindfold.
5) Get rid of all your Jesus friends. Peer pressure isn’t good. Why would you want peer pressure to spend time with God? Instead – drop all of your church friends. Don’t talk to them. Don’t text them. Don’t snap them. Ignore them. Sooner or later they’ll get the hint…leave you alone…and you’ll never have to think about God again!
But here’s the problem with this fear – hiding from God doesn’t fix anything!
Your sin remains and you can’t hide from him.
Just ask Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3)
Or Jonah. (Jonah 4)
Or Saul. (Acts 9)
Or how about Psalm 139:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
You can’t hide from God.
Eventually God and you will meet.
Eventually you will stand before the center of his throne.
Eventually you will face Him.
Where were you?
And if you’re response is: Sorry, God. I was hiding from you.
How do you think he’ll respond? (HINT: Divine fireballs from heaven; that isn’t too far off. )
II. Don’t Be Afraid to Come Near
This was why James was on edge.
This is why he was frightened.
This is why he was watching that front door like a hawk.
It’s also why he almost passed out when someone appeared behind him.
On the evening of the first day of the week…the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus appeared among them. (Jn. 20:19)
Pay careful attention to what it says. There is no knock. There is no ringing of the doorbell. This is no verbal conversion, no opening of the door, and no sneaking in the back.
Jesus simply appears – a miracle.
And it’s silent.
James’ heart is racing.
James’ fear is at an all-time high.
It’s him. He’s here to get us!
Jesus looks at them.
Jesus looks at him.
Jesus opens his mouth.
He lifts up his hands.
James ducks for fear of the fireball death.
And Jesus speaks:
Peace be with you.
As in – My brothers.
As in – I defeated your sin.
As in – I defeated death.
As in – I am alive.
As in – Your sins are remembered no more.
As in – I forgive you.
As in – I. Love. You.
But Pastor – that’s what Jesus said to the 12 disciples. I’m not one of those. They were only gone for 3 days. I’ve been gone lots longer.
Check out Romans 5:1. It says this, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And that “we” there? That’s the Apostle Paul talking to the citizens of Rome. Citizens who didn’t know Jesus – citizens who had been apart from God their entire life.
Paul is announcing what God announced at Jesus’ resurrection: “You – humans – have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I am announcing what Paul announced that God announced at Jesus’ resurrection: You have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The reason for the peace? It isn’t that your sin isn’t so bad. It isn’t that you weren’t gone so long. It isn’t that at least you weren’t as bad as your neighbor.
“Since we have been declared innocent through faith…” (Rom. 5:1)
That faith? It’s in Christ.
That Christ? He declares us innocent.
That innocence? It declares us at peace with God.
To put it simply: God isn’t angry at you, because of Jesus.
And yes! That’s hard to believe. It was hard for the disciples. So, what does Jesus do? After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. He proved that he had risen. He proved that he was alive. He proved that he had defeated death and sin and everything that separated them from God.
The response? The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
He had risen.
He wasn’t angry.
They were no longer afraid.
III. WHAT NOW?
1. Come Near God
Disciples go towards Jesus – see his open hands – and are encouraged. In fact, Overjoyed!
You go near Jesus. Heed his words of warning – hear his words of comfort.
Julianna – a text of forgiveness – how much better to hear it from her lips – same with God.
2. Share Peace
Because it’s really interesting what Jesus says next: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)
Do you know someone who needs peace? I bet you do. Listen to what Jesus tells. It isn’t ignoring them. It isn’t send them a Facebook like. It’s sharing PEACE with them.
Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about the cross. Tell how he lived for them. Died for them. Rose for them. Tell them about how he forgives sins and proclaims peace to all who believe.