“Silent witness: a Door”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
“Unusual doors often take you to the unusual worlds.” So wrote Turkish-born playwright and novelist Mehmet Murat Ildan.
Think, for example, of the doors we’ve read about in books or have seen in movies or on TV. In The Lord of the Rings, for example, Bilbo Baggins had a round, green, hobbit door. In The Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City had a big, bright, green door. And in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the way into Narnia was through a large, wooden, wardrobe door.
Or think of the doors you walk through each day, like the door to your home or to your room. Think of the doors to a movie theater or a shopping mall or your favorite restaurant. Or how about the doors to your doctor’s office or your dentist’s office? What do you think of when you walk through those doors? How do you feel?
The world has some pretty famous doors too. Standing seventeen feet tall at the Rotunda of our United States Capitol, and weighing in at twenty thousand pounds, the Columbus Doors tell the story of Christopher Columbus and his journey to the New World. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you might think of 221B Baker Street and its narrow, black door. And speaking of black doors, there’s always London’s Number 10 Downing Street, the home of Britain’s Prime Minister.
The Bible talks a lot about doors too. David wrote in Psalm 24: “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors.” Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “When I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ, the Lord opened a door for me.” James wrote: “Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” And in the book of John, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door.”
And in the book of John chapter twenty, on the night of Christ’s resurrection, we hear about a door once more. I’ll begin at verse 19: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20).
The hours and the days that followed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead were some of the most important in all of history. As the sun rose bright and early that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene was sure Jesus was just a gardener. She said, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will get Him.” Only when Jesus called her name did she begin to understand.
As two disciples walked along the road to Emmaus, as depressed, disillusioned and discouraged as anyone could be, they said, “We had hoped that He was the One who was going to redeem Israel. But our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned and crucified.” But as Jesus joined them and walked with them on that road, He said, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”
Now here in the book of John, as ten of His hurting, confused, and frightened-for-their-very-lives disciples gathered in a cold, dark, dimly lit room, they hid behind a closed, locked door.
And who should appear, standing right beside them? Verse 19: “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
But Thomas wasn’t there. Where was he? We can’t say for sure. All we know is that he was somewhere else.
Maybe Thomas wasn’t there because he had taken Jesus’ death pretty hard. For the last three years, he had given everything to Him. Though his family and friends thought he was a little crazy, he had left everything to follow Him.
But the things he saw--he could hardly believe his eyes. Today we read about the feeding of the five thousand. Thomas was there. He held the loaves and the fish from that little boy’s lunch in his hands. And as Jesus blessed that food and gave thanks to God, he watched as thousands were filled.
And how can you put His miracles into words? The blind could see, the lame could walk, and lepers were made whole again. A woman snuck up behind Him only to touch a tassel dangling from His prayer shawl when, all of a sudden, she felt power surge inside. Lazarus lay in a grave, all wrapped up, for four days. Even his believing sisters knew it was too late. Yet when Jesus called his name, he came out.
How good it was to follow Jesus. How incredible it was to follow Jesus. But that was then. This was now. Now He’s dead and gone.
Never in a million years did he expect it would end like this. So there he hid in the darkness, in the back alleys of Jerusalem, terrified someone would see him and recognize him, very alone and afraid.
As much as we might hate to admit it, there’s a streak of Thomas in all of us. A loved one has been taken and you don’t understand why. The doctors did all they could, but there was nothing more to do but to say goodbye. Or there was that phone call in the middle of the night. And in that moment, you knew your life would never be the same. Just like Thomas, we sometimes sit in the darkness, so very alone and afraid.
But just like Thomas, we too hear the news that Jesus is risen from the dead. Sure he doubted. He was once so afraid. Yet in His great love and compassion, Jesus reached out to him and said, “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hands and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.”
And that’s the challenge for each of us today--to stop doubting and believe. But when we do, we’ll come to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Let me, for just a moment, tell you about a church. Let’s call it the “Easter Evening Church.” It’s a struggling church. It’s a hurting church. It’s a church whose whole world changed in the blink of an eye. Three days before, it’s Leader had been brutally beaten, then crucified. Now each one of them was afraid there might be a cross with their name on it, too--guilt, by association.
But this Easter Evening Church isn’t only afraid, it’s also ashamed. Deep down, it knows all too well that, when it had its chance, it had failed its Lord. It remembered how it had argued over who was the greatest only to have its Master wrap a towel around His waist, then kneel down with a basin to wash their feet. It remembered how it fell asleep on Him in the garden. And it remembered with profound guilt and regret how its promise to die for Him and to never deny him went up like smoke from a charcoal fire.
And as that church looked in the mirror and saw its weakness and powerlessness, it felt unworthy, insecure, and ashamed, wishing it could only have been more.
Early that morning, there had been a ray of light and hope when women came to report that the tomb was empty. Two of the members of the Cemetery Committee, Peter and John, even ran to the tomb, and saw that the stone was rolled away.
So what happened? Had the authorities stolen His body? Mary claimed to have seen Jesus alive, but you know, she was upset and more than a little delirious from grief.
Could it be true? Was Jesus raised?
Maybe they were afraid that if He really was raised, then their failures might come back to haunt them. After all, when you’ve really wronged someone, to see them again is just a reminder of what you’ve done.
Or maybe part of them was afraid that if Jesus was raised, it would change everything. They could never look at the same things the same way again. To follow Him would cost everything, maybe even their own lives.
The Easter Evening Church is a church whose pews are filled with fear and shame and regret. It’s a church that’s heard stories of Christ’s resurrection, but isn’t quite ready to trust that resurrection, and to risk everything to follow Him.
The Easter Evening Church is the church of the locked door.
But do you know what happened to that church? It’s overwhelming fear was suddenly overwhelmed by the living presence of Jesus.
Because Jesus loved that church, His arguing-over-the-greatest, His fall-asleep-in-the-garden, His deny-three-times church, He came and stood among them. And wonder of wonders, the very first word He spoke wasn’t one of condemnation. Instead, it was one of peace. “Shalom,” He said. “Peace be with you.”
And along with that word of peace, comfort and hope, there was a sending, a commission. As He said in verse 21: “As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you.”
In other words, “Don’t just hide here within your four walls, behind your locked doors. Instead, go to the sick, the poor, the stranger, and those in prison. And as you go, I’ll go with you. For whatever you do for them, you do for Me.”
Ever heard of Zsolt and Geza Peladi? Probably not. In fact, I’d be surprised if you had heard of them. They were, after all, just a couple of brothers who lived on the outskirts of Budapest, Hungary.
But what made them a little different is that they were poor, really poor. They were so poor, they not only sold junk and scrap metal they had scavenged off the streets, they were living in a cave!
Now we’re not exactly sure just how they ended up that way. All we know for sure is that even though their grandmother had come from a rather wealthy family, she was pretty mean and pretty impossible to live with. She had even gone so far as to sever ties with anyone, including her own daughter and sons.
But then, all of a sudden, the day came that she died. And the law clearly said that any surviving children or grandchildren should receive a share of her inheritance. But who were they and where did they live?
That’s when a couple of charity workers got to work. And after doing some intensive genealogical research, they found that there actually were three living relatives who could claim the prize--a girl living in America, and sure enough, two boys--Zsolt and Geza Peladi of Budapest, Hungary.
And how much was the prize? $6.6 billion!
So wonder of wonders, overnight, Zsolt and Geza went from living in a cave to becoming billionaires.
Later Geza said, “This will certainly make up for the life we have had until now--all we really had was each other--no women would look at us living in a cave. But with money, maybe we can find a partner and finally have a normal life.”
Sound familiar? It should, for as Peter once wrote in his first epistle: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you” (I Peter 1:3-4).
How thankful we are, dear Father, and how blessed, to know the power of Christ and His resurrection. Grant us the grace and the thrill that Thomas once knew as he confessed Jesus to be Lord and God, for His sake. Amen