Sunday, April 23, 2006

Meeting the Risen Lord

19On 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." 20When 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)

Just a few quick observations from one of the Easter Readings (which we used this morning in Magheralin). In this reading, we find (i) the presence of the Lord. Despite the doors of the upper room being locked (cos the disciples were afeared of what the Jews might do to them), Jesus 'came and stood among them'. To the Risen Lord locked doors and walls were no barrier - he was with them, standing there in their midst. The new body - which was his body, but changed and transformed (see 1 Corinthians 15:42, 53) - could pass through walls or doors (as it could also appear and disappear as in the road to Emmaus (Luke 24)). Have you encountered the Risen Lord? Have you known his presence with you in the difficult times, as well as the good?

The disciples were obviously fearful, and probably taken aback, so we next find the peace of the Lord. Jesus brings them the greeting of peace - telling them not to fear or be afraid. This was what the disciples needed more than anything, precisely because they were fearful, first of the Jews, and next, because Jesus had suddenly appeared. But the 'peace' wasn't just a common greeting, even though Jews would have said 'Shalom' on meeting others. Nor was it the uncomfortable moment it can be in Church of Ireland Communion services, when some people move to shake peoples' hands and exchange the peace, while others stand nervously about. This peace was for the disciples, it was something real, and we see the basis of it. 'Jesus showed them his hands and his side.' These are the 'wounds of love' described in the hymn 'Crown him with many crowns' - and are the very basis of the peace that Christ gives. As we find in Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2: '24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. ' (1 Peter 2:24). We now have peace with God through the cross, and by becoming part of Jesus' body, we have peace with one another. Have you come to know the peace of the Lord? Are you fearful about all sorts of things, perhaps the future, or exams or work or whatever? Jesus is the prince of peace, and gives us his own peace - which the world cannot give or understand.

Finally, we find that the presence of the Lord, and the peace he brought, caused the disciples to know the joy of the Lord. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord, because they realised and believed that what had seemed like defeat was in fact triumph. Jesus was not dead, but alive for ever more. Do we know the joy of the Risen Lord? Have we rejoiced in his victory, and applied it to our own hearts? Do we go about our daily lives reflecting the joy and the hope that we have through knowing Jesus?

Jesus comes to bring change. If we fastforward a few months, we find the disciples up before the rulers and elders and scribes in Jersualem, having healed a man (silver and gold have I none... he went walking and leaping and praising God!'). And what does Acts 4:13 tell us? '13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.' The thing that made all the difference was that 'they had been with Jesus.' Have you encountered Jesus, known his presence, his peace, and his joy? Then you will never be the same again!

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