By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
April 24, 2022
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John 20:19–31 (ESV)
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.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” 24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
This past week I have contemplated a great deal. I have tried to explain my lifestyle of prayer often as I have spoken here. I do not really follow any real discipline that people could label. It is a little bit Lectio Divina where you pray with scripture and it is a little bit just sitting in my chair thinking and saying, “I don’t have a clue.” Actually, if I am honest, the I don’t have a clue prayer has been said on multiple occasions. It could probably be what could be engraved on my memorial marker when that time comes. “Here lies Jared, he wanted to do something yet he did not have a clue.”
I say that in jest, but it is true. This weekend while we had a movie night with the family, I sat watching Disney’s Encanto, I know all good conservative Christians are supposed to be protesting Disney, but I also have another thing that goes through my mind sometimes, I don’t really care. I love Disney movies. I always have and I most likely always will. I like them because they often start a conversation. For me a movie that starts a conversation is a good movie. Well, I sat watching this movie, and the Gospel message came pouring through. If you have not watched the movie, I will try not to spoil it too much, but it speaks of family, giftedness, power, and brokenness. It is a movie about the human condition and I love that it started a conversation with my son.
In this movie the family all have this special gift, except one. This one person feels like an outcast because she does not know where she fits into this family of exceptional people. I identify with that young lady. My sister participated in state track her freshman year in high school. She can sing like a bird, she was a college level cheerleader, she had friends. And I was her annoying brother. My little brother can look at a machine and figure out how it works. He can take it apart fix what is broken and put it back together. He used to get broken cd players from his friends and he would fix them. He was funny and I have to stress that he is my little brother because he is about a foot taller than me. And I am me. I do not see anything special; I feel like I am this odd duck that just does not fit.
I am sure that most of us have experienced these sorts of feelings at some point, or if you did not you might have known someone that has. Most adolescents experience it in some form or another because that is pretty much the definition of adolescents. We are becoming who we are to be, and none of us know what that is. We see people around us that are amazing and we do not feel that way about ourselves.
It pretty depressing really. I struggle with this and have for some time, and I have come to realize that Christian humility requires us to be honest with ourselves. We must recognize both our strengths and our weaknesses, and we must be willing to stand aside as well as stand up. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last week we celebrated the greatest day of human history. Not everyone agrees with that statement but for me, that is what it is. The day that Jesus rose from death’s tomb, the day he thwarted death’s grasp and was restored to life, is in my opinion the greatest day in human history. And because of that day, my life has forever been changed.
The thing about that great day is that there was a journey to get there. Sometimes we do not always recognize the journey. Jesus according to John’s Gospel is the eternal Word of God. I love that distinction. I love that throughout the history of Friends we have been keen on that distinction. Jesus is the Eternal Word of God. He is the source of wisdom and light. It is through Jesus that all things were made visible and invisible and without him nothing. We often look at scripture and say that it is the word of God but I want us to be careful about that thought. Scripture bears witness to the Word. It is God that gives scripture its power, these inspired words written by the saints and prophets of old direct us to the True Word, Jesus.
That is just the beginning of the journey. From the dawn of creation when God said, let there be light, to the day of glory, Jesus has been on a journey. Every word of scripture speaks of this journey, it tells of the struggles and the triumphs. It speaks of companions along the way that utterly fail, and about seemingly insignificant individuals that have risen to an occasion to point people back to God. And then in the fulness of time, God sent his unique son to dwell among us. God, this Eternal Word, lowered Himself for a little while to experience a complete and total human life.
He experienced life as a fetus in the womb. He endured the indignity of having to have his mother feed and change him as a baby. How often to you think of that. Those mothers who wake up in the middle of the night to feed your baby, I know you have cried out yourself, “Oh God can’t I get just a little sleep!” Mary actually said that to God.
He grew up. He learned. He played. He became a man and began to work with Joseph and his extended family in their construction company. He went to synagogue every sabbath and sang praises and prays with his community as they honored God. And yet God was sitting in their midst.
And then one day, his mother noticed that there was not enough wine at a wedding feast and she came over to him and said do something about it. I have often wondered about that first sign. Was Mary looking at Jesus and thinking, if you do not start pulling your weight… ok maybe I have been told to do the dishes a few to many times.
Jesus lived a complete life. After that first sign Jesus began to teach, he explained scripture and he caused even the greatest scholars of his day to wonder if they knew anything. And then Jesus pushed them a bit too far.
The journey changed course in our minds. Jesus had a good thing going and then suddenly the tables turned. Jesus turned those tables. They had enough and they requested, no they demanded blood.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem with the cheers of a king, and within one week he was nailed to a cross. John tells the story. He tells the story because John witnessed much of the story. And the last words Jesus said on the cross according to John was, “It is finished.”
Those words have been in my mind and prayers the past couple of weeks. They have been there because I need to hear them. I sat this weekend watching a movie with my family and in the movie this enchanted house was falling apart around them. No matter how much the matriarch tried to keep the family together the brokenness kept returning. And Bruno… we don’t talk about Bruno was hiding in the recesses of the house trying his hardest to patch all the cracks.
That is the gospel. We are broken, we are patching up cracks. We are running around trying to do our best. We know our strengths and we live into them as best we can but we have this fear that maybe I am not strong enough, maybe I lose control. And what will happen if I do lose control? We don’t talk about Bruno because Bruno knows that everything is about to break and we cannot allow the world to see that we might have a weakness.
This is life. We all have strengths we all have weaknesses. We try to do it all ourselves but eventually we will get tired. Jesus took on that life for us. He took the shame of our own failures and he cried out from the cross, “It is finished”.
John saw his king die. He watched as Joseph of Arimathea took the body and laid it in his own tomb. John listened to the women as they gathered the spices together that Sunday morning and began the journey to the tomb. John heard the panic in those women’s voices as they came running back to say that the body was not in the tomb. And John raced Peter to see what was going on. When the returned to the house leaving Mary Magdalene behind, John then heard Mary return not in a panic but in astonishment. She said she had seen the Lord.
The world was falling down around them. Everything they thought they knew was crumbling. And they sat in that room behind a locked door. And in their minds three words continued to play, “It is finished.” They were confused. Afraid. Terrified. Will those that took Jesus come for them next? What exactly happened to the body? Why won’t Mary just be quiet we are trying to think?
Then as they sat there, Jesus appears. He is standing in front of them. And he says, “Peace be with you.”
I have spent several weeks dwelling on the phrase, “It is finished.” Those are the words of men in despair. Those are the words of defeat. Those are the words of brokenness and resignation. Those are the words that we often hear spoken in our own minds when we are making attempts at a better life. Those are the words we hear when we are at the end of our rope and we just do not have another ounce of energy to offer. Those are the words we so often attempt to avoid, to cover up, and to hide. What if the world really knew that I am finished?
It is true. I am finished. I do not have the strength to move forward at times, and I do not have a clue. I sit in my big blue chair staring at my computer screen and I have often wondered if this will be the week that everyone will find out that I am just a scared kid putting on a brave face. I hide behind locked doors, because I do not have anything to offer. Man died on the cross when Jesus said it is finished. Jesus took our failures and our shame onto his shoulders and they were laid in that tomb with him. “It is finished”.
But now he stands in the room and a different phrase comes out of his mouth. “Peace be with you.” It is a simple greeting. It’s actually a greeting that is still commonly used today. Shalom. In Barclay’s Daily Study Bible commentary, he says that this greeting basically means, “May God give you every good thing.”
I spent hours this week fixated on two phrases, not even full verses. I thought about the distance between, “it is finished” and “Peace be with you.” And I reflected on where I was on the journey between the two.
You see we must pass through the despair of “it is finished” before we get to the peace. We have to come to some understanding within ourselves that I am not enough. I am broken, I am weak. I am hiding behind the façade of what everyone thinks I am but eventually everything will crash down around me. If I rely on myself only “it is finished” death will overcome, evil will triumph, and the enchanted house will fall. I want the peace but how do I get there?
We get there by walking through the brokenness. We get there by letting go of the façade. We get there by walking into the darkness and admitting that “I don’t have a clue.” The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, we are told in scripture. We begin that journey by turning first to him the Word of God, the very one that has the words of life because all of life was spoken through him. We begin that journey by confessing our weaknesses, our brokenness, our darkness, and our sorrow. And we allow Christ to take those things onto his shoulders and cry out with us, “It is Finished.” And we believe. Death entered the world because our first parents thought they could know and determine good and evil on their own. They thought that they could handle it and control it. But they were wrong. They walked head long into the very thing they were determined to avoid. And suddenly they realized they were exposed and vulnerable. The entire world could see that they did not have a clue so they had to hide. The results of this multiply and expand. We have gotten so used to this that people that want power will use our own fears to control and manipulate us. We say we want peace, but do we?
How does peace happen? It begins when one person decides to say it is finished. And it grows when we live as God’s hands to give them every good thing. Peace occurs when we stop thinking about ourselves and start caring for others. Peace happens when we recognize that we really do not have a clue and we ask for help.
Where are you in that journey? Are you lost and bleeding on a cross? Are you buried in the darkness of a tomb? Are you locked behind a door in fear? Or like me do you not have a clue? Two thousand years ago Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Grew up in a town called Nazareth. He worked with his family as they build and repaired the structures their communities needed to survive. He taught and he showed us a lifestyle and holy rhythm. He made it his custom to worship in the synagogues. He withdrew often to pray in isolated places. And he ministered to the needs of the community. And he calls us to follow him. He suffered under Pilate, was crucified, and died. He was buried in a tomb. And on the third day rose from that grave to restore our hope.
Where are you in that journey? “Peace be with you.” And may you know that peace to the very core of your being.
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