- Acts 4:3235
- Psalm 133
- I John 1:1-2-2:2
- John 2-:19-31
Last week, as we read Mark’s account of Easter morning, we saw that Mary Magdalene and the other women who accompanied her were full of fear when they saw the stone rolled away and encountered the angel that told them that Jesus was not there. Awe is a better way to describe what they were feeling. This was a holy awe; an awe that comes from knowing that one is standing on holy ground—awe of knowing that God is near.
This is the same fear that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had when the angel first visited her to announce she was to bear Christ into the world. This is holy fear or awe and is very different from being scared.
But this week, the fear that the disciples are feeling is a real fear for their lives. While we are reading this account, are a week separated from Easter, this week’s text takes place the very evening after the tomb has been found empty. In John’s account, it is Mary Magdalene who first goes to the tomb by herself and finds the stone rolled away. Alarmed that Jesus’ body is missing, she runs back and gets Peter and the beloved Disciple. They, in turn, run to the tomb to find the linen cloths that had wrapped Jesus’ body lying there and then depart. But Mary remains at the garden tomb and has this mysterious encounter with the person she thinks is the gardener. She recognizes Jesus only after he calls her name. She is told to go back and tell the disciples. When she does, her words don’t do much to ease the fears of the disciples who remain huddled in the room they had used for their Passover meal. The doors are locked because they are afraid for their lives. For the disciples who had not heard and seen Jesus for themselves, the fear was so real that they could not bring themselves to believe in the miracle. We label Thomas as the doubting one, but all of them were doubters. Look at them – locked up, removed, separated, scared.
But into their fears and into this locked room comes Jesus, and his first word to them is Shalom, which means in Hebrew means peace. The truth is, the word shalom is a complex word with a deeper meaning than we might think. According to Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb meaning to be complete, perfect, and whole.
This is the peace that Jesus was offering his disciples locked away in this upper room. This is the peace that Jesus is offering to us today.
What in your life locks you up with fear?
- The pandemic and its impacts on the familial, social, and financial aspects of your life.
- Lack of trust in your deepest relationships.
- The feeling of being betrayed by loved ones, schoolmates, or co-workers.
- Health concerns either for yourself or loved ones.
- Simply watching the evening news.
- The feeling of a distance between you and God.
- All of these and more can bring a sense of fear. What is it that you think about as you lie awake at night?
We in the northern hemisphere experience Easter in the spring, which is the perfect complement to Easter. It is, after all, a season of new life, which is the central message of Easter. Our brothers and sisters in the far southern hemisphere experience Easter in the middle of their fall as they prepare for the winter. The good news is that Easter brings meaning no matter whether we are descending into winter or rising into a new spring. Whether or lives are falling into fearful isolation or bright with the promise of new possibilities.
No matter where you are, Easter is there! No matter where you are, listen, listen to Jesus, Peace be unto you!
The Easter message is not mean for each of us individually to hold for ourselves. It is intended for us to share with others both near and far. As Jesus extends to his disciples this needed word of peace, he also says: “As the Father has sent me, so now I send you.” And with that, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit. That mandate is extended to the disciples of today as well. Yes, you could call it our mission. Where there is fear, let us speak a word of peace, wholeness, fulfillment, harmony, completeness. The list could go on and on, as are the opportunities for us to share this Easter SHALOM.