Every night the same routine played out. It happened around the time the 11 oâclock news was on. As a child she usually slept right through it, but there were those occasions when sheâd rouse from sleep, hearing the familiar gate of her fatherâs footsteps walking first to the kitchen door, then to the front door, then tramp downstairs to the basement. Dad would walk through the house and check the doors and secure the locks if need be.
It was a safe feeling to have â knowing that Dad was making everything safe and secure and that she and her family were out of harmâs way. Locked doors, secure doors, were comforting. The doors said, âIf you just stay holed up here until daylight, then all will be well.â It was as if, in their silent and stalwart way, they were saying, âEverything is going to be okay, nothing can get through me, and Iâm not going to let anything get to you.â
In short, locked doors assuaged fears, trepidations, anxieties, and uncertainties, and quelled the late-night wanderings of an active imagination.
Perhaps that is what the disciples felt on that Easter night so long ago. They were in the room behind the locked doors in fear of those who killed Jesus. They had walked alongside him for three years. They had been out in the public with him and engaged in his work and crusade. Then they who had spoken so confidently had, in the end when it mattered most, deserted him and the cause. They not only deserted him, some even denied they knew him.
Perhaps there was more than fear at work in the disciples. As a matter of fact, itâs pretty clear that there was more than fear at work. They were grappling not only with fear, but with scorn, ridicule, anxiety, a sense of failure and its ugly cousin, shame.
Maybe what the disciples were doing was not so much shutting out the world, but locking themselves in. Isnât that the way it goes with our hearts?
What if we look at this gospel story as more than a resurrection account and story of eleven frightened men locked away in a remote room on some back alleyway of Jerusalem? What if it was a metaphor for our lives as Christians today and the fears we face? It is possible that St. John could have meant it as both as he wrote to a young struggling, persecuted church.
We face fears, anxieties, trepidations, uncertainties, and even shame on a daily basis. We slam home the bolts of the locks on our hearts, and we realize that by locking the world out, we are really shutting ourselves in. We become a prisoner of our own sins, shame, and self-perceptions. Like the disciples, we try to hide from our shame and disappointment in ourselves by locking the doors to our hearts and not letting anyone in.
This is particularly true if weâve been hurt before. Each hurt is followed by another lock, another barricade on the door to our hearts. But we put up a good front. Letâs just say that the door is magnificent on the outside but impenetrable.
The Easter story is the culmination of Good News. In the midst of the disciplesâ fear, anxiety, and shame, Jesus comes and stands among them. He restores them with the gifts of his peace and the Holy Spirit and charges them to carry on his ministry, his mission of reconciliation.
âTo forgive,â in Greek, also means âto set free.â It means to release from bondage and captivity. When Jesus stands among the disciples in a room with a locked door and announces, âPeace be with you,â he is saying not only are âYou are forgiven,â but also âYou are free.â
At the center of the gospel is the proclamation that Jesus Christ has come looking for us â even behind closed doors. According to Johnâs text, he walks right through the locked doors to find us. He shows us his wounds from the cross, which are the marks of our forgiveness. Then he says, âPeace be with you.â You are forgiven, peace is restored to your troubled soul, and you are free.
We receive the same charge given to the disciples. We are to be about the ministry of reconciliation. We are to be about the ministry of unlocking the doors to peopleâs hearts so that they too can experience the freedom and healing of Godâs love in Christ. We are called to set people free by pouring out on them the same forgiveness we have received. We are to be Christâs disciples in the world; forgiven, restored, reconciled, and freed from sin and death.
We accept into our hearts once more today the risen Christ, and in doing so, we realize that fear is changed to faith, anxiety to peace, shame to restoration, and the locks on our hearts have all been removed and we are free.