Sunday, April 12, 2015

Peace be with You (Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter) John 20:19-31

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter
John 20:19-31
April 12, 2015
Calvary - St. George's Church

Today is the second Sunday of Easter. While you wouldn’t know it because the peeps and the chocolate bunnies are all now on the clearance rack, the Easter season has only just begun. There are forty-two more days to feast and celebrate... and, of course, brew beer. (Our first brewing club gathering was on this day.)

This morning’s Gospel reading gives us even more reason to celebrate, though, at first, it doesn’t appear that way. At the beginning of our reading the disciples are anything but rejoicing. We find them huddled back in the upper room hiding with the doors locked. The text says that they were hiding behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” The doors are bolted shut because they are afraid that what had happened to Jesus might happen to them.

Now a word must be said about what John means he writes that “they were hiding for fear of the Jews.” Remember, John is a Jew. The disciples are Jews. Jesus is a Jew. So the disciples are not afraid of Jews in general like those warm and lovely people who meet at The Brotherhood Synagogue just across the street, instead they are afraid of the religious elite of Israel who opposed, oppressed, and killed an innocent man--their Master. The disciples are hiding behind locked doors for the same reason that Peter denied Jesus so vehemently on Good Friday, they are absolutely terrified that they will receive the same fate.

But there is also another important reason why they might be afraid. Do you remember what happened in last Sunday’s Gospel reading? Think back with me for second to the last thing that happened. And if you weren’t here, have no fear, I’ll just tell you. Mary Magdalene, after having left the empty tomb and the person she originally thought was the gardener, goes to the disciples and tells them “I have seen the Lord.” Now the text does not give us their reaction. Neither are we told the disciples response to John, who despite all that he knows about the finality of death, is convinced--having seen the unwrapped linen in the tomb--that Jesus is alive. So we don’t know if the disciples believe Mary and John. What we do know from the beginning of this morning’s reading is that they are most definitely not celebrating and rejoicing. And not just because they’re afraid that Jesus’s fate might also await them. For the disciples have another thing to fear entirely...