In John’s Gospel the resurrection wasn’t welcomed as Good News. Incredulity and rational explanations seemed to be the angle that most took to explain what happened. One common feeling shared by this fledgling community was fear. Fear seems to reign supreme and it binds them together as a community behind a locked door.
Fear is an interesting emotion. For some it may protect them from doing careless things and hurting themselves or others. It’s good to know for instance that if a person is on a mountain top that if she falls, death could be the likely result. So fear makes her slow down and pay respect to her surroundings and it can inspire care.
Once when my then seven year old son Daniel and I were in Yosemite National Park, we climbed to the top of a granite domed mountain. The expansive view in front of us was breathtaking. Clouds appeared at eye level and the valley below us created the illusion that we were looking down on ants instead of cars.
When we were standing on the edge of a cliff looking down at nearly a mile rapid descent, my son grips my hand and says to me, “Don’t worry Dad. I won’t do anything stupid!” That was his way of paying fear its due, letting me know that he would take care when approaching something dangerous.
But given too much place in a person’s life, fear can control you and lock you up inside. Instead of inspiring care, it can cause you to frantically search for yourself in other people. People and their needs become so important to you that you lose yourself in their demands and obligations.
And so we find ourselves locked into the upper room, bound by fear. Fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of fear… All this fear seems to amount to a black hole, a rut that is best described as a grave without ends. Locked inside this rut, a person will never see the light of day.
Into this improvised and dark room enters Jesus. Having just passed through death, it’s apparent from this first appearance that the disciples’ fear isn’t his. Instead of cowering in fear, peace is the gift he gives them. Then he breathes the breath of life into this dead, soulless bunch. The tomb of a locked room instead becomes a birthing room from whence a resurrected community emerges. Spreading a new message of hope and compassion becomes their charter. Locked rooms of fear are transformed into an open message of love.
To be resurrection people requires us to risk being open to the possibility that death is not the final answer. We can’t be so locked in by fear that we miss the breathtaking views of the mountain top or that facing our fears can create more life than we can possibly contain in any room. Instead, life overflows the challice of our lives and can become a table of plenty and abundance, even in the valley of death. If Christ is risen, all bets are off, and all graves, even the ones we create for ourselves, are not permanent.
Christ is Risen!