“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” Saint John makes this rather definitive statement about where the disciples were, the state of the lock on the door, and why said lock was in the activated position. But it seems a little strange. Ten of the disciples plus Blessed Mary and probably many of the other women had locked themselves in a room because they thought that at any minute now, the chief priests and the elders would send their legions out to scour the city looking for them, looking for the ten disciples of a failed messiah. Seems unlikely. The fact that the women had gone already to the tomb, which would be the most likely place to find any of them and the most exposed place, found the tomb empty, and then prompted Peter and John to run over to the tomb as well makes fear of the Jews even less likely. Thomas wasn’t even there; he was either unafraid, which was probably the case, or he really needed a cup of coffee. So why did fear lock them up in a room when resurrection was in the air? Of whom or what were the disciples really afraid? Whom were really afraid of running into in the case they went out from behind locked doors?
I think that the most likely scenario is that the disciples convinced themselves that they locked themselves in for fear of the Jews. But what they were afraid of most, the underlying fear that really kept them inside, was the fear that what the women told them was true, that Jesus was really resurrected. Think about it. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden, everyone abandoned Him, at least all the men did save John. Peter at least managed to drum up the courage to follow Jesus to His trial, but then he denied Jesus three times and ran away weeping. Most of the people in that locked room had shown themselves to be cowards and betrayers when tested, so who is it they wouldn’t want to casually run into? Whose wrath might they have been afraid of? Who wouldn’t they want to look in the eye? Jesus.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, that underlying fear materialized right in front of them. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. John then tells us that the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. I think the disciples held off on all the rejoicing until after Jesus said “Peace be with you.”
But as usual, even though it can be easy to rip on the disciples, we shouldn’t be too hard on them. I spent the better part of my twenties behind locked doors, doing anything I could to keep Jesus on the other side. I wasn’t doing anything particularly despicable, mind you, but I wasn’t doing much I was supposed to be doing either. The things I was doing I was doing to see if I could get out of the things I was supposed be doing. I thought if I flirted with doing the right things, if I went to church and gave money and managed to not get into any real trouble, I wouldn’t have to give up my comfortable spot inside the room with the bar across the door. I knew that God wanted more from me; I knew that He wanted me to be a priest, to be boldly outside, to wear my Christianity everywhere I went, but that meant that I had to do what I was afraid of. That meant that I had to admit that I was a coward and a betrayer, it meant that I had to look Jesus in the eye.
And the strangest thing happened when I finally manned up. I went to my priest, confessed my sins, I did it right in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament like we do here. I admitted to being a coward and a betrayer, if not in so many words. I looked Jesus in the eye and He said Peace be with you.
Many of you might have had similar experiences. Some of you might be living one side of that experience or the other right now. Some of you might be like Thomas, unafraid of the opposition and still looking to see and touch the risen Lord. Some of you, like me, have found that even after you unlock and open that door, it’s just as easy to close it and lock it up again. In the book of Revelation Jesus said “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” The passage we just heard from John tells us that sometimes Jesus comes in even when we don’t answer the door, maybe even because we don’t. But Jesus will keep knocking, He will keep saying Peace be with you until we look Him in the eye. This Easter, let’s see how many locked doors we can open.