April 11, 2010


When the doors were locked, where the disciples were … Jesus came & stood in their midst & said to them, “Peace be with you. John 20: 19

What were the apostles afraid of? Certainly that those responsible for our Lord’s death might hunt them down & get rid of them once & for all. They were also afraid of public ridicule: “you hitched your wagon to a lame horse. You’re a bunch of losers.” They were afraid to go home – after having left all to follow Jesus, they would have to admit they were wrong. Better to hide until it is all over.

Fear is a terrible thing. In spite of being incessantly distracted by a frivolous, profit-driven media that squeezes every last drop out of the latest scandal du jour, we fear the real growing threat of terrorism, Iran’s potential for nuclear warfare, the seduction of our children, the vulgarity of civil discourse. We fear increasing taxes, identity theft, unsafe streets, loss of health & income, aging, dying, & we fear matters of the heart.

Here’s the story of Virginia , nineteen & pregnant, victim of neglect, abuse, bureaucratic failure, & with her fifteenth set of foster parents: When her new foster mother asked her if she were afraid. She replied, “Kinda. I’ve been in lots of homes.” The new foster mother said, “Let’s hope this time turns out for the best.” Virginia simply said, without change of tone or even lifting her head, “Hurts too much to hope.”

What a terrible burden to carry. There’s a young woman locked in fear. We fear intimacy & we fear betrayal & being made a fool of, & not fitting in, & most of all we fear not feeling good about ourselves, looking good. So in many ways we withdraw, take no risks, & hide behind the closed doors of our own making, pretending to be cool, sophisticated, life of the party, or aloof, reserved, a deep thinker. But it’s all a façade. We’re afraid. We’re looking for someone to walk through the doors we’ve closed & call us out of our fears – someone who understands because they’ve been there.

Here’s the story of an extraordinary woman whose husband had been injured in a fire. His face was terribly burned & disfigured. He was so self-conscious he wouldn’t let anyone see him, not even his wife. She went to see a plastic surgeon, who told her not to worry, he could restore her husband’s face. But she said, “You don’t understand, Doctor. He won’t let anyone see him. He won’t accept any help. “Then why are you here?” asked the doctor. She replied, “Because I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him. If I can share in his pain then maybe he’ll let me back into his life.”

The doctor refused, of course, but he did go to see the husband. When he got no response to his offer to restore the husband’s face, through the locked door he told the husband of his wife’s request, & ended by saying “That’s how much she loves you.” Slowly the door opened.

The apostles were like the husband hiding behind locked doors, disfigured with their own betrayals & cowardice. Jesus appears in their midst – and here we cannot fail to notice – he appears with His wounds! Like the wife in the story, maybe he feels that if he can appear before them disfigured, they will let Him back into their disfigured lives.

When it hurts too much to hope, when life has wounded us, when faith is exhausted, know that the risen Jesus with disfiguring wounds is waiting to get into our disfigured & fearful lives. He’s willing to come through the doors we’ve used to shut Him out to let us know He knows where we’re coming from & that He can give us peace & wholeness. Even if you can’t or don’t feel like praying, simply repeat the last three words of the Bible, “Come, Lord Jesus!” AMEN!