Second Sunday of Easter –The Rev. Karen C. Barfield

John 20:19-31

Alleluia. Alleluia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia.

A friend of mine is a cardio-thoracic surgery PA.

Last Friday – Good Friday –
he began an operation by making an incision in the side of a patient’s chest.

He was making an incision in order to save someone’s life
while Jesus was being pierced in his side to ensure his death.

And yet, as we read in today’s Gospel reading, it is seeing that very wound in Jesus’ side that allows the disciples to rejoice in the possibility of new life.

Once again,
death and life,
fear and joy,
co-mingle.

Following the horror of Jesus’ crucifixion the disciples have locked themselves away in fear.

Not just once
but at least twice
and probably every night for the past week!

Something in this itinerant preacher’s manner had called them forth from their lives.

They had let go of all they had in order to follow him.

They had accompanied him day and night for three years,
teaching and healing and baptizing…
touching the untouchable,
speaking to the ostracized,
setting people free from the demons that besieged them.

This man, Jesus, was the Messiah,
and when they were with him,
they knew that to be true.

He emboldened them to believe that life could be different.

Being with him gave them a courage they had never known…
like healing on the Sabbath because life was more important than the Law…
or turning over the tables of the money-changers, tossing upside down a corrupt system that continued to oppress the poor,
or giving sight to a man born blind,
or raising up the lame or straightening up a women nearly doubled over.

You couldn’t keep company with a man such as this and not believe that the rough ways just might be made smooth

and the valleys raised up
and the mountains brought low.

And yet…
Just a few days ago he had breathed his last
and a sword pierced his side and blood and water, of all things, came gushing out.

It is finished, he said.

It is finished!
It is over.
Hope is gone.

Jesus was laid in the tomb, and the tomb was sealed.

The Marys said the tomb was empty, but where was Jesus?
They didn’t even have a body to comfort them.

So, they locked themselves away in their fear,
their despair,
their hopelessness.

At least they would be together,
shutting out the world and any threats that loomed,
aside from the darkness that threatened their own hearts.

And then in the shimmering dusk some man appeared among them.

Who knows where he came from…
perhaps he snuck in through the window or climbed in through a hole in the roof.

“Peace be with you,” he said.

“Peace!”
Are you kidding?
Our Messiah, our healer, our teacher, our leader, our Savior, is dead!

And then this man showed them nail wounds in his hands
and his side that had been pierced by a spear.

Their hearts began to burn, and their eyes lit up.

Alleluia! Jesus is risen.

So, Jesus says again…now that they can hear him:
Peace be with you.”

My friends, peace be with you.
You need not sit here locked in fear.
The Light has come into the world, and the world has not overcome it.

Two things fascinate me about this story:
The disciples do not recognize Jesus until they see his wounds.

Somehow, some way, Jesus has been raised from the dead, but in his resurrected body they do not recognize him…something about him has changed profoundly.

And yet, Jesus maintains his wounds after the resurrection,
and that is how he is recognized.

Jesus and his disciples meet each other in their wounds.

Even though Jesus speaks a word of peace into the fear and anxiety and despair of the disciples, “Peace” was not the only word Jesus had for his disciples.

He also said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

They have a mission.

Jesus sends them to be a light to the world as he had been…to witness to the ever-widening, ever-expanding love and Grace of God to a broken world.

After he said this, Jesus breathed on them…
filling them with God’s life-giving Spirit.

“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Go and free the world, Jesus says.
Free yourselves.

Having been whipped and scourged and mocked and spit upon,
Jesus was hung upon a cross and pierced in his side.

As he hung upon that cross, his prayer was this:
“Forgive them, Father, for they have no idea what they are doing.”

They do not know that in their hunger and thirst for power,
they are crucifying the one who loves them.

They are putting to death the very one who offers them life.

Forgive them.
Set them free.
Open their eyes to the one who will not retaliate but will lay down his life in love.

Let them see that the shackles of death and pain and dissolution are broken open by the bonds of love…that God walks into our very places of pain and fear and speaks a word of Peace.

And, as God accompanies us in our dark places,
we too are called to remind others that God is with them,
that a wounded God meets us all in our wounded places, too,
and calls us forth from the tomb into new life…
even when we can’t see that life right now.

My friends, the Easter news is this:
Christ is risen!
Christ will raise us to new life,
and Christ calls us forth to proclaim the Good News!

Alleluia. Alleluia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Amen.