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, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 10:19).
Last week in a conversation with a couple of colleagues, this scripture came to mind and stayed with me during the Easter weekend.
So much has already been said and written about our current reality and the fact that the Easter season felt more like an extension of Lent than an experience of resurrection and new life. We, Jesus’ disciples in April 2020, are locked in our houses.
For some of us, fear is a prevalent emotion: We are fearful of how this coronavirus will affect our loved ones and ourselves; we are fearful of what this “lockdown” will do to our economy, our businesses, our churches; we are fearful this will never end.
For others of us, our “lockdown” is motivated more from a sense of protection for those most vulnerable: the immune-compromised, the elderly; we want to do our part in stopping the spread of the virus and flattening the curve.
For still others of us, this “lockdown” is an inconvenience and time of impatience: we want to get on with things, see our friends again, be out in our community, get back to work.
But the end result is the same: we are locked in our houses, separated physically from our fellow-disciples. And it is hard. While it is important that we keep doing so, and there are indications that what we are doing is working, it is nonetheless hard and is taking a toll on all of us.
Into our fear and exhaustion and impatience, steps Jesus, the Risen One. Just as he came to those first disciples in their fear and spoke a word of peace, so he comes to us in our fear today, and speaks that same word: “Peace be with you.”
Into our fearful hearts, Jesus speaks, “Peace be with you.” Into our anxiety about how long this will last, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” Into our concern for those we love, Jesus speaks, “Peace be with you.” Into our impatience, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus comes through doors closed to public events and hearts frozen in fear and speaks, “Peace be with you.” For closed doors and locked hearts are no barrier to the Risen One. Death, fear and isolation have been destroyed once and for all in Jesus’ solitary journey to the cross and through death to life.
While we long now for community and the time when we can re-gather for worship, we may find that we may have other fears. As we sit in community again, we may fear the cough of our neighbor in the pew, or the sneeze of the child in the nursery. We may find that emerging from our homes back into our cherished gathering places produces new anxieties in us. Into those emerging fears, Jesus will also come and speak: “Peace be with you.”
One of the rooms in my home where I spend a lot of time in these days is an upstairs office. The desk is in front of a window overlooking our back yard. My soul has been nourished through watching the grass turn green. I’ve taken delight in watching the birds in the tree — cardinals, a goldfinch couple, to name a few.
Through nature, I’m reminded of other words from Jesus that speak peace: “Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet our God in heaven feeds them . . . therefore do not worry.” (Matt. 6:26-31)
May the Risen Christ meet you in your place of fear and anxiety and speak: Peace be with you.
Marilyn Rudy-Froese is church leadership minister for Mennonite Church Eastern Canada. This first appeared at Extending the Peace, an MCEC executive staff leadership blog.
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