19 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.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
John 20: 19-23 (NRSV)
When was the last time someone was able to come inside of your locked doors? In American culture, when locks have been tampered with and boundaries have been crossed, it is immediate cause for concern and feelings of vulnerability. But, here we have Jesus just coming onto the scene, hands and side agape, speaking “peace” into the room.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the last time someone broke into my locked car, I was not imagining them speaking words of peace to me. I imagined something unnerving and invasive. I imagined someone rummaging through my glove compartment, searching for a few dollars.
Have we ever taken a moment to really think about what it might have felt like for Jesus to show up in the middle of a locked room? It is of no coincidence that the author includes the word “locked”, and it would do us no favor to overlook it.
Here we have a room full of traumatized disciples processing the grief and turmoil of the last few days, locking themselves away from the world. Only to find that Jesus refuses to be locked out and instead reassures them to be at peace while showing his wounds. Jesus enters beyond the locked doors, burglarizing the disciples of their woes in order to reassure them of the nature of God’s divine work in the world. Jesus steals away the focus from his death and shifts it towards the reality of his risen nature. Jesus breaks into their grief and gives them a Spirit; of holiness, of resurrection, of forgiveness.
I wonder what it might be like if we visited feelings of vulnerability when we discuss the nature of Christ’s resurrection. I wonder what it would be like if we were able to name this strange, invasive feeling that accompanies Christ breaking into the world as something unrecognizable, something that no one has ever before seen. What might we be able to learn about Christ if we were to imagine him as the “thief” of normalcy?
There is nothing normal about the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing normal at all about the table-flipping, parable-telling, water-into-wine, miracle maker who defeated death. When God sent Jesus into the world, there was a foundational shift of all things turning from “normal” to wrecked by the Spirit. So on these days, as we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and recall the vulnerability of Good Friday, maybe we might also recall the vulnerability of following Christ, the thief of all things normal.
Gracious God, you came into this world as one of us. You walked, talked and moved as we move. You know our hurts, our joys, our vulnerabilities…and you break through them. You abolish the things that make us feel less worthy. You destroy the walls that keep us from you. You teach us graciousness, forgiveness and reconciliation. May we find ourselves keen to listen and slow to speak, may we find our hands quick to move, and may we find our feet grounded firmly upon the rock of Christ, as your Spirit breaks into our lives again and again. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Heather Jones Butler
Final Level, M.Div.
After graduating from UPSem, Heather Jones Butler will be returning to South Alabama and continue listening carefully to where the Spirit may be calling her to continued work for the Church in the World. Heather is particularly excited to return home to Alabama where she feels she can minister faithfully to those who first ministered to her.