Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Imagine the past few weeks and all that the disciples have been through. The crazy twists and turns that their lives have taken.
Just a few weeks ago everything had seemed so delightfully and wonderfully normal (and can’t we all relate to that).
Not so long ago – they had all been with Jesus out there in the world doing what they did best. They had been busy helping Jesus share the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy. They had been doing great things for God. Well – actually – they had been doing – seriously awesome things for God! They had been helping Jesus feed the hungry and heal the sick. They had been making a real difference in this world. They were learning and growing and getting better and better at their jobs. And more and more people were coming to meet Jesus every day.
After three years together – they had found their groove, and it probably felt like they were totally rocking it! Life was good. And it looked like it was only going to get better and better.
Think about that awesome triumphal parade into Jerusalem on the very first Palm Sunday. Imagine how the disciples must have felt. It must have seemed like the entire city had come to shout Jesus’ praises. The people of Jerusalem threw an impromptu parade to welcome Jesus! People were literally throwing their coats on the road to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. People were shouting Jesus’ praises at the top of their lungs and declaring that Jesus was their Savior!
Finally – it looked like people were getting it. Finally it looked like people understood who Jesus really is. Finally – after three years long years of really – really hard work – it looked like everyone in the entire nation of Israel was going to see that their Savior had come to set them free.
The disciples must have been soaring. Life was good. Well actually – life was really – really good.
But then – the garden of Gethsemane happened. And that was almost too much for them to comprehend. The crowds were back – but this time – the crowds were furiously angry and they were armed with clubs and swords. The crowds were threatening and so – so scary. The crowds were filled with hate. It was horrible. It was terrifying.
They arrested Jesus and took him away.
Away to be put on trial.
Away to be beaten and humiliated and mocked and marched through the streets of Jerusalem dripping with his own blood.
Away to be crucified.
Away from everyone who loved him to die such a horribly cruel – painful – miserable death.
Everything – had gone so very – very wrong so very – very quickly.
Their teacher – their beloved friend – their Lord and Savior was dead!
Jesus was dead . . .
Their lives had soared so very high! And then they had crashed so very – very low. And then – well then – let’s be honest – things had gotten just plain unbelievable!
Because now there are rumors that Jesus isn’t dead! Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came running back from Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning with this outlandishly wild story about seeing an angel of the Lord who told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead. And then if that wasn’t crazy enough – the two Marys said that they also met Jesus in the cemetery at dawn on Sunday morning. And Jesus too told them not to be afraid and that God the Father had raised him from the dead!
But that can’t be true can it? Because when people die – they stay dead. It is incredibly painful – but that is the way life works. Death is final. Death is the end. When people die they stay dead.
Nothing feels normal anymore. Absolutely – positively everything has changed. The disciples’ entire world really has been turned upside down and inside out (and again I think we can all relate to that too)!
So – they do what comes naturally to so many of us when the world gets really scary – they call a retreat. They fall back to regroup and to catch their collective breath.
I know I do this when I feel overwhelmed by life. When life starts to feel like it is just too much I go home to Jason – to Jack and to Will. Being with them is grounding for me and it gives me comfort. They remind me of who I am and whose I am.
I also have special places in our home that are especially comforting. If the weather is nice – I love to sit on our back steps. The sun warms the concrete steps making them feel cozy. Sitting there I can feel the sun on my face and I can take in a little nature. If the weather isn’t cooperating – I have a favorite cozy corner on our couch – that is Pastor Kerri shaped after all of these years!
I get the feeling this is exactly what the disciples have done in our Gospel reading for today. They have called a retreat from the world – because it all just feels like it is too stinking much. They are exhausted and afraid and overwhelmed and they just can’t take anymore of anything! They have had enough!
Too much in their lives has changed too quickly. There has been too much loss too quickly. Way – way too much loss. And too much to try to comprehend. There is just so much that has changed in their lives.
Just a few weeks ago they knew exactly who they were and what they were supposed to be doing. They were Jesus’ disciples, and they were supposed to help Jesus feed the hungry and heal the sick. They were incredibly busy helping Jesus share the Good News of God’s grace – love – and mercy. But now that Jesus is dead – what on earth are they supposed to do? Where do they go from here? Who are they now? They have lost their teacher – their Savior – their jobs – their very identities in this world!?!
And what about that crazy tale Mary Magdalene and the other Mary keep telling about Jesus not being dead?
The disciples are afraid, and they are exhausted. They confused and not really sure what to think or what to do. (And who can’t relate to that lately!)
So they retreat from the world behind locked doors. They come together for comfort like we do with our own special people when life gets to be just a bit too much.
In my imagination I see them sitting in exhausted silence. Or talking in quiet whispers. This isn’t a time for animated conversation. They aren’t swapping favorite stories or sharing jokes. They are wounded – afraid – exhausted. And probably feeling more than a bit broken by life. Their heads are sagging. Their once proud shoulders droop.
These past days and the grief they carry has changed them. They are different. They are struggling to comprehend what this all means.
When suddenly – while they are gathered together – Jesus appears in their midst. One moment they are all alone – almost buried alive in their grief and regret and the next Jesus is there with them. And the very first words that Jesus speaks to them are “Peace be with you.”
Wow – don’t those words take your breath away. Especially when you think about the situation into which Jesus spoke them.
Isn’t it amazing how Jesus always – always gets it. Jesus always gets it right! (It is that whole God and human at the same time mystery.)
Because – that is exactly what these poor – broken – exhausted tormented souls need. They need peace. They need peace almost as much as they need to breath oxygen. And that is what Jesus offers them.
Jesus comes to his beloved – broken – exhausted – friends and disciples and he wishes them peace.
Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for abandoning him when he needed them the most. He doesn’t reprimand them or condemn them or shame them. Instead Jesus speaks words of love – grace – and mercy to them – because that is who our Lord is.
Jesus meets them in their brokenness and offers them peace and love. And Jesus does the very same thing for us. Jesus meets us in the broken places of our own lives and he offers us love and peace and grace and mercy.
Jesus comes to us when we are afraid or when we are hiding out in our locked rooms and he wishes us peace and reminds us that he loves us and that we are never alone. That we are the beloved forgiven children of God today – tomorrow and always – no matter what we do or what this life brings our way.
And this I believe is very good news! Peace be with you – my sisters and brothers! Amen.