With the Risen Christ
– Eastertide Sermon Series –
From Easter to Pentecost, this 50-day period of time is called Eastertide in our liturgical calendar. Eastertide, which simply means the season of Easter, was traditionally a time of learning, especially for the newly baptized members of the church; they learned about their new identity as members of the Body of Christ. And for other members, it was a time to deepen their understanding of Christian faith and discipleship as the followers of the Risen Christ. So, during this Eastertide of great fifty days, I would like to invite all of you to continue this good tradition of the church and think about the way we faithfully live as the resurrection people. After Easter, what should we do, what should we keep on doing with the Risen Christ here and now? In this Eastertide sermon series, Keep On, I would like to share some of my reflections with you. So please stay tuned, and you are more than welcome to share your own reflections with me and other members.
Last week, we celebrated Easter. We sang with joy, “Christ the Lord has risen today” and “Up from the grave, he arose.” Yes, the Season of Lent, the season of penitence is gone. Our wilderness journey came to its end. Yes, the tomb is empty. Death has been defeated. The way of new life is wide open. Yes, now we have finally marched on from Lent to Eastertide, death to life, sorrow to joy. Glory to God, hallelujah!
And yet. Why does this transition feel so hard this year? Is it just me? Why do we feel like we are still in sorrow? Why does death appear to be still in charge in this time of resurrection? Yes. That’s right. We are still going through this crisis, this overwhelming reality of the Covid-19 pandemic. So even after Easter, we can’t just live happily ever after. Honestly, I feel quite confused. How can we handle this gap between the truth of resurrection and the ongoing reality of death? How can we live in the light of resurrection in this dark days of crisis?
This Eastertide is weird, we may say. But interestingly, in today’s Gospel story, I find, the first Eastertide the disciples of Jesus experienced was quite similar to the Eastertide we are experiencing now. The Gospel of John describes in detail what the disciples were doing on the day of Easter and the following days. And it’s clear that they were not in a mood for celebration at all. For them, their days were full of fear and doubt, uncertainty and confusion.
Jesus died on the cross, and the disciples locked themselves in a house. The Gospel says that they did it “for the fear of the Jews.” They had to do this, because they were the disciples of Jesus the crucified, the enemy of the state. It means that they were also suspected of complicity in the attempt to stir up the crowd and overthrow the current religious and political orders. I have no idea whose house it was or where the house was. But for sure, they gathered together in that house, shut the door tightly, and perhaps sealed the windows too. They didn’t want to be noticed by anyone around. They were on lockdown in the house.
To them, there came incredible news. Mary Magdalene testifies, “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). But they couldn’t believe it. To be precise, they couldn’t accept and process it. Think about this. They were the ones who betrayed Jesus, their friend, their Lord. They left him alone and couldn’t stand up for him or do something for him. Whenever they thought about what had happened to Jesus on Friday and his horrible death, they were weighed down by the intense emotions of remorse and sadness. They knew they would never be free from these heavy feelings haunting them.
So the disciples locked themselves in the house—not just their bodies but also their souls. And into this very house, into their time of fear and confusion, Jesus came. He came in even through the locked door. And he said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). As if nothing serious had happened, he greeted them, “shalom.” Then, Jesus showed his wounds to the disciples. And their hearts were finally filled with joy and hope. Jesus breathed his breath of life, the Holy Spirit, into their hearts. And their hearts were unlocked by the wave of the Easter joy.
Today’s Gospel story tells us that a week after, when the disciples were gathered in the house again, Jesus visited them again. This time, he came for Thomas who did not believe in his resurrection yet. Even after hearing the witness of other disciples, Thomas said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). So Jesus came to Thomas, showed his wounds, and said, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Then Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:27-28).
This is what happened in the first Eastertide. Fear and doubt locked down the house of the disciples. Uncertainty and confusion made them shut the doors of the house and of their hearts. Reading this story again and again, I thought, this first Eastertide was quite similar to the Eastertide we are going through now. We hunker down in our houses. The veil of fear and doubt still covers our hearts. Uncertainty and fear prevail. The light of resurrection is dim and flickering. The overwhelming reality of the Covid-19 pandemic and its brutal impact confuse us, make us doubt. It’s hard to remain in the Easter joy and stay hopeful.
But my faithful friends in Christ, in times like this, let us remember Jesus, our Jesus who found the disciples in the house and came to them when they needed him most. Let us remember, even the locked door, even the closed hearts couldn’t stop Jesus from coming in. He came through the locked door, through those closed hearts, and showed how much he loves his disciples; he showed his scars of self-giving love and marks of self-denying sacrifice. He came in and healed the wounds of the disciples and revived faith in their doubting hearts. And he breathed the Holy Spirit into them to make them whole. Jesus, resurrected from death, continues to save the disciples with his love and raise them up with a new assurance of faith and fresh vision.
In this time of despair and sorrow, just like the disciples did, we might think that Jesus is not here with us anymore so lock ourselves in our own places of silence and darkness. But I truly believe that in this time and into this place, Jesus is coming. He is surely coming, no matter how tightly we lock the door. He is coming with the light of Easter, and this light will unlock our hearts. He is coming with his Spirit of life, and this Spirit of the living God will revive us and heal us. My friends, do you believe this?
Therefore, Easter people, keep on believing. Keep on believing in the power of resurrection and in the life-giving love that conquered death. Keep on believing in Jesus Christ our Lord who always comes to us and liberates us from the shadows of fear and doubt, uncertainty and confusion. Keep on believing that nothing can stop him from coming to us, and nothing can separate us from his love. May the Spirit of our Risen Christ always guide you and revive your faith through this Eastertide. Amen.
Pastor Earl Kim