Easter is on lockdown. We are asked to stay at home. No trips to the beach or scenic places that we always enjoy at Easter. No visiting family and friends. No groups gathering for egg hunts or special Easter meals. No church services to remember Christ’s resurrection and take communion at. About a quarter of the world’s populatuion is in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. Not exactly the way we like to spend Easter.
Nonetheless, all this reminds me of the first Easter lockdown. You can read about it in the Bible in John 20v19-29. The disciples of Jesus had spent three of the most frightful days of their lives. Jesus their Master had been betrayed by Judas Iscariot, arrested in Gethsemane, whipped and beaten, mocked and spat upon, tried and falsely accused, denied by Peter and then cruelly put to death on an old Roman cross. The disciples were terrified and had fled in fear. They were afraid of the Jews delivering them up to the Romans to be treated likewise. So, they assembled together, shut the doors and went into lockdown.
But while these strong, healthy men were terrified and in lockdown, some women were making their way through the empty streets of Jerusalem very early in the morning just as the first day of the week was beginning to dawn. They were to make the most amazing discovery….Christ had risen from the dead. Yes, they were frightened by the angel at the tomb but they got the message very clearly about Jesus: “He is not here for He is risen.” Then, while they ran to tell the disciples, the Lord appeared to them and they worshipped Him.
Later that day Jesus appeared in the room where the disciples were locked away for fear of the Jews. He did not burst into the room or enter through the door. He just suddenly appeared inside the room in His resurrected body. Only Thomas was missing and he would not believe until he had seen the risen Christ for himself.
I want to draw your attention to how the Lord dealt with His terrified disciples.
1. He greeted them with peace
They were terrified, in fear because of the Jews and now this figure suddenly appears, standing in the room before them! He greets them with words of peace (v20) in the midst of their fear. Perhaps you are filled with fear at this time. The news is full of coronavirus reports and they strike fear into your soul. Remember, Jesus can bring you peace. He is the One who speaks peace in the midst of the storm and calms the waves. Perhaps it would be an idea for you to sit down with your Bible and find times when Jesus brought peace.
Jesus had told His disciples before He went to Calvary, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled…’ (John 14v1-3); ‘My peace I give unto you… In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 14v27; 16v33). So, may the peace of God that passes all understanding give you courage and strength at this time.
2. He showed them His scars
He showed them the scars of the nailprints in His hands and feet and the scar where the spear was thrust into His side (John 20v20 cp Luke 24v39+40). He was not just a spirit standing before them. His resurrected body was real. His wounds were not still bleeding, for the full price for our sin was paid when He shed His blood on the cross at Calvary. This really was the Lord. It was no imposter. He had the scars to prove it. He had risen as He said He would. Yes, He had conquered death and burst open the tomb that morning. The soldiers could not stop Him. Not even Satan himself could stop Christ.
When the Lord entered the disciples’ lockdown and showed them His scars, the Bible says, Then they were glad (v20). They were filled with gladness when they recognised their Lord. This resurrection morning, I encourage you to meditate upon the One with the nailprints in His hands. Dear Christian, as you contemplate upon what His death and resurrection mean for you, surely it will fill your heart with gladness. Coronavirus lockdown may be a fearful time for you but Christ can bring you joy and gladness. Do you recognise Christ as Lord in the midst of all the current crisis?
3. He rebuked them for their unbelief
Thomas was not there that first Sunday when Christ appeared to them, so he would not believe until he would see the nailprints for himself (v25). That is why he is sometimes called Doubting Thomas. But the Lord graciously gave Thomas that opportunity. One week later, with the disciples still in lockdown, Christ again suddenly stood before them and told Thomas to reach out and feel the nailprints in His hands and the scar in His side and be not faithless, but believing (v27). Immediately Thomas recognised Him and said, ‘My Lord and my God’ (v28).
However, Mark 16v14 tells us that Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they believed not those who had seen Him after he was risen. Was the testimony of Mary Magdalene and the other women who saw the risen Lord not good enough? What about the witness of the two men who talked with Him on the Emmaus road? Why would they want to live in lockdown with unbelief and hardness of heart? I suppose the truth is they had not seen Him for themselves and ‘seeing is believing.’ However, Jesus did not commend them for their unbelief and hard hearts. In fact, Jesus said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20v29).
None of us today have seen Jesus but by faith we believe on Him. The Lord does not want us to live in fear, unbelief and hardness of heart. He wants you to have the faith, peace and joy that are found in Him. Just because we cannot go to church and we are to stay at home, it does not mean we cannot believe and rejoice in the Risen Saviour!
4. He gave them the great commission
When Jesus had dealt with their fear and unbelief, He gave them the great commission:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”Mark 16v15 KJV
Later, before He ascended into heaven, He told them to teach all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28v19+20).
The disciples fearlessly fulfilled that great commission that Christ gave them, after they were endued with the power of the Holy Spirit. They did all they could in their then known world to preach and teach the gospel.
Christ still expects us as believers to proclaim and teach the gospel. These are strange days in which we are living and yet it is so amazing to see so many sermons, devotional messages and children’s talks available online. I believe their effect will be very far reaching. Take time to listen to some of them this Easter and may they lead you to worship Christ the Risen Saviour with all of your heart.
So, as you are in lockdown this Easter, you can still remember the Risen Christ who is the Saviour of the world and may you find encouragement and strength from Him to help you through this time of coronavirus lockdown.
Happy Easter to you all!
**You can read more about the Resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 19+20.