Locked doors, open hearts

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Christ comes to comfort us in our disturbance and to disturb us out of our comfort. Which do you need today?

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Bible passage John 20:19–23

Jesus Appears to His Disciples
 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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From fear to joy
It’s still the first Easter Sunday. So much has happened and nerves are jangled. The disciples have been shocked, anxious, bewildered and excited. Now, as night falls and rumours swirl around the city, fear surfaces. So they gather together and lock the doors! Then Jesus comes and everything changes. It always does. He has three things to say.

First there is word of comfort, ‘Peace be with you!’ There is no rebuke at their denial of him. When Jesus comes he brings a sense of well-being as fear can give place to joy.

From peace to mission
But then comes the challenge; that is always his way. The peace he brings is not just to be enjoyed but to be shared. ‘I am sending you.’ Just as they partake of the relationship Jesus has with the Father (v 17) so they partake of the responsibility that relationship brings. The challenge, then and now, is to assure people that their sins are forgiven, but then to warn that the forgiveness is not automatic.

How do you feel? Maybe a bit daunted, but we are never alone. Jesus’ third word is ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ – the one about whom he has spoken in the upper room just three days ago, who would come alongside to guide and empower.


‘O Comforter draw near, within my heart appear. And kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing’ (Bianco da Siena).

David Bracewell

Deeper Bible study

‘I serve a risen Saviour, / He’s in the world today! / I know that he is living, / Whatever men may say.’ (Alfred Henry Ackley, 1887–1960)

It is evening on the same day as yesterday’s reading. Can you imagine the state of mind of the disciples? Their conscience-stricken fear? Today we would call it PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). They were huddled together behind locked doors after what had happened on Friday. Imagine Peter, his heart broken at the crucifixion, crushed with the knowledge of what he had done to his Lord, yet uneasily back with the other disciples. At least, he must have thought, he had followed Jesus when the rest of them deserted him. Mary Magdalene had come with an unbelievable story. ‘Well’, you think. ‘She always was a little unbalanced. And anyway, she is a woman.’ Peter had then arrived with the news that the tomb was empty. What are you to make of his description of what he did see, the grave clothes not disturbed? Can you imagine the conversations among them as they try to make sense of it all? Would you have believed Mary? Then, as if you were not unnerved already, how do you react when you realise that there is another person in the room?

His first word to you is ‘Peace’. He is uncannily like Jesus. Were you expecting him to rebuke you? He greets you with a word that implies restoration and safety. Can this really be Jesus? Just as you were thinking this, he showed you his wrists, with the mark of the nails and his spear-torn side. What unspeakable joy!

It is not clear how Jesus’ command to ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (v 22) relates to what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2). Maybe Jesus meant the command to be obeyed in the future. It is important to note that these words and the command to forgive are addressed here to the whole group – read ‘whole church’ – and not to the disciples individually.

Annabel Robinson

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Judges 17,18

Mark 6


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See what a morning (Resurrection hymn)
Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

All for love
Mia Fieldes
Copyright © 2005 Mia Fieldes/Hillsong Publishing/kingswaysongs.com
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.kingswayshop.com

  • Ray Skinner | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Thankyou for the picture of the key. The human Jesus as the key, to the lock that is God. I can't remember where I got that from. A good way to describe the unity of God.

  • Angela Munday | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Words, when spoken, cannot be taken back so it is important that they can "bear the searchlight of eternity." Jesus remained silent when necessary and came to His disciples with His "Peace!" The Holy Spirit makes God's people 'different' from the world and aware of all things. The joy received unlocks the abundant energy within and leads the believer forward into God's plan for humanity. When things are difficult for us we know Jesus can enter the situation and bring His Peace.

  • Adam Julians | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Indeed the gospel does comfort the distressed and distresses the comfortable. Therefore feelings are not to be trusted. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." Jer 17:9b. We had consideration about the oppression of women yesterday and what Jesus did for equality for women in the light of that. Let us now consider the other side of the coin. The false accusation of men that happens in our culture of Marxism masquerading as equality where the assumption frequently is of men being the oppressors and the instances of being falsely accused as such. Thankfully we now live in a cultural climate where it is becoming OK to talk about this kind of thing and it's becoming less of an issue to have to address prejudice that would regard a man as either deluded or hateful towards women to raise the issue. Thankfully there are many great women around who are supportive towards men today, probably because they are tired of seeing this kind of thing happen and how it affects women too. And in this as in the kind of issues we discussed yesterday, praise God! We can also know the perfect love that casts out fear, the peace beyond understanding that the Lord gives and the joy of the Lord which is your strength. And having received the Spirit, the comforter be equipped with love, power and sound mind able to connect with what some have called the most powerful force in the universe, the love of God. I say amen to that.

  • Adam Julians | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Angela, I don't understand what you men by "words, when spoken, cannot be taken back so it is important that they can "bear the searchlight of eternity."" Please explain.

  • Derek Forster | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    When peace like a river, attends my way, When sorrows like the sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, You havet taught me to say, ‘It is well with my soul.’ Tho’ Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And has shed His own blood for my soul. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious tho’t!— My sin, not in part, but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, ‘Even so,’ it is well with my soul. It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.

  • Anne Mcgowan | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    ADAM I was only thinking about this on the heart the other day. I have always been analytical and logical, it was how I lived life. It kept me, preserved me, ensured I never responded in anger or let any feelings out the box. My heart was the enemy, desperately wicked above all things. I remember this being taught in church and being said to me on an occasion. So safety became my head. Then one day Father did a work and in that he reminded me of the words, also in Jeremiah that God would make a new covenant Jer 31:33 " but this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, says Jehovah, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." In the new covenant, our heart is not desperately wicked above all things surely? It becomes the seat of Grace, where Father and Jesus dwell in communion with us. Are my feelings to be trusted, no, but he is. I have learned to trust my heart above my head because He, the King of Hearts inhabits it. My head still plays a big part, but as a sidekick to my heart. I don't fly off into rages, I don't follow my feelings down rabbit holes but I do welcome them as friends to teach me, and allow the King to lead me in that dance.

  • Adam Julians | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Anne - thank you for responding and sharing. If I understand you rightly, you are talking about balance between heart and head in Christ, with feelings not to be trusted. My understanding is that when scripture talks about heart, in the context of Jer17:9, it is talking about feelings. Considering scripture, I go with all scripture being useful and therefore don't hold up the New Testament over the Old Testament but see the NT hidden in the OT and the NT being the OT revealed in Christ. The Law being written down and being written on hearts. So I agree with you the heart not being wicked if surrendered to Christ. But we know that comes with choice and all of us are part righteous, part sinner, part good, part evil. So I am sorry to hear that you were taught as you were about the heart. Of course the heart and the mind are connected, feelings are linked to thoughts. And of course there will be good and evil in both. What I think the message from Jer 17:9 is, is just as you say, feelings are not to be trusted but he is. Thanks for chatting.

  • Philippa Linton | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    What Angela said reminds me of the teaching of James in his epistle and the power our words have to bless or to curse, the power they have for good or destructiveness. Abusive words spoken to a child can leave deep emotional wounds, for example. Certainly the Church has spoken some unwise words at times in her 2,000 year history - heaven knows I have spoken (or typed!) careless words at times, words I can never retrieve. But we have the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts and who is transforming us into Christ's likeness. Which brings us back to today's text. Reflecting further on verse 22, the Holy Spirit was already present because He was with God the Father at creation and His power raised Jesus from the dead - the three persons of the Trinity work in cooperation with each other! At the festival of Pentecost, however, the Spirit came in full power on all the disciples. Before that 'full flowering', Jesus gently breathes the peace and comfort of His Spirit on his stressed, scared disciples.

  • Peter Oliver | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    SorryI pressed interpolate by mistake

  • Barbara Sabin | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    The Message at our Churches on Easter Day was Isaiah 43 19 'See I am doing a new thing' This was a clear message from God's Word to me that He wants to do a new thing in both our village churches. I spoke to the lady who looks after the Mission Church which has at the most twelve people who worship on Sunday and suggested that this was a message for the Church she fully agreed but the excuses she raised why they couldn't change were unbelievable. The answer to each suggestion I made was 'well they don't come on a Sunday' I suggested that it was the first duty to get people to want to belong , then believe, then behave. Times have changed but God is the same today as yesterday. I suggested opening the building up more for village events as they have no Village Hall to get people in . Excuse not to was, not enough car parking spaces , this is a village where they can walk and don't need to travel in the car. Next excuse the tarmac not strong enough for cars to stand on. The real reason is fear, fear of failure, fear of doing something new. All they need to do is trust. and step out in faith. I pray that the Lord will move in a mighty way nothing is impossible with him.Who is it tells me what to do And helps me to obey? Who is it plans the route for me And will not let me stray? Who is it tells me when to speak And what I ought to say? Who is it gives me heavy loads And helps me take the strain? Who is it calls to sacrifice And helps me bear the pain? Who is it sees me when I fall And lifts me up again? Who is it shows me what to be And leads me to that goal? Who is it claims the heart of me And wants to take control? Who is it calls to holiness Of body, mind and soul? That's the Spirit! Holy Spirit! That's the Spirit of the Lord in me

  • Adam Julians | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Barbara - what you wrote was brilliant. And 12 people is not a bad number to start off with. I seem to remember that happening somewhere else ;).

  • Christopher Brann | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    I need both comfort and challenge, comfort in my long term illness and challenge not to let it define me. Comfort when I struggle with pain and tiredness challenge to use it positively for Jesus. Father I pray for all who struggle with their health comfort them and show them where they are still be able to work for you.

  • David Chipchase | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Christopher, congratulations that you recognize the danger of letting illness define. Most definitely I will pray for you and ask that you pray for my wife Jan who faces the same challenge. Her problem is advanced rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritises. May I ask what is your problem?

  • David Chipchase | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Months ago, someone posted about Rebecca who had been bitten by a horse fly (??) and was suffering significant sacro-iliac joint pain. How's she going now?

  • Christopher Brann | Tuesday, 18 April 2017

    Hi David, I have Primary Immune Deficiency, Chronic Fatigue, and a few lesser problems. I will pray for your wife Jan as well. That doesn't sound very nice to deal with.

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