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!’
26 A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’
The doors were locked.
Why were the disciples hiding behind locked doors? They feared the Jewish leaders. It might be tempting to find fault with these eleven men, but don’t. Their fear was very real, and it was justified. These leaders were the same ones who falsely accused Jesus and had Him illegally condemned and executed. If Jesus, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (as Peter declared in Matthew 16:16) couldn’t overcome them, what chance did the disciples have?
Don’t condemn them: learn from them. During these days when the disciples were hiding it seems very little was accomplished. The only events worth mentioning in the Gospels are Jesus’ appearances and the disciples’ responses. In between … nothing.
But after some days Jesus appeared a final time and ascended into heaven, leaving them with the promise of the Holy Spirit. From this point things begin to change. The disciples recognize the need to appoint a replacement for Judas. Why? Because they have a mission to fulfill. A foundation is being laid.
Then comes Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit descends upon them. Within weeks the disciples are called before the same Sanhedrin that tried Jesus. They are no longer hiding, but speaking boldly without fear: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead – whom you killed by hanging Him on a cross. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Saviour that He might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:29-32) The Holy Spirit has lit a fire which can never be extinguished! Persecution does not dampen it, but only makes it burn more brightly.
What can we learn from this? Three things:
1. The Church in hiding – afraid of being persecuted or even ridiculed – preserves its life, but nothing more; it needs a revelation of Jesus Christ and an infilling of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Church in waiting – when waiting in anticipation of the Holy Spirit – prepares groundwork for building the future.
3. The Church in action – declaring the Truth to the world in love and confronting evil under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – casts down high things and expands the Kingdom of God.
What about your church – which stage are you in? Are you hiding … eagerly waiting … or on the move?
Whichever stage it’s in, ask yourself this question: what am I doing to help it move forward, to take the next step, to move to the next stage? Whoever you are – whether a bishop, priest, deacon, or lay person – you are the Church, and you bear responsibility for the health of that body along with all the other members.
Work together for the good of the Body of Christ, and watch what the Holy Spirit will do through you and your church!
Word of God: speak! Non nobis Domine+
by: Father Dana Jackson