Fear operates in the void. In some respects it draws its strength from our own imagination. What will happen, we ask ourselves, if I turn that corner? What will happen if I take this risk at work? What will those test results show? Should I check that the door is locked again? We did this sort of thing as children. What was that noise in the dark? Is there a monster in the closet?
Recently I heard of the phenomenon of monster repellent. One gets a generic spray bottle, fills it with water, and then creates a label that reads “Monster Spray.” Before bed, a fearful child can spray it around her room. Only later in life do fears grow more complicated and the comforts of monster spray no longer work. Our fears still draw from our imagination, but the possibilities become more concrete.
The disciples sat together in a room behind locked doors. They were terrified of what was on the other side. They were terrified of what might happen to them. Jesus, though, appears and speaks the word they need: peace. And not only does he comfort them and resolve their terrors; he sends them out into the world where they certainly will come face to face with the animus that drove them to lock up the doors. The child fears a monster that is not there. The disciples were afraid of being rejected and even killed — quite sensibly, as the blood of the martyrs testifies.
But Jesus speaks peace nonetheless, and empowers with the Holy Spirit to go into the world sharing the good news that death itself has been overcome, that all the teeth and the claws of monsters have no ultimate power. In a similar way fear gripped Thomas. Fear shaped his sense of the way the world must work. Even in seeing Jesus, he would not believe until he verified the wounds himself. And Jesus obliges. Again he speaks the needful word. He brings peace and resolves the fear, breathes out hope and courage, and reveals the truth.
It is interesting to note that the author of the fourth gospel tells us these stories as he closes his work. He tells us of locked doors and wringing hands. He tells us about fear and doubt and anxiety. To be sure, the possibility of death — even martyrdom — is not removed. But the lordship of fear is toppled. This is St. John’s purpose in concluding his work, and he tells us as much.
Jesus did many other things that are not contained in these pages, but what is written will inspire us to believe, to trust in faith, and walk past the locked doors in the knowledge that the resurrected Jesus is Lord. If the doors are locked, nothing can get in, but we cannot get out, and neither can the good news that we have. On the other side of the locked door, beyond safe confines, stands a world filled with monsters. But their teeth and claws cannot reverse the new reality, that life has swallowed up death.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Look It Up
Read John 30:31.
Think About It
Who do you trust?