April 8, 2018 – “Gateway”

Today’s text is from John 20:19-23.

We’re coming up on the end of our journey through the Gospel of John. But there’s still a few more surprises left for us in this post-resurrection time. First and foremost is the text in front of us today: Narrated for us this morning is the day of Pentecost. Now, in our official church timeline, Pentecost – the day when the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples – happens 49 days after Easter. This year the official date for the event narrated in today’s reading is set for May 20th.

But this year we’re going to get a two-for-one special: Because in John’s Gospel, Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit is given, happens on Easter Sunday. And it’s nothing like the account that we’ll hear in a month’s time. There are no tongues of fire appearing on the disciples, people aren’t speaking in different languages, there isn’t a violent wind and numerous people present to witness this giving of the Holy Spirit.

Instead, this story of the Holy Spirit being given begins in fear. It’s a recurring motif we’ve heard throughout the Gospel of John – and it’s a recurring narrative that Jesus has spent chapters and chapters on providing his disciples with comfort and peace.

And yet on this first Easter evening it appears to all be in vain. We’re told the disciples know the resurrection story. Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loves have been to the tomb and back – they’ve seen the stone rolled away, they’ve seen the empty grave clothes, they’ve heard Mary’s claim – Mary, the first witness to the resurrected Jesus – they’ve heard her profession of faith that Jesus is not dead, but alive.

And yet, now they hide. The disciples hide in fear of those in power. They hide in fear of those who would seek to bring them down in the same false and convoluted manner that killed their Lord, and Savior, and friend. They hide in the sheer terror that death stands right outside their door – that pain and suffering are seeking them out – so they hide. They lock the door and do everything in their power to keep out the sure death that swirls just outside the door.

But then, we’re told, the Door appears. The Gate allows new life to enter.

These five short verses today have a lot to tell us. First, we know that Jesus has many titles: God, Christ, Savior, Lord, friend. But in John we see a new title appear, and an odd one at that: Gate. Jesus tells us that he is the gate – the gate that only allows the true shepherd to enter and tend their sheep. But the actual translation is a bit stranger: Jesus is saying that he is not just a gate, but a door.

So, we hear Jesus tell us that he’s the way, the truth, the life, and in John we also hear Jesus tell us that he is the door. I can only imagine that’s not usually the image of Jesus that we hold in our minds – we imagine Jesus as shepherd, as Lord, but probably not as a door.

And yet it fits perfectly for our reading today. That as the disciples do everything they can to fend off pain, suffering, and death, we find Jesus entering their world of anxiety and fear and bringing them comfort, peace, and release.

Release from the fear of death. Release from the anxiety of suffering. Release from the terror of what lies in the outside world. The same holds true for us. That we, like the disciples, cannot hide behind literal and metaphorical doors our whole lives. That in order to proclaim and live out the gospel message we must lean into and trust that Jesus is the door – that Jesus will not let the power of death have the final say. That even when pain and suffering come our way – even when death comes our way – that the Gate, the Door, the Savior of the world – will not let death prevail.

For in this Easter season new life has won. Abundance of peace and release are yours. Through and in Jesus Christ – the door – the powers that would seek to take away your very life are defeated so that abundance of new life is yours.

An abundance that we are each called to share with the world. An abundance that cannot be stolen or taken from us: For Jesus Christ is the Door – and the power of death no longer has the final say.