Many of us have been there–in that dark, shadowy room with the curtains drawn and the door locked. We no longer trust who or what we once believed to be trustworthy. So we lock ourselves in. We doubt.
Ten men sit huddled in this airless room. They are terrified for their lives. Their Lord and Master is dead, crucified, and now his body is missing. They know they will be blamed. Who can believe it possible that He is actually alive? Their hope is overwhelmed by fear.
Thomas is angry. He is out of the room when Jesus first appears in resurrected form to his astonished disciples.
“Until I see the nail marks in his hands,” Thomas spits out bitterly, “I will not believe it.”
The locked room is a testing ground for Thomas. He doesn’t expect Jesus to show up, but he does.
“See my hands,” Jesus tells Thomas, holding out the scarred palms.
Jesus is risen, transformed, but his hands still bear the scars of his wounds. Why were they still there?
Because when we see his hands, we know why he came in the first place. Through his scars, we are healed, forgiven, and our own ugly scars become transformed with hope.
The renewing of our minds begins in a very physical way.
We sit with them, don’t we, in this locked room, fearing the future? The world has become a dangerous place and life as we have known it may never be the same again. Our certainty has been taken away from us. We no longer trust the leaders who tell us where we can and cannot go. Can we still trust our Creator God? We doubt.
Twenty-five years ago on the 13th March 1996, a man walked into a primary school in Dunblane, Scotland and started shooting. Before killing himself, he shot dead sixteen children and one teacher as well as injuring several more. It was the deadliest mass shooting in British history.
This terrible crime outraged me. “God! Why do you take the children who are loved?” I had lost my unborn son two years earlier after years of fertility treatment and was now losing hope of ever conceiving another child. Did God really care?
I sat in a locked room of doubt and hopelessness that Easter season of 1996. Doubt made me angry. Then Jesus came into my locked room and said, “In what does your hope lie?” As much as I grieved for my lost child, I laid down that anger and let it go that Resurrection Sunday. My hope was in a Risen Saviour and Nothing could ever take that away from me.
Twenty-five years later (and two beautiful grown children), I am in a locked room again, angry with what this pandemic keeps taking away from us. I feel I am no longer handling the mental stress of this crazy roller coaster ride. We are all putting our hope in the vaccine. But is that enough?
This Easter of 2021, He asks each of us the same question.
“In what does your hope lie?”
Is it in having a child, getting well, living without Covid?
I need to renew my mind. I need to see Jesus’ hands stretched out before me. Like Thomas, I need to lay down my anger and say, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus Christ wants to renew your mind and give you wholeness. Like him, the scars of your life may remain. But know that wherever you may be in this locked room, He is also there. You are not alone.
Today is the Day of the Cross. The Cross is the instrument of Atonement and our Salvation. History has sanctified and beautified it to the point its gilded presence often seems a remote symbol.
There is something deeply personal and intimate about the locked room. We have become all too familiar with what it is to isolate ourselves. Like the disciples, even those of us who believe find ourselves in limbo there. Call it the lockdown room; it’s also the hospital room, the hotel quarantine room, the empty spaces devoid of people. They confine us in our fear and doubts for the future. We need Jesus to come to us this Resurrection Sunday and once again, show us His hands, inviting us to see and believe.
Thomas demanded physical proof to erase his doubt. We don’t get to see Jesus’ hands in the same way. It was Job who truly saw and believed. In the depths of his misery, in another time and place, he emerges from his suffering at the very heart of Scripture with this affirmation that rises above all others:
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, Yet in my flesh I will see God.” Job 19:25-26