Connections 04.19.2020: The Empowering Christ

John 20:19-31

Today’s passage contains one of my favorite images in the New Testament. It’s not the appearance of the risen Christ. It’s not him breathing the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. It’s not even Thomas’s jubilant confession of belief, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).

My favorite image is of the disciples, Jesus’ best friends, huddled together in fear inside a locked room. Severely traumatized by the past few days. Devastated by the loss of their leader and friend. Terrified of what might happen to them because of their association with the crucified man. Struggling to cling to the words he spoke to them about rising in three days, even though such hope seemed like the thinnest of threads.

This is one of my favorite images in the entire New Testament because I identify with it so much. I have grown up with Jesus. I know his stories, his teachings, his promises, and his love. Yet many times in my own life, I have been traumatized, devastated, terrified, and struggling because of some experience—either personally or communally. Like those close friends of Jesus, I have also locked myself inside a room, seeking protection from whatever feels threatening or uncontrollable. My act of locking myself inside may be symbolic—I withdraw emotionally, I let anxiety take over my heart, or I refuse to let anyone get too close to me—but it is nonetheless very real and very isolating.

It helps me tremendously to know that these people who knew the living, breathing, human-body-wearing Jesus up close and personal still felt so afraid that they locked themselves inside a room.

Considering the trauma and fear of these current times with the COVID-19 pandemic taking hold of our entire world, the temptation to shut myself inside a locked room—whether literally or figuratively—is high. You may feel the same way. My deepest prayer is that those of us who have locked the doors will experience the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst; that we will hear him say, “Peace be with you”; and that we will receive courage enough to open ourselves back up and let others in too. That is the best way to survive these times.

Discussion

• When have you felt the need to lock the doors—whether literally or figuratively—in order to protect yourself?

• What did it take to get you to open back up and let other people in?

• In our current time of upheaval and uncertainty, how can you prepare your heart and mind to receive Jesus when he comes to you and says, “Peace be with you”?

• How can you help others who may also be living in fear behind locked doors?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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