John 20:19-20: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
John 20:24-29: “Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” 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!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
In both of those accounts the disciples gather together on the first day of the week (Sunday). Both times the doors were locked out of fear of the Jews. However, both times Jesus came and stood among them and said: “Peace be with you.” In the first account He showed all His disciples (Thomas wasn’t there the first time) His hands and side. He testified and proved or provided the evidence of the reality that He was alive! In the second account He ministered this truth specifically to Thomas who was there with the others the second time. In the first account this reality of Jesus risen and alive resulted in them being “overjoyed” when they “saw the Lord.” In the second account Thomas “breaks” and “believes.” (By the way, one precious side note in this is that even though Thomas missed out on this the first time, it’s as if Jesus does it all over again the second time for Thomas’ benefit! Take heart that if you have missed out on something of God, He is the God of second-chances!).
These two accounts are in a way the first “church meetings.” They are pictures of what church is meant to be and the difference Jesus’ presence makes when He “shows up.” In fact church is not church if Christ isn’t there! He is the center, the focus, the desire, the head of the church, the one who makes the difference. The disciples came together in fear, but left with peace and being overjoyed in seeing Him. Thomas came in doubting, but left believing. That’s the difference Jesus’ presence makes!
Jesus is physically in heaven today but there is no doubt from Scripture that He, in a very real and spiritual sense, is with His people when they gather together in His Name. Jesus even said to the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2 that He “…walks among the seven golden lampstands.” In the chapter before He makes clear the golden lamp-stands are the churches. He is the midst of His people! In Matthew 18:20 (which is in the specific context of church discipline), Jesus promised that “where two or three come together in My Name, there I am with them.”
His presence among us and with us, is what makes all the difference. Fearful saints can leave with peace spoken to their hearts. Depressed saints can leave overflowing with joy! Doubting saints can leave with hearts full of faith, being established in their faith. Weak saints leave being strengthened in His presence. This is one reason it’s important we don’t get into the habit of failing to gather together (Hebrews 10:25) but encourage one another in Christ. Think of what Thomas missed out on that first week and first Sunday gathering! Think of how despite the others joy and peace, He was still tormented and depressed that week! But again, think of Jesus’ tender grace, to especially and specifically, minister to Thomas that next Sunday when he gathered with the others! Half the battle is showing up! The second half is believing.
But here is what I really want to get to in this blog post. Do you have any “locked doors” in your life? What fears are binding you? What anxieties are eating away at you? Are you discouraged? Depressed? Downcast, troubled, lacking peace, lacking joy? It’s the presence of the Living, Risen Christ that makes all the difference! When He works in your heart and life, He can totally change your whole mood and speak peace to your heart. When you “see Him” you will be filled with joy. We may not see Him physically like the disciples did, but we can “see” Him through the eyes of faith. We can see Him and know Him through the eyes of our heart being opened (Ephesians 1:18). In fact, 1 Peter 1:8-9 says: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” And by the way…remember what Jesus said to Thomas: there is a special blessing for those who while not “seeing with their physical eyes” yet believe.
If you lack peace and joy, look to Jesus. Believe in Him. Trust in Him. If you lack peace and joy, get around or with believers who are seeking God and gathering together in and around Jesus’ name (2 Timothy 2:22). He will be there in a special way and it’s His presence that makes all the difference!
Jesus is alive and working in this world by His Spirit. He is not still on the cross. He is not dead in the grave. He has risen and is very much alive and working today. The real question is whether He is alive and working in your heart and life? The apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:16-17: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” He will as you put your trust in Him. Our God is the Living God. The question is whether our faith is living and active. The question is as Romans 10:9-10 puts it: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The question is, do we “see” Him who is the “first-born from among the dead?” It’s the living, risen Jesus that makes all the difference! It’s His presence that changes us and gives us peace and joy! Psalm 34:8 says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
Hebrews 10:19-25: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.