When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you."
—-John 20: 19
We could title this message "Excuses" or "Rationalizations." It really has to do with the end of excuses, what happens when everything finally hits home.
"After all, it’s Christmas." This is a common rationalization for letting things go, or spending too much or just generally not doing one’s due diligence.
Then, right after Christmas, the bills come in or the gifts break or the roof leaks or the suspended relationship building requires some work or the cows get out. Then we find out we are broke, disappointed, wet, estranged or cold.
The Blahs hit. We retreat in distress, locked in until spring or, at least, until the storm blows over us.
Talk about your Blahs. The apostles pretty much experience the worst case of Blahs ever between Friday evening and Sunday morning. They walk in after Jesus on the previous Monday when all of Jerusalem, it seems, turns out to greet Him. They watch Him master the Temple crowd again, take the Paschal meal with Him.
Then they get exciting news. He is ready to establish a New Covenant in His own body and blood! How they waited for Him to make this announcement!
Understand, they will always hear "Covenant" and think "Kingdom." Jesus does something entirely new and different with them. They are the first to hear of it and among the last to "get it."
Once, when He dismissed a crowd of well-wishers with what amounts to a rude speech, Jesus turned to the apostles and asked, "Will you leave me, too?"
He almost invites them to go.
"Will you leave as well?’
Loud mouth Apostle Peter answers for all, as usual.
"Where would we go? You alone have the words of life? Have we not all given up everything, houses, land, jobs, families, for You?"
And Jesus gives a confusing answer. He tells them that no one will ever give up anything in His Name for which they are not repaid over and over.
Little wonder they think this gospel will prosper them.
So, quite naturally, being religiously prepared for an overcoming Messiah and personally cognizant Jesus will make sure all legers balance in their favor as to accounts receivable, the apostolic band hits rock bottom when He dies. If these guys really believe anything it is the Roman power to kill Uppity Jews. They can count the crosses on the hills easier than fishes in the net.
If you give up everything to go with somebody, only to see Him bleed and die, what does that do to your baloon, Snuffy?
We might look at some ways to beat the Blahs. They are mostly in prospect rather than retrospect. That is, we have to understand how to look forward better than to look back for perspective. Few people look on road map to find out where they have been unless they believe themselves to be very, very lost. Most of us look to see what is ahead to avoid the lostness.
To beat the Blahs, look ahead with hope rather than backward with regret.
Granted, we all have regrets.
"I coulda been a contender," Brando cried.
Alexander the Great realized, as far as he knew, there was nothing left he could conquer, and wept.
Kissinger looked back on the wreckage of Watergate in the little room off the Oval Office with Richard Nixon and shook his head. Nixon cried, the fallen Quaker begging the non-observant Jew to pray a drunken prayer with him.
Yes, we all have regrets.
What is our hope?
Can we take hope in the cosmos? Well, probably not. The universe expands so quickly, we are told now, it may pull itself apart with such violent force all life ends in one huge spasm.
Can we take hope just in this solar system? Uh, well, no. The sun-star flares, burns lower, and finally crashes in on itself, like all other sun-stars. Don’t invest heavily in green bananas.
Can we take hope in just our little world? Well, maybe, but we seem to be some kind of aberration; a planet just the right distance from the sun-star, rotating adequately but not too rapidly on an axis tilted just right to keep it from freezing over or burning to ashes.
Can we take hope in our species? Do I really have to answer that one?
So, exactly how, with all the odds against all existence, do we look forward with hope?
I refuse to get maudlin here. Truth is, there has to be some recognizable, personal survival for us after all this burns up. Jesus does not preface His death with sentimental words of rememberance, asking the apostles to keep Him alive in their teachings. In fact, He intends to do business with Jews of all kinds not many days hence. He will even call the chief malefactor against His faith to be the most imminent progenitor of His religion.
Nor does Jesus send back a card from Heaven, to say, "Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here."
Nope. He appears in the world again, right in front of them, in the midst of their blahs and says, "Chill, Dudes, Chill."
Frankly, for us to beat the Blahs, to look forward with hope rather than backward with regret, we have to actually believe He lives.
To beat the Blahs, furthermore, we have to look forward with hope instead of fear.
Face it, hope is forward looking. Face this, too, any time we look forward, there is a little fear of the unknown running through us.
Fifty-five per cent of Americans now report they believe they will not be able to leave their children in a better condition than the present generation enjoys. Despite the fed, things are not getting better.
Let me visit some headlines with you. These are taken from major American newspapers.
"Wildfires rampage in California. Drouth continues."
"Recession Imminent. Congress Powerless."
"Record unemployment. Jobs Moving to Asia."
"War costs billions each day."
These are headlines from major American news dailies.
They are from the year 1973.
OK, bad news sells better than sex. If you can give someone bad news about their sex life you can really sell some papers.
I left out those headlines.
Of course, there is a different way to look at the future.
When someone asks you to describe your best day, you can say, "I haven’t had it yet."
If you want someone to believe that you better have some reason for it. If you want to believe it, you need a reason.
Read the John 20 text a bit farther along. You find Jesus telling the guys they have His mission and His Father’s protection. He says,
"As they Father has sent Me, I also send You" (John 20:21).
For us to look forward with hope rather than fear, we have to believe He is not only alive, but in business. If we know He has a use for us, we can be sure He has a place for us.
If we are to beat the Blahs, we have to look forward with the certain hope we can do better.
Species come and go. The sun burns brighter. The globe warms. Fire flies lose their place to fire ants. Meadows give way to malls.
Why so glum, Bunky?
"This old world just gets worse and worse," the Old Cowboy snorts and turns his mount to the setting sun.
Read some more of the John passage.
"And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and told them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, sins have been forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they have been retained."
The Holy Spirit is to empower us to forgive. We forgive or not. The world gets better or worse in direct proportion to how we forgive.
What is your hope?
My hope is He is alive, in business, has a use for me in His business and so a place for me with Him. Apparently, He is in the business of forgiveness, or I would not have a place with Him, being a sinner and all. Apparently, He is willing to pay any cost to forgive, or the whole death-to-life thing He does would not happen. Obviously, He must be the ultimate Overcomer of all time, since even death, grave and hell cannot keep him from showing us a prophet.
Understand this ability to forgive makes the world better. Catch the fact the ability to love and forgive is not locked up in a church building somewhere. Yes, He appears to them while they are locked up but not with the expectation they will stay in that locked room. He uses inclusive language, world language, to get them out of the Blahs and into the news.
How to beat the Blahs?
Know He lives. Know He has a use of you and a so place for you. Accept your ability to forgive and so see the world forgiven.
That’ll get us started.