“BAM!” My little Datsun was slammed into by a large delivery truck doing 60 miles an hour. It hit the car right behind the back door and the car spun round and round like a top, then “WHAM!” it stopped, wedged into the ditch on the side of the road. Every window was broken; the steering wheel was broken; the seat was broken. My head was in the backseat, passenger side and my feet were under the steering wheel, and I couldn’t breathe. I literally could not breathe. That truck knocked the wind out of me.
One of my parishioners ran over to my car from the convenience store across the road and leaned in the broken window. “Pastor, Pastor are you all right?”
Well no, I wasn’t all right. I couldn’t breathe. There was no air in my lungs, and I didn’t seem to be able to get any in there. I couldn’t speak; I couldn’t even move. I just stared at her with my mouth open. She started crying, and then started screaming to the other people rushing to help, “He’s dead! He’s dead! Oh my God, the preacher’s dead!” Which is, I assure you, a disconcerting thing to have screamed in your ear when you are indeed very much alive.
After what seemed like an eternity I was able to get a bit of air into my lungs and lift a hand to touch her on the shoulder; which, in retrospect, was not the best thing to do, seeing as how she thought I was dead and all. When I touched her on the shoulder, she jerked her head up and looked at me with real terror in her eyes. Finally, I squeezed out the words, “It’s all right. I’m not dead.” It was a peculiar and disorienting thing to find myself in that position, that of the one who had been hurt reaching out to comfort the onlooker. But that is the situation in which we find Jesus in our Gospel lesson—the one who had been hurt bringing solace to the witnesses.
On the evening of that first Easter, the disciples were meeting in a room. They had the door shut, bolted, locked. They were frightened. They could not get their bearings. They could not breathe. They had given up everything to follow Jesus, and this is not how they expected things to turn out. Just a week ago, on Palm Sunday, they had entered the city with such gigantically high hope, and now … this. This, this … disaster. This, this … craziness. This, this … car crash of an ending. Indeed, they had had the wind knocked out of them. And so, on that first Easter evening, Jesus the Christ came to the disciples in that locked and airless room and breathed new life into them.
At one time or another all of us are like the disciples were on that first Easter evening. We too have had the wind knocked out of us. Some of us have lost loved ones unexpectedly, some of us struggle with a long-term illness in the family, some of us have lost economic security, some of us have failed to get that promotion we had hoped for, some of our children haven’t worked out the way we hoped, some of our marriages are hurting. All of us have had the wind knocked out of us, sometime; probably sometime lately. Believe you me, in times like those, the big picture fades away and all your energy is centered on surviving, on breathing, on taking one more precious breath, and anything other than the present, personal experience becomes difficult to believe in or focus upon. All we know or believe is what is happening to us—right now, right here.
This is what has happened to the disciples. Though they spent several years working with and listening to Jesus, though they saw his miracles and healings, they heard his teachings and expositions of Scripture, though they knew that he had said he would rise again, in the moment, in this moment, in this place in this time all they could feel was their fear, doubt and pain.
So it is with us. The personal experiences that convinced us to believe and trust in God in the first place fade into the background, they seem are few and far between, practically non-existent; while the many things that cause us to not believe, not trust, knock the wind out of us, become much louder, more persistent and much more frequent. And into those spaces of doubt, fear and unbelief, Jesus comes to us and shows us the wounds in the hands of the living God.
As he did with the disciples, and finally with Thomas, Jesus comes into the locked rooms of our souls and wipes away our tears with his blood-stained hands. Jesus breathes the wind of a new spirit into our withered and faded souls. Jesus responds to our fear, reactivity, and defensiveness with vulnerability and offers of peace. Jesus answers our fear of death with the presence and promise of new life. And we are invited to join with Thomas in proclaiming him, “My Lord and my God!”
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
Amen and amen.