House Keys

Pastor Ken Gast

John 20:19-31 (NIV) 19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” 24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 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.” 26 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!” 27 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.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Locked out. We were heading home from our last family vacation. Our plane out of San Diego was delayed for a number of hours. So we landed at The Mpls.-St. Paul airport in the wee hours of the morning. Our oldest daughter was picked up by a friend to take back to Lacrosse, WI. When they arrived there she was locked out. We dropped Steve off at his place at the University of WI, Eau Claire. He discovered he was locked out. When the rest of us got back to the parsonage in Tomah, WI we could open the garage door with the garage opener, but we had secured the door from the garage into the house because we were going to be gone. So, guess what. Locked out! It was now about five in the morning. We were exhausted, frustrated, and disgusted. Not having the key to open the door and being locked out is even more exhausting, frustrating and disgusting, to say nothing about eternally death sentencing when it comes to God’s house. So today, as we launch a new series called “Going Home”, we turn to God’s Word in John 20:19-31 and this encouraging and saving truth,

I. To open the door by giving us faith in him now.
II. To unlock eternal life’s door through his mighty word.

The women had reported to the disciples that an angel at Jesus’ empty tomb had told them he had risen. Peter and John had run to the tomb and found it empty. The Emmaus disciples reported that they had talked with Jesus along the way and had eaten with him. Still we read in John 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...” In spite of all the reports, the disciples were afraid the Jewish leaders might do to them what they had done to Jesus. They did not yet believe that Jesus was truly risen and alive and would be their sure defense. Can we really blame them? You know the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Someone just doesn’t come back from the dead. Except Jesus isn’t just someone.

So we are told, “Jesus came and stood among them.” Locked doors couldn’t keep Jesus out. In his risen, glorified body, suddenly he was there in their midst. Still they doubted. Luke tells us they thought they saw a ghost. But the ever patient and loving Jesus reassured their wavering faith by showing them his hands that had been pierced by the nails and his side where the spear had pierced. It was truly their Savior in his very body alive again. Even more reassuring were the first words the risen Christ spoke to them, “Peace be with you.” He had promised them peace, peace with God and peace because of his forgiveness of their sins, when he earlier said he would have the Holy Spirit give them his peace. Now his resurrection made absolutely certain that was not an empty promise. Peace was theirs, even peace that drove away their fears there behind locked doors. Jesus gave them the peace key that opened the otherwise locked door into his house, his family of believers. The risen Jesus gave them the Gospel, the key to being his household, his children, now, as they lived their lives here in this world.

And while they lived here they had work to do for him. He breathed on them the Holy Spirit and again gave them the peace filled assurance that as they carried forth the good news of a Savior crucified to pay for all sin and raised again to justify all lost sinners he would be at their side. And the Holy Spirit would work through their message. That message was sins unlocked for those who believed in the risen Jesus and sins locked against them, if they refused to believe. They now possessed the key that would make others also assured they were not locked out of the Lord’s house even now in life here.

One disciple, Thomas, was not with the others that evening. When told they had seen the risen Jesus Thomas declared he would not believe it until he saw it. You know, seeing is believing. Once again the every patient Savior reached out for a timid believer. He returned the next Sunday evening when Thomas was present and instead of condemning him for unbelief, had Thomas see and touch. What a faith-filled confession emanated from this forgiven, reassured disciple who now had the key to not be locked out of Jesus’ house, “My Lord and my God!”

Well, think about it. Where would you and I have been that Sunday evening? If we were told by legitimate authority there was going to be a terrorist attack against Christians in our neighborhood, would we have our doors locked? You betcha! And rightly so. At the same time, however, I pray we would have the peace the risen, living Jesus also promised us. As sinners we were locked out of his house, his family. But he has given us the key, the Good News he died to take away our sins and rose again to make our faith in him solid and sure. We are no longer locked out of his house, his family, his kingdom of believers. We long for and strive for peace among the members of our earthly family. Fighting and strife between husband and wife and among children is never fun or pleasing to our Lord. His words tell us, “Live at peace with one another.” That will happen when we hear the words of our risen Savior say to us, “Peace be with you.” We have peace and live at peace with our heavenly Father through Jesus. He lives to grant us daily peace as sons and daughters of the living King. And, like his disciples, he wants us to share the key to his house, the key to true and lasting “Shalom”, with each other and any others we meet. That is doing as Thomas did once his faith was reaffirmed in his living Savior, confessing he is MY Lord and MY God, the key to not being locked out of his house now. And if that were not enough, he is the key to eternal life’s door through his mighty word.

Jesus looked ahead to all future key holders including you and me when he said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And how does such key possessing come? Paul stated in Romans 10, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” So even right now as you hear Christ speak in his word the Holy Spirit is working such key possession in your heart for Scripture also says, “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit”, the very Holy Spirit Jesus promised would remind them of everything he had told them, and us. That is the whole purpose behind the Holy Spirit inspiring the writers of Holy Scripture to write what they did. This includes the writer before us right now, a disciple who was an eye witness of the risen Jesus and him giving the Gospel key that unlocks the door to eternal life. In his first letter John wrote, “The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” Here as this eye witness of the risen Jesus basically concluded his Gospel he wrote, But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing may have life in his name.”

As we stood at our locked door in the early hours of dawn, suddenly a voice behind us said, “Step aside” and before we knew it a hammer retrieved from the garage smashed the door’s window and our son reached around inside and opened the door. What relief and joy that we could get in the house, into our beds and rest. Well, be assured there is no hammer that is going to smash us into God’s heavenly house of eternal life. Not good works, not I’ll try harder, not I am not as bad as, not, “Well my mom and dad go to church”, nothing in us or in this world. But we don’t need to attempt to smash our way in. The risen Jesus hands us the key every time we receive the good news of his death and resurrection as our Savior. Don’t lose the key through neglect or complacency. Keep it handy every day and, if it is your last day, know you can use it so you are not locked out of eternal life in God’s house which is in “turn-key condition”. Dorothy had it right. “There’s no place like home.”