Bette Midler in her song, “The Rose” sings, “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes a chance. And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.”
That could sum up the followers of Jesus. Once again, they are locked behind closed doors out of fear. What were they afraid of? Probably several things. They were afraid that those responsible for the death of Jesus might hunt them down, get rid of the whole movement, once and for all. They were afraid of public ridicule. You know, you hitched your wagon to a lame horse, you are a bunch of losers. They were afraid to go home: after all, they had left all things to follow Jesus. Now it seemed they had been wrong, and they better hide ‘til it was all over.
Fear is a terrible thing, and most of us have fears. We fear terrorism, loss of health, and income, aging, dying. We fear for our children. Now we have to worry about identity theft.
I will always remember seventeen-year-old Virginia. She was pregnant and living with her fifteenth set of foster parents. She was the victim of neglect, abuse, and bureaucratic failure. When told by her caseworker that things were going to change for the better, all she could say was, it hurts too much to hope. It hurts too much to hope! She was a young girl, locked in fear.
Many of us experience fear. Many fear not fitting in, or not feeling good about oneself, or about looking good. So some wither away, take no risks, and hide behind closed doors of our own making, pretending to be cool, sophisticated, the life of the party, or aloof. But it is all a façade: we are afraid, and we are looking for someone to walk through the doors, doors we have closed, and call us out of our fears. We are looking for someone who understands.
Let me tell you the story of an extraordinary woman. Her husband had been injured in a fire; his face was terribly burned and disfigured. He became so self-conscious that he would not let anyone see him, even his wife. Finally, after weeks of his self-imposed exile, the wife went to see Dr. Maxwell Malz, a plastic surgeon.
He told her not to worry, that he could restore her husband’s face. She replied, you do not understand, doctor, he will not let anyone see him, he will not accept any help, you can do nothing. Then why are you here, asked the doctor. She replied, “because I want you to disfigure my face so I can be like him. If I can share his pain, then maybe he will let me back in his life.” Dr. Malz was so shocked, he told the wife, we are both going to your home right now.
He knocked on the man’s bedroom door. He spoke loudly, “My name is Dr. Malz, I am a plastic surgeon and I want you to know I can restore your face.” There was no response, so still speaking through the door Dr. Malz told the man of his wife’s proposal: “She wants me to disfigure her face like yours in the hope that you will let her back in your life. That is how much she loves you.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then, ever so slowly, the doorknob began to turn.
In our Gospel the disciples were like the husband, hiding in fear, behind locked doors, disfigured with their own betrayals and cowardice. And Jesus appears in their midst, and he appears with His wounds. Maybe Jesus felt like if He, like the wife in the story, can appear before them disfigured they will let Him back into their disfigured lives.
When it hurts too much to hope, when life has wounded us, when faith is exhausted and we doubt, know that the risen Lord with His disfiguring wounds is waiting to get into our disfigured and fearful lives, and call us out of our fears. Sometimes when life can be overwhelming and fear takes over go be apart and simply repeat the three last words of the bible: Come, Lord Jesus!