Don’t you hate it when the best stories are apocryphal? We love the stories. We repeat them as great examples, only to find out that they may not be true. For example, according to legend, the members of the Continental Congress looked at the Declaration of Independence, waiting nervously to see who would sign first, when John Hancock stepped up and said, “I’ll sign it large enough that King George can see it without his spectacles.” An inspiring moment, lost to truth. It didn’t happen. The truth of another great moment in history is undecided. Did Travis draw that line in the sand at the Alamo or not. We know that he spoke to the defenders of the Alamo and all but one decided to stay and defend it. Unfortunately, the only one who could verify the story, the guy who left, isn’t known to have talked about it. Indications are that something like that probably happened.
We tell those stories to inspire courage. We think of the sacrifices that these people made and in our admiration, we go forward in spite of difficulties because they were willing to make those sacrifices for us. While the Hancock story isn’t true, we know that those who signed the Declaration did so at great personal cost. But, their sacrifices helped gain our freedoms. We know that those men who stayed at the Alamo, whether they crossed a line in the sand or not, helped free Texas. Those turning points in history caused by people who got a dose of courage inspire us to carry on. The early disciples had one of those moments. Locked in an upper room, for fear that the Jewish leaders would arrest them, they got a visit from the risen Lord. “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” (John 20:20-21)
There are many things I don’t understand about the Bible. This story is one of them. The disciples had learned about the resurrection of Jesus. They knew that He had conquered death, yet they were locked in an upper room because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Then Jesus came. No locked door could keep Him out. He proclaimed peace to their fearful hearts. He verified who He was by showing them His hands and His side. Then they got it and rejoiced. (Well, all except Thomas who must have been out getting coffee for the bunch, but Jesus took care of him later.) Most importantly, though, He gave them marching orders to go into the world and proclaim the Kingdom of God. From this frightened bunch came an empowered group that changed the world in a way that still impacts us today.
Why do I believe this story when the others are questionable? John was there. It rings true to the nature of the disciples, frightened and unbelieving, and of Jesus. It rings true when I realize that these scared disciples changed the world because of the boldness of their message. They accepted the peace of Jesus and then, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the proclaimed the love and grace of God with such power that people followed Him. The problem is, that makes me see that I have this same commission. As the Father sent Jesus, so also did Jesus send me. I am called to proclaim the Kingdom of God. I am called to share the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus to all people – and show it, even to the people I don’t particularly like. Yep, the dirty little secret I carry around with me is that I love all people, but don’t necessarily like them. Like Jonah, I may be compelled to share a message of grace, but I don’t necessarily like it. And Jesus comes to me. I see His side and His hands. I experience His grace and His love, knowing that, to be honest, Jesus probably shouldn’t like me, but He does. I am to go with courage and share.
Lord, how easy it is to sit back with the people I know and like. Give me courage to share Your grace with all people.