Upper Room Futility
John 20:19, "On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,"
In spite of the fact that several women had encountered the resurrected Lord Jesus on that first Easter Sunday morning, and Peter and John had visited and seen with their own eyes the empty tomb, their fear of the Jews was still greater than their faith. The sight of their eyes was not enough to transform the fright in their hearts. So, Resurrection day evening finds them in a holy huddle behind locked doors. They have a case of what Max Lucado calls, “Upper Room Futility” - stuck between Calvary and Easter. They had just enough faith to cause them to come together out of fear, but not enough fire to fling open the door and fearlessly assault the portals of Hell with the liberating good news of a Risen Savior.
This is how the New Testament Church of Jesus Christ began with a group of frightened men and women locked in a second-floor room in Jerusalem. Although Jesus had trained and taught them for three years, they now sat huddled together as timid soldiers, reluctant warriors, speechless messengers.
Although this incident is 2,000 years old, it still has a familiar sound to it. Far too many churches today find themselves meeting, eating, and retreating for fear of the things they see coming upon the world.
How many churches have just enough faith to come together, but not enough passion to go out? If the doors aren’t locked, they might as well be.
Upper-room futility. A little bit of faith but not enough to make them fearless for the extension of that faith.
Borrowing from Max Lucado's book, Six Hours One Friday, we find him describing the innocuous protest of so many churches: “Sure, we’re doing our part to reach the world. Why, just last year we mailed ten correspondence courses. We’re anticipating a response any day now.”
“You bet we care that the world is reached! We send $150 a month to… uh, well… ol’ what’s-his-name down there in… uh, well, oh, I forget the place, but… we pray for it often.”
“World hunger? Why, that’s high on our priority list! In fact, we have plans to plan a planning session. At least, that is what we are planning to do.”
"Good people. Lots of ideas. Plenty of good intentions. Budgets. Meetings. Words. Promises. But while all this is going on, the door remains locked and the story stays a secret.
"You don’t turn your back on Christ, but you don’t turn toward him either. You don’t curse his name, but neither do you praise it. You know you should do something, but you’re not sure what. You know you should come together, but you’re not sure why.
"Upper-room futility. Confused ambassadors behind locked doors. What will it take to unlock them? What will it take to ignite the fire? What will it take to restore the first-century passion? What will have to happen before the padlocks of futility tumble from our doors and are trampled under the feet of departing disciples?
"More training? That’s part of it. Better strategies? That would help. A greater world vision? Undoubtedly. More money? That’s imperative. A greater dependence on the Holy Spirit? Absolutely.
"What unlocked the doors of the apostles’ hearts?
"Simple. They saw Jesus. They encountered the risen Christ."
When you read the Gospel accounts, one consistent picture is placed before you of what the disciples did when the appearances of the resurrected Jesus finally convinced them that he was living, loose, and Lord God. After His death and before His resurrection, the disciples were despondent, fearful, and hiding behind locked doors. But suddenly, a radical change abruptly occurred. Their lives began to take on the traits of those involved in foot races. All of a sudden, disciple after disciple seems to get winged feet as he runs and runs.
The angel at the tomb said, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly. and tell.” This is the proper order. After we have run to see the meaning, we are to then run to share the message. The rocky tomb was never intended to merely be a private chapel for the individual soul who is electrified by the resurrection. The same irresistible constraint that set the disciples’ feet flying is to disengage us from our apathy, lethargy, and idleness, and set us tirelessly running to unto the ends of the earth with the testimony about the wonderful Person and Victory of Jesus. The news is simply too good to keep! A sober, dignified, leisurely, casual walk is simply no longer possible.
No more living with Upper Room Futility. Jesus is Risen!
Jesus is risen, therefore God’s new world has begun.
The new creation based upon the standards of the new covenant is operative now because the final, complete, decisive, lasting act of divine salvation happened when Jesus, the Messiah, came, lived, died, was buried, rose again, and ascended back to heaven.
Jesus is risen, therefore, God’s verdict against His people has been transposed into God’s vindication of us.
Jesus is risen, therefore the kingdom has been definitively established, is being progressively extended, and will be finally victoriously consummated.
Jesus is risen, therefore, the tyrants and despots of the world should tremble and quiver – because God has exalted Jesus as both Lord and Christ and every knee will bow before him.
Jesus is risen, therefore, death has been defeated.
Jesus is risen, therefore, creation groans in anticipation of the final reversal and removal of the curse.
Jesus is risen, therefore, we will be raised also to live forever in God’s new creation.
Jesus is risen, therefore, we are to go and make disciples of every people group in his name.
Jesus is risen, thereforewe have the task of proclaiming, embodying, and demonstrating before the world exactly what this new creation is and what it looks like and extending it to the ends of the earth.
Paul concludes his great resurrection dissertation in 1 Cors. 15, not by saying, “So let’s celebrate the bliss of heaven that awaits us.” He says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steadfast, always enthusiastic about the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
The key message of Easter is not “Jesus is alive again, and therefore we’re all going to heaven. The New Testament declares again and again that our future is bound up with the resurrection of Christ. Jesus has been raised from the dead, and therefore God’s New Creation has begun. Therefore we have a job to do, so we must get out of our locked door, safe spaces buildings and join the curse reversing kingdom movement until every foe is vanquished and Christ is owned as Lord indeed!
Resurrection life impacted the early church in every area of their lives. It not only transformed their personal life, but their family life, and their work lives. They practiced a radically new, countercultural lifestyle. One can imagine what the natural response would have been, “What’s going on here? Are you all crazy? Why are you doing this?” And of course, the Church was ready with the answer. They said, “Because a man has been raised from the dead. His name is Jesus and He is Lord.” “…With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”(Acts 4:33).
The Jesus who announced God’s saving, sovereign kingdom; the Jesus who died to exhaust the power of sin’s penalty, Satan’s power and the world system’s pleasures; the Jesus who rose again to be crowned as king over all things in heaven and on earth, NOW resides in every believer with a desire and the dynamic to enable us to live as Easter people, celebrating His love and joy and making his kingdom and justice known in his world.
Jesus is Risen, therefore no more Upper Room Futility!
The blessings of Christ’s resurrection and ascension are ours now, today. Former orphaned, alien, sons of disobedience, living under the rule of the prince of darkness can now know and enjoy the presence, power, privileges and responsibilities of Sonship!
No more Upper Room Futility, becausethe risen King Jesus is among us in the person of the Holy Spirit, so we ought to be a people, daily shouting to and for our King for bringing so much of the world to come into the NOW of daily living!
No more Upper Room Futility, because resurrection life is abundantly available and powerfully active, so our uplook to King Jesus can be rightly focusedandour outlook for ministry can be fruitfully exercised! When resurrection power fills us this hour, our obedience will be active and our outreach will be progressive and pervasive, our prayers will be effective, our joy will be contagious, and our hope will be motivating, and kingdom-extending!Jesus is RISEN!!