May 1, 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The disciples hid in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews on Easter Day.
Fear is the flip side of anger in our fight or flight response. Peter knew both. On Thursday, in the garden of Gethsemane he had struck with a sword. Four days later, having heard the cock crow and having also looked into the empty tomb, he hid, afraid of the Jews. He was afraid that they would do to him what they had done to Our Lord.
What they had done was arrange a kangaroo court and gotten Jesus killed in the most terrible of ways. But the tomb was empty. The disciples had been told by angels to not be afraid. The Scriptures had been opened in Emmaus and peace had come through the breaking of the bread.
So why fear anything, let alone the Jews, on that holy night?
Were they afraid of death, of pain or embarrassment? Were they afraid of disappointment or failure? Afraid to open their hearts, to take the risk? Could they not see their own part in the betrayal and the death of Jesus? These disciples were all Jews, as was Jesus. They hid in fear that night of their own.
And what of us? We know some fear. When there is a loud clunk in the night we are afraid of people robbing and murdering us. When we must walk by a gang of seemingly idle boys in the poorly-lit parking lot, we are not afraid of terrorists, we are afraid of our own. And it is worse than that. We are afraid when Dad comes home drunk. We are afraid of our teenage daughters judging us uncool. We live in nearly constant fear. We put on our seat belts. We pay our insurance premiums. And we seek constantly to pacify a fussy boss, to divert an angry co-worker, and we strategize against the boyfriend who is forever threatening to quit on us, as though he will find another girl and leave you alone.
Fear never fixes anything. It just runs away.
Thomas saw and touched the marks left by Jesus' crucifixion. By those marks he was converted. Lazarus was risen also. That was nice. But Lazarus had no saving wounds, he had made no sacrifice. Jesus is risen and it is not just nice. It is not just that He cheated death to die another day. It is that He has overcome and defeated death, put an end to death's reign. He did not just die some sad unjust death. He was crucified and roasted in the Father's wrath, to put an end to the accusations and Hell's claim upon us. It was not the Jews' fault or the Romans' fault that Jesus died. It was the Father's fault. He is the One of whom we should be afraid. For He is just and hates sin and we are sinners. And yet the marks that Thomas sees and touches are the marks of the Father's love. They prove the Messianic Office into which Jesus was baptized. They are the proclamation that it is finished and it will not happen again. The death of Jesus Christ has sent our sins into the wilderness. They are gone. They will not come back. But Jesus has come back out of death for us because the sacrifice is complete and accepted by the Father. He has no anger or wrath toward us. He comes instead to speak His peace upon us and to disperse fear. So do not be afraid.
The disciples had nothing to fear from the Jews. They had nothing to fear from anything or anyone. They had nothing to fear from God for they had been reconciled to the Father. Nor was there any need to fight. Jesus had rescued them and risen from the dead. He had taken care of everything and brought them peace.
Our fears are also irrational. Jesus is risen and lives. Do not be afraid. That was not just a message for the disciples that day. “Do not be afraid, God is not angry, He will not hold the death of Jesus against you.” It was a message for all time. “Do not be afraid. Ever. Do not be afraid. For Jesus is risen. He loves you. You are clean. He comes with healing and with peace. He comes for your future, to bring you health and joy. So do not be afraid.”
But what if you are afraid that your mother, who is riddled through with cancer and in hospice care, fighting for every breath, is about to die? Do not be afraid. What if you are afraid that the bank will foreclose on your house or you will lose your job? Do not be afraid. Your mother might die. Terrible things might happen. But Jesus lives. Face the future with confidence. Pain, sorrow, and even death are all temporary. Ours is the religion of the new start, of second birth, of do-overs. The death of Jesus is the most significant thing in your life. It makes everything new. Nothing else really matters. There is no sense in being afraid. If Jesus lives than this sad life will not last. If Jesus lives then you will live. And Jesus will give you the strength to carry on in this hope and certainty, to put all your life into perspective. In the Resurrection of Jesus Christ you can face an angry boss, an unreasonable parent, a violent spouse, or a lying neighbor, and He will give you the strength to carry on into the future, in prosperity and in hardship, to deal with the consequences. For His desire is that you be free of fear, that you live not by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. For Jesus lives and the angels say, “Do not be afraid.”
In + Jesus' Name. Amen.