Scripture: John 20:19-31
19-20 Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.
20-21 The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”
22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”
But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”
27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”
28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”
29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”
30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
In fact if you think about it, the greater the fear in any given story the more intense and rewarding is the climax that eventually overcomes the fear with victory.
Anyhow, the kind of fear that I am talking about is manufactured fear. For the past 8 weeks I have looked forward to Sundays more so than usual. Is it because I get to see all my favorite teenagers throughout the day? Is it because I get to hang out with the coolest adults ever who lead our small groups? Well, yes to all that but these past 8 weeks I was also able to look forward to getting home and turning on my TV at 9PM to watch the latest episode of “The Walking Dead”. Now that season 3 is officially over I promise to be a good pastor and watch “The Bible” series now. It is on my DVR. But people, my March Madness has been “The Walking Dead”. This show provides great story telling with occasional zombie attacks. Perfect television for me. Just imagine how much better television shows would be if they all included random zombie attacks! The Bachelor? Dance Moms? What many of you don’t know, for those of us who are really insane fans of The
Walking Dead, is that there is another full, one-hour
program right after called “The Talking
Dead”. For one hour, they dissect
the story line and all the events that just happened. I love it!
But a part of the benefit of this program is that you realized how they
manufacture fear. You get to see how
they shoot certain scenes. What they use
to make blood and guts. How they turn an
actor into a zombie.
The first time Jesus says this, it helps the disciples to understand who the source of peace ultimately is, Jesus. All the disciples just went through an experience that was anything but peaceful. They were in fear for their lives. They were afraid of a gory, horrific, agonizing death just like they knew Jesus went through. But now Jesus stands before them alive! As painful as all that was, Jesus ultimately defeated death! He was a visible demonstration that there was no longer any reason to fear death. He defeated it!
We have good Christians around the world who have to deal with fear all the time due to persecution. I am not talking about some lame “war on Christmas or Easter” as if the American Church is being persecuted. I am talking about the Christians in Egypt, India and Iran; the Christians all throughout the Middle East who suffer and face death for their beliefs.
Jesus told his disciples to take his peace and open up that door and go out into the world and be visible demonstrations of God’s peace. The church is called to be counter-culture when it comes to fear.
Many of the disciples were transformed when they finally understood this. They lived lives of courage and conviction spreading the message of God’s love and peace wherever the Holy Spirit directed them. Many of them died a martyr’s death just like Jesus. They overcame their fear with a peace that transcends all understanding.
In closing let me remind you what Paul said to the church at Philippi who must have been struggling with this very thing. He says to them in chapter 4, verse 7: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The grand and mighty peace of God, that transcends our puny little, limited-knowledge-filled minds, this all-encompassing peace will guard our heart, the center of our emotions, and our minds, the center of our intellect and rational thought, and keep us focused on Jesus.