Summary: Fear, forgiveness and faith AFTER the crucifixion of Christ.
Your best friend just got murdered - executed, in fact. You could have helped him escape, but you ran instead. You’re angry and disappointed, not only in yourself, but in your friend. He said he could handle it. He said he was big enough to avoid it. He said he was God. Or at least, that’s what you heard.
And you are scared.
People know who you are. You were inseparable for years. You witnessed his “crimes” and you know you were an accomplice. You are thinking to yourself, “How am I going to get out of this? How am I going to get out of town?” Your hopes have been dashed and a once bright future is now very dark indeed.
Can you picture the scene? The doors are locked. The room is dim. There is a low murmur of voices in the background as you sit in a corner and review for the hundredth time the contradictions, the injustices, and your own role in the horrible death of your best friend.
I am fairly certain that we have all been sitting in that spot, in that room at some point in our life. We have let ourselves down, we have failed our friends, and Lord knows we have betrayed our Master with much wickedness. We see our own sins, we know our own hearts and we become very good at beating up on ourselves. My imagination has quite a lot to work with as I envision that room in John 20:19-31 on the evening of the day the disciples discovered that not only was their Master dead, but his body was gone.
But I wonder, “What do you see in that room? What do you see after betrayal, after disappointment, after sin? What do you see “after”?
I’ll tell you what I see. I immediately see “Fear.” It is very obvious and real – the disciples are scared of the Jews, according to John and the doors are locked. After disappointment and betrayal, there is fear.
Fear is something that we have all had to deal with. It was Dave Barry, that great humorist, who said, "All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears - of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words "Some Assembly Required." 1
When I was a child, my brothers and I thought that it was great fun to scare each other. One of us would be screaming hysterically in fear, and the others would be howling in laughter.
But real fear is not at all funny. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,” said H.P. Lovecraft, 2 and fear makes you do things you would normally not do. Just this week, while studying here at my office, I heard something outside my office door. Those of you who have been around know that this building has some unusual noises. And most of the time, I keep the doors locked when I’m here by myself, because, well…I’m kind of jumpy. Blame it on my childhood!
So when I heard the noise, I did what I normally do – I got up to go look. There was no one there. But as soon as I sat down again, I heard the noise again – a bit louder. This time I was convinced that someone was sneaking up on me.
So I did what any guy would do – I grabbed my weapon off of the desk (a pair of needle-nosed pliers) and went to convince the intruder that he needed to leave. But there was no one there - there was nothing there, in fact. Fear makes you do crazy things sometimes.
I learned recently that fear even determines the price of gold. There is a factor in gold options known as the “Fear Index,” invented by James Turk in the 1980’s. “When the Fear Index is rising (which occurs when money is flowing into gold, pushing up its exchange rate and raising the market value of U.S. gold reserves), it’s usually because people are worried about the dollar or the health of the U.S. banking system and are looking for alternative stores of value.” 3
Here were the disciples of Jesus sitting in failure, betrayal, confusion, disappointment, shame, and guilt. If you read through the context surrounding this passage in John 20, you will find that the disciples had misunderstood Jesus’ teachings, had misinterpreted his miracles, and had even been misdirected by their own culture as they followed Jesus. No wonder they were afraid.
Where does FEAR come from? It actually is self-generated based on our interpretations of what we see. A simple acrostic for fear is this:
Fear was real for them and it is real for us. And most of the time it comes because we do not understand what we are seeing. They are human. They did not understand. They were afraid of being locked up and crucified. They were afraid of the Jews.