Summary: The greatest detriment to faith is not doubt but fear. When Jesus reveals himself to his dsiciples on Easter evening he gives them peace to free them from their fear. Jesus works the same way in our lives.
If you were in charge of guarding “faith”; keeping it safe from anything that would harm it, what would you be most vigilant against?
• Some people would guard against affluence. We know that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God.
• Other people would guard against poor theology. These people reason that people will never have a strong faith unless they correctly understand God’s grace and the Trinity, or have the right opinions concerning baptism or the end times, or hold strong views on illegal immigration and vote for the correct political party.
• A majority of people would guard against doubt. Many Christians talk about how they battle with doubts and struggle with their faith.
While all of these elements might be potentially harmful to faith, they are not the most detrimental—at least not according to the gospel story that we read today. The story of the disciples in the upper room demonstrates what a powerful force fear is against faith, and how fear can be only overcome by the peace of God.
LIVES OF FEAR
Jesus found the disciples, on Easter evening, huddled behind closed, locked doors, scared that the Jewish authorities would come looking for them. They had probably been in that upper room for three days. They were paralyzed with fear.
The disciples were a needy group when Jesus appeared in their midst. Jesus could have given them many things to aid them.
• Jesus could have given them safety and protection from their enemies.
• Jesus could have given them courage to face the challenging times ahead.
• Jesus could even have given them super powers that would have made them as invincible to earthly powers as Batman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman.
Instead, Jesus gives the disciples peace.
In many ways we are very similar to the disciples. I believe that the dominant force in our society is that of fear. We fear illegal aliens, terrorists, strangers, bird flu, West Nile Fever, and high gas prices. Like the disciples, our fear paralyzes us and keeps us from experiencing the abundant life that is ours through the cross of Jesus Christ.
THE GIFT OF PEACE
When Jesus appeared to the disciples, the very first thing that he did was give them peace. He calmed their fears by giving them the gift of peace, and in doing so Jesus not only transformed the disciples, but their entire situation.
In another passage of Scripture when Jesus gives his disciples peace, he tells them that he gives them peace not as the world gives peace. The world’s peace comes from strength, fortified positions, and control.
The peace that Jesus gives:
• Comes from love—knowing God’s steadfast love for us.
• Comes from God’s presence in our lives. Jesus was present with the disciples and they no longer had anything to fear. God’s presence in our lives eliminates fear.
• Comes from giving up our control and power and yielding to God’s control and power in our lives and in our world.