Summary: Many emotions make an appearance in the Scriptures during Holy Week and only the resurrection of Christ brings their resolve.
Responses to the Resurrection: Fear
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)
Can you remember a time in your life when you were afraid? There are a myriad stimuli that can evoke such a raw emotion but the responses and consequences all seem to follow similar patterns.
• Maybe it was bad news about a loved one that brought the fear. Maybe it was the awareness of an impending tragedy.
• Maybe you were caught in the grip of what I call the “what if” game that we often play over and over in our minds.
• Maybe it was a health or financial concern.
• Maybe it was an event with a friend, your children, or another family member.
As I said, the stimuli are myriad.
How does fear affect you? I have discovered over the years that fear has certain affects on me.
• It skews my thinking
• I exaggerate the consequences.
• It sometimes causes procrastination but sometimes I act in haste.
• It makes my flesh “kick in” and I start looking for ways for ME to fix the situation.
• It may also spawn depression.
Fear has a huge impact on us. It has physiological, emotional, and even spiritual ramifications doesn’t it?
Fear is, according to some, one of the basic motivational emotions for humans. It can override other less dominate emotions. In some cases there are people who make most of their life decisions from a posture of fear. Even if you are not someone plagued by fear’s tentacles you know its power and grip. None of us are immune.
The week leading up to Jesus’ death saw many raw emotions come front and center. It is almost as if these emotions took turns gripping the cast of players in the holy week drama. One of these emotions was fear.
• It makes an appearance at the last supper with Jesus’ announcement of betrayal.
• It makes an appearance in the garden when Jesus is praying.
• It makes an appearance at His arrest when the disciples flee.
• It emerges again at the trial.
• And then it takes up residency from the crucifixion onward. The disciples cower in fear and hide in their homes (John 20:10).
If we are not careful we can read the resurrection accounts of Easter morning and assume fear is eliminated at the announcements by the angels, Mary, etc. But, truth be told, it took about 40 days of Jesus appearing again and again to convince the disciples and assuage their fears; it wasn’t until 10 days after that, Pentecost, that you see fear cast down.
Fear has earned its reputation as being persistent and intense. It has proven over and over again to be a game changer.
I am not sure I am in a position to say whether Jesus’ first followers handled fear well. But I do think I can say they handled it in a very human way. Like the disciples we have discovered that:
• Fear is intensified by the unknown
• Fear is intensified by focusing at what is right in front of you
I think Jesus was attacked by fear during Holy Week. I think there was emotional vulnerability in the Garden of Gethsemane and I think fear crouched at the door. But Jesus helps us learn a better way to handle fear; not just His example in the garden but also through His presence after the resurrection.
• Whereas we humans can be paralyzed by fear when we are confronted by the unknown Jesus was comforted and conquered fear by looking at the “Known.” In the garden prayer he rested in His Father’s sovereignty, love, and awareness. Fear gave way to peace and resolve as he looked to the Father.
• In appearing to His disciples after the resurrection Jesus showed them the power that God’s presence can have to calm and embolden them. It seems to me that when Jesus was present after the resurrection they were different people but once he went away again they returned to a fear-based life. For fifty days this went on until finally, God’s presence came in power through the Holy Spirit and fear was cast out; or at least controlled.
Jesus said, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:25-27)