From Fear, Doubt and Unbelief to Courage, Assurance and Peace

It has been one week since Easter – one week after we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus. What difference has the empty tomb made in our lives this past week since Easter morning?

Well, Christ’s resurrection IS a big deal; the empty tomb is a life-changing event; the resurrection does make a difference in our lives, but letting Jesus change our lives and letting him  be the leader of our lives takes time. It is a process. It means changing the way we look at life and how we make our decisions and how we live our lives. We need to realize the empty tomb was for us and for our lives. We focus on Jesus, but Jesus is focusing on us and our lives. The resurrection story begins our story of new life.

In our scripture lesson from John 20, we find the disciples in a room, afraid to come out. The doors were shut and locked. The disciples were full of fear and despair. They saw their Lord and Master crucified on a cross and buried. Then on the third day, his body disappeared from the tomb. Although angels at the tomb tried to reassure them, the ten disciples in the room were still afraid. Even though Mary ran to tell them she had seen Jesus and he was alive, the disciples still didn’t understand what they needed to do next. They thought the authorities would come and get them as well, because they had been with Jesus.

The disciples were just “overwhelmed.” They all huddled together in their fear and confusion and doubt, not knowing where to turn or what to do next. I think we can relate to the disciples and how they were feeling, as we also are in our houses feeling overwhelmed at times, feeling fearful and feeling confused about the future of our income, our position at work, our families, our children’s future, and the future economic stability of our country and the world.

The disciples didn’t understand what happened even though Jesus told them what would happen to him before his death. They were all in that room living with disappointment, living without hope or a sense of vision, direction or purpose. They were left feeling like failures because they had deserted and denied Jesus in his hour of need.

On the night of the first Easter Sunday, they were hiding behind locked doors. They didn’t recall Jesus’ promise of resurrection. They were hidden away, ashamed of themselves as well as afraid of the future.

Suddenly, in the room, Jesus was standing among them. Wow! Can you imagine Jesus suddenly standing in your living room behind your locked doors? Ten of the disciples were there. Judas Iscariot was dead, and Thomas was missing from their gathering. We don’t know where he was, but he wasn’t there. Maybe he was out looking for Jesus – he wanted to see him for himself, or maybe he was the one designated to go get food for the hungry group of doubters.

Suddenly, the disciples became aware that Jesus was standing among them in the locked room. Jesus had not abandoned them. He was always near them, and now he was standing there in the same room with them. That, also, must have been overwhelming.

Jesus knew they were afraid, and he wanted to give them hope in the midst of fear and doubt and peace in the midst of chaos, and change their unbelief to belief in the resurrection – despite the circumstances and what looked like the end of the road. Jesus wanted to give them his peace and his assurance that all was going as planned.

He showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Jesus had to show them he was resurrected and hadn’t just been taken from the tomb, still lying dead somewhere. Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” When Jesus gives his peace, it is in the form of the Holy Spirit to the disciples.

This is the first giving of the Holy Spirit and the first commissioning of the disciples to carry on his message of salvation and forgiveness of sins beyond the walls of that room. As he breathed on them, he said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The disciples in that room were receiving a gift from him. Remember, he told them that he wouldn’t leave them, and he would give them his Holy Spirit.

Back in John 14, Jesus said to his disciples, “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 have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe.”

In John 14, Thomas also asked Jesus, “We don’t know where you are going, and we don’t know the way.” Thomas did not understand what Jesus was saying, so he asked Jesus questions. Jesus answered him by saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Thomas was curious about things, and he wasn’t afraid to ask questions. I love that about Thomas. He is so real before the Lord. That is how we are to be. It is alright to ask Jesus questions to understand more about our faith.

So, when Thomas returns to the room, all the disciples have to tell him the Good News. Can you picture them all yelling this exclamation at Thomas, like children with exciting news they can’t wait to tell, “We have seen the Lord!!!” But Thomas felt left out of the whole special time with Jesus. He wanted to see for himself. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Like Thomas, the disciples were not immediately transformed by Mary’s proclamation of seeing Jesus. They had their doubts, also just like Thomas, before Jesus appeared to them in the room. It wasn’t until a week later that Jesus appears again to his disciples and says again, “Peace be with you!”

This time Thomas is with them, and Jesus says directly to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands; reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” We know “doubting Thomas” as he has been called, but he is also the “confessing Thomas.” He proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Do you know the end of Thomas’ story? Thomas died in India. He brought the Gospel of Christ to India and died a martyr after he was killed with spears. Thomas grew in his faith and served the lord until his death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was real to him, and he believed the tomb was empty and Jesus his Lord was alive. That day in the room – Thomas’ faith became real to him because his Savior was really alive.

If you are in your house and locked in because of the coronavirus (covid 19) and you have fear, confusion, feeling overwhelmed by the darkness of the world, just reach out to Jesus and know he is there with you.

Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” From this upstairs room, forgiveness is to spread like wildfire. The Holy Spirit comes by Jesus breathing on them to set them free from doubt and fear so they can help others be free of fear.

What does this man for us and our life and struggles right now during this pandemic? Jesus wants us to turn to him during this world pandemic that has changed our lives. The Risen Christ wants to change our lives. He wants to infect us with his love and forgiveness. He wants us to believe even though we haven’t seen him – or have we?

Pray for the Holy Spirit to come into your life today. Like the first disciples, we experience Jesus Risen from the dead, freeing us from doubt and fear of death, and freeing us from all the other fears that are in our world today. When we are overwhelmed with doubt and fear in our hearts it is easy to forget God and not see God at work in the world. When we are closed in our houses because of the fear of covid-19, we forget God is there for us and with us.

Jesus does not forget us. He comes to us with visual reminders in his feet and hands and side that death has been conquered. As the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord, we also can rejoice in the midst of our doubts and fears because Christ is here with us.

Doubt and fear cannot dominate our lives – hope and the love of Jesus needs to dominate our thinking. We need to change our thinking from doubt, fear and unbelief to courage, assurance and peace that only knowing Jesus, our Living Savior, can bring.

Verse 31 of John 20 says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his Name.”

1 Peter 1:6-8 reminds us: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”

Stop doubting and believe!

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