Friday, May 2, 2014

ENTOMBED BY FEAR (John Chapter 20)

John 20:19a, “…the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.”

The religious leaders had won a seeming victory.  They had long sought Jesus’ death, and so it had come to pass.  They had conspired against him, arrested Him, tried Him, and had Him crucified.  As predicted by Jesus, His disciples had scattered from Him at His arrest.  And even while they were running for cover, the high priest was questioning “Jesus about his disciples” (John 18:19).

The disciples were afraid.  They had always felt secure in the presence of Jesus.  When it came to their troubles, He always had the answers.  He who had the power to calm the storm and the seas exercised a calming influence in their lives.  They loved Him and trusted Him and could make no sense of what had transpired (John 20:9).  An unimaginable tragedy had overtaken them.  And the religious leaders who had conspired against their Master would surely seek them out.

So the disciples sequestered themselves.  “For fear of the Jews” they shut themselves in and locked the doors (Cf. John 20:19).  They waited together.  Would the Jews find them?  One can imagine them anxiously scrutinizing every suspicious sound or activity outside their self-imposed captivity. What were they to do?  How could they possibly escape their plight?

Jesus Himself had been sequestered.  He had been locked in a tomb.  It was not fear that led Him to that place, but unrivaled courage and devotion.  He was bound to a purpose and laid in a tomb that He might work to set others free.  Jesus had come to deal with man’s fear problem.  Chief among our fears is the fear of death: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).  Death could not hold Jesus (Cf. Acts 2:24).  He rose from the dead and in so doing triumphed over sin and death and the Devil Himself.

The sequestered disciples, in fact, had no reason to fear.  Jesus had escaped His tomb and there was therefore no reason for them to entomb themselves in fear.  But they were unaware of the truth of it.  Then “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’  When he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19-21).

Twice He declared to them “Peace be with you!”  He had died to bring peace to sin-troubled souls.  By His presence He ministered peace to His fearful disciples.  Trouble and fear were vanquished and replaced by joy and peace “when they saw the Lord.”

There are various threats and countless fears that burden our lives and cause us to fear.  “In the world (we) have tribulation” (John 16:33).  But in Him we can possess peace (John 16:33).  We are sometimes like those sequestered disciples, entombed by fears and all the while forgetting that He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).  In the truth of His resurrection there is reason for us to “take heart” (John 16:33).  Many of our fears could be alleviated if we would but remember that the Risen Christ is with us.  He stands in our midst (Revelation 1:13).  He is intimately aware of all about our troubles (Hebrews 4:15, Acts 9:4).  His power toward us is of surpassing greatness (Ephesians 1:19f).  His love for us surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19).  Nothing shall separate us from it (Romans 8:35f; Hebrews 13:5).  In Him we have a perfect mediator (Hebrews 4:14).  He has opened to us the doorway to the throne of grace that we might find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).  That same Risen Jesus who visited His fear-bound disciples, is alive and present with us this very day.  Look into that empty tomb—He is not there—He has risen victorious o’er all our foes.  Look again to “his hands and his side” (Cf. John 20:20)—behold how much He cares (Cf. Romans 8:32). 

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