Here is the truth: fear drives us more than we’d like to admit.
For so many of us, myself included, fear can tempt us to make safe but not the best choices. Fear can tempt us into limiting what we reach for, or to not take the step we feel compelled to take. Fear seems to dampen our lives, to where we live with less expectations and simply seek to make it through. I believe that in general, fear always makes us live less than we are called to live.
But I believe too that the real power of fear is in how it lives unexamined. We let it whisper but don’t really let it speak. We let it tempt but not really acknowledge what it says. And I’ve found that through examining exactly what fear is sharing is one of the most helpful ways in overcoming it.
So what I do when I hear fear whisper, is I address it through asking…”what’s the worst”?
Because fear whispers to us that the worst will happen, but is never explicit about what the “worst” actually is. And that’s the power of fear, the unexamined and unnamed ominous “worst” out there. But once you name it, it loses its power.
So for example Krista and I are making a large change in our lives. And making this decision wasn’t easy because our lives are wonderful – but we felt called to something new and different. But here is what fear would whisper to me when we were praying about taking on a new job, new role, and new place of work:
What if you fail?
What if you can’t hack it?
What if you move, give up everything that is amazing here, and lose it all?
But honestly if you look at that what’s the worst? I fail, face some shame, have to start over, and if we lose everything and have to move in with my mom. I mean the literal worst is that we tried something and failed.
And this is how you beat fear.
You let fear tell you what’s the worst that can happen, but then never give it the last word. You think about the best, you think about what could come out of it, and you take the bite out of fear because normally the worst isn’t all that bad.
Fear wants to make it seem worse than it is, so you settle. But what if you don’t settle? What if you launch out and try that business, try that dream, try that thing you’ve been thinking about? Because settling never leads to your best, and fear is all about settling.
On Sunday, for Easter, we explored Jesus first words he says after his resurrection. For the past 6 week’s we’ve looked at what Jesus said before he died. Now we wanted to look at what he says when he lives.
The key thing to notice first off is that words have power. They can both heal, or tear down. They can give life, or create death. Words have a power, a weight, an energy to them. And Jesus’ words especially have a power to them.
So the disciples are sitting in fear. They are filled with fear and worry and anxiety. Shame is covering their hearts, and guilt is seeping through their souls. They are hiding in a room and Jesus shows up. And before we jump to Jesus words, we need to first recognize one clear thing: for the disciples Jesus showing up would not seem like a good thing.
And at first that statement might seem funny – you might have even re-read it – but its true.
We know that Jesus comes with grace, and forgiveness – but the disciples didn’t. Remember at this point they are God-betrayers, God-abandoners, and God-deserters. That’s who they are. They are not in the “good and righteous God followers” column or category. And they would have grown up in a world that talked about the “Day of the Lord” (the coming of God) as a good day for the righteous but an awful terrible day for sinners, gentiles, and the unrighteous. The Old Testament says if you are sinner, a gentile, or unrighteous that when God shows up it’s a day to be feared, it’s a dark day full of vengeance and punishment.
So when Jesus shows up we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that for the disciples this was instantly good. They were filled with fear, and shame and most likely didn’t think of themselves as “righteous and good”. They would be wondering if Jesus is here to settle accounts, to bring rightly deserved punishment, to bring vengeance and sentence.
And its into this highly charged, tense filled silence – where the disciples worst fears are playing with their imaginations – where shame is leading their souls further from God – that Jesus speaks some of the most beautiful words ever: peace be with you.
Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace to your sins. Peace to your shame. Peace to your betrayal. Peace to your disappointment. Peace to your fear.
Jesus shows up and gives out radical peace and forgiveness to a group of men who didn’t deserve it. Jesus first words are about peace, not judgment. This is a beautiful radical thing that we need to get. Jesus here is not just saying a short hello, or a salutation – Jesus is revealing the heart of God as about peace. Jesus is giving the trajectory of his kingdom that it will be about peace and not punishment and vengeance. God’s heart is about peace.
This is a radically freeing three words. Because then God isn’t to be feared, God is to be embraced.
Some of us believe that when Jesus shows up it will be to punish us for sins. But that’s not what this passage reveals. Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin. He has already taken all the punishment. And he wants to free us by offering us his peace.
So that’s where we landed on Sunday – with the Prince of Peace saying – Peace be with you. We closed with inviting everyone to simply picture Jesus saying to each of them – peace be with you. Peace to your fears, peace to your shame, peace to your guilt, peace to your brokenness, peace to your imperfection…peace…peace…peace
And that’s a good way to end, and to begin – with the peace Jesus wants to give us all.
Big Idea: Peace be with you
Words are powerful things
Shame is the heart disease of every era. People are dying from it – some quickly, others slowly. Shame deceptively but convincingly leads us to believe that we deserve to be shackled to it for the rest of our lives. We believe we don’t deserve to be free of shame. Silence always leads to more pain and guilt and shame festering inside. Pete Wilson
The disciples are not sure Jesus showing up is a good thing.
Jesus is saving the world, and creating the world in this moment through peace.
God at his heart is about peace
God is not someone to be feared, God is someone to be embraced
Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin
Fear and shame have no part of God’s Kingdom.
Peace rules in God’s Kingdom.
Resurrection means that sin is ended
Resurrection means that evil is ended
Resurrection means that shame is ended
Peace be with you, because I am with you – Jesus.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Have you ever thought about how the disciples would have been feeling? Do you think they might have been fearful of Jesus? Have you ever been fearful of God? Why are Jesus words “peace be with you” meaningful for you? Who should you share Jesus words with? Who needs to hear them?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Why not actually practice this passage today with your kids. Ask them if they have any worry, any fear, any shame or guilt or hurt. Talk to them, and then talk to them about Jesus gives us peace. Share his words with them, and have them repeat them with you. Share the peace of Jesus with your kids – that’s a good way to start.
Challenge for the Week: Hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you”
Earlier this week I was listening to a song that had a line that really caught my attention. It was this:
“In the middle of the night, when fear comes calling / Singin’ it all dies, awfully scared, alone / I’m looking into your eyes and feel your calm / Pretty thing that catches me so strong when I fall”
This lyric just put words, and emotions to something I know I feel deep down: that fear steals life.
Isn’t that true? Fear steals life, it steals life while it’s happening proclaiming in the middle of the night that all dies, awful, and alone. Fear plays to our worst parts of ourselves, and calls them true. That’s why I really believe fear is the opposite of faith.
Whereas fear tells us that the worst is true, faith tells us that the best is yet to come. Fear tells us that life is over, faith tells us that life can begin again. Fear plays to death, faith plays to life.
The Apostle John after arguing that God is love, says that perfect love casts out fear. Or that God’s perfect presence banishes fear. In God’s presence, captivated by faith, fear is flushed away.
And while that song isn’t singing about God, for me those lines are true in relation to God. That when fear comes in the middle of the night, calling, luring, and lying to me, I look into the eyes of Jesus and feel his calm; his gaze catches me so strongly when I fall and reminds me of one thing: That in his love there is no need for fear.