Right across our world, we have not just a physical pandemic of sickness but we also have a ‘pandemic of fear’. Right from the start of Genesis, fear has always been used by the enemy of our souls, but praise God that His Word has so much to say about how we can face fear with faith! As we are approaching Easter, it is a good time to reflect on the death of Jesus and how, even after his execution, the close disciples became imprisoned in fear and went into hiding and isolation. And one could even say ‘and rightly so’ because there was a very real threat to their lives.
John 20:19 tells us that on the evening of the first day, they were together, not just hiding in a room, but in self isolation ‘behind locked doors’. It must have been a very distressing time. Their best friend and Saviour had been publicly executed, and they must have been very shocked by all they had witnessed. In fact in fear for his life, Peter had denied knowing Jesus, and now they were all hiding behind locked doors, isolated from the whole world.
This picture hidden away in a room is an illustration to me of what the enemy tries to do in our lives – he wants us to isolate from each other. I am not in any way belittling the pandemic that we are currently facing, but I believe the enemy knows that fear is his greatest weapon in all of this. With just one news headline or a phone call from a friend repeating something they have heard, whole families and communities can become paralysed by fear of ‘what might happen’. It might be the fear of the coronavirus, any other ill health, or losing your job, etc. It does not matter, for it all has the same outcome – it holds us back from all that God wants us to do. It was the same for the disciples in this account in John. Just a few days before, they had been enjoying a Passover meal with Jesus, and now they were in hiding, trying to preserve their lives. They were unable to move forward, and they were in total isolation.
The amazing part of this story is that when Jesus appeared to them, He asked them ‘Why are you frightened?’
In Luke 24:36, Jesus asked them ‘Why do you doubt that it is really I? Look at my hands! Look at my feet! You can see that it is I, myself! Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost! For ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do!’ As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see the marks of the nails and showed them the wounds in his feet.
Luke 24:41 says ‘Still they stood there undecided, filled with joy and doubt.’ Even when Jesus appeared to them in power and wonder after being so brutally killed, they were still not sure whether they could believe their eyes!
In whatever situation we find ourselves in, even if we are in total isolation, Jesus has promised to be with us in every situation, for His Word declares: ‘I will never leave you nor never forsake you’ (Heb 13:5).
From my own experience, I found His manifest presence to be the strongest when I have been in the middle of the fiercest, raging storms of life.
The journey of faith is not always an easy one, and sometimes even when we know and experience Jesus in the middle of the situations we face, we wonder if He really will save us.
This story speaks to us of the heart and mercy of Jesus. He appeared to the isolated disciples in the middle of all their doubt and confusion, and then he ate a meal with them. As they listened to all that he said, the Word of God tells us that they ‘opened their minds to understand at last the Scriptures.’
I believe that faith is a journey. We do not always feel full of faith, but we can make a decision to trust in all that God has said to us.
Faith is not the absence of fear – it is the mastering of fear.
For me, the story of Easter speaks to us of hope, of life, and of Jesus meeting us in the middle of our confusion and reminding us that we have nothing to fear.