Raven Cannon, Children's PastorAugust 19, 2019
God has not given us a spirit of fear. How can we step into this promise?
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Here’s the passage and you can follow along in your handout. You and also use your Bibles, the Bible app, any of it’ll do. By the way, it’s been great staying connected to you all with the Rise and Shine morning video devotionals. I feel like we’ve been on this journey together right out of Easter. I’ve appreciated the response so much. It has great meaning for me to hear that it’s been a blessing to so many.
John 20:19, again, we’re talking about what happens right after the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, when we jump into this passage, we’re going to see that the disciples were not even aware that Jesus was alive. Their perspective and understanding were not that He was alive, and we’ll see this. It says “That Sunday evening,” so that’s Easter Sunday evening, “the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.” Don’t run past that too quickly. They’re in a room huddled together. The doors are locked because they’re afraid. There is so much for us we see on that first Sunday evening, Easter night, the first night of a new world. They just didn’t know it.
They didn’t know it. No one understood. No one understood the significance of what had happened earlier that morning. The disciples certainly didn’t. In fact, they didn’t believe anything had even happened. Nothing at all. The picture we have of them is hardly inspiring. They look anything but courageous. They are gathered together in what amounts to share despair, most likely in the upper room. It’s good in a way because one thing we can see here is they were together. Shared grief is better than having to grieve alone. What’s the old saying, shared sorrow is half the sorrow, shared pain is half the pain, shared joy is twice the joy. The idea is to have others in our lives who help us and can help bear the sorrow, pain, or joy.
The disciples were together and that’s good. But there were rumors floating around that Jesus was alive. That sounded absolutely ludicrous and fanciful, and they did not believe it. There is a revealing verse in Luke 24. It gives us a frame of understanding for what their mindset was. Their words concerning the angel at the tomb and Jesus being alive seem like idle tales. Look at Luke 24, “They did not believe them.” That is an emphatic statement. “They did not believe them.” It just seemed like everybody was making this thing up. The disciples didn’t believe it. There was not a sense that, “Oh yeah, this is what we thought was going to happen.” Not at all.
In addition to their common disillusionment, the other reason they had found each other after the initial scattering in the garden and the awful shocking and devastating turn of events was that there was another rumor floating around. There was one rumor that the tomb was empty which led to the idea that Jesus was alive. Some of the women who had been there said, “We saw this thing.” These men who said he was alive. The disciples didn’t believe it. They’re shut-in. The one rumor was Jesus is alive.
The other rumor they believed. That was the same thing that happened to Jesus might happen to them. This rumor, they actually believed. It seemed far more real and less silly than the one about Jesus being alive. If it was a true rumor that somehow they were the ones next to be arrested, then they had every reason in the world to be hiding and afraid. Because for anyone who had witnessed it, the suffering that Jesus endured was astonishing. They had all grown up, remember, aware of Roman rule. Imagine this. You are born into an environment where a foreign power is present. You pay taxes to that overlord. It’s true you were given a lot more autonomy than a lot of nations that Rome had conquered, but nonetheless, they grew up with that understanding.
They had also seen what happens when you cross Rome. Crucifixion was a tool. It was originally invented by the Assyrians. But in a twisted way, it was perfected by the Romans. They had used the terror of crucifixion as a death penalty. It was a way of keeping the population in line. Everybody was aware of how brutal and merciless the Romans could be with its application. Jesus had come to a cruel end, at least in part, because He had crossed the Jerusalem temple leaders. The disciples were students of Jesus. They were His followers. They were His acolytes. They were His disciples. They had also in earlier times joined in these heated conversations. They said amen to some of the scathing remarks that Jesus had uttered towards the Pharisees and the scribes in these kinds of verbal confrontations. They were there and with Jesus.
Now, as they scan the room, there was a genuine realization that they could be next. Having watched what happened to Jesus and realizing the arrangement that the leadership had with Rome. It was now on their minds that they could be next and suffer in a way that was unfathomable. So the picture of them is that they’re huddled fearfully behind locked doors. Honestly, who could blame them?
Let’s look at Verse 19. “Suddenly Jesus was standing among them.” Look at that. Suddenly Jesus was standing among them, and He said, “Peace be with you.” Without warning, He appeared. By the way, there are two things worth noting concerning Jesus’ post-resurrection body that have stirred the imagination of theologians, mystics, and futurists. Even people who are heavily into physics, down the centuries. One of the things implied here is it was possible for Jesus to appear. After Jesus’ resurrection, there were two things the Bible talks about that Jesus was doing that He didn’t do before. One was that He could appear without people recognizing Him. It happened with Mary Magdalen and with two other travelers on the road to Emmaus who didn’t recognize Him till He broke the bread.
The other thing was that Jesus was no longer limited by time and space boundaries. He could appear and disappear in more than ordinary ways. For example, it specifically states that Jesus appeared while the door had not been opened. The human imagination concedes in all kinds of things now; we live in the age of the superhero, don’t we? The film The Endgame, it’s just come out. The fact is though, a lot of the things that everybody’s exploring, the Bible talks about as a reality. There is something about it that is real. Jesus appears without having to go through the door. He’s there. But here’s the thing. It was a real presence. His presence among them must have been startling and unsettling. Try to imagine. It was startling enough that Jesus chose to calm them with the common greeting, “Peace be with you. Don’t be afraid. Be at peace. It’s me.”
In Verse 20, “As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands.” Remember Jesus had been nailed to the cross, “and His side.” Remember, a spear was thrust into His side. “He showed them His hands and His feet,” His feet had been nailed as well. “They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.” I love that. “They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. Look at me and see me, see my hands and see my feet.” Could it be? It was incredible but undeniable. Slowly like a receding tide, their fear becomes overwhelmed by joy.
Again, look at what He says. “Again He said to them” for the second time, “Peace be with you.” Not the peace to chase away fear, but the peace that settles one into a purpose this time. “As the Father has sent me so I want to send you.” Then we’re told in biblical language, a phrase, “Then He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” One cannot help but think about the description in the Book of Genesis and how God started human life as we know it with the breath of life. He breathed life and Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. I anoint you. I empower you for that which I am sending you. I’m not only anointing you for your assignment, but I am investing you with authority.”
Look at Verse 23. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they’re forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven, for through this message I will give you the ability to set people free from their sins.” It goes all the way back to the announcement at His birth and all that was foreshadowed in the prophecies of the older Testament. What Jesus basically says is, “Get out from behind these walls. Pull back the curtains. Open up the doors. You were called not to be huddled in fear, but to be my messengers, lights in a dark world. Not shut-in. By the power of the spirit that I now give you and will give you in an even more powerful way soon, and in greater measure.” This is what the Lord was saying. This was the moment that we looked at. The rising up. The beginning of the rise of the way of Jesus starts here with their conviction. Except, there was one disciple who wasn’t there. We’re going to look at what happened with him next week. Thomas, the beautiful doubter, who I love. I do, but that’s next week. This week. What about fear? That’s the passage. Let’s interact with this.
All of those of us who tend to take notes, just try to listen for what the Lord is saying here. Here are some things I want to work on from this passage. First thing I want to say is about fear. You can see it. It’s obvious. Fear has the ability to keep us locked up and in hiding. Notice in Verse 19, “Because of fear, the disciples were huddled behind locked doors and closed windows.” How many people have turned in on life? Figuratively shut their doors, because of fear? Fear of rejection. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of being hurt again. Fear of failing. As we get older, some fear irrelevancy. Fear of what might happen. Sometimes the fear of what might happen is consuming. Yet, Mark Twain said, “I’ve suffered many great things in life.” No, I can’t even remember the line. “Most of which didn’t even happen.” Something like that. I totally messed up that quote, but I’ll tell you. The gist of it was we imagine stuff that doesn’t happen. We get disturbed in that imagination.
We get stuck imagining things of what will happen and we allow ourselves to be sort of shut in by the fear of not succeeding. The fear that we won’t make it. The fear that we can’t do it. The fear that we don’t have what it takes. I was talking to someone this morning, who I could tell was struggling with their fear. I got it and said, “You know what? The resurrected Jesus is alive. He lives in you. It’s okay to have some fear. I get it. But you have gifts and the opportunity to enjoy this moment. Let Him fill you with His joy and peace.”
That’s not just words. What I’m suggesting is that fear has to be confronted because it has the ability to keep us shackled. It has the ability to lock us up and keep us locked in so that we can’t fly. We were born to fly. Turn to somebody on your left and your right and say, “You were born to fly.” Come on, give it a shot. You can do this. We were born to fly. Not to be bound up in fear and tied down. We were made to run, fly. Not live life afraid. How many years or days get wasted? It’s like the proverbial book that’s never read. What was the saying? I believe it is a true one. I think I will get this one right. “There’s no difference between the person who can read and doesn’t, and the person who can’t read.
In the end, we have to decide. Are we going to use what we’ve been given? Locked up, tied down, angry, whatever it is. You’re stuck. I see the imagery coming to my mind’s eye of being locked in the room and can’t get out. I’m afraid. I have to run and try to open the door. Living in an age of anxiety and fear. Let’s break out in Jesus. Let’s break out. That’s going to look different for some of us than others. I get it. For some of us, it’s just going to be a little bit of an expansion. For others of us, it’s time to take off running. Forget this stuff. Someone sent me a prayer this morning, one of our prayer team members. I was going back and forth with her. She said, “It’s release.” The word she had was release. Don’t hope, release. I thought, “Ah, that’s good.” She didn’t even know what I was going to preach about and she had it already. Fear can keep us from being hopeful and optimistic. Remember, God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and the soundness of mind.
In the fearful places, God desires to send us His peace. What did He say? The first thing He sees when He gets into the room, what does He say? “Peace be with you.” I have heard those words. I have needed those words. Oh, the anxious thoughts that buy me. “My son, peace be with you. My daughter, peace be with you.” Can we hear His voice? His peace is designed to do two things. You’ll see it here. Settle us, settle me down, and send us. Settle and send. Rise up. Settle and send. “I send you. I send you out.” Look at that. To calm us in our panic so that we might embrace the plan He has for us.
Jeremiah 29:11, an often quoted and worthy verse of being embraced. Sometimes as a seasonal word and sometimes for people as a ‘life’ word. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Especially when we hear voices saying, “Your best days are behind you.” Ah, we come at that in your name, Lord. Are we afraid? Are you afraid? Christ be with you. Are you troubled? May the Peace of Christ be with you. Are you anxious about so many things? May the Peace of Christ be with you.
Do you know what the key is? Here it is. The key is where we choose to focus. What we see. Did you notice Verse 20? I’ve always loved Verse 20. It has two meanings to me. “Then they were glad,” was the old version, “when they saw the Lord.” “But they were filled with joy,” when they what? “Saw the Lord.” It’s when we see the Lord that the joy flows. Then they were glad when they saw the Lord. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord. It’s always about seeing. What is that, but to remind ourselves of His promises. What do we mean by we see the Lord? I’m talking about when we see Him in His promise. When we nurture those promises in our minds. When we stay close to His presence. That’s what we’re talking about. Remembering that when all is said and done, we have nothing to fear because the one we follow, the one with the nail prints in His feet and in His hands, the wound in His side, has endured and conquered the worst that life can bring and even death itself. If that is true, like the Psalmists say, “Who shall I be afraid of?” What will can man do to me? To place our hand into His hand is what He says, is to live life unafraid. To place our life in His hand is to live life unafraid. Now, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to have fears. I have fears too.
I’m just preaching to you. I’m with you. Life, there will be places and spaces. You always hear me say something that may not make you afraid but may make me very afraid. I’ve watched people handle their fears in so many different ways. The Lord wants us to put our hand in His hand. He wants our gaze upon Him. When we gaze upon Him, then His joy will come and overcome our fear. Do you Hear what I said? When we look upon Him, His joy will flow. “Then they were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.” When we look upon Him, the joy will come. The joy will overcome the fear that would grip and define.
If we are walking through things that are making us afraid, if we’re starting to envision things that haven’t even happened, and most likely won’t, but even if they did, it’s okay. We have the Lord. We don’t need to be afraid. Remember we always talk about fear too. Fear inhibits our capacity to be creative. Oftentimes, the way the Lord delivers us through things is by giving us thoughts that are creative to solve problems. We have a hard time being creative when we’re afraid. When we’re afraid, calm our mind in the Lord and trust Him. Remind ourselves again of His promises as a way of seeing Him. I’m saying even more than reminding ourselves of His promises and His word, which is fantastic, invite Him into those places of fear.
One more thing. We don’t need to be afraid, loved ones, because He is not afraid to use us despite our fears and contradictions. You’re thinking, “What do you mean by this one?” Let’s shift back. That was the illusion. I was practicing my illusion. We should not minimize how disillusioned, how deeply disappointed they were. I don’t want to run past it. I think we do it a disservice to say, “Oh yeah, they were afraid in a room, locked up.” No, they were broken. There were a couple of reasons why they were broken. It wasn’t just because of what they saw happen to Jesus. It was also because they knew they had failed Him. It wasn’t just Peter. They had all failed Him. In the garden, they all fled. Everybody ran. It’s true, Peter, a big talker, had been the worst. Well, Judas was the worst, but Peter was close to it, and they all knew it on the inside. So nobody was in that room throwing stones, no way. Collectively their performance had been disappointing at best, shameful at worst.
To add to their misery, huddled in the room prior to the appearing, it must be admitted that they also felt like Christ had failed them. The first time I really thought about it this way. I mean, Jesus had made these claims. He had said words. He had used His power to work miracles and healings. They had believed in Him. They had left all to follow Him. They had been all in. They had adjusted their career paths to follow Him and for what? He was in the end, humiliated, proven not to be the man that both they thought He was and He said He was. Yet it was in that dark place of cruel disappointment that Christ appeared. I love that, because that’s where He still appears, sometimes most brilliantly. His luminescence shines forth sometimes in the darkest, disappointing, and defeated, places of our life. Startling them, not only with His presence but with His words. “I want to send you out.” It’s as if He said, “You gave up on me, but I have not given up on you.” Do you hear me when I say that even when we, like the disciples, forsake Him, and I have forsaken Him in spoken, unspoken, deeds done, and deeds undone? Even there, He will not forsake us.
“Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He just doesn’t give up on us. He still wills to use us even when we fail, even when we don’t hit the mark. He refuses to cast us aside. He calls us up to a higher path, and promises to fill us with the strength we need, His spirit, to fulfill the work that He has called us to do. Let us let it be, let us rise up and open up the doors. Let us open up those doors. Let us live with open doors. Do you know what I’m saying?
We are the people of the open tomb, not the closed. The open tomb. The stone was rolled away and it wasn’t rolled away to let them in. It was rolled away to let Him out. The stone’s been rolled away so that we too could rise up in the power of the resurrected Jesus. Pulsating, as I’ve been saying for those of you connecting on the Rise and Shine, through our spiritual veins. The power of the risen Jesus is at work in our lives. Nothing need defeat us nor define us. We rise up in the power of the resurrected Jesus and then we become astonishingly in His name, by faith, wounded healers of others. That’s His will. Peace and sending. Rise up. Roll away the stone. Whatever those stones are.
I want to pray. We’re going to have our time of giving. I know more and more of us are giving online or through the app. I get that. But I don’t want to assume that everybody does. So we just have a quick time of giving and then we have the song that I want you to so just enjoy and embrace as a promise over our lives. I heard them preparing it and it’s going to be a blessing to you. I want to pray over this word that we share. We kicked off this new series, but where’s it going to take us? God has a path, but I’ll say this. There are probably things that He wants to break as I’ve already said. I just better pray. If I don’t I’ll wander somewhere.
Lord, I thank you for the privilege of being able to speak Your words of life. I ask that there would come a rising up, in an age of incredible confusion and anxiety, never more entertained and anxious, never more affected by the complexity and the need of Your touch at work in our lives, Lord. We crumble under relational pressure. We get paralyzed in our fears. Enlarge our path, hallelujah. Make our feet not stumble. Give us sure footing like a deer. Nimble, and capable of making our way through even complex things by the power of the resurrected Jesus. The one who rolls away the stones at work in our life. That’s what we pray. Stay with us. Lord. Help us to stay with you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.