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Fear is a crippling emotion.
When Hannibal attacked Rome, he brought African elephants to accompany his infantry. He hoped the sight of the monsters would spread fear and panic through the Roman legions as well as being an effective fighting animal. He almost succeeded.

On September 21, 2005, the landing gear of JetBlue flight 292 malfunctioned during takeoff, resulting in the wheels under the nose becoming jammed to the side. Local media picked up the story, and millions of viewers across the country tuned in to watch the unfolding drama of the crippled aircraft—including the 145 people on the plane!
Passengers watched a live satellite feed from their seats as the plane circled over southern California, burning off its load of fuel. Actress Taryn Manning, one of the passengers, told the Associated Press: "A lot of the women of course were crying. There was a gentleman across the way who was writing in his journal and crying, and seeing that isn't easy."
Fortunately, the ensuing emergency landing was a success, and all of the passengers survived. One of them, Alexandra Jacobs, made a fascinating observation: "We couldn't believe the irony that we might be watching our own demise on television. That seemed a little bit post-post-modern."1


We experience fear in many ways. There is the emotion that comes from . . .

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord       John 20:19-20

Fear is a crippling emotion.
When Hannibal attacked Rome, he brought African elephants to accompany his infantry. He hoped the sight of the monsters would spread fear and panic through the Roman legions as well as being an effective fighting animal. He almost succeeded.

On September 21, 2005, the landing gear of JetBlue flight 292 malfunctioned during takeoff, resulting in the wheels under the nose becoming jammed to the side. Local media picked up the story, and millions of viewers across the country tuned in to watch the unfolding drama of the crippled aircraft—including the 145 people on the plane!
Passengers watched a live satellite feed from their seats as the plane circled over southern California, burning off its load of fuel. Actress Taryn Manning, one of the passengers, told the Associated Press: "A lot of the women of course were crying. There was a gentleman across the way who was writing in his journal and crying, and seeing that isn't easy."
Fortunately, the ensuing emergency landing was a success, and all of the passengers survived. One of them, Alexandra Jacobs, made a fascinating observation: "We couldn't believe the irony that we might be watching our own demise on television. That seemed a little bit post-post-modern."1


We experience fear in many ways. There is the emotion that comes from suddenly being in threat of death or injury.
There is the fear we experience from anticipation of some awful event. You wait for days to hear the results of medical tests which may plunge you or a loved one into a fight for their life. Time crawls by as you wait. Afterward it seems a blur as you think about how you managed to function with your world about to crumble under you.

But somehow in the middle of those times of gnawing anxiety you also find moments of peace. Maybe a hymn or a psalm.
A touch from a loved one, or reassurance and hope from someone you trust. Peace, that as Paul says, really goes beyond cognitive understanding. You just feel comforted.

The small community who had followed Jesus for the past years were plunged into despair and fear at his death. That's easy to understand. All the hope they had with him, seemed lost. Not only that, but the people who had succeeded in killing Jesus would surely be out to get them too, they thought. So they hid. Leaderless, and dispirited.

But, you say, the resurrection had already happened.
Why were they so unhinged? Didn't they believe?
Probably not.
Would you?
Jesus was dead. They had seen it for themselves.
All the proof they had to the contrary were reports of an empty grave.
Sure Mary Magdalene said she had seen Jesus, but would you believe someone who told you they saw a dead person walking around? Hysteria was more likely what they figured happened with Mary.

And even for those who might have believed that Jesus had risen, that didn't help them much.
Where was he?
He was gone and they were alone to face the wrath of those who felt that having killed Jesus they had nothing now to restrain them.

And so..... they were in hiding.
You can almost imagine the mood in the room.
Misery loves company and so they hid together, for some comfort and perhaps some courage.
Dispirited, afraid and still in shock from Jesus death, they waited.
Time heals all wounds, but this wound would not heal. All they likely hoped for was that together they would wait out the danger period together then try to resume their lives as best they could.

How do you go back to fishing or collecting taxes once you had spent time in the presence of Jesus?
They were in a place in life where they really had no other options.
So God acted in a way that they could not act.

Jesus comes to them in the room.
John says he appears bodily and lets them see the wounds on his hands and in his side.
The people who presumably would be after them were real flesh and blood and they needed reassurance that was more than something sentimental.

When you are facing death you need to know that Jesus is real, not just a nice idea someone thought up.

How can we know too?
We have the Holy Spirit in us that gives us that inner assurance.
These people did not have that yet. That would come at Pentecost, but not yet.
The inner strength that God gives you has sustained millions over many generations in the face of fear.
You undoubtedly have your own story of how God has given you the strength and courage when you needed it.

John says Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them.
But we read that the Holy Spirit did not come fully until Pentecost.
Is this a copying mistake? Was John wrong?
I think Jesus gave them the Spirit to sustain them. To give them the courage and reassurance they needed.
They were not totally filled until Pentecost, but God gave them what they needed in the moment they needed it.

God does the same for us.
We can worry ourselves sick about what we might do in the face of trouble, but God gives us what we need when we need it.
You know that. I know that. Millions of others know that.
It doesn't mean we do not experience fear.
It means God's spirit gives us the courage we need to move forward in trust in spite of the temptation to give in to our fears.
That was Jesus promise to us, and He keeps his promise.

It was US president Roosevelt who said, "we have nothing to fear, but fear itself."
You do not need to fear death. Jesus waits for us, having gone through it before us.
You don't need to worry about having enough courage. Do not be afraid of fear. God will give you the courage you need when you need it. That is his promise.

Under scrutiny by his apartheid government's Eloff Commission, South African bishop and Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu declared:

There is nothing the government can do to me that will stop me from being involved in what I believe God wants me to do. I do not do it because I like doing it. I do it because I am under what I believe to be the influence of God's hand. I cannot help it. When I see injustice, I cannot keep quiet, for, as Jeremiah says, when I try to keep quiet, God's Word burns like a fire in my breast. But what is it that they can ultimately do? The most awful thing that they can do is to kill me, and death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.


Corrie Ten Boom told a story of her time in Auschwitz. She said you don't need to worry about having courage. She said when she was little her father took her and her sister Becky on the train, but kept the tickets in his own pocket until they boarded the train. When the conductor came asking for the tickets, her father took them from his pocket and gave them each their ticket to present to the conductor. She said its the same with God. He gives us the courage we need when we need it. The same is true with peace. God gives us the peace we need when the storm rages around us. It comes just as it did for the disciples in the room that day. It comes from the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit.

He told us, "I will never leave you or forsake you."  He keeps his promises.
Have courage. Be at peace.
Amen

Preached  April 23, 2006
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia



1. Quoted in Preaching Today.com
2Richard H. Schmidt, Glorious Companions: Five Centuries of Anglican Spirituality (William B. Eerdmans, 2002), p. 328



Online Resources Consulted
http://www.preachingtoday.com/


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