FROM FEAR TO FAITH
The Day of Pentecost
Analysis by Bill White
19When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were 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 his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
DIAGNOSIS: SCARED TO DEATH
Step One: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) : Fear of the Jews
It is the first Easter Sunday evening. The disciples have gathered in a house and are hiding behind locked doors. They fear the Jewish religious leaders are coming after them just as they had come after Jesus on Thursday night. Mary Magdalene has come to them and told them she has just seen the Lord and he is alive, but they do not believe her. Even after she speaks the resurrected Jesus’ message to them they still do not believe her and remain very much afraid for their lives. They fear they will soon be under the judgment of both the religious and civil authorities due to their known association with Jesus.
Step Two: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) : Faithless Fear
At this point the disciples’ fear betrays their lack of faith, their lack of trust in the promises of Christ. Jesus has told them repeatedly that he is leaving them BUT THAT HE WILL NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE, POWERLESS, HELPLESS, ORPHANED. He has promised to send them the Holy Spirit and told them what the giving of the Spirit will mean for them (John chapters 14-16). Yet here their fear is trumping faith.
Step Three: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) : Forever in Fear
So the disciples continue to hide behind locked doors, powerless and fearful for their lives. And well they should be. Locked doors cannot forever keep out the relentless pursuit of earthly religious leaders and civil law enforcement officials. Moreover, locked doors cannot keep out the ultimate judgment of God’s Law. The disciples, very much aware of their sin before God, will live in constant fear the rest of their lives, unless-unless something changes….
PROGNOSIS: Scarred to Life
Step Four: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) : Power in the Resurrection
And something has changed. Into this locked room the crucified and now risen Christ comes. To these fear-filled, helpless, hopeless, faithless disciples Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” This is no ordinary peace. It is the peace of the Lord that promises help, gives hope, and overcomes all fears, even fear of judgment under God’s Law. This is the peace of the Lord that restores hope. He shows them his scarred hands and side, proof that he is indeed the same Jesus whose torture and crucifixion they had witnessed just days earlier. Jesus has suffered, died, and been buried for the salvation of the world. Jesus-now risen-has conquered the power of sin, evil and death for all time. Jesus has fulfilled the demands of God’s Law. In John’s language, the Son of Man has been glorified!
Step Five: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) : Empowered Faith overcomes Fear
Now the true implications and power of the glorification of the Son of Man become true for individual disciples of Jesus. Jesus says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Hence, the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples-from God through the crucified and risen Christ. The Holy Spirit works the gift of true faith within the lives of the disciples, thus trumping their fears and empowering them to trust the promises of Christ.
Step Six: Final Prognosis (External Solution) : Empower for Ministry
Having breathed/given the Holy Spirit to the disciples, Jesus continues, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Here is John’s Pentecost! The Holy Spirit is given with Jesus’ commission to the disciples to continue his mission in the world. The Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to give birth and authoritative leadership to Christ’s church. Thus the Holy Spirit empowers disciples of Jesus to overcome fear of retribution from religious and civil authorities, and to carry out Christ’s ministry in the world.
This was true for Jesus’ first disciples, and it is true today for us too!