Posted by: Mike Willoughby | February 8, 2010

Do Not Fear – Hear My Word

 

Last week, we focused on how Jesus helped John and his disciples conquer fear and doubt by demonstrating his divine power.  In the process of blessing John, he blessed us by reminding us to be inspired to confidence by observing God’s power in the miracles and in nature.  I believe Jesus knew we would need constant reassurance from multiple sources that that we can defeat fear in our lives and not be held hostage to the debilitating effects of fear and doubt.  That’s why Jesus equipped us with powerful tools to go on the offensive against fear and uncertainty.  In case we are tempted to think we are alone with our periodic doubts, Luke fills the final chapter of his gospel with examples of Jesus ministering to disciples who struggled with doubts even in the presence of his empty tomb right before their eyes.

The first example involves two men traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus as recorded in Luke 24:13-27.  They are identified as two disciples that had been with the larger group including the eleven apostles waiting together on that Sunday morning following the crucifixion.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

Why the doubts?  Why are they running from Jerusalem?  Don’t they remember Jesus telling them about his death?  The tomb is empty.  Peter double-checked.  He is alive!  Why don’t they believe?  Perhaps these two men thought they had enough and it was time to get back to normal life.  Perhaps in their doubt and fear, they just couldn’t grasp the reality of this supernatural event.  It’s hard to blame them.  Dead messiahs were not all that uncommon in the first century.  Only one dead messiah walked out of his tomb.

We need to be careful judging these disciples.  If your expectations of an earthly kingdom of power had just collapsed in ashes, might you have some doubts?  Remember they didn’t yet understand the true nature of the kingdom.  They didn’t yet have the full measure of the Spirit to open their eyes and hearts.  Instead of focusing on the doubters, let’s pay attention to how Jesus responds to their doubt with a gift of love and compassion.

The surprise here isn’t how these two disciples responded.  With all the mind-blowing events of that weekend, I might run away too.  Have you ever been on a path that seemed to be leading in completely the wrong direction or perhaps no direction at all?  Have you ever felt like you were wandering without direction and with no open doors in sight and you just felt like God suddenly dropped you off blindfolded in a strange part of town to find your own way home?  These disciples are seeking guidance and assurance of their direction.   What is important is how God responds to these disciples through Jesus. 

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Notice how Jesus responds to their doubts with a gift of love, compassion and affirmation.  He does give them a little slap on the wrist, but then he proceeds to patiently teach them from God’s Word.  He showed them how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together and point to no one but Jesus.  He showed them how the love and grace God was bestowed on an undeserving world.  He gives them a gift they already possessed.  He gives the assuring gift of the Word.

When we struggle with doubt, we should meditate on the word of God.  The miraculous Bible is a seamless work of multiple authors over 1500 years telling the same story of redemption.  There are hundreds of prophesies pointing to Jesus who could be the only fulfillment of each prophesy.  There is the powerful testimony of the Spirit-led explosion of the early church as recorded in the book of Acts.  In all the great world religions, there is no book like the Bible.  Read it, consume it and be comforted.

Although we should be inspired to confidence by observing God’s power in the miracles and in nature and through meditating on his word, we still sometimes experience fear and doubt.  For those times, Jesus has a very personal way to comfort us.  Come back next week to be comforted! 

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Responses

  1. Very timely. This message spoke to me. Thanks for writing and referencing your message on facebook. Have a Blessed Day!


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