Updated: Aug 19, 2019
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” --John 20:19
Fear. Intense. Paralyzing. Panic-stricken. Fear. Totally out of control, not able to do anything. Nothing. All my problem solving skills stymied. Useless. It was just six minutes. Six minutes. But it was a long, long, long six minutes.
Fear is different than anxiety. Anxiety is that vague, untethered sense of dis-ease that something in my life is not quite as it should be. Fear is focused, located, specific. Anxiety gnaws at you. Fear grips you. Anxiety searches for a place to settle, and doesn’t. Or does, in all the wrong places. Fear comes at you head-on, smacks you upside the head and stabs you in the heart.
Today, I am reading this week’s familiar Easter text through a different lens. Through the lens of six minutes of fear.
For the disciples it had been three days of fear. Jesus, their master and friend, had been brutally crucified and they knew, just knew, they were next. Jesus was gone. A problem that could not be solved. A change that could not be undone. They didn’t know what to do. They were paralyzed. Panic-stricken. Trapped.
And then, Jesus was there. “Peace be with you.” He said. And in what I now believe is probably one of the most understated lines in all of scripture, John tells us, “Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” That line can’t possibly capture the unbelievable relief, the release, the liberating joy of that moment. One cannot even begin to put words on the to-good-to-be-true feeling they must have felt. Jesus had to say it again, “Peace be with you,” before his words had any chance of sinking in.
In the midst of my six minutes of fear, I couldn’t hear those words either. You can’t. Not in that place. You can pray. Plead. Beg. Yearn for God to do something about which you can do nothing. And I did. But peace? No. Peace comes in the seventh minute. Peace comes when you are sitting on the floor shaking, the imminent danger past. Peace comes when the fear begins to drain away.
And then you realize it. You realize that Jesus is with you. That God was with you all along. That’s when you consider the Good News of Easter: that because Jesus is alive, there truly is nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And you believe it. You have to. Because, in the face of fear, nothing else makes sense.
“Christ is risen!” The Church proclaims during the seven weeks of the Easter season. “Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” It is a desperate prayer in the face of fear. It is a shout of rejoicing because we too have seen the Living Lord.
Peace be with you.
Thank-you for reading. My prayer of gratitude this week is for first responders and all those who come to help when we are paralyzed by fear.
PS: Next week is Synod Assembly week here in the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, so there won’t be an “On the Way.” See you again in two weeks.