Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you!” After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
I love John’s account of the first appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples. Jesus comes to them when they are in the middle of abject terror for their lives. They figured what happened to Him was going to happen to them. When you strike the shepherd, supposedly the sheep will scatter. Yet, the Lord had a different way of going about this. Even though this Shepherd was struck down, He was raised up and came for His sheep. Showing His true nature, He didn’t rebuke them because they were afraid. It looks like, actually, He doesn’t even seem to notice the disciples shaking in their boots. He speaks a word of peace—a word that both means soul salvation and exemption from war and violence’to calm them so they could receive something far bigger than courage. He was giving them the cure to fear.
Fear is a big deal because it is a faith-killer. For those who have known, seen, and experienced freedom in Christ, we should know better than to panic and to be afraid. Still though, there are times when I am afraid. I am worried I will let people down; it keeps me from doing what He has called me to do.
I know paralyzing fear by name. I experienced regular panic attacks for nearly a year. Yet when God has a purpose, nothing will stop it—not even this level of fear. There is a healthy, biological need for fear. We need those instinctual checks and balances to keep us alive because not every situation is safe. Spiritual fear is a different animal altogether. Because of the fall in Eden, it is rooted in us.
Jesus shows us here the provision that God has made against reacting out of spiritual fear for His children. As the apostle John wrote later in one of his sermons: “perfect love casts out [all] fear” (1 John 4:18 esv). Even though fear has deep roots in us, in this moment of Jesus breathing on the disciples and their reception of the Holy Spirit, He reverses that part of the curse.
I believe the forty days Jesus spent with the disciples before His ascension continued this course of treatment. I see it like a continual IV drip of perfect love therapy. Fear was a part of the disciples’ cultural history, as it is part of ours. Jesus wisely uses this time to kill the deadly communicable disease of fear that could kill the movement of His kingdom spreading throughout the world. The Holy Spirit all throughout the book of Acts gives believers booster shots of perfect love. He empowers them to do miraculous things, implementing the reality of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
The coming kingdom couldn’t begin to manifest worldwide until the disciples were in good spiritual health. Fear can’t stand up to the power of God; the more booster shots of perfect love we receive, the healthier we become. Maybe today is your day to start the healing regimen of perfect love. Ask the Holy Spirit to begin that good work in you.
Come, Holy Spirit. Begin the process of curing me of fear so that I may regain full spiritual health and be sent to do the work in my space and time You empower me to do’to make Your kingdom and Your redemptive plan visible and permanent on this earth. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Sit with the Holy Spirit for a few minutes and ask Him to reveal the things you are afraid of, and then ask Him to show you how He has overcome those fears so you may be enabled to act from faith.
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