The Heart of the Matter
Post resurrection encounters with Christ

Week 2:  Fearful Hearts.

Read:  John 20:19-23

What are you afraid of? What do you fear?
I guess the answers to these questions will vary for each of us. 
Some will fear the opinions of others
Some will fear rejection
Some will fear trying new things
Some will fear unexpected disaster
Some will fear death
Some will fear failure
Some will fear snakes
If we are human then the chances are we fear something. It may be quite rational, or it may be irrational.  It may be an object, a person, a creature, or an occurrence.
Sometimes fear is quite sensible and quite rational.  Sometimes it is not sensible, or rational.  But whether sensible or not, fear can be so strong a response that it over-powers us.
It might be that you are all too aware of a fear that you carry that over-powers you, it may be rational or irrational.  Fear of something big, or something relatively small…
Perhaps fear about the future grips you?  Or maybe fear that comes from your own mortality?  Or perhaps your fear is caused by something you don’t understand or can’t control? 
Q:  What do you fear?
We pick up the post resurrection story at an interesting point – read John 20:19-23
John tells us that Simon Peter and another disciple have discovered the empty tomb.  We hear also that Mary Magdalene has visited the tomb, found it empty, met the risen Christ, and then told the disciples about her meeting. 
We’re not quite sure to what degree the disciples understood what was happening, it seems clear that they hadn’t quite fully understood, but we do know that they’ve been told by at least one person, Mary, that Jesus is alive. 
Regardless, we do know that they are scared.  They’re living in fear of the Jewish authorities, presumably terrified that what happened to Jesus could easily happen to them. 
The outworking of their fear is very practical - they lock themselves away. 
Fear can do that to us.  It can lead us to shut ourselves away, go into hiding, disconnect.
Q:  Are you able to talk about a personal experience relating to fear and your response to it?
In the midst of fear, the disciples encounter Christ, and in response to their fear he speaks peace…
Jesus says that well known Jewish word as he stands with his disciples – Shalom.  We translate it as ‘peace’.  Knowing their fear, expressed in their hiding away, Jesus says in effect, do not fear, do not worry, I speak a blessing of peace over you. 
But it’s more than peace.  As Jesus speaks shalom over them he speaks not just the absence of stress or fear, but the blessing of life in all fullness, life as it should be.  The blessing of Shalom is a prayer that they might know ‘well being’ in its fullest sense. 
To the disciples living in fear these words are tonic to the soul.  For us, as we face fear, no matter what it may be fear of, these words are the same.  Jesus speaks a blessing of well being over us.  That we may know Shalom. 
That we might live the expansive life of the kingdom, life lived large, rather than shut ourselves away, imprisoned by fear. 
We can know this shalom in the midst of whatever situation we find ourselves, and we can know this shalom without the situation needing to change.  This shalom, this peace, this well being, is rooted in the resurrection life of Christ and is ours because in the glorious aftermath of Easter, the Kingdom of God has broken through into this present age…and we live in the kingdom reality. 
The kingdom of God is established in this present age.  The peace of that kingdom can be known in this present age.
And as the kingdom brings transformation to our present age, so too the peace of living under the kingdom rule of God can bring peace into the situations in which we find ourselves in this present time. 
As we close let’s just pause and think about the people in that locked room.  These fearful disciples are the people who Christ will call to fearlessly proclaim the Kingdom…
We’re familiar with the story; this fearful group of people locked away in a room, become fearless evangelists and proclaimers of the kingdom of God.  As they hide in the upper room they are living in fear of their lives, ad this fear looks as though it may just shut down their ministry before it even begins.  But as history tells us, each one of these disciples  was willing to sacrifice their life for the Gospel within the space of a few years.  Having encountered Christ and received his peace they were able to move from fear to fearlessness.
Pray:  It might be good to spend some time in prayer as a group, praying particularly for any members who are in need of release from fear.

Simon Butler, 05/04/2013