But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.”
And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
~ John 6:20; 20:21-22
Today, we live in a world which is full of turmoil and uncertainty of various kinds, amplified by social media news and the unreliability of materialism. The current COVID-19 pandemic crisis in particular has affected every individual and nations of the world in one way or another. These situations create fear and despair in everyone.
It seems that the foundation of our societies and nations are shifting rapidly from their foundation on the Solid Rock — Jesus Christ, His Word and the Holy Spirit — to that of sinking sands, which are humanistic philosophies, political ideologies, and worldly materialism (Matthew 7:24-27). The question arises: what shall we do as Christians?
In the Gospels and the book of Acts, the disciples of Jesus Christ found themselves in various turmoils, winds, storms, hurricanes, and uncertainty, but they survived, overcame the challenges, and gradually became victorious. (Romans 8:35-39)
Let us briefly review some of their challenges. In the beginning, after the disciples received their calls from Jesus and left everything (their family, friends, work, possessions, and their little villages and towns), they followed Him for about three and a half years. They had to depend on Jesus Christ for everything, and that paid off as miracles and provisions were happening daily, as long as they followed Him.
But everything turned upside-down when Jesus Christ was arrested, tortured, condemned to death, crucified on the cross, died and buried, thanks to the conspiracy by the Jewish religious leaders, aided by the Roman political powers. Now all of a sudden, all the disciples were scattered, running for their dear lives in the middle of the darkest night, some of them naked and some of them in hiding. Some others like Peter even reached the point of denying that they had never been with Christ, and others tried to return to old professions like fishing or to their villages and towns like Emmaus.
They just wanted to survive and live ordinary or obscure lives. They found themselves cornered in very hostile and violent environments — religious, political, and socio-economic. Fear and despair were the order of their fluid world. The yoke of Fear entangles and imprisons lives in different forms and ways. Fear of any kind steals our peace and joy, keeping a person in a cage of hopelessness, which leads to stress and mental breakdown.
Amid all this turmoil, in a locked-down room full of fearful disciples, who were terrified, in despair, hopeless and helpless, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ came in and said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:21)
That Peace or Shalom which came from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, changed the lives of the disciples once and forever (Isaiah 9:6-7). Their environment did not change, but their internal lives were transformed by the Word of Jesus, the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
As David declared in Psalms 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” For sure, the presence of God changes lives.
Then Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22). Jesus Christ sent them out to face those hostile and violent situations and the world of which they were afraid. He commanded them to go out and turn it around, so that God’s peace may reign in every person’s heart — especially in those who believe in Jesus Christ’s name and accept the forgiveness of their sins through His precious blood, and stand in His Word and invite the Holy Spirit into their hearts.
Also, the disciples were given the mandate to spread and extend that peace to the world they live in (Matthew 28:18-20). The Holy Spirit breaks the yoke of fear and the prison gates of intimidation in our lives, bringing peace, joy, and boldness to do the will of God even in tribulation and adversity (Acts 4:13, 31; 2 Tim.1:7). The Holy Spirit brings freedom and liberty into the lives of each believer (2 Cor. 3:17).
As Jesus Christ promised us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” This means God’s peace is not limited by our situation or environment, but it surpasses and transcends every situation and all circumstances. Divine peace is not the absence of tribulation, but God is with us and for His children even in the midst of life’s storms and various struggles (John 6:20; James 1:2-8). God is bigger than our storms and challenges and also, He is on our side.
The Apostle Paul affirmed the same peace which comes from God:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
~ Philippians 4:4-7
As Billy Graham said,
Jesus Christ, Who is the Prince of Peace, is calling and reminding every believer across every walk of life, “Do not Fear — Peace be with you! Shalom!” (John 6:20; 20:21)
As Christians, let us have this divine peace that comes from Christ Jesus, and spread God’s peace to the world we live in.
Here is one of the hymns to which I really love to listen when I encounter challenges: