He Replaces Fear With Faith

Text: John 20:19-31

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

That evening, when Jesus came through the heavy wall of the house and past the locked door, what He found was a bunch of dead bones. Just like our Old Testament reading about a valley full of dead and parched bones, well, the disciples were not much better off. The disciples were afraid of the hatred that put Jesus on the cross, thinking that they might be next. And so, they had carefully locked the doors and hid in a house out of fear. 

Keep in mind that this was not the first time they had feared for their lives. Several nights early in the garden, fear scattered them as well. And so, the point being, that night, as they huddled in the house with locked doors, Jesus came right into the midst of fear, dread, and terror. 

As we have heard before, fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is not a virtue. Fear is not healthy. Fear is sin. 

That is to say, the Bible itself speaks of fear over 353 times and specifically says to 'not fear' over 85 times.  

Even medical science does not speak positively about fear. Fear can affect your blood pressure, hormones, and adrenaline. 

It can affect the cerebral part of the brain, making the mind foggy and causing slowness in good judgment. It can weaken our immune systems and even damage our stomachs through ulcers.  

Fear not only breaks down our body, but it also has a way of making us collapse inward on ourselves. When fear strikes, and we live by fear, well…  we protect our bodies; we shut our eyes and close our ears. When fear creeps towards us, we go into our houses or bedrooms, draw the blinds shut, lock our doors, and maybe even pull the sheets over our heads. We also put up emotional and spiritual walls. In the end, fear causes us to cut ourselves off from anything that might be a threat. It results in us isolating ourselves from everything and everyone around us. It leaves us alone with ourselves.  

But being alone is not what it is cracked up to be. You see, we should be more afraid of our own hearts than we are of everything else around us.

Permit me an opportunity to explain. 

In the late 1800s, a quote started to circulate that was attributed to Martin Luther. Truth be told, Martin Luther probably did not say it, but nonetheless, it is worth repeating and hearing. It goes like this,     

"I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope - self."

In other words, while there is a lot to fear in this world  (i.e., things that threaten you and me), ultimate safety is not blocking everything out, resulting in you and me being isolated by ourselves - alone. The reason is that there is just as much to threaten us within our hearts as there is outside of us in the big-bad world.  

Dear friends, please remember that sin is indeed in the world, but sin also springs forth from our human hearts. From within comes evil intentions, wickedness, pride, slander, and so forth. This is why Jesus tells us that we must deny ourselves. There are indeed things 'out there' that we fear, but there is much more to fear right under our noses – our human hearts.  

So, we are in quite a predicament, aren't we? Fear causes us to retreat inwards for safety, but we are not completely safe from that which is inward – the sinful heart. Things threaten us in the big bad world, and right here at our center, we have something else to fear – our hearts. What is a person to do?  

As we consider our reading from the Gospel of John again, it is quite amazing to consider what happened. You see, the disciples were lousy friends. In fear, they abandoned Christ. And here, they are locked up in a small room, living by fear and not by faith. One could almost say that they were trapped by fear or paralyzed by fear, or bound up.   

But didn't Jesus tell the disciples that everything that took place would occur? Yes, He did. Jesus promised the disciples that He would bleed, suffer, and die. And He also promised them that He would rise again. Nevertheless, the disciples did not live by faith but lived by fear. And so, Jesus had to come to them. And get this: when He came to them, He was not mad. That is right; despite them huddled in that room with fear running through their veins, Jesus was not angry but came right into their midst to give them peace, chase away their fear, and free them with faith. 

And dear friends, that is the same thing that Christ does for you and me.  

Baptized Saints, hear this loud and clear. Fear is not a virtue. Furthermore, we cannot offset fear with our own abilities, plans, schemes, or ideas. Fear is not overcome by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps - it simply does not work this way. You and I cannot eradicate fear; we can only keep it at bay for a while. But Christ? Well, when He comes, He replaces your fear with faith. He chases fear away.  

For the disciples, Jesus came into their fear and trembling and said these four simple words, 

           "Peace be with you."  

And the disciples were given exactly what Jesus spoke - peace.  

In other words, through speaking to them and showing them His nailed marked hand, feet, and side, Christ gave peace, quietness, rest, and security. By speaking, Christ created faith in them – faith that swallowed up fear.  

The same thing occurs in our Old Testament reading as well. Ezekiel preaches to dead bones and simply stated, through preaching, the dead bones come to life.  

Baptized Saints, the point that is being made is that we all need a preacher. We need a preacher to speak the Word of God into our ears so that faith is created. 7We need a preacher to speak the promises of God into our ears so that fear is not only chased away but finds its end in faith.  

And so, if you find yourself in fear, stop looking at that which threatens you. Stop pulling inward and building up walls. Just stop! Stop and listen! Hear the Word of God.  

           "Peace be with you."

Yes, hear it again! 

If you are fearful of the powers of the world, fear not, blessed Saint! Hear right now that your Jesus is bigger than the world. Yes, hear: you have been crucified in relation to the world, and the world has been crucified to you. And so, you are set free from the fear of pleasing others and fitting into their little patterns that they dictate.  "Peace be with you."

If you are fearful of sickness and death, fear not, blessed Saint! Hear this day that the Lord is with you even when you walk through the valley of death. He is your Good Shepherd, and you – His sheep. You do not belong to the jaws of the wolf of death but your Good Shepherd. And your Good Shepherd will never let you go, no matter how dark the valley and no matter how painful the suffering. No one can snatch you from His hand. And so, do not fear. "Peace be with you.

If you are surrounded by hordes of demons, fearful of all hell breaking loose, hear this…  the Lord protects you from all danger. He is your light and your salvation. In times of trouble, He will shelter you, keep you, and place you on a secure rock. And so, you shall not be afraid of the evil one, for he is a defeated foe. "Peace be with you."

Baptized Saints, your Lord has deemed it necessary for you to hear and hear often. And so, He places preachers into your lives. And these preachers, well… they are to preach the Word into your ears and hearts, so that fear would no longer be central in your lives. They are to preach the Word of God so that fear would be chased away, that you would be forgiven of your sins, and that you would live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up completely for you.   

Peace be with you, dear Saints. Yes, peace. 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

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