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Isolation in a time of fear

by Tim McIntosh

 

Isolated behind closed doors. Cut off from the world. Death seeming too close for comfort. Confusion. Rumours swirling. Minds unsettled about what lies ahead. Indeed more than unsettled – downright fear-filled, fear keeping doors shut tighter than any lock ever could.

COVID-19 has put our world exactly where those disciples were on the first day of the week after Jesus’ crucifixion. Shut into an Upper Room in the heart of Jerusalem, fear binding them, they were powerless to get past the death of the Master.

 

Yet rumours of life and an empty tomb were stirring. How could it possibly be?

If they could only think back just three nights earlier, they might have recalled a word, potent with promise, spoken three times over by Jesus into their troubled minds. For troubled they were, even then. He seemed to be hinting He was going away, and fear shot through their hearts. Confusion, too. What was He saying? What did He mean?

Yet the word provided the antidote, if only they could receive it. That word, common enough, was loaded with meaning on the lips of the Master. “Peace.”

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

They, and we, might immediately say, “Jesus, that’s easy for you to say.” But of course it wasn’t easy. Jesus knew exactly what was coming next, though the disciples themselves were clueless. He knew he was going to the cross, there to bear the sin of a whole world on his own shoulders, carrying the guilt of every man, woman and child, those who’d come before and each one of us ever since. He knew. And yet He spoke the word. Indeed, it was the cross itself that gave the word power.

Later that same night, at the end of many reflections shared with His disciples, He would speak the word again.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Yes, the world then, the world now, is full of trouble. Chockablock. Increasing. Pressing. Unrelenting. Yet, there is this promise-soaked word, rising up above the trouble. Soaked, it turns out, in the very blood of the Saviour.

“Peace” is one of the last words Jesus speaks to His disciples before He went to that death. He must have known they would need it. He must have known we would, too.

And then the cross happened. And then the resurrection.

When Jesus meets those same disciples again, on that first day of the week, hunkered down inside, isolated in fear, shut behind barred doors, He makes himself present with them once again, coming right into their midst, unexpected. And the first word out of His mouth – you guessed it – is “Peace.”
“Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)

For us, all our experience (whether touched by COVID-19 or long before) is on this side of the cross, on this side of the resurrection. All of Jesus’ work, bearing our sin and conquering death, is fully completed. It is finished. Accomplished.

Fear is met with saving grace. It has been overcome by peace. But it’s only Jesus’ peace itself that will do.

Before the cross, He’d said, “in me you may have peace.” In me. That’s the key. He affirms it after death, fully alive, when He speaks the word again. He’s standing right in their midst. He himself is the key.

Which draws us back to one other thing He said on that night before His death. “Remain in me … I am the vine; you are the branches” (John 15:4-5). It’s by connecting with Him, like a branch in the vine, that life flows and peace comes.

We connect now, not in the heart of Jerusalem, but alone with our Lord, allowing ourselves to be present with the one who is eternally present with us. We open His word and feed on His truth – it’s crucial. We take time to listen to His voice, speaking into our present moment. We open our minds and hearts in prayer, presenting our needs, requesting His will be done, right here, right now.

Here is the message of Easter: peace is alive in Jesus himself. So press in. Welcome the Master. Daily. Without fail. Yes, there will be many tangible things that need doing. But this “pressing-in” is foundational for anything we can offer a needy world.

Adrian Dix, BC Minister of Health, announced in mid-March: “It’s not too late to join the fight … We are asking you to take part today, to take your civic responsibility …” He was urging us, each one, to embrace social distancing and other health protocols for the sake of the greater community.

In the same way, but more profoundly, it’s in each of our hands to live in connected relationship with Jesus. It’s for our own good, yes. But also for the good of the world around us, a world desperately needing the peace which only Jesus can give.

 

Tim McIntosh is the Senior Pastor at Heritage Alliance Church in Abbotsford. Check out his daily devotional ‘Eyes on Jesus (Through the Scriptures)’ at https://www.facebook.com/groups/3804515646241146/

 

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