“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week,
the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews.
Jesus came and stood among them.
He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.”
John 20.19

 “…the doors were closed…for fear of the Jews.”…!

 Fear is a very powerful human emotion…
          – and comes in two ‘varieties’…

 ■        ‘Outside Fear’…
          – fear that originates mainly ‘outside’ of ourselves…
          – fear of something real and threatening…
          – fear that has good reason to be…
                   – standing in the middle of the fast lane of a motorway
                   – climbing into a cage of hungry lions…
                   – being at the receiving end of an artillery bombardment…
          – a variety of fear that is relatively uncommon
                   – stuntmen, lion-tamers, and residents of the Middle East excepted…!

■        ‘Inside Fear’…
          – fear that originates mainly ‘inside’ of ourselves…
          – fear that starts in our hearts or our heads…
          – fear, not of ‘what is’,
                   but of ‘what might be’…
          – fear of the possible,
                   but not necessarily of the probable
          – fear that has little or no reason to be…
          – a very common variety of fear…

 The way that fear works is different for each variety…
         – the different sorts of fear have different sorts of power…

 ‘Outside’ fear releases adrenalin…
          – makes us alert…
          – gives us energy…
          – the ‘fight or flight’ response…

 ‘Inside’ fear, on the other hand, shackles and binds us…
          – makes us prisoners…
          – prevents us from living a full and free life…
          – disables and cripples us…

 When John writes that “the doors were closed…for fear of the Jews”
          – he means more than the physical doors of the room…
          – he means the emotional state of the disciples…
                   – abandoned/bereft…
                   – the doors of their hearts shut too…
                   – locked in by their own fear…

 We all have these ‘inside’ fears that shut and lock our hearts…
          – fear of humiliation or ridicule…
          – fear of what others might think of us…
          – fear of being shown up, or making a fool of ourselves…
          – fear of saying/doing the wrong thing…
          – fear of failing (ourselves/others)…
                   – the list is endless…

 Some of these fears may be grounded in reality…
          – many/most are not…
          – they are fears that exist only in our own heads
          – but they can still disable and cripple us…

 “Jesus came and stood among them.  He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.”

 Jesus comes to set us free…
          – he comes to break all the shackles that bind us…
          – he comes to unlock the gate to new/true life…
          – he comes to bring his peace to us…

 His resurrection demonstrates that the greatest limitation in life: death itself…
          – has been overwhelmed by his victory…

 And if the greatest limitation of all has been eradicated…
          – then so too all the lesser limitations…

 He has broken open, not only the closed doors of the tomb…
          – but also the closed doors of our hearts and lives…
          – we no longer have anything to fear…!

 Love has conquered death…                                                                             1Jn.4.18a
          – “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…”                                       

 A rider to all this…
          – the Church has used the power of ‘inside’ fear…
          – particularly the fear of the consequences of sin…
          – and despite the clear assurances of Jesus that he has taken away our sin…

 When Jesus says…                                                                                           Jn.20.23
     “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them;
      
if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

 …we perhaps too readily equate them with the ‘power of the keys’ given to Peter…     Mt.16.19
     “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
     
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

 …and interpret the words as meaning that the apostles can turn forgiveness on and off…!

 I think that Jesus more probably means that the more we hang on to the notion that our sins
(and those of others) can remain unforgiven, then the consequences are the same as if they were unforgiven…
          – in other words, we can, through an unwillingness to let sin go,
         actually feed that inner fear that shackles and locks us up…

 Jesus has forgiven our sin…
          – he has released us from it…
          – but we still seem to have the knack of hanging on to it…
          – and thereby letting it hang on to us…!

 Jesus comes and stands among us…
          – and says to our hearts: ‘Peace be with you – you are set free’.

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