April 15, 2018–No Fear Here!

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Chris Heavner, Clemson, SC

 Warm-up Questions

  • Have you ever (thought) you saw a ghost?
  • Why might we be fearful of ghosts?
  • Is a resurrected Jesus the same thing as a ghost?
  • If you saw a resurrected Jesus would it be just as frightening as if you were seeing a ghost?

No Fear Here!

The students in the campus ministry group like to play a game called “Murder in the dark.”  They find a totally dark room, designate one person whose aim is to draw a finger across the throats of others before being discovered.  Bodies begin to pile up.  Silence is required.  Fear permeates the room.

There seems to be something “enjoyable” about being frightened.  We go to scary movies and we stand in long lines for thrill rides.  Jumping into the view of unsuspected persons with a shout is a perennial past-time of the adolescent-at-heart.

YouTube evan has a category for “ghost” videos.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkHJPOFFvN4.  Don’t watch alone!

But being frightened is not healthy for us and it surely aggravates the deep seated fears which plague the lives of too many of our friends.  Maybe we like to play childhood games which frighten us as a way of affirming that most of that which scares us is fleeting and not really scary at all.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you experienced a scary trick being pulled on you? How frightening was it? Were you able to laugh when it was all over?
  • When we choose to place ourselves in a frightening situation, we know it will end. Have you ever been in a situation when you were not sure the fright would come to an end?
  • Too many of us have friends for whom fear is is a constant reality. Would it be helpful to name such persons, among your Church family, and offer prayers for them?
  • Jesus often says “Do not be afraid.” Why do you think he says this so often?

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 3:12-19

1 John 3:1-7

Luke 24:36b-48

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The official name for the kinds of encounters described in Luke 24 is “post-resurrection appearances.”  There are a half dozen of these, recorded in Matthew, Luke, and John.  (Mark has two alternative endings, added later in Church history.  But the oldest versions of Mark have no sightings of the resurrected Jesus.)

In Luke 24, Jesus isn’t seen at the tomb on Easter morning, but later that day he does join two of the disciples who are walking to Emmaus.  They do not recognize him until they are seated at the table, and Jesus takes bread and breaks it for them.  Immediately they return to Jerusalem and tell the others.  It is as they are still discussing this that “Jesus himself stood among them.”

When Jesus appears, they are frightened.  They ask whether it is really him, or a ghost.

While tradition encourages us to think Jesus shows his hands and feet so they may see the nail marks, it is more likely that Jesus knew the tests in the ancient near east for proving one is not a ghost.  You would examine the extremities of the body where bones were easily detected.  Another test was having teeth, and the ability to eat food.

Jesus does not want them to be afraid.  Those in fear cannot hear the good news of God’s love and compassion.  Those scared of the resurrected Jesus cannot ease into his comforting embrace.

Do not be afraid.  Know that God loves us and that God cares for us and that God will act in order to save us.  Fear is the emotion which stands opposite faith; not doubt.  We will forever have questions as to how a dead body is reanimated and/or how a resurrected Jesus could eat food.  Doubt does not rob us of faith.  But fear can.  And often does.

Jesus tells the disciples (those with him in Jerusalem and those reading this reflection) “Do not be afraid.”  He is no ghost.  He is the risen Messiah.  His eternal presence means we need not ever fear again.

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways has the resurrected Jesus taken fear out of your life?
  • Expressing doubt is the only way we can probe the thoughts which follow our convictions of faith. Name one thing of which you are unsure or find difficult to comprehend.
  • Jesus speaks words to the disciples which he had spoken many times before, but this time they seem to be ready to hear these words. How might your teachers identify the times and places when you are best prepared to hear the good news?
  • We should never be naive regarding the very real fears in the lives of too many of our friends and family. What might we do to be of aid to those so overwhelmed that suicide or bodily harm seem viable options? (Never shy away from telling your trusted youth leaders of comments made by persons who cannot sense God’s love for them.)
  • Jesus says that those who hear his words are to be “witnesses of these things.” When can you be such a witness; and how?

Activity Suggestions

Watch a scary movie together.  Practically every scary movie follows a predictable pattern.  While it may break the mood, when you see an attempt to frighten you coming, begin to shout “Here it comes!”  Explore how ridiculous it is for us to be frightened by something we watch on a screen.  Ask how we might also put other fears into perspective; knowing that the very real presence of Jesus continually calms our fears.

As a group (and with someone holding your hand) go to a scary place.  Maybe a graveyard.  Maybe a dark room.  Perhaps a room full of strangers.  In this scary place, repeat the Easter proclamation:  “Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!”  Allow this announcement to push back your fears and replace such emotions with the peace of Christ, that peace which passes all understanding.

Closing Prayer

O God of comfort, O God of Peace; allow us to experience your gifts.  Set aside our fears and assure us that in you all things are made right.  Amen.

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