“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Luke 24:38-40 New Living Translation
The disciples of Jesus probably experienced their share of PTSD between the arrest of Jesus and His death. They had seen the person they spent over three years following as a close friend brutally executed by an empire that held little value for human life. The prospects for them were no better if they were found. Then they are awoken on Sunday morning with the news that their friend’s body is now missing and a dispute is developing between those who believed He had been raised from the dead as He predicted and those who assumed the body was stolen as part of some cruel joke by the powers that be. They may have even wondered if this was a plot by the religious leaders of their day to draw them out and arrest them to be executed too. The one thing that is certain at this point is that they were in desperate need of assurance.
In the midst of all their confusion, Jesus shows up and offers them peace. When Jesus first appeared, His disciples weren’t sure what to think. Some of them thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus recognized their apprehension and addressed their fears with compassion, not judgment. He offered for them to touch His hands and feet as evidence that He was there in person and not simply a ghost. He then asked for a piece of fish and ate it in their presence. He knew that they needed evidence that He had returned in a physical form. Therefore, He did things that He could only do as a physical being. As they saw these proofs that Jesus had been resurrected in physical form, they began to let down their guard and were able to begin having a relationship with Him and learn from Him again. Jesus graciously moved them from a place of fear to a place of faith.
There are many times in our lives that we can feel very shell shocked by the battles of life and feel like we are experiencing our own trauma and stress. It can especially be true when we are dealing with a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic we see happening around the world right now. We can reach a place in our emotions where it is impossible to believe that anything positive can come out of a situation that would be more faith-building. In times like this, Jesus seeks to gently move us from a place of fear to faith with the presence of His Holy Spirit in our lives. At first, the presence of the Spirit may be a bit of a shock to our system and we may be uncertain what we are experiencing. As we open ourselves up to the reality of His presence, though, He will address our fears and concerns in ways that will generate more faith and slowly ease our fears. The key for us is to keep our hearts in an open posture toward the work of the Spirit and to allow Him to direct our paths toward peace and a new level of faith.
Jesus, you come to us in the midst of our fears with a gentle assurance of Your presence and Your care for us. Speak to our hearts with the voice that moves us from a place of fear to a place of faith.