“Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22)

In the hours after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples were no strangers to fear. When they met together on the Sunday after Jesus’ death, the doors were locked for fear of the Jews. And it’s no surprise that they were fearful when Jesus appeared and stood among them.

These days there are many fearful people. The news is filled with dire threats of pandemic disease and economic uncertainty. We may hear bad news from overseas or nearby. Will we lose our jobs, or will our investments or retirement funds disappear in a downturn? Will we even be afraid to go outside our homes and see other people?

It should be easy for us to understand the disciples’ fear after Jesus died. They lost their sense of direction and purpose in a fearful time. Where would they go? What would they do? What would happen next?

The situation was horrible for them. Jesus appeared to the disciples in the midst of their confusion and fear, and gave them what they needed — the Holy Spirit, the Holy Comforter, to take away their fear and make them strong. “Receive the Holy Spirit, ” he said to them (John 20:22). He didn’t wait until they had worked through their problems to congratulate them on their individual accomplishments. He didn’t wait until everything was under their control to offer his blessing. Through him they received the Holy Spirit for healing, forgiveness, inspiration, and new life.

Perhaps the best way for us to understand the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is by the Spirit’s effects. After the disciples receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we never again find them locked in a room by their fear. After they receive the Holy Spirit, they will go out to share the gospel. Their world is still a dangerous place. But they have changed. They have peace instead of fear. They have strength and power from beyond themselves to face challenges that were beyond them.

It can be that way for us, too. We must not wait to seek God until after we have mastered our fears and gotten everything under our own control. With that perspective, we might have to wait a long time. Instead, we can be found by God’s Spirit in the midst of our fears and turmoil, and that’s where we can find God. That’s where we will find the peace that casts out fear, and the energy to face the threats in our world.

Look it Up

See how the action of the Holy Spirit is described in “Come, thou Holy Spirit bright,” Hymn 226.

Think About It

How have you known God present in frightening times? How did your faith make a difference when you struggle d with fear? How have you known God present in unexpected ways? How has God surprised you?