When something bad happens its like a bomb goes off in our lives. Everything is blown out of place, broken, and out-of-sorts, and we are left trying to pick through the pieces. All forward progress stops, and we go into survival mode. Hopes and dreams may be buried, left behind, or put on the back-burner.
The fear and grief that descends upon us when bad things happen can leave us feeling lost, adrift, and without hope. If we are not careful… this can permanently undermine our joy, our success, our opportunities, and our life’s purpose.
I’m a Star Wars geek, so I’ll use an illustration from the original 1977 Star Wars movie (known as episode 4 ‘A New Hope’). Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader are engaged in a lightsaber battle in which it is clear that Vader has the upper-hand. As he gloats in his anticipated victory, Obi Wan ominously warns Vader, “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”. The warning goes unheeded and Darth Vader kills Obi Wan with huge stroke of the lightsaber.
Young Luke Skywalker witnesses the tragedy… and is devastated by it. What will he do now that is friend and mentor is gone? How will he learn the ways of the force? How will he succeed in fighting the evil Empire? All hope seems lost for Luke. But, as it turns out, Obi Wan is not dead and gone. He has, in fact, become one with the force. Now, Obi Wan is now able to be powerfully present and active in Luke’s life everywhere all the time; guiding him, teaching him, even empowering him to reach the fullness of his success and purpose.
After Jesus is crucified… there’s this same sense of tragedy and devastation among his disciples and friends. What will they do now that their friend and mentor is gone? How will they live the ways of God? How will they succeed in declaring the Kingdom of God’s victory over the world? It’s like a bomb went off in their lives… everything is broken, out-of-sorts, and fear and grief have settled in over everything. Then… Jesus appears to empower, guide and teach:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:19-22)
No… Jesus didn’t become ‘one with the force’ like Obi Wan… its even better than that! In his resurrection victory, he comes with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Far from an impersonal, universal ‘force’, the Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God in all places at all times, given specifically to guide, teach, and empower those who have put their faith in Jesus.
Jesus assures them with the promise of a divine peace and power great enough, and enduring enough, to overcome their fear and grief. And, he sets their sights once again on their future success, opportunity, and life purpose… “as the Father sends me, so I am sending you”.
We have the very same assurance and promise in the Holy Spirit that those first disciples were given as they cowered behind locked doors in fear for their lives.
Whatever bomb has gone (or might go) off in our lives.
No matter how much everything is blown out of place, broken, and out-of-sorts.
When we are left trying to pick through the pieces and all forward progress seems stopped.
When our hopes and dreams seem buried, left behind, or put on the back-burner.
Jesus is there saying “peace be with you”. The Holy Spirit is there breathing into us, replacing fear and doubt with hope and courage for a future with joy, opportunity, success, and victory.