By Kevin Freeman
These are uncertain times. Safety dictates a shelter in place. Only for the most important needs is it okay to venture out, and that feat must involve several safety precautions.
The one who leaves the house risks not only himself but also those at home. He could inadvertently bring danger to the doorstep. Disaster looms behind even a slight miscalculation or moment of carelessness.
What am I talking about? The first century disciples.
Upon the death of Jesus, the disciples hid themselves out of fear that the bloodlust of the religious leaders would come for them, too. Despite differences in why we’re laying low, that first century self-quarantine carries four lessons for us this Holy Week.
1. The bleakest times often yield to the brightest hopes.
Although the disciples thought they were doomed and that the movement Jesus began had surely failed, the opposite was, in fact, true.
Our catastrophic moment is merely the unfolding of God’s perfect plan, known in advance. Isaiah the prophet exclaimed his awe of a God who actually acts on behalf of his waiting people, “No ear has heard and no eye has seen” such a thing (Isaiah 64:4).
Paul echoes this sentiment (1 Corinthians 2:9) that God has prepared something beyond what we can imagine. Like those first disciples, we can find hope in the resurrection of Christ and the movement of the church as we share his powerful message with others.
2. Fight the fuzzy memory; hold onto important truths.
The death and resurrection of Jesus wasn’t meant to be a surprise. Those brave women were told Jesus had risen and were reminded that Jesus Himself told them this would happen.
They remembered his words and went to tell the other disciples, who thought it was nonsense and had already forgotten the important truth.
Before we blame them too much, let’s remember how disorienting sheltering at home can be. How many times have you forgotten what day it is so far?
God has given us important truths to remember in times like this. He’s working for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Jesus founded the Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it (Matthew 16:18). God isn’t the giver of fear but rather gives power, love, and sound thinking (2 Timothy 1:7).
Continually remind yourself of the important truths of God to combat the fear and confusion that attend the fuzzy memory.
3. Firsthand accounts are believable.
Something odd happened as the disciples heard Jesus had risen. They couldn’t bring themselves to believe it. There had to be another explanation for that empty tomb.
But the One who destroys the wisdom of the wise defies our logical explanations. Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples and rebuked them for not believing the women and others with firsthand accounts of the risen Savior (Mark 16:14).
Then He commanded them to go and share the good news of Christ with everyone. Because Jesus appeared to them, the disciples had their own firsthand account to share. Moreover, each of us who believes in Christ has a firsthand account to share.
Rather than letting the rumor mill spread confusion and fear for those in the grip of COVID-19, we must cut through the noise with our clear account of what Jesus has done for us.
4. Incredible growth often follows the fearful sequester.
The Church got its start out of the isolation period; if not the first one, the second. In obedience to their risen Savior, the disciples gathered in an upstairs room in Jerusalem. This time, expectation had replaced fear.
They worshiped God, believing He was about to do something big. And He delivered! That day of Pentecost saw thousands of people come to Christ.
May a sense of expectation replace our anxieties as we worship our risen Savior and seek to further his kingdom.
KEVIN FREEMAN is the associate pastor for discipleship, youth, and families at Redland Baptist Church of Rockville, Maryland.