Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me.

During his Farewell Address to the disciples at the Passover Meal, on the night before he died, Jesus warned them that not everyone would be receptive to the Good News they would bring to the world. Many of the hearers would simply turn their backs and walk away, but some of the disciples would be put in prison, some would be executed according to the law, and some would simply be murdered. But, at the beginning and the end of his message, Jesus made this pledge: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me.

Paul and Silas are imprisoned at the behest of the owners of the slave girl who was possessed by an evil spirit. An earthquake struck Philippi – not an unusual occurrence there, then or now. The prison doors and the doors of the cells flew open, and the prisoners chains were pulled loose. The jailer, in a panic, drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul called out, “Don’t harm yourself. We’re all still here!”

The jailer rushed in and, trembling with fear, fell at the feet of the Paul and Silas. Then he released them and asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your entire household.” Paul and Silas spent the rest of the night speaking the word of the Lord to him and the others in his house. He then took them into his house, and bathed their wounds. He and his family were baptized. Then he had a meal prepared for everyone there, filled with joy because he and his entire household had come to have faith in God.
(Acts 16:22-34; John 16:5-11)

At the Last Supper, the apostles are sad because Jesus leaving them. They are uneasy, afraid that after he has returned to the Father they will be leaderless and lost. The disciples who accompany Paul on his voyages around the Mediterranean basin have similar concerns. They are often arrested and imprisoned. They run the risk of being executed or murdered, and some will pay that price.

But Jesus tells them to relax: he is not going to abandon them. He will send the Holy Spirit, who will give them knowledge and wisdom to instruct their minds; courage and fortitude to calm their fears, as they witness to their faith in God. They know – because they speak Greek, at least as a second language – that “martyr” means “witness”, and that preaching the Word of God sometimes results in dying, but dying for the Word of God is the gateway to eternal life.

At the end of the day, they will learn more about Jesus from the Spirit than they did from Jesus himself while he walked among them. They need to learn to let him go, before they learn that he will never leave.

It is never easy to learn that lesson: If you love someone, let them go. If they never return, they never shared your love to begin with; if they come back to stay, you will be united in love forever.

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