June 23, 2002 -- FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 7
Title: “Fear Not”
24 "A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!
Whom to Fear
26 "So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 "Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
Not Peace, but a Sword
34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Jesus continues his missionary charge to his disciples. “Fear” is the theme of this periscope. Three times in verses twenty-six, twenty-eight and thirty, the disciples are told not to fear. Of course, Jesus is not forbidding the experiencing of the emotion of fear, but teaching his disciples that they are not to be paralyzed by fear, cowered by it, or prevented from accomplishing their mission because of it. Fear of God is different from fear of humans. Fear of God is appropriate, given his awesome power. But, also given his awesome love, fear of God does not paralyze, but liberates. Fear of humans has no foundation in fact, real fact, that is, from the eternal perspective. If anything is going to prevent the spread of the message, it will be fear of humans and of human opinion. Jesus dismisses such fears as baseless and to be overcome by concentrating on the bigger picture, the eternal perspective.
These verses provide examples of how Jesus would take a general principle- be it a proverb, a “like the old saying goes,” or some form of conventional wisdom- and apply it to a specific situation. For Jesus, it was not enough to be wise in one’s head; one should be wise-in-action. The context here is the daunting challenge of preaching and living a message, not one’s own but Christ’s, to a hostile world.