Summary: The concept of whom to fear as set forth in Luke 12:4-7 teaches us that God cares deeply for Christian believers.
Jesus had completed his ministry in Galilee and was on his way to Jerusalem during the final few months of his life before his crucifixion. During this time Jesus gave his followers some very important teaching regarding discipleship. Commentator William Barclay says, “When we read [Luke 12] we are reminded again of the Jewish definition of preaching – a Charaz, which means stringing pearls. This passage, too, is a collection of pearls strung together without the close connection which modern preaching demands. But in it there are certain dominant ideas.” Jesus’ unifying theme was to call his disciples to trust God at all times, regardless of circumstances.
Let’s read Jesus’ warning about whom to fear in Luke 12:4-7:
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4-7)
The phrase “Be afraid, be very afraid” is a tagline from the 1986 horror film, The Fly. Fear is a common human emotion. But what people commonly fear is not always what should be causing that spike of adrenaline. Here are some examples:
Are you afraid to fly? You have a 0.00001 percent chance of dying in an airplane crash. On the other hand, the car insurance industry estimates that the average driver will be involved in three or four car crashes in his or her lifetime and the odds of dying in a car crash are 1 to 2 percent.
Are you afraid of heights? It is the second most reported fear. Your chance of being injured by falling, jumping, or being pushed from a high place is 1 in 65,092. The chance of having your identity stolen is 1 in 200.
Do you fear being killed by a bolt of lightning? The odds of that happening are 1 in 2.3 million. You are much more likely to be struck by a meteorite – those lifetime odds are about 1 in 700,000.
How about dogs? Their bark really is worse than their bite. Your chance of suffering a dog bite is 1 in 137,694. On the other hand, your chance of being injured while mowing the lawn is 1 in 3,623.
How about sharks? You are much more likely to be killed by your spouse (1 in 135,000) than a shark (1 in 300 million).
Won’t ride a roller coaster? If you have the patience to stand in the line, the chance of a roller coaster injury is 1 in 300 million. But if you play with fireworks on the Fourth of July, you are really playing with fire. The chance of injury is 1 in 20,000.
We are each fearful of different things, aren’t we?
Jesus recognized that his disciples struggled with fear. And so he addressed the issue of fear in their lives.
The analysis of the concept of whom to fear as set forth in Luke 12:4-7 teaches us that God cares deeply for Christian believers.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. Proper Fear (12:4-5)
2. Preserving Fear (12:6-7)
I. Proper Fear (12:4-5)
First, let’s look at proper fear.
The common New Testament word for fear (phobeo) means “to frighten, to be alarmed, to be in awe of, to revere, to be afraid, to fear, or to reverence.”
The Bible describes fear in a number of different ways. For example, God’s people are told not to fear other gods in 2 Kings 17:38, where God said, “And you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear [i.e., reverence] other gods.”
Jesus speaks about the fear of judgment later on in Luke’s Gospel. He said in Luke 21:25-26, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
But in Luke 12 Jesus teaches his disciples two very important principles with respect to fear.
A. Do Not Fear People (12:4)
First, Jesus teaches: do not fear people.
Jesus said in verse 4, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.”
Notice that Jesus addressed his disciples as my friends. Jesus was speaking to them with keen affection. He wanted them to know that they were not merely acquaintances or followers but they were his friends.