Summary: Before his crucifixion Jesus gave his disciples some instruction on how to overcome fear. His instruction to them is applicable to us too.
[Note, this series started to follow the SermonCentral ‘Fear Not’ series, but this week I went in a different direction.]
Today we have the second talk in our series ‘Fear Not.’ Last week we started by thinking about healthy and unhealthy fears. [This talk was given by someone else.]
A healthy fear is a fear that’s helpful. There are things we SHOULD be afraid of! Fear of something that’s dangerous can save our life. Last week some of us shared some experiences that had made us afraid. Jo mentioned a time when she came across a man in a girl’s boarding house. Bruce mentioned a time when he had a gun pointed at his head. Really frightening experiences. It would be very healthy to have fear in those situations! The Bible tells us to fear God. That’s also a healthy fear!
But there are also unhealthy fears. An unhealthy fear doesn’t help us to do the right thing. On the contrary, it’s likely to make us do the wrong thing. Unhealthy fear is a massive issue for Christians. After we start to follow Jesus it isn’t long before we discover that the way Jesus is leading is fairly much the opposite direction to the way the rest of the world is going. That produces fear. Here are some examples:
• It isn’t cool to be a Christian, so we’re afraid to be known as one. What will our friends think if they know we’re a Christian? They might stop being our friends! Out of fear, we keep quiet.
• It’s tough being different at school. One day, our friends at school are being disrespectful of a teacher. We know it isn’t right. But out of fear, we join in.
• The world around us has sexual practices that we know God doesn’t allow. But we’re afraid to disagree, to say that they’re wrong. Instead, out of fear, we say these practices are OK!
• The Bible tells parents to discipline their children. But we’re afraid of upsetting them. So, we do nothing.
• God calls us into Christian service. His call is clear but we’re afraid. Afraid we’ll be poor. Afraid of what our friends or parents will think. And so, out of fear, we turn a deaf ear to God’s call.
In short, once we decide to follow Jesus, Jesus calls us onto a path which, if we’re going to follow it, will require us to overcome fears. The fears we’ll face are UNHEALTHY fears. That doesn’t mean that they are IRRATIONAL. They are aren’t irrational at all. We will have reason to be afraid. Our friends might indeed leave us if they discover we’re a Christian. It’s quite likely we’ll have a massive blow-up with our kids if we discipline them. It’s very possible that non-Christian parents will disapprove if we choose to go into Christian service. Fears like these AREN’T IRRATIONAL. But they ARE UNHEALTHY. They paralyse us, if we let them. They try to keep us from doing the right thing.
We can’t just wish fears like these away. We’re going to encounter them, and we’re going to have to overcome them. How can we do that?
The time when Jesus was crucified must have been terrifying for his disciples. But before Jesus was crucified, he gave his disciples some instructions to help them to get through this time. I very much doubt that we will be tested the way that Jesus’ disciples were tested, but the principles Jesus taught apply to any situation of fear. They are relevant to us too in the fears we face!
We find Jesus’ instructions in John 14:1-4.
Let’s recall the setting. Jesus and his disciples have come to Jerusalem. It’s relatively unfamiliar territory for them. Jesus and his disciples had visited Jerusalem, but probably not very often. It was an unfamiliar environment, but that probably didn’t trouble them too much. What would have troubled them was the knowledge that Jerusalem was hostile. The religious authorities there hated Jesus and wanted to kill him. Jesus’ disciples would have been distinctly on edge.
Jesus then tells his disciples, first, that he will leave them, second, that one of them will betray him, and third, that Simon Peter will deny him. Jesus’ disciples would now be more than on edge. They’d have been really alarmed.
Jesus and the disciples leave Jerusalem and go out to the Garden of Gethsemane. In the middle of the night a group of people carrying clubs and swords approach them. They arrest Jesus. The disciples’ alarm increases to real fear. Their fear overcomes them and they flee.
In the morning Jesus is tried. Peter is there. Fear overcomes him once again. He denies Jesus three times. Jesus is condemned and mocked. He is led out of Jerusalem and is executed in one of the cruellest ways in history. By three o’clock in the afternoon he is hanging on a cross, dead.