Summary: Fear is “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind.” It can box us in and hold us captive. This sermon looks at how to overcome fear
There’s the story of 5 year-old Johnny who was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of soup but he didn't want to go in alone. “It’s dark in there and I am scared.” She asked again and he persisted. Finally she said, “It’s OK. Jesus will be in there with you.” Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark and started to leave when all of sudden he had an idea. He leaned in and said, “Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me a can of soup?”
Fear. It’s something which strikes not only our lives but our faith journey as well. Fear seems to be a part of our human experience. You don't get far into the story of God’s Word until you see fear raising it’s ugly head, 66 verses to be exact. Adam and Eve have sinned and God comes in the cool of the evening for his afternoon walk with them and he couldn’t find them. When he does, he asks, “Where were you?” Adam’s response was, “I was afraid!” There is a relationship between the fall of humanity and the fear of humanity.
There is a relationship between the fear which often grips our lives and sin. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus was enmeshed in fear. The religious leaders had been growing in their concern about Jesus that his popularity among the masses was too great and that they would lose their position of power authority and influence. But then Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, one of the signs the Jews considered as evidence of the Messiah. This created such a stir among the people some 6 weeks before the Passover Festival that the religious leaders gathered to meet to decide what to do: “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation… it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” A few weeks later, 200,000 pilgrims would descend upon the holy city of Jerusalem. The fear was always that something would set the people off and lead them into a revolt. As Jesus’ power increased the fears of the religious leaders increased as well that they would lose their power.
The disciples after seeing Jesus crucified were hiding in fear of their lives that they would be the next to be crucified. On Easter morning, there was fear as well. The guards were so frightened by the angel that these hardened men of war literally froze in place and fell to the ground. Mary Magdalene and Mary are frightened when they see the open tomb for they fear that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. And even when Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were afraid so such so that Jesus had to say to them, “Peace be with you” just to calm them down. Everywhere you look on that first Easter in all of the uncertainty, the unknown and all of the questions of about what lies ahead, there is fear. The same is often true in our lives, especially in these times of uncertainty. Fear is a key issue in our everyday lives. “What will the doctor find in this test? Will I be okay after surgery? Will I have enough money to get to the end of the month? Will I be able to retire?” There are many fears and we call them by many names: worry, tension, anxiety, or stress. One study looked at 500 different people and found that among them they had 1800 different fears. And it doesn’t help that we live a culture of fear. We fear the zinca virus, terrorism, crime, cancer and the list just goes on and one.
Fear is “the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind.” It can bx us in and hold us captive. Last week, I got into the office a little before 7 am. My first item of business was to load my car up with boxes of books that I had packed up the day before. I loaded them on the cart, pushed it into the elevator and then hit the button. The elevator started to move and then stopped. I pushed the button again and again and nothing. I was stuck. I pushed every other button and still nothing. Here I was, the only person in the church and the next person not arrived for more than an hour. I started to break into a sweat. I then saw the emergency call box, picked the phone up and then told the operator where I was and that I was stuck. She then hung up. 30 minutes later I heard voices in the building and started calling out. They responded and asked, “Where are you?” “The third floor.” I heard the footsteps and several men enter the third floor and then begin working on the elevator. They finally got it open and revealed 6 firemen and an elevator that had dropped almost two feet. I reached up for a hand and one of the firemen in the back of the group gave me his hand. As I grabbed it, the one holding the door said, “You better make this quick!” Not the most reassuring thing to hear! Images of my body crushed by the elevator flowed through my mind as I got out. And that’s often the impact that fear can have on us: it can trap us and keep us from doing the work of God.