Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't Be Afraid - Be Very Afraid!

In Mark 4:35-41, we read the story of how Jesus calms the wind and sea during a trip across the Sea of Galilee after a day of teaching. Here it is in the NASB:

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

A few things to notice.
  1. There were other boats around him, not just the one he and the disciples were in. So there were more witnesses to this event that we don't normally hear about when this story is told.
  2. Also notice Jesus' comments to the disciples after He calms the wind and the sea, "Why are you afraid?" Jesus tells the disciples that they should not be fearful, but have faith that He has everything under control.
  3. Notice the response of the disciples after this comment by Jesus to them, "They became very much afraid." The words of Jesus did not remove their fear, but his actions and words made them more afraid. Why? Because they had never seen a man who was able to command the wind and the sea. This was more to be feared than the storm.
This theme is throughout the Bible. Proverbs contains 14 verses dealing with the fear of the Lord such as Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." And Luke 12:5 tells us this, "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!" The fear of God is a healthy thing. One commentator puts it like this:

The fear of God may well include a recognition of the futility of human opposition to the divine, especially for those who are God's enemies, but for those who follow God, fear grows from the respect and honour of which God is worthy as God.

We all should come to the point of seeing the futility of opposing our Sovereign Creator God who sustains and directs all things by the power of His word. For the unbeliever this should be one of terror and dread once they catch a vision of the reality of their position (just read some Puritan sermons such as Jonathan Edwards). However, for the believer, this fear becomes one of reverence, awe, respect, honor and worship to the one who has saved us from His wrath through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ. He is worthy, He is Holy, and He alone should be feared by the Christian. Let us listen once again to the words of our Lord to the apostle John on the Island of Patmos:

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)

For the Christian, to fear Christ is everlasting joy and hope beyond our wildest imagination. So, do not be afraid - be very afraid.

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