“The Right Kind of Fear” – Matt. 10:26-31
Pentecost 3 – June 24 & 25, 2017
What causes you to be afraid? There are all kinds of “phobias” – fear of heights, of the darkness, of storms, of spiders, snakes, mice, etc. There are good kinds of fear: touch a hot stove (fear of pain), “stranger danger,” fear of cancer, heart disease, fear of breaking the law, fear of physical harm and death, etc. And then, of course, there is the very common fears of being embarrassed, looking foolish, being ridiculed or rejected by family or friends, being labeled as “different from society!”
Three times in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” He says:
- v.26, “Do not be afraid of (those who ridicule you and call you names, like Beelzebub).”
- v.28, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” and
- v.31, “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
- And note carefully – at the same time that Jesus tells us what we should NOT FEAR, He also tells us that we SHOULD BE AFRAID; as He says (v.28): “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” All of us have our fears, but DO WE HAVE “THE RIGHT KIND OF FEAR?”
These verses from Mathew 10, were first directed to the 12 apostles, whom Jesus was about to send out. They were to go to their fellow Jews with the message: “The Kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 10:7) Jesus warned them that they would face rejection and persecution because not everyone would accept their message, for this was a message of Law and Gospel – like John the Baptizer, before them, the need was for repentance – turning away from sin and turning toward God. THE WORLD DOES NOT TREAT FAVORABLY THOSE WHO SPEAK OUT AGAINST SIN and POINT PEOPLE TO THEIR NEED FOR A SAVIOR. Therefore, the fear of what other people might think, say or do; of being rejected or called “a fool” (or much worse) can certainly keep us from openly witnessing by word and deed to our faith in Jesus.
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the U.S. in the early 1920’s, had the nickname, “Silent Cal.” One time when he was asked by a reporter about a recent meeting President Coolidge replied, “I have nothing to say – and don’t quote me!”
How many “silent Christians” do we have in the Church today? -Those who because of fear of ridicule by others; fear of saying the wrong thing; fear of feeling foolish or being “left out” are silent and may even try to keep their faith “hidden”? What a contrast to what Jesus says: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” (v.26-27)
This is a strong LAW message, but one that needs to be emphasized, especially in our day and age. The “epidemic of sin” and willful DISREGARD for God’s will is not only rampant in the world today, but also very much within the Christian Church!
We live in a society which is actively promoting lifestyles that are contrary to God’s will for His people: life issues, marriage and family issues, the idolatry of greed is promoted by lotteries, casinos and advertisements of all kinds! When those in authority and our elected officials are caught in a public scandal of sin, we let the majority opinion decide the consequences rather than God’s will and His Law (which at one time was clearly spelled out for us in our Constitution). As a result, we have lost respect for the offices our elected officials fill, as well as a loss of respect for any authority!
We are living in an ungodly time, like that of the Judges in the Old Testament, where God’s Word says: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6; 21:25) IS THERE NO LONGER ANY FEAR OF GOD’S WRATH AND PUNISHMENT?
In our Small Catechism, we confess: God threatens to punish all those who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all those who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.
God’s Law, as stated in the 10 Commandments and fear of God’s wrath, is a poor motivator. FEAR OF PUNISHMENT alone is NOT a good motivator! We know for a fact that “the best advertisement is a satisfied customer;” someone who has used and really benefited from the product!
This is why, after the Law message that Jesus says: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (v.28) Jesus calls “the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” as “our Father.” Jesus promises with the Gospel message: “Are not 2 sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows!” (v.29-31) Yes, you and I are WORTH the life and death of God’s one and only Son, Jesus!
You see, “The Right Kind of Fear”/ The FEAR of God’s wrath over our sins is ALWAYS meant to point us to Jesus, our one and only Savior. Jesus already suffered the FULL WRATH of God – all the horrors of Hell itself / separation from God – ONCE AND FOR ALL – when He suffered and died on the cross. (That is why the cross is such an important symbol for all of us.)
No one can take this great salvation away from us; but we can forfeit this great gift, we can “ignore such a great salvation” (Heb.2:3). Therefore, know for certain that “the right kind of fear” is through a living, active, growing relationship with Jesus.
Thanks be to God, that again today He provides His Word and Sacraments to strengthen us and help us to grow! And strengthened in this way, we are changed: from fearing others to “the right kind of fear” – love, respect and wanting to serve and obey God.
God’s blessings in your daily Bible reading and devotions, and see you this next weekend in worship as God gives to us “the right kind of fear!”
- Pastor Myers