Jump Start # 2043
Luke 12:4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 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 background of our verse today is very interesting. The chapter begins with Luke telling us that so many thousands had gathered that they were stepping on one another. That’s hard to imagine. Jesus uses the occasion to deliver a series of warnings.
The first warning was about the leaven or influence of the Pharisees. The second warning is our passage today. The final warning is about denying God, and blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Our thoughts surround this second warning.
There are four observations that we make in this passage:
First, Jesus calls the disciples “My friends.” We remember Abraham being called God’s friend. God has friends. The disciples were some of them. Friends help each other. Friends tell each other about dangers. Sometimes, as preachers, we forget that the people in the pews are our friends. That ought to set the tone for what we say. That ought to put fire and love in our hearts as well as in our voices. In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, when it came time to receive their pay, those that worked all day thought that they would receive more than what had been agreed to. The master’s reply was, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” Friend. When you are asked to name your friends, do you ever include the Lord in that list?
Jesus calls His followers “friends.” Do we treat Jesus like a friend? Do we seek to be with Him? Do we talk to Him? Do we do things that disappoints or hurts Him? Do we act like we are His friend? “What a friend we have in Jesus,” is a great old hymn. Friends love, support, defend and are there for each other. Jesus has held up His side of things. Have we held up our side?
Second, fear is a paralyzing emotion. Do not be afraid of the one who can kill the body. Who would kill our body? Evil people. The nightly news reminds us that the world has bad people in it. Some would kill just to steal what you have. Some, as we have witnessed in recent mass shootings, would kill for no other reason than just to shoot innocent people. They are evil, sick and wrong. The thinking of some is that if we took away all the guns then people would get along. They would be nice. No. There are evil people in the world. Why are they evil? They are sick mentally. They have lived without God. They have no reverence for life. They think only of self. They come from broken homes. They have never been disciplined, trained, taught nor made accountable for their thinking or actions. They have filled their heart with hate. They thrive on violence. They have surrounded themselves with worthless people. The reasons why people are evil are numerous. Simply passing out more pills or taking away guns are only band-aides to a deeper, spiritual problem.
It’s hard not to be afraid when someone wants to harm you. Fear causes panic. No one wants to be the victim of senseless killing. This passage is showing who we really ought to fear.
Third, the most that an evil person can do is kill the body. That’s huge. That’s the end of life. Yet, in the eyes of an eternal God, death isn’t the end. Death isn’t the worse thing that can happen to us. Death is simply leaving this room and moving into the next room. Nothing really changes, we’ve just switched rooms. We certainly do not see death the way God does. For those families in Florida, whose child was shot to death, their world has now changed forever. They may never recover from this. To tell a parent who lost a child, “it’s not so bad,” it is. This is not the way things are supposed to be. A child is supposed to grow up and eventually bury the parent, not the other way around. The child who goes to school is supposed to come home from school that same day.
The expression, “no more that they can do,” limits the extent of harm that can be done. It can only be done here. It can’t touch us in the next room. It can’t take away our eternity. It can’t invade our soul. The body stops, but not the soul. The body is going to stop someday. That’s the result of sin in the world. Man is limited in the harm that he can do. Don’t fear that, is what Jesus is saying. The body is killed, but the soul remains.
Fourth, the one we ought to fear is God. God can not only kill the body but He can crush the soul. There are multiple examples in the Bible of God killing the body. When Uzzah touched the ark of the covenant, he was struck dead. When Ananias and Sapphira lied, they were struck dead. The plagues, the closing of the Red Sea, the flood, Goliath, pages and pages of people who were struck dead by God. But this isn’t the worst.
The worst comes when God sends someone to Hell. Nothing is worse than that. Separation from God forever. No mercy. No hope. No future. No comfort. The rich man tasted that when he was in torment in Hades. His pleas for help were not answered. No water was brought to him. No word was sent back to his brothers. Every request was refused. His life didn’t end at death. His misery had no end in sight.
Jesus is telling the disciples to fear God. Fear God is in contrast to fearing the one who can kill the body and do no more. This is not respect as Solomon used that word. He said, “Fear God and keep the commandments.” We do that. But the fear Jesus is using comes from understanding who God is and what He can do. This fear will lead us to obeying Him. This fear will keep us from challenging Him. This fear will stop any desire to change what He has said. The contemporary world has driven the fear of God out of our theology. God’s our buddy. God’s on our side. God likes us no matter what. Yet, Hebrews says, “It’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Terrifying. Hebrews also says that God is a “consuming fire.”
Maybe if we had some good ole’ fear of God in us, we’d be more cautious with our words and our ways. Maybe we’d be more evangelistic with our friends and family. Maybe we’d stop playing church and become more engaged and more serious with what we are doing.
I will warn you whom to fear. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t be afraid of anyone.” No, there is one that we need to fear. He has the position, the power and the right to send us to Hell. The wrath of God is something that is rarely preached these days. We’ve not mentioned Hell in sermons in a long time. We can leave the impression that everyone is going to Heaven, no matter what you do and no matter what you believe.
God’s mercy and God’s justice. Grace and judgment. Love and fear. Trust and obey. Those are not choices on a menu that we pick out. They go together. One doesn’t cancel out the other. God loves, but God is just. God has mercy but God will judge. Our attitude, our choices, our relationship with Him has much to do with all of this. Believe Him or be condemned by Him. Follow Him or be cast away from Him. Seek Him or be alone without Him. These are not decided by God, but by us. He wants us to want Him. He wants us to be saved. He wants us to trust Him. But, He won’t force us. He won’t make us. He’ll allow us to be fools if we want. He will allow us to be evil if we want. He will allow us to be lost if we want. We can be what we want, but there is a cost. There are consequences.
I will warn you whom to fear…serious words for a world that has not thought seriously about God.