Jump Start # 2598
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 they can do.”
“Aren’t you afraid,” that was asked of me recently. The country is starting to open up. People are returning to stores, restaurants and houses of worship. Some are going boldly. Some are skeptical. Some are tired of staying home, and some are afraid to leave their home. Mixed emotions. Mixed feelings. Mixed messages found on Facebook and even from the experts.
Years ago, in religious debates about baptism, the question was raised, “What if someone was on the way to the creek to get baptized and a tree branch fell and killed him. Would he be saved?” And around and around the debaters would go on that topic. Later, the same argument shifted to the church building. What would happen if a ceiling tile fell and killed a guy on the way to being baptized on a Sunday morning? But you know what was missing in those arguments? Any proof. In all the church history, restoration documents, old periodicals and old books that I have read for decades, I have NEVER, NEVER read of someone being killed who was trying to obey God. I’ve even seen in India, when I was there, people being baptized in rivers. There would be a man upstream and a man downstream, hitting the river water with boards. They did this to keep the alligators away. Never heard of a man getting eaten by a croc while trying to be baptized. There were reports of people being killed in the same river doing laundry or bathing. But not being baptized.
What was missing from these debates was a trust and faith in God. The God-factor was left out. It seems to me if God is running the universe, like we say He is, then God will protect a man who is trying to obey Him in faith.
Now, in our verse, Jesus tells us four principles.
First, He calls us “friends.” That word means relationship. That word involves feelings, love and comfort. Not everyone is our friend. We have business contacts. We have people we know. And, then there are our friends. We have a hymn that begins, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Friends do things for each other. Friends help each other. We are more than followers of Jesus. We are more than disciples of Jesus. We are the friends of Jesus. This puts us in the same place as Abraham, God’s friend. Putting this in our world today, if the Lord had a cell phone, your picture and number would be listed. If He was on Facebook, you would be one of His friends. The Lord likes you.
Second, do not be afraid. Fear not, that expression is found more than 300 times in the Bible. Fear and trust do not dwell together well. The more we fear, the less we trust. The more we trust, the less we fear. There are many things that can scare us, including this coronavirus. In the context, Jesus reveals the ultimate scare. Do not fear those who kill the body. That seems easy to say. That’s about the worst thing that could happen. He’s not talking about an accident or, a medical procedure that didn’t work. He’s talking about murder. In religious settings it’s called persecution. Those that would kill have eyes full of hatred and anger. They did when they killed Jesus. They did when they killed Stephen.
How scary to be surrounded by a group that is shouting angrily at you. Threats, insults, accusations, hatred, prejudice, foul language fills the air. Their faces show that they mean business. They don’t want to talk, discuss nor debate. They want you dead. They are beyond reason. They are not thinking about the consequences, getting caught or the trouble that may follow. It’s all about the moment. They want you dead because you are one of “them.” You are a follower of Jesus. They hold sharp rocks in their hands. Their eyes are set on you. And, here, our Lord says, “Do not be afraid.” In the second and third centuries, this story would be played out in the Roman Coliseum. There, professional soldiers would kill innocent, unarmed Christians. There is one story about a young Christian woman who was brought to be executed. The Roman soldier was nervous about killing a woman. She guided his hand with the sword to her throat. She feared not.
Third, Jesus says that they will kill the body. They will be successful in their hatred and violence. God is not sending ten thousand angels to rescue you. You may die. God is not promising to put a shelter over you. How great that would make us feel if the Lord said, “do not fear, they cannot hurt you.” No, death is real. Death is final. Death can happen. And, here is where faith comes in. For the believer, death is only a passage way, a door. It’s not the end. It’s not the worst thing that can happen. It frees us from this world and this body to be with the Lord. Believers know that. Believers don’t fear death. This is hard for us. Jesus is telling us do not be afraid. Yet, we give ourselves a pass on this command. We think it’s ok to be afraid, because someone is trying to kill us. Jesus says, “Don’t.” Don’t be afraid, even if you die.
Fourth, after death, they, the killers, can do no more. They have freed you from the physical bonds of this life. You will be safe in the arms of Jesus. The following verse tells us who to fear. It is the One who can send the soul to hell. That’s God. God can do things beyond death. I think sometimes we are just too earth bound. That citizenship in Heaven thing is more of an idea than a reality. We don’t fit in here. We long to be with God.
So, when someone asks, “Aren’t you afraid?” My answer is “No.” I believe God will help those who are trying to obey Him. And, if for some reason we die, isn’t that where we want to be anyway? Now, we can be careful and make adjustments, but fear shouldn’t enter into this. We walk by faith.
Don’t be afraid. Trust God. He is good.