He was a young man on the edge. He knew in his heart, his mind, his will he needed to take the next step. A step either glorious or tragic. Yet he was unable to move, paralyzed with fear. Absolutely frozen in place. His whole body shaking. Tears streaming down his face. Turmoil raging within him. It was a rite of passage. Others had done it. He must do it. But no rationale, no counting to 3, no sibling rivalry or encouragement loosed the grip of fear. The gravity of fear was an irresistible force. The heights were dizzying and the depths unfathomable.
And nothing below would hold him up once he had jumped. Nothing would keep him from sinking into the abyss. Nothing that is except the grasp of his father. His father’s presence, strength, and assurance was the only thing that made sense. And ultimately the thing to which he leapt. “‘You can do it. I am here. I will catch you. I will not let you sink. Look at me. Jump to me.”
Everyone swimmer knows this fear. It is a childish but powerful fear. Few actually learn to swim by being thrown in. Most of us can swim because there was someone there to catch us. Someone we trusted more than we feared the depths. Who loosed the grip of fear that paralyzed us? What fear paralyzes you? Keeps you stuck in place, unable to step out, to move forward?
The Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” When we were young it was the fear of jumping into the pool, or perhaps what waited noiselessly under our beds at night. Then we grew up. We put away childish fears. But new ones took their place.
Fear of change, and of not changing. Fear of not being accepted, or not measuring up. Of not being recognized or valued. Fear of financial uncertainty. Fear of losing our edge, our abilities, our independence. The fear of fading away unremembered. Fear of not being known, loved, cared for? Fear of prolonged sickness, suffering, and yes, death. And the fear that everything in the world that we believe secure will become insecure – our world turned upside down.
What fear paralyzes you? Keeps you stuck in place, unable to step out, to move forward in following Christ? The imperative “Fear Not!” is common in scripture. But how can we obey it? After all fear is a response to circumstances we cannot control. Our finitude creates anxiety. We are not in control. We never were. But what God commands, He provides. The remedy for fear is faith in the one who is in control.
Jesus’ disciples were fearful men. They feared Pharisees. They feared insignificance. They feared service. Peter feared servant girls and “men from James.” Thomas feared false hope. They all feared the raging sea. And sometimes they feared Jesus. Yet God gave them a faith that turned the world upside down. Their persecutors observed that “being with Jesus” made them bold.
As Jesus prepared to return to the Father, He prepared his followers to face fears and carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Leaving the Temple on the Tuesday before his crucifixion, Jesus declares “their house desolate.” The temple was the most secure thing in their world. Its destruction would be like the end of the world. Like men of Jeremiah’s day, the men of Jesus’ day believed the Temple inviolable. It was a wonder of the ancient world. Tacitus wrote that it was “immensely opulent.” Its stones weighted up to a hundred tons. It was a marvel of engineering. Yet Jesus declares, “not one stone will be left on another.”
The Jewish leaders, the crowd, and the disciples were astonished. Such was inconceivable. And in turn asked him to explain. “When will these things be? What signs will we see?” And so, in Luke 21:5-19, Jesus responds. But he does not answer what they asked, but what they should have asked. Questions we should ask? Not when? Or what? But how? How can the gospel advance in the face of such opposition? How can we live by faith and not fear?
This passage, so filled with catastrophe, is actually one of assurance and victory. Join us as we examine Luke 21:5-19 and consider how God equips us to advance the gospel through tremendous assurance.
We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. You can also join us on Facebook Live @RiverCityARP or on YouTube.