Don’t be afraid!
At the end of his earthly life, Jesus told his closest disciples: “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:25-27 (NRSV)
The words for “fear” or being afraid are very common in the Bible. Fear is a natural response to anything unusual in our lives, especially that which has the possibility of taking our lives from us. Fear is even the natural response to God as we come into the presence of the One who holds the very power of life–and therefore death.
Yet God’s ultimate purposes are for life and not death. Thus, God comes time and time again in scripture to say, “Don’t be afraid.” “Do not fear!” “Fear not!” And Jesus anticipates the intense fear that will come to the disciples in the last week of his own earthly life. Fear is the expected first response of the disciples. The very person to whom they had staked their lives is suddenly taken from them. The one who represented the presence of the Creator God with them is now nailed to a cross.Death has come to the Son of God, the one who was supposed to be the ultimate Savior. This was simply the most fearful scenario imaginable!
Yet Jesus anticipates their fear and leaves his peace with the disciples–and with us. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” And how can he say this? It is simply because his presence is still with them–and with us. The Holy Spirit comes into our lives as the one who stands beside us, the Comforter, the Advocate. God’s purposes are still the same–for life! The proof is in the resurrection after three days!
So even in the midst of a global pandemic, Jesus offers these words, summarized and put to music by John Bell:
Don’t be afraid. My love is stronger than your fear.
And I have promised to be always near.