Godly Fear (Luke 8.22-39)
Who then is this…? (25)
To most of us, the idea of being fearful of Jesus is quite foreign. The Church in our day has placed so much emphasis on the accessibility of Jesus, presenting him almost solely as our personal friend and brother, that fear, or even awe of him is all but lost. These two narratives provide an important corrective.
In the first, the disciples’ initial fear is generated by the storm. They fear for their lives. But that fear is then trumped by their fear of being in the presence of one who commands even winds and water, and they obey him. Jesus chides them not for their fear of him, but for their lack of faith in him.
We too might be surprised by this lack of faith, given that they had recently seen him raise someone from the dead. In the Old Testament scriptures, however, both Elijah and Elisha raised boys from the dead (1 Kgs 7.17ff.; 2 Kgs 4.32ff.). But commanding the elements was God’s domain alone (Ps 107.23-30; Jonah 1), and something new in a man. The disciples’ fear derived from an overwhelming sense of the presence and power of God Almighty. Jesus isn’t just their personal saviour, he is the Lord of the universe.
The fear in the second narrative is the response of the Gerasenes (34-37) to Jesus’ exorcism of the demoniac. This was surely another very disappointing response from Jesus’ perspective. Here was a man who was clearly in great torment, marginalised from society and living like a wild animal amongst the dead, a danger to himself and others. No one else had been able to even restrain him, let alone help him; but Jesus heals him completely.
Why do they not marvel and rejoice? It surely isn’t simply because of the loss of the pigs. That would prompt anger rather than fear. No, they have witnessed a spiritual battle and theirs is a spiritual fear. Here is a man whom even the demons recognise as having absolute authority over them. The Gerasenes, it seemed, preferred the familiarity of a world under the rule of Satan to the inauguration of Jesus’ kingdom. They preferred darkness to light (see John 3.19). What a challenge Jesus issues the man in v.39!
In what ways does your relationship with Jesus reflect a godly fear of him?
Almighty God, I bow down before you and worship you, for you are the creator and ruler of all. May I, like the healed demoniac, gladly proclaim how much you have done for me. I ask it in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Saviour. Amen
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo contributed by Sweet Publishing