“Why are you frightened?” (Luke 24:38)
We all experience fear. It’s part of life. Fear of public speaking. Fear of loss. Fear of pain. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of death. Fear comes in many forms, and in many degrees.
Sometimes fear is good and helpful. Fear of injury might actually save me from injuring myself. Fear of punishment (or seeing those blue lights in the rear vision mirror) might motivate me to observe the law more carefully. Good fear.
But we all know that fear can debilitate us, too. Our frontal lobe moves into auto-pilot. We struggle to act rationally. Our hearts beat out of our chest. Our throats constrict. And the “fight or flight” instinct takes over. Those are not our finest moments.
So, in Luke 24:38, what fear does Jesus have in mind? “Why are you frightened?” he asks.
The answer might surprise us somewhat. In these closing verses of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus (following the resurrection) returns to the disciples in Jerusalem. The disciples are clearly shocked to see Him. He shows up unexpectedly and stands in their midst, and the Bible says “they were startled and frightened.” Who wouldn’t be?
And then we encounter the Jesus Question. “Why are you frightened?”
In 1 John 4:18 we read that “perfect loves casts out fear.” Not all fear, as some people recite the text, because some fear and certain fear is indeed good. John is writing about the fear of God’s judgment. If we have experienced His love, we don’t need to fear His judgment.
But the Bible also exhorts us to “fear the Lord.” In Proverbs, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Good fear. Reverential fear. It’s a touch of the “siren and blue lights in the rear vision mirror fear” that directs us into obedience.
“Why are you frightened?”
Perhaps on this Lenten Wednesday (four weeks into Lent already) we might hear the question a little differently: What are you frightened about?
Are we carrying unnecessary fears? He who holds our future also holds our hand. The One who has secured our souls for eternity, walks with us in this moment. His peace can guard our hearts and minds even in the face of the natural fears that sweep over us, if we look to Him today for that peace.
Conversely, are we not carrying certain fears that we should, particularly “the fear of the Lord”? Have we so minimized the Father, domesticated the Son, and ignored the Holy Spirit that we feel less than awed by God?
Perhaps today we have some fears to release to Him, and a fear of Him to embrace. It changes everything.