By Tyson Thorne

October 11, 2016

The Samarian Ministry at Various Cities (9.51-18.34), 12.1-12

When in college an instructor of mine informed me of a lie she was about to tell her superiors. She had let some important communications slip through the cracks for some time and she wanted to lay the blame at my feet. The lie was an attempt to keep her job. I warned her not to, that her best hope lay in telling the truth. “The truth always comes out,” I said. She proceeded with the lie. As I’d warned, the truth would not remain silent. She did not return to teach the next semester.

Luke tells us that following the explosive encounter with the Pharisees and teachers of the law that the crowd that came to hear Jesus was so large some were trampled (not severely or Luke would have made more of it, I think). As the people pressed in to hear Jesus he took the disciples aside to issue them a warning, one very similar to my warning to the college professor. “Beware of hypocrisy,” he said. “Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed.” Timeless words of wisdom.

Jesus then turned to the multitudes and began to teach. At first glance it appears his lesson is about fear, but it is really about authority. One of Jesus’ chief topics of concern for humanity is recognizing proper authority, and he says some surprising things on this occasion regarding the topic. “Do not fear those who kill the body,” he says, yet I do not know one person who does not fear for their life at one time or another. The fear may be a result of old age, a health concern, new responsibilities in one’s life (like being married or having children), or possibly being witness to violent actions, but at some point everyone comes face-to-face with their own mortality. Yet when we come to a life threatening situation, particularly from someone who wants to take your life, Jesus says, “do not fear”. How is this possible?

We can avoid fear by recognizing proper authority. It is a truly awful situation we find ourselves in. We were not designed to die, and yet because of our sin our bodies are destined to do so. We live in a world where there are many things and many people with the ability to kill our body.

When we properly understand that death is not the end we can set aside our fears.

We can bravely face any threat to our physical bodies when we understand that simple truth. To die in the flesh is to be present with the Lord, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5.1-10.

Fear does have a place in our lives, however. Rather than fearing anything in this world, we ought to fear God who has the authority to determine where we spend eternity. This determination, this judgment, is not based on insufficient evidence or on anger or prejudice, instead God cares so very much about every person that he knows everything about us – even the number of hairs on our head (which for some of us has a diminishing rate of return). He knows us completely because he loves us completely. We should not try to take his love for granted, however, which Jesus spells out in the next few verses (verses eight through 10).

How does God discern who is worthy of eternal life and who is not? I can tell you this, it isn’t like the TV show “The Good Place”. There is no complicated algorithm that assigns values to every good and evil deed that one does and compares it to minimum score for a heavenly destination. No, it comes down to a single choice, to recognize the authority of Jesus in one’s life or to reject that authority in favor one’s own. If you seel God’s Kingdom by accepting the authority of the King, then no one – even those with the power to kill the body – can strike fear in your heart. Your faith in Jesus protects you from such fear and enables you to stand on Judgment Day.

Jesus provides an example that nearly every one of the 12 disciples will face later in life. “When they bring you before the [authorities of this world]” we do not need to be concerned about making our defense before them, so long as we are right with God. The Holy Spirit will give us our defense not only on that day, but on the day we stand before our King.

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