Jesus tells his followers not to be afraid as he prepares them for a time when he will no longer physically be present with them. Not because there isn’t plenty for them to be afraid of. After all, look what happens to Jesus. He will be arrested, tried, whipped, and crucified. The powers of that time could do a lot to make people suffer. Jesus knows this. Instead, it seems that Jesus is concerned with the kind of people into which fear could turn his followers.
When we are afraid we become suspicious of others, sometimes even paranoid. When we are afraid we look for other people to blame for our fear, and too often we hate, revile, and demonize those whom we blame. Jesus doesn’t want his followers to fall into that trap. He knows that the only antidote for fear is love.
In this passage, Jesus ups the ante, as he often does with his followers. Not only does he tell those whom he loves not to be afraid. He instructs them not to let their hearts be troubled by the circumstances that might otherwise prod them into that fearful place. Jesus replaces fear and a troubled heart with a sense of trust in the God of love and in himself as he has revealed that loving God to them. Jesus knows that fear stems from deep distrust and that the troubled heart leads us to do things we would never do otherwise.
Trusting in God allows us to begin to trust in others, which is a step toward loving others as Jesus loves us. Jesus offers us an escape from slavery to freedom—freedom from fear and a troubled heart and from the kind of destructive behavior fear cultivates.
Trustworthy God, help us to leave our fear and troubled hearts behind as we learn to trust in you. Amen.
In preparing for Pentecost, we focus again on the work of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 recounts the famous story in which the disciples are miraculously able to speak in other languages in order to preach to the crowds in Jerusalem. The psalmist states that God creates and renews creation through the Spirit. According to Paul, if we are led by God’s Spirit, the Spirit confirms that we are children of God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises to send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who will teach us how to love him and to keep his commandments. In some branches of Christianity, fear of excess causes hesitation about the Holy Spirit; however, we must never forget that the Spirit is central to God’s redeeming work.
Read Acts 2:1-21. The miracle of Pentecost is not only in the multitude of languages but also in the act of listening. How can you experience worship in many languages or offer deep listening this Pentecost?
Read Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. How do you witness God’s experience woven through all of creation?
Read Romans 8:14-17. The author reminds us that spirit also means breath. When have you felt led by the breath of God?
Read John 14:8-17, 25-27. How has fear kept you from trusting God?
Respond by posting a prayer.