But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “do not fear, only believe.”
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? When Jesus tells the ruler of the synagogue, do not fear, only believe, there is a simplicity to the instruction that is clear and direct. That clarity is attractive. If only we could do that: put aside our fears and believe. There is a fear that is hurtful and a hindrance to our spiritual lives. There is also a fear that builds up our faith and draws us closer to God. Here Jesus wants Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, to put aside or overcome these bad fears.
Some of our fears can be so inhibiting they not only stunt the growth of our faith but stop it. These are the ones Jesus instructs us to not entertain. These fears scare us, and there are many. It only takes one click on the computer to find long lists of fears, or phobias. With one click I found a list of 208 phobias. There’s not much left out there that will not scare us and scare us so much that we can become seemingly paralyzed.
We’ve heard of so many of them. There are the common ones like hydrophobia, the fear of water, or acrophobia, the fear of heights, or claustrophobia, fear of closed-in spaces. I like to learn about the more off beat kinds of fears like triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13, or kakorrhaphiophobia, the fear of failure, or siderodromophobia, the fear of traveling on trains, or – and this fear would not be good to have around the Church of the Advent – iconophobia, the fear of religious works of art. In reading the list, I even became afraid of phobias, and there’s a word for that, it’s phobophobia. We ought not to take these lightly. These fears may seem irrational, but they are real. Fears and fear itself are real and can stop our faith.
There is a fear, though, that is good and enhances and deepens our faith in God. This is the fear that we hear about in the Psalms. Psalm 25:14 – The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and will shew them his covenant. Or Psalm 34:11 – Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Or Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. Or Psalm 135:20 – Bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord. We want that fear; it is the beginning of a faith that is in God. The curious thing is that the same word in Greek, phobos, is used for both types of fear. The fortunate circumstance is in reading the Bible one can easily discern which type of fear the Lord does not want us to have and which one we ought to desire. The fear that makes us wonder and adore God the Father. The one that holds us in awe of his overwhelming presence, of his omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. That’s the fear we want because our faith is cultivated in it.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, this holy fear will work in us. However, there are conditions necessary for its growth. Faith does not grow in us haphazardly. The necessary conditions are a trust in God alone, a striving for complete obedience to him, and a love that begins in God and is dependent on him. Trust, obedience, and dependent love must be present. Then the faith that is in us must be placed in God only through his son, Jesus Christ. Notice that there is a faith already present in Jairus. He knew that this Jesus is the only one who can help his daughter. That faith brought him to Jesus. He went past the Temple. He went through the crowd. He made his way back to the house, even after the report came that his daughter was already dead. Nothing else mattered, but getting to Jesus.
So much is possible by choosing to believe in Jesus as the one who perfectly reveals God the Father to us. God does not stop by simply showing us Jesus his Son. God gives his Son all the authority that he has in heaven and on earth. The two are one in the unity of the Holy Ghost. We have seen over the past two weeks in the proclamations of the Gospel that Jesus has command over all the natural world by calming the wind and the sea. He has authority over all evil spirits that can control us, and has used that spiritual authority to drive the unclean spirits out, as in the witness of driving the evil spirits out of Legion, who was possessed by many of them. Now we know that Jesus can revive us, heal us, and even bring us back from death. This is a foreshadowing of his resurrection that leads to eternal life. This last of the series of healing miracles reveals what God ultimately intends for us. Clearly he intends for us to believe in his Son Jesus as the way to eternal life. That eternal life is the means to the ultimate form of healing.
There is no fear of the crippling and paralyzing kind there. There is only love. The kind of love and praise about which we raise our voices in that hymn, “Love divine, all loves excelling”. We sing at the climax of the lyrics: Lost in wonder, love and praise. That is the fear of the Lord to which our faith will lead us and that will have us dwell in his presence forever.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.