Sir, We Would See Jesus: In the Presence of Fear

Sir, We Would See Jesus

AUDIO: Sir, We Would See Jesus – In The Presence of Fear

“In The Presence of Fear” February 17, 2013

Scripture: John 12:20-26. Matthew 8:23-27

The title of the series of Lenten sermons which we are beginning this morning is taken from an incident recorded in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel according to John, wherein it is told, “There were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast; The same came therefore to Phillip which was of Galilee, and desired him, saying, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Phillip came and told Andrew: and again Andrew and Phillip tell Jesus.”

On the back of the pulpit in a certain church (the side seen by the pastor rather than by the congregation) these words were placed:

“Sir,  We Would See Jesus.”

The greatest knowledge that a man can have in this world, is the knowledge that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died upon the cross to redeem mankind. The coming of Christ, should be just as much the center and turning point of our lives, as it is the center and turning point of the world’s history.

Though Christ’s death on the cross, was sufficient to bring a way of salvation to mankind, yet there are many other features of His life and death, which bring to individual men and women, and boys and girls, knowledge and ability to live their lives in the here and now, as well as knowledge of, and ability to enter into eternity.

In this series of sermons in this Lenten Season, we, like the Greeks of old, will seek to see Jesus as He lived. To hear the words which He spoke. To observe His everyday life, and perhaps to find within a better understanding of how we ought to live, and greater ability in finding satisfaction and achievement, in living our own lives in this day and age.

We will deal with emotions and situations which are common to all of us, and which were faced by Jesus either in His own life or in the lives of others. We will seek to see Him as He stands in the presence of fear…in the presence of temptation…in the presence of evil…in the presence of crisis…and in the presence of death….. and in the end we shall see Him go from the victorious welcome of Palm Sunday, to the seeming defeat of the cross on Good Friday; and then emerging from that seeming defeat with that eternal victory which has overcome the world.

They are New Testament words. John’s gospel tells us, that certain Greeks happened to be in Jerusalem during the High Holy Days Observance of the Jews. A man named Phillip, had been pointed out to them, as a follower of a new religious leader….one Jesus of Nazareth.

They went to Phillip and said to him, “Sir, We Would See Jesus.” It is an ancient plea, and countless voices have echoed it across the ages….and…. uttered or unexpressed….it still mirrors the thought…the hope…the dream…the soul hunger of multitudes today…“Sir, We Would See Jesus.”

The sermons from this pulpit in this Lenten season, will seek to help us see Him….to note the way He lived…to hear the words He spoke…to observe the fashion in which He reacted in situations, not dissimilar to our own.

In His own life, or in the lives of others, Jesus faces emotions and conditions common to us all.

Let us see Him then…in the presence of fear of temptation…of evil…of crisis…of death.

Let us see Him as He goes from the victorious entry of Palm Sunday to the seeming defeat on Good Friday.

Let us see Him as He emerges, from the defeat of Calvary, to that victory which has forever changed the world, and reshaped the destinies of people of all nations.

I.

Let us see Jesus today….in the presence of fear.

Can there be anyone among us who has not experienced the emotion of fear? There are sudden and passing fears. Someone says “My heart sank.” Another relates, “I broke out in a cold sweat.” Another admits, “I was just plain scared.”

Or in the observation of others we say: “He was shaking like a leaf”, “She fainted from fear”, or of a child “He was more frightened than he was hurt.” But there are other fears which may be characterized as permanent and controlling; Basil King pointed out “Everyone is living or working in fear.

The parents are afraid for their children, the store owner is afraid for their business, the clerk is afraid for their job, the field worker is afraid of their boss. Some people live in fear that their past will catch up with them; other people are desperately afraid of what the future may bring. There is fear of pain…fear of suffering…fear of death.

Holding on to these fears, allowing these fears to continue their possession of us, we find penalties are exacted.

The parents afraid for their child, they accompany the child to school day after day….not only through kindergarten but first grade, and second grade, and third and so on and so on; thereby they breed dependence of their child on themselves. Thereby they inhibit the development of self reliance by their child.

The store owner, who is afraid their business will fail, does not launch out with faith and conviction in a new sales campaign, in a program of expansion. So, the business stagnates and fails.

The clerk finding dishonesty in practice around them, is afraid to speak up and themselves become entangled in fraud and corruption.

Our fears indeed exact their penalties. We do not act when we ought to act. we take the wrong action rather than the right. We are controlled by our fears.

Nowhere is there a better illustration of how our lives are controlled by fear than in the results of our present day fear of Terrorists.

We see terrorists all around us. We watch for “terrorist’s rings.” We become afraid of more and more people….our fellow neighbors, our legislators, our judges, our teachers, our racial groups, our social groups, etc.

In our fear of terrorists, we are all tempted to put our country ahead of God.

Let us not too proudly proclaim that we are not a valley of fear. For observe multitudes amongst us, who have been galvanized into frantic activity against people and institutions, and professions with whom for years, not to say decades or a generation, with whom they have had friendship, and indeed a loving fellowship.

When we consider how deeply embedded in our lives this emotion of fear is, it’s evident Jesus had no fear. He was the one man, who was truly fearless.

Note first: He was not afraid of the furies of nature. I have been. I remember occasions in flying through storms in China when the plane has pitched and tossed; I remember being in Typhoon conditions on  a cruise ship when the ship rolled to such a degree that it seemed impossible that it would right itself again when indeed, the waves were 50 feet deep. I have been afraid. I have known the blessed relief that comes, when the wheels of the plane touch the ground in that resounding skid….when the ship gently finds its way into the dock.

The Sea of Galilee can be as treacherous as the currents of the air and deeps of the pacific.

Storms come up rapidly on the Galilean lake….and without warning.

On the occasion of which we heard in the gospel Jesus has been preaching, teaching, healing, comforting. He suggests to His disciples that they go to the other side of the lake . They procure a small boat. They set sail on this beautiful day. Jesus is tired. He lays His head on the helmsman’s pillow. He is soon fast asleep. But then there are a few dark clouds, a freshening of the breeze. Before they have time even to think of putting into some cove for shelter, the storm is upon them.

The wind blows fiercely. The waves mount higher and higher.

They begin to bail wildly, but the water seems constantly to gain.

They begin to be afraid!

It strikes the landsmen first. Men like Matthew who has been in a boat only a couple of times in his life; the carpenters and laborers among them who are accustomed only to terra firma. Finally even the fishermen, who have been out in all kinds of storms are caught up by the contamination of fear. Through it all, Jesus sleeps. Finally a disciple arouses Jesus, saying: Save us, Lord, we are perishing.”

Jesus is not a sailor but a carpenter.

Perhaps he has never steered a boat in his life, but He stands up with such a look of peace and confidence on His face, that the others begin to wonder why they were afraid. Quietly, Jesus turns to the storm…. “Peace, be still.” And there is an amazing calm. He turns to the disciples, some cowering in the bottom of the boat, some slowly standing, all of them amazed, and He says:

“Why are you afraid, men of little faith?”

Of this incident on the sea of Galilee Dr, John Sutherland Bonnell had this to say: “When He said to his disciples “How is it that you have no faith?”

He was expressing His disappointment in them because they were afraid, because they allowed themselves to be stampeded by fear. Jesus meant that if they had possessed sure faith in God, they would not have been afraid of the threat of physical death. They would have been sustained by the assurance that even though their bodies had found a resting place on the bottom of the lake of Galilee, their souls would have been secure in the keeping of God. It is altogether likely, too, that the peril in which they found themselves was due, just as much to the fact that they had become paralyzed by fear, as it was to the storm that raged outside them.

In Jesus’ own case we cannot fail to observe His utter indifference to the fate of his physical body, because his goal was wholly a spiritual one. He tried to impart this outlook to His disciples when He said to them “Be not afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.”

II.

Note in the second place that Jesus was not afraid of running counter to the customs and traditions of the times and of the people in the age in which he lived.

The cry of our day is “Conform!”

Do what the other fellow is doing. Don’t stick your neck out.

Don’t lay more bricks than your fellow laborers. Don’t work longer hours in the office. Don’t beat your brains out against the evils of the day. Don’t try to be different from anyone else…..remember that if you are different you will be singled out…at the least, as peculiar but perhaps even more…as an attacker on our way of life, as an opponent of the status quo, as a challenger to our way of doing things, even as a traitor to our country.

How many illustrations there are in the new testament of Jesus’ running counter to the way of doing things in His day and generation.

There was a man who had a withered hand…In that day the refinement of the law had been carried to such an extent that it was illegal on the Sabbath to help a man who was ill. The man came to Jesus seeking the Master’s help. There was within Jesus the power to help the man. There was the record of the countless persons to whom Jesus had ministered in love and mercy. Which would prevail…the custom of the day…or the compassion of the Master?

Jesus says to the man “Stretch forth thy hand and He healed it.”

III.

In how many other ways did Jesus demonstrate His fearlessness? He was not afraid of attacking wrong and evil wherever he found it. The temple had been desecrated by use more for money changing than for worship. You know the incident. Jesus enters the temple…He casts out those who are buying and selling. He overthrows the table of the money changers. He upturns the seats of those who sell doves.

And he says to them “It is written, My house shall be called “A House of Prayer,” but you have made it a den of robbers.”

IV.

Equally fearless was He in loving…Not only was he courageous to condemn, but courage personified to show his care for people.

There were tax collectors who were despised by everyone. There were the street walkers and the harlots who were held in utter contempt.

There were the usual released convicts and “reform school graduates”…and all the remainder… Yet Jesus never feared to show His love for them.

He talked with them. He visited in their homes, He ate with them. He became known indeed as “a friend of Publicans and sinners.”

V.

Fearless in the face of the furies of nature, fearless in the face of customs and traditions, fearless in attacking evil, fearless in love and compassion, fearless in regard to His own person. He comes near to that which is to be the end of His life, His love is met by hate, His simplicity by intrigue, His compassion by hardness,

His mercy by bitterness, His teaching is held impractical, His preaching too advanced, He sees multitudes dwindle, His home town turns against Him, His own family laughs at Him, His disciples desert Him, One of His closest friends betrays Him, with a mob howling for his crucifixion, He stands before them without fear. He faces death, without fear.

And on the cross, when about to die, He says “Father, into thy hands I commit My spirit.”

Fear did not dominate his life….He was faced by situations which would make many of us tremble.

But somehow His faith and courage are so great, that He dominates the situation rather than allowing the situation to dominate Him.

Is there not in this final word upon the cross the secret of His fearlessness “Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.” His trust and His confidence was in God. If He had not had it, His life would have been as so many of ours: We fail, because we are, afraid.

The words which were on His lips perhaps more than any others were these “Fear not.”

He sought to bring people so close to God that they could face life without being stampeded by things that made other people afraid.

Would not many of our fears also depart if our trust in God was great enough?

When Doctor Bonnell returned from a mission to the churches of England during World War II, he told of some of the experiences through which he, along with the people of London, had gone through during the Nazi blitz. He told the story of a young Lieutenant of a bomb squad. One of the types of bombs used by the Nazis was a very large affair, approximately 9 feet in length. It was allowed to fall from a plane by means of parachute. When it came to earth, it landed with comparative gentleness rather than with great force.

It did not sink into the ground. It therefore caused more damage upon buildings and people in the vicinity.

After a night of air raids in a certain section of the city, the people emerged from their shelters to find suspended from a fire escape one of these bombs, its parachute caught in the iron railing, the bomb swaying gently to and fro in the morning breeze.

The area was immediately evacuated… the demolition squad was called for. The officer in charge sent his men to a place of safety. Carefully he proceeded up the fire escape there to seek to remove the fuse from the bomb. It was a touchy thing to do.

Some of these bombs had false fuses in them so, that when the false outer fuse was removed, an inner one would be set off and the bomb would explode.

Carefully yet quickly the Lieutenant worked. He removed the fuses. The bomb was rendered harmless. The men of the squad were called. They took the bomb away and disposed of it.

There was occasion to question the young officer: This is one of the things that was asked him….”Weren’t you afraid when you were doing that?” Weren’t you nervous and worried?”

His reply indicated that nervousness and worry in this task, causing any undue motion of the hands, might well mean death for him and his comrades. He said, “ No, I am not nervous or worried. When I go out to such situations as this, I remember the words of a Psalm my mother taught me, ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me’.”

This was the confidence that belonged to Jesus. This was the knowledge, and the power which enabled Him to face life without fear.

Allow me one more parallel….To me one of the most moving scenes in Robert Sherwood’s play “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” follows the death of Ann Rutledge. Lincoln moves to the cabin of friends with whom he has been staying. He is devastated by grief.

He sits on  a chair in the cabin. He remembers Ann, and this is what he says about her…”When I took hold of her hand and held it, all fear, all doubt…passed out of me, and I believed in God……” The secret of courage, the password to fearlessness, is placing your hand, placing your life, in the hand of God.

This is why the poet has had him say “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh, be not dismayed for I am Thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand. When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless and sanctify thee thy deepest distress. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to his foes…That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

We have seen Jesus in the presence of fear. How goes it with us.

Amen.

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