2008-12-11 - Fear and Good News
Luke 2:10-11 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (NASB)
Consider the shepherds standing in their fields that night of nights so long ago. There is no indication of anything out of the ordinary until the sky is suddenly filled with the glory of the Lord at the arrival on an angel. That sight alone would be staggering enough. Then the angel speaks. The first words he has to say to the shepherds is not to be afraid.
Go back about nine months earlier when an angel appears to Mary. After the angel greets Mary with a nearly regal salutation, the next thing the angel must say to Mary is, "Do not be afraid Mary; for you have found favor with God." (Luke 1:30 NASB) I can not say that an angel has ever appeared in my home, so I can barely begin to imagine the stunned shock that Mary experienced.
Six months prior, Zacharias is performing his duties as a priest in the temple. He is chosen by lot to burn incense at the altar of incense. It was only allowed for a priest have the privilege to burn incense once in a lifetime, and an angel appears to Zacharias at this time. We are told that Zacharias was troubled. It is not hard to imagine that he might have feared that the Lord had been offended and Zacharias was about to be struck down. But the news again was good news. The angel must calm Zacharias and tell him not to be afraid.
All of these people experienced something way outside what we would all consider normal. The news in each case was also beyond human expectation. Zacharias was told that he and his wife would have a son in spite of the fact that they were both advanced in years. Mary was told that she would be the one to bear the Messiah. She would be the vessel used by God to fulfill the prophecies that had been awaited so long that some were beginning to doubt it would happen. And the shepherds were told that the Messiah had arrived - that the salvation of Israel was at hand and they were given the privilege of visiting their infant King.
The news in each case was as staggering as the delivery of the news. The greatest news that mankind would ever receive had been delivered. God Himself was about to enter the affairs of men to set the captives free - from the power of sin and death. The scope of the news would not be clear until Jesus would rise from the dead years in the future. To poor Zacharias the news seemed too good to be true and he spoke his doubt to the angel Gabriel who struck him dumb until the birth of his son John. Mary spoke her doubt but it was a question rather than disbelief after which she uttered what is often referred to as the Magnificat in praise to God.
I think if an angel appeared to me that he would very likely have to calm my shock and fear as well. If news on the scale as the items we have discussed here were delivered to me I would hope that my response would be like that of Mary and the shepherds - to rejoice and praise God. But I am so like Zacharias. We are a very educated people overall. Our knowledge doubles in a very short period of time. When something is significantly outside our understanding it is easy to be skeptical. But when Zacharias' tongue was loosed he too spoke praises to God.
So it seems that we move in this flow from fear to praise. I have a feeling that one day when Jesus comes for me, He will have to tell me not to be afraid as I look around at things I can scarcely imagine and at the glory of my Savior. As the realization grows for any of us on that day we arrive home, the response will most likely be fear that shifts to praise and joy and thanksgiving.
Grace & Peace,