In the first reading we can see that fear has been part of the human relationship with God from the very start. Way back in Genesis 15:1 God told Abram not to fear when he came and spoke to him about the promise that he was going to fulfill on his behalf. The experience of meeting God in the middle of human life elicits the involuntary emotional response of fear.
Abram is not the only person in scripture who was told not to fear.
God and the angels have repeatedly spoken to the people of God saying do not fear. But fear is real for us. Moses in Exodus 3:6 hid his face from God because of fear. Gabriel's words to Mary when she met him included the instruction do not be afraid.
It's easy to say don't be afraid, but we can't escape it. Fear is real. It is an involuntary biological response to the uncertainty around us. Because fear is a basic part of every human being it is also part of walking in faith. We can deny that we have fears, but the the visceral experience of fear is very real. We all know it. We know fear when an unseen dog barks nearby. Its no different when you see the power of God at work in the world and realize your own limits. It is natural to experience fear.
Proverbs 9:10 KJV says that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” To stand in the awesome presence of God is not an intellectual experience or an ethereal mystical experience it is an experience of a whole being to the God who made us, sustains us, and redeemed us through the cross. The majesty of God is beyond our mind's limits; we fear what surprises us and surely we are in for a lot of surprises as we meet the living God in our world.
Faith in God, the awesome one in whose presence we find comfort, is refuge from all the other powers and principalities. The great theologians behind at Big Idea Productions put these exact thoughts into God is Bigger than the Boogie Man in Veggie Tales first episode.
Faith doesn't remove the things that we are afraid of in this world. Sin, death, and the devil are still part of the creation that we live in daily, but faith, given by the Spirit, gives us confidence that God walks with us through the entire journey.
In Psalm 27:1 a poet declared,
“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold [refuge]of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? NRSV Psalm 27:1.
Jesus, fully human and fully God, would have known the involuntary fears of this world. But fear did not stop him from acting. The Pharisees in Luke 13:31 told Jesus to run because Herod was after him. But Jesus said no.
“tell that fox, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Luke 13:32-33 NRSV
For Jesus fear of what Herod could do to him was not enough to silence him. Fear of the cross was not enough to stop him. The power of faith over fear is clear in his life. Fear doesn't disappear, pain and anguish weren't wiped away, but in the middle of it all Jesus trusted that God's presence was enough to hold him safe through the worst that this world could bring. Sure Fear can grip us in ways that nothing else can; but so can the love of God that holds onto us through all things.