When you grow up to be an adult, it is easy to forget how frightening life
can be at times as a child. For a start there is the question of scale;
try and imagine how big a large dog is to a three-year-old or what a
mountain a staircase must seem.
As we get a little older we get to be a little braver, but many children are
afraid of school bullies and phobias become more prevalent as we get to adulthood. We are all frightened of something, however brave we might appear, and the greatest fear of all is death. Spike Milligan famously said,
“I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens,”,
and when he died in 2002, he had the Gaelic inscription: “Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite” (“I told you I was ill”) inscribed on his tombstone.
When “Crimewatch” used to be on television we were always reassured by the presenter that such violent incidents are rare and we should not be afraid, but I know people who had nightmares after watching. Although fear is a very natural emotion which helps to protect us, fear can ruin our lives and stop us from being the people that God wants us to be. Frankin D. Roosevelt in his Inaugural Address as President of the U.S.A. in 1933 said, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Life today is racked with fear of people and religions we do not understand, or the economic uncertainties of the future; if we are not careful we can get ourselves into a really nervous state.
Some of you may have had near death experiences and sometimes life can get very frightening. My motorcycling days as a young man brought about a couple of occasions which still bring me out in a cold sweat when I recall them, and then there was the time that I got trapped inside a humidity chamber at work (50ºC and 100% humidity) which was literally a big hot sweat.
However, the thing that perhaps frightened me most was suffering a severe atrial fibrillation episode 10 years ago when my heart went into overdrive and it would not go back to normal. After nearly 24 hours in hospital they told me that they were going to do Cardioversion, which meant absolutely nothing to me. It transpired that they stick a large metal plate to your back and one on your chest before administering large electric shocks – luckily they give a general anaesthetic prior to the procedure. I woke up about an hour later with Sue at my side, and an hour or so after that I was able to go home. Isn't science marvellous, I wonder who worked out how to do that for the first time. I then went for a heart scan a couple of weeks later and was amazed to see my heart throbbing away on a large TV screen, which also was a bit scary, but contrary to what some people might say it proved I had one.
Today we have the fear of Covid 19, a virus that we cannot see and have no idea who might pass it on to us. As a country we do not seem to be doing to well in defeating it, and the world we live in with with so much travel between countries and within our country makes containment almost impossible. Messages from our Government also seem to change every day and working out what you can or can't do is a minefield. Being frightened is part of being careful and we all need to be doing that at the moment. Wearing face masks, washing our hands, being careful to socially distance and of course isolating ourselves if we feel ill should now be habitual, as well as remembering to get ourselves tested as soon as possible.
Was Jesus frightened? I suspect that he was very frightened as he neared Jerusalem for the last time. He would have been very aware of the cruelty and pain inflicted on those who were crucified and the vindictive nature of the Scribes and Pharisees who could not accept his messiahship.
The Passion was as terrifying as anyone could imagine, and his disciples deserted him as he had predicted, but although frightened of what was happening, Jesus did not let fear control him.
What overcame fear was total love of humankind and the knowledge that his Heavenly Father was with him through all his suffering.
When Jesus was dying one of the criminals crucified next to him taunted him, but the other said he was a sinner and deserved to die. He then came out with that incredible statement which sometimes makes me cry, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”, and Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise”. (Luke 23, v 42&43)
For Christians fear of death is finally vanquished by the resurrection of our Lord. Paradise awaits us if we hold to our faith and live a Christian life as best we can. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12 v32).