Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 17 2020 - Luke 8:22-39 – Fear and faith

Fear features in both of the stories we have read this morning. In the first we read of Jesus and his disciples crossing Lake Galilee in a boat. Jesus is asleep when a fierce storm blows up and threatens to swamp the boat. No doubt the disciples were afraid for they woke Jesus saying, "Master, Master, we’re going to drown!" (Luke 8:24). But it is only after Jesus has rebuked the wind and the waves and all is calm around them that we read of their fear. Jesus asks them, "Where is your faith?" By way of response we read, "In fear and amazement they asked one another, 'Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.'" (8:25). They are filled with fear and amazement. They have seen something wonderful, something quite beyond their comprehension, and they tremble in the presence of one who can command the storm. But theirs is a wondering fear that draws them on rather than drives them back.

In the second story we read of a man possessed by many demons. He lived among the tombs outside the town and was unable to be constrained even by chains. He was wild, strong and naked. He must have been a fearful sight. Jesus cast out the demons, but permitted them to go into a herd of pigs that was feeding nearby. The pigs rushed over a cliff into the sea and were drowned. When the townspeople came to see what all the fuss was about they were amazed to see the wild man, clothed and in his right mind, calmly sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to him. The narrative continues, "Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear" (8:27). Here also were a people who had witnessed something wonderful that Jesus had done and they too were filled with fear. But their fear made them want to be rid of Jesus. They would rather be left with the familiarity of their troubled world than live with one who could transform the storm and create peace.

Living with Jesus is not a comfortable experience. He is liable to disturb our world for he has come to heal, transform and subdue. He brings peace – the storm is stilled and the troubled mind restored – but he also unsettles. He calls disciples to leave the familiar routine of their lives and to follow him. He will rob us of satisfaction with the way things are for he has given us a glimpse of how they could be and shall be. And he has shown us that he alone has the power to make things new for he is the resurrection and the life. Jesus robs us of the quiet of the graveyard and the inactivity of death. 

Those who proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord in the first century were viewed as a threat to the Pax Romanum – the peace established by Caesar and maintained by the Roman Empire. In many parts of the world today Christians are viewed as an unwelcome and unsettling presence in societies that want to live without regard to the claims and power of Jesus. And so we face the temptation to privatise and internalise our faith so that it cannot disturb others. But that is to deny its very nature; Jesus cannot but disturb. He has disturbed our lives with his transforming presence and he intends to disturb the lives of others through us.

It is a fearful thing to be in the presence of the living God and to know his power at work. The question for us is whether that will be a fearful wonder that draws us on, or a fear that will make us want to be rid of him at all costs.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your transforming power that has disturbed my life. Continue your holy disturbance in me and make me a gracious disturber of the peace of death that by your power all things may be made new.

Peter Misselbrook