The other night we were relaxing in our family room.
Julianna was on the side of the couching lounging on some pillow.
I was on the other side with my feet upon the ottoman, right arm propped and left arm in Doritos’ bag.
Clay was at my feet, belly flat on the ground, looking up for Doritos crumbs.
Frankie was on the dog bed curled up on in a ball.
And our cat, Minnie, on the window ledge inside the window blinds watching.
It was nice.
Suddenly, my cat let out a screech: “MRRRRROOOOOWWWWW!”
She darted down from the ledge, did a lap around the room, and cowered under the table farthest from the window.
I tried to approach her, but her back was arched and she was letting out low toned roars.
For the rest of the night, she stayed there.
Eyes wide open.
Constantly gazing towards the window.
She was afraid.
And that fear took over her night.
I get my cat.
Fear can rule us.
It influences our decision.
It dominates our interactions.
It becomes an authority in our lives.
But not Jesus’ life.
Today we’re going to see that Jesus had plenty of reason to fear but didn’t. His earthly life wasn’t ruled by fear, and our lives don’t need to be either.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. A Scary Situation
This event is written about in Mark 9:14, “When they returned to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and some experts in the law were arguing with them.”
The “they” in this section refers to Jesus and a select few of his disciples – Peter, James, and John. They had gone up the “Mount of Transfiguration.” There they had seen his face shine like the sun as two ascended prophets return to earth for conversation and a divine cloud spoke to them.
They were feeling refreshed from this divine wilderness retreat!
But what about the other disciples?
Not so refreshed.
There was a large crowd around them and some experts in the law were arguing with them.
They were shouting at the disciples.
They were booing at the disciples.
They were shaking their fingers at the disciples.
Whenever the disciples tried to speak, the experts simply got louder.
As soon as all the people in the crowd saw Jesus, they were very excited and ran to greet him. (v.15)
You disciples have made me so very angry, why I oughta…Hey there’s Jesus!
Great to see you Jesus!
How’s it going Jesus?
I can’t believe I get to meet you Jesus.
Can I have your autograph Jesus.
But Jesus wanted some answers.
What were you arguing about?
A man steps forward.
He seems a bit more bothered than everyone else.
Eyes red and puffy…
As if he were crying.
“Teacher, I brought you my son, who has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” (v.17-18)
Just like the pediatrician.
He couldn’t do anything.
Nor the epilepsy specialist.
Nor the pharmacists.
Nor the natural supplement provider.
Nor the Pharisees.
Nor the Saducees.
Nor anyone else I’ve asked for help.
They couldn’t help.
I feel like no one can.
They brought the boy to Jesus. As soon as the spirit saw him, it threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell on the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. (v.20-21)
Jesus asked, “How long has this been happening to him?”
His whole life!
Even as an infant, we had to watch helpless as his little body would begin to convulse.
Sometimes the seizure happens in the worst possible places.
We were on the banks of the Jordan for a picnic and the spirit tried to throw him in the water to drown.
We were having at our neighbor’s campfire when the spirit tried to throw him in the fire to burn.
Jesus, I’m scared.
Scared he’ll always have this demon.
Scared he’ll never be himself.
Scared that I’m a failure as a dad for never figuring this out.
Scared that I’m going to lose him.
Maybe you can help.
If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” (v.22)
At that, Jesus’ ears perked up.
He tilted his head.
His eyebrow did the “perplexed looking” thing.
“All things are possible for the one who believes.” (v.23)
The man began weeping again.
He looked at Jesus and cried out as loudly as the spirit had cried out earlier:
“I do believe. Help me with my unbelief!” (v.24)
Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit. “You mute and deaf spirit,” he said, “I command you to come out of him and never enter him again!” (v.25)
The spirit screamed.
It shook the boy violently.
It came out leaving the boy’s body limp on the ground.
Jesus walked over.
Took the boy’s hand.
And stood him up.
II. The Truths about Fear
This is another powerful account. There is some incredible truth for us about battling fear.
(1) Hostility Often Stems from Fear
Because when Jesus arrives on the scene, what does he find?
Matthew with a dry, erase board writing down the Pharisee’s ideas on how to face this demon?
They are arguing.
I think it has a lot to do with fear.
Everyone’s afraid of the demon.
The Pharisees are afraid…
…that no one asked them to drive out the demon.
…that they wouldn’t have the answer that anyone did.
…that if the disciples can drive it out, they’ll continue to lose followers to this “Jesus group.”
The disciples are also afraid.
…that the Pharisees might be right.
…that they don’t have any idea what they are doing.
…that they never have and never will belong doing God’s Work.
Everybody blames everybody else.
Hostility often stems from fear.
That’s easy to see when there is a big, scary situation.
But what about when the situation is less scary?
I have a lot of socks.
I have so many that I need to fold them, line them up, fold them in half, and then again. Next, I stand them up in the drawer so I can quickly see which all of the novelty characters are on each sock.
My wife was lovingly doing my laundry the other day.
But she folded the socks into a ball.
No big deal, right?
Not to me.
I was argumentative, “How dare you roll these socks into a ball?”
Later, I was thinking about why I was so upset.
Honestly, I think I was afraid.
Afraid that rolled the socks would leave a messy sock drawer?
Afraid that if I can’t keep order in my sock drawer.
How can I keep order in my house?
And if I can’t keep order…
I’m a failure.
I am very afraid of failure.
Failure as a husband.
Failure as a dad.
Failure as a pastor.
Failure as Jesus’ servant.
Hostility often stems from fear.
Are you in an argument?
A fight with your spouse?
A cold shoulder to your friends?
A guy on social media you keep blasting?
What are you afraid of?
Because when we are certain of God’s love for us, disagreements are no big deal.
“No worries. You can disagree. I’m going to heaven. All’s well.”
But when we are afraid…
The FIGHT part of fight or flight takes over.
We get angry.
We try to remove our fear by throwing it on the other person.
But that doesn’t remove fear.
It only adds to it.
Cause now we’re afraid that we’ll be found out as the fear monger that we are.
There’s a better way.
(2) In View of Jesus, Fear SUBSIDES
Look at what happens when as soon as the crowd of scared, hostile people see Jesus: “As soon as all the people in the crowd saw Jesus, they were very excited and ran to see Jesus (v.15)
I think that’s key.
They see Jesus and all their fears subside.
Especially true for the disciples.
Because every other time they’d been afraid, Jesus gave them reason not to be.
When they feared the possessed man in the synagogue? Jesus calmed their fears and drove the demon out.
When they were afraid that Peter’s mother-in-law would die? Jesus calmed their fears and healed her.
When they were afraid that the storm would capsize their boat? Jesus calmed their fears and the storm.
When they were afraid they didn’t have enough food to eat? Jesus filled them with courage and bread.
When they were afraid they would never be a part of God’s kingdom, Jesus told them they were.
In view of Jesus, your fears will subside.
Because he has defeated all the scaries.
He drove out your scary sin.
He defeated your scary guilt.
He disposed of your impending eternal death.
He says that you are HIS.
He says that you belong to HIS kingdom.
He says that you are FORGIVEN.
When approaches with a scary situation, I think the solution is fairly simple.
Grab your Bible.
Read a familiar story.
Meditate on a Scripture.
Fear will subside.
(3) Struggling with Fear Reveals a Struggle with Unbelief
But what about when your fears are deeper?
Like the dad. He was one person in the crowd that for whom Jesus’ appearance didn’t immediately drive away fear.
Because he had seen the disciples fail to help his son.
His whole life he had repeatedly seen people fail to help his son.
And was now struggling to believe anyone could help his son.
It’s why when he asks Jesus’ for help.
He says, “If…”
And reveals a deeper struggle.
Jesus sees it and addresses it, “Nothing is impossible for the one who believes. “
This wouldn’t be scary, if you only trust what I could do.
That is so true, Jesus.
Nothing in life would be scary if we only trusted what Jesus could do.
A Struggle with Fear Reveals a Struggle with Unbelief
This is especially challenging for a full-fledged non-believer.
Because to you there is no greater power that cares for you.
There is no being who loves you so deeply.
There is no reason to not be afraid.
If that’s you, can I tell you something.
You do have a God.
He does love you deeply.
He defeats ALL the scaries.
But even if you’re a believer, you can struggle with unbelief!
It’s exactly what this boy’s dad said, ““Lord I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”
If you repetitively struggle with fear,
Fear of COVID.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of job loss.
Fear of acceptance.
Fear of the rest of your life.
Perhaps the problem isn’t fear.
Perhaps the problem is faith.
(4) Jesus Produces Fear-Battling Faith
To be fair, Jesus doesn’t just yell at the dad.
He didn’t tell the man…
To believe better.
To come back when his faith was “higher”.
That he couldn’t work with such unbelief.
Jesus produced faith.
He drove out the demon.
He healed his son.
I imagine the man’s faith had ever been higher!
Jesus saved his son!
Jesus did the impossible!
Jesus is the Savior!
Jesus doesn’t just command faith; Jesus produced it.
The more you interact with Jesus.
The more Jesus produces faith.
The more that faith fills your heart.
And drives out fear.
This was a terrifying situation for Jesus to walk into.
Jesus isn’t afraid.
He walks right into the scary.
But honestly, it’s not even the scariest thing he faced.
Check out the very next verses of Scripture, “They left that place…and Jesus said to his disciples, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:30-32)
Did you hear that?
Jesus left one scary situation.
And immediately began to march towards an even scarier situation.
Death on the cross.
But he wasn’t afraid.
He was fearless.
He kept marching towards the scary.
And with him,
By his strength.
By his Word…
He’ll help you march through whatever your scary is too, to the eternity he won for you.