Wednesday, April 27
Reader: “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body;”
Response: “they cannot do any more to you after that.”
Scripture: Luke 12:4-12
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.
“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.
“I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels. But anyone who denies me here on earth will be denied before God’s angels. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
“And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”
This pericope comes from the period in Jesus’ growing public ministry where the crowds are now in the thousands even as opposition from the religious leaders increases. Knowing that persecution is coming to his friends, Jesus gives realistic encouragement to his followers. While people can kill your body, they can’t touch your soul. Since God will ultimately judge your soul, it is more important to be concerned about your soul and your relationship to God.
As you know, hell, gehenna, in Greek, was a garbage dump in a ravine on the southwest side of Jerusalem where trash was burned. It had also been a place of infant sacrifices to Baal during one of Judah’s times of pagan worship. (II Chron 28:3; 33:6, Jer 32:35) In this passage, Jesus clearly teaches the coming judgment and the reality of hell. His listeners have a visual image.
In the next short section, by referring to something as insignificant as a sparrow or the hairs of our head, Jesus is making the argument from the lesser to the greater. In other words, if God cares about and keeps track of such things that are so minor as birds and the hairs on your head, how can you doubt how much he values and cares for you? I see the possibility of a little bit of Jesus’ humor here. With a twinkle in his eye, he looks at me and says, “Dan, you are worth more than a whole flock of birds to me! So don’t be afraid of what lies ahead.”
Continuing on in the passage, we dare not underestimate the importance and significance of acknowledging our allegiance to Christ in every situation, private and especially in public in a world antagonistic to Christianity. Affirming our faith in Jesus while on earth assures our Savior will acknowledge us in heaven. This is no time to be silent or timid in regard to faith.
The blaspheming of the Holy Spirit here seems to be a complete denial of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To reject the witness of the Holy Spirit as to the truth of God’s gospel is unforgivable. God cannot accept one who ultimately rejects him.
Finally, Jesus brings further comfort to ease fears for the persecution to come with assuring words. Knowing human anxiety and their penchant for worrying about what to say in a moment of questioning, Jesus assures his followers that the Holy Spirit will teach them what to say. Don’t worry about a defense ahead of time. Trust the Spirit to provide the right words at the very time they are needed. The assurance and encouragement given by Jesus to his followers not only gave them direction for the days ahead, but also for all of us in these days of hostility toward Christians we find throughout the world. Public acknowledgement of our Christian faith is important especially as apostasy increases in the church.
Music: “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” Syliva Burnside Exquisite
Bonus: “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” Mahalia Jackson (filmed years ago. No one better)
Grant, Almighty God, that as we must carry on a warfare in this world, and as it is thy will to try us with many contests,―O grant that we may never faint, however extreme may be the trials which we may have to endure; and as thou hast favored us with so great an honor as to make us the framers and builders of thy spiritual temple, may every one of us present and consecrate ourselves wholly to thee; and inasmuch as each of us has received some peculiar gift, may we strive to employ it in building this temple, so that thou mayest be worshiped among us perpetually; and especially may each of us offer ourselves wholly as a spiritual sacrifice to thee, until we shall at length be renewed in thine image, and be received into a full participation of that glory which has been attained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen. ―John Calvin from Devotions and Prayers of John Calvin, p.85