If you like to talk to tomatoes. If a squash can make you smile. If you like to waltz with potatoes up and down the produce aisle, then you need to talk to my son. He knows just what you need.
Charlie loves Veggie Tales, a series of videos made for children. Each video has various talking fruits and vegetables (done with computer animation) telling stories and teaching moral lessons based on the Bible. It is a very well done series of videos, and Jen and I enjoy them just as much if not more than Charlie does. Although, after seeing a blueberry cry on screen for 12 mornings in a row, I find it a little more difficult to appreciate the lesson being taught.
I bring this up because the first Veggie Tales episode ever touched on a very sensitive topic for little kids. The title of the video is Where Is God When I’m Scared? and the point of the show is made through a little song sung by a cucumber, a tomato, an asparagus, and a celery.
God is bigger than the boogeyman. He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV. Oh, God is bigger than the boogeyman and He’s watching out for you and me…
The point is that little kids don’t need to be scared of the secret monsters in their closets because “God is the biggest” and He cares for them.
Many of us are adults now, and many of us have grown out of the monster-in-the-closet thing. At the same time, many of us have grown out of believing that vegetables and fruits can actually talk. However, many of us have also grown out of believing that God is truly in charge. Many of us still fear quite a lot of things-maybe not monsters, but unemployment, bankruptcy, shame, anonymity, loneliness, and death, and in many ways, the last one, death, is the root of the others.
We often fear change because whenever something new arrives, something old needs to leave, and that leaving is a kind of death. We fear humiliation and embarrassment because in those situations, a portion of our pride is cut away and dies. Someone once told me that all human conflict comes from an underlying sense of anxiety over some kind of loss, and loss is another kind of death.
Preparing for Good Friday and Easter, we generally do a lot of thinking about death. From Ash Wednesday which traditionally is a time for people to consider their own mortality until Good Friday when we fully encounter the mortality of the Son of God, death is a big theme. In fact, death was a big theme for Jesus. Remember how he told his followers that to follow him they were supposed to take up a cross (the symbol of death)?
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Our current series of messages is about following Jesus to the cross, and here’s the question I want us to meditate on for just a bit: Preparing for his death, was Jesus afraid?
Consider Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He’s out there in the middle of the night. It’s dark. It’s cold. His best friends are not too far away, and his three best friends are even closer, but they are all sleeping. He can’t sleep, though, and he’s amazed that his friends are finding it so easy to sleep during this time.
Nevertheless, he’s here to pray, and he turns to it in earnest. Kneeling down, he pours out his heart to the Father in an intense plea, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” His anguish is so great that tiny vessels in his skin break under the stress, and he begins to sweat blood. This is a real medical condition that has only been observed in cases of extreme stress, and Luke tells us about it so we have a glimpse of Jesus’ anxiety. Jesus knows what is coming, and he wishes with all his heart that he could avoid it. What was he afraid of? Death?
Just think, much of our fear of death is because it is an unknown. None of us can possibly know what death is like because none of us has experienced it and none who have are able to tell us about it. But consider Jesus. He was the agent of Creation! He is the one who designed the process of life and death. Being God, he knows completely what happens when a person dies. He has even had the privilege of talking with people in heaven after they have been through death.
Jesus also knows that he will be raised from death. So, could he really be afraid of dying? I don’t think so. It doesn’t fit with his character. He himself told his disciples not to fear those who can kill the body but to fear the One who has the authority to judge the soul after death. I don’t think Jesus was afraid of death.
Was Jesus afraid of the pain he would face? After all, many of us are more afraid of pain than anything else. However, Jesus never speaks of pain as ever being an issue. The word pain is not even found in Luke and in fact, the only time Jesus mentions pain is in the context of childbirth where temporary pain leads to joy! (Jn 16:21).
What about fear of humiliation? Being hung on a cross was a humiliating experience to say the least. However, I don’t think Jesus was afraid of humiliation. Jesus’ whole ministry was about walking into humiliation. Remember, he was equal with God but became a foot-washing servant! No, I don’t think Jesus was worried about enduring humiliation.
So what was Jesus afraid of?
I’m going out on a limb with this, but I believe Jesus was afraid of the one thing that, throughout all eternity, the Triune God had never experienced-sin. We know that on the cross, the Father placed all the sin of the world upon the Son and punished the sin by punishing it in His Son. But that means that there was a moment in the history of eternity when God experienced sin and when the perfect fellowship between the Father and the Son was somehow broken. You can hear it in Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
By its very nature, sin results in separation from God. So when Jesus paid the penalty for sin, he had to experience a momentary separation from the Father. You and I know that separation all too well because we were born distant from God. We’ve grown used to feeling that God is distant. However, Jesus hadn’t ever known it before.
Of all the things in the world that Jesus had to fear, his main fear, I believe, was what you and I consider to be the natural way of things-separation from the Father. He was in anguish over the thought that it could happen for even a moment.
This is my point, Jesus was afraid of sin and its consequences more than death or pain or humiliation or anything else. Jesus would rather die than spend a single moment out of fellowship with the Father. He would rather die than know the effects of sin for an instant.
What about us? We spend so much time avoiding death, humiliation, pain, etc. that we often enter easily into sin. As just one example, we would rather have a broken relationship with God than have Him point out a painful character flaw. I think we’ve got this fear thing all backwards. We fear all these things and easily get separated from God. Jesus feared only separation from the Father, and as a result he could face all these other things with confidence.
Following Jesus, we need to realize there is really only one thing to ever fear–a broken relationship with God caused by sin.
What are you afraid of?