Two responses to fear

I found it interesting recently in my reading through the book of Mark 5 the reaction of fear that appears on two different occasions.

The first occurs at the beginning of Mark 5, when Jesus crosses the sea into the country of the Gerasenes. He immediately encounters a demon-possessed man whose condition seems hopeless – no one could control him, and his condition bothered him night and day. But Jesus steps in, removes the demons from the man, and sends them into a herd of pigs that rush down into the sea and drown.

It’s here that we see the first reaction of fear. The people of that region, after a report from the local herdsmen, come to see what has happened, and once they perceive the right-minded, previously demon-possessed man, they react in what seems to be an unusual way.

“They were afraid” (v. 15).

Even more interesting is what this fear drove them to do. Verse 17 records that “they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.”

They reacted to Jesus’ presence and miracle in fear. And that fear drove them to desire to be far from Jesus.

Now, in contrast, only a few verses later, we see another kind of fear when Jesus encounters a sick woman who draws near to him in a crowd. Although crowds are pressing around him, Jesus perceives that power has gone out from him and questions as to who touched him. Verse 33 reads, “But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear in trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.”

Now this woman does have some cultural reasons to fear, since her condition rendered her ceremonially “unclean,” and thus meant she shouldn’t touch anyone else and likewise make them unclean, which would have likely happened even as she forced her way through the crowd to get to Jesus.

Although this may have been part of her reason for fear, we see how this woman’s fear leads to something else. Rather than hide away in the crowd and pretend like nothing happened, and allow her fear to distance her from Jesus, her fear instead draws her to Jesus.

Check out her posture: she “fell down before him and told him the whole truth.”

This is not a fear that separates her from Jesus. It’s a deep awe and reverence at the presence and power of a God who can heal her.

This fear leads to greater faith, and shows a deeper confidence in and sincere gratitude towards Jesus.

So, how can I learn from this in my day to day living? Although I may not be dealing with demon possession or a chronic disease, there are often moments in my life when I am challenged to fear something. And the truth is – encountering Jesus and his work can be a bit scary when we begin to see his power and majesty and sovereign control in our lives. Our tendency can be to fear his sovereign power and want to withdraw and instead hold onto our own thoughts of control, living our self-reliant lives in the way that makes us feel like we are doing something rather than depending on someone.

But, how much sweeter it is to follow the woman’s example here. We can understand that fear will come, even in the process of trusting Jesus and striving to have more faith in him. That can be scary! It can be challenging to relinquish the facade of control in our lives and to go against the expectations of the world, risk persecution and place ourselves in the hands of a sovereign, Creator God.

But my goodness…as followers of Jesus, there’s no better place to be! Let’s look at Jesus’ response to the woman.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Daughter. Jesus gives this previously outcast woman a place in his family.

Healing. The greek word used here suggests that the woman is both physically and spiritually healed. She not only experiences freedom from her ailment, but salvation from her sin.

What better gifts could there be? When we experience fear through our faith in Jesus, may it cause us to press closer and nearer to him! There we shall find identity as children of God, and healing from our sin diseases.

Two kinds of fear. One that distances us from God and one that draws us closer to him through faith.

Which will we choose?

About a year ago, one of our pastors wrote a blog post about the most popular commandment in scripture, which also has to do with the theme of fear. I highly encourage you to read it and be encouraged about what scripture has to say to us regarding our fear. Check it out here.

2 Replies to “Two responses to fear”

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