In this sermon from John 19:38-42, I explain how Christ’s death on the cross overcomes our fear of man and realigns our priorities toward kingdom service. Here are a few excerpts:
Proverbs 29:25 tells us the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. The fear of man can snare us, can trap us, it will immobilize us, and make us freeze, instead of act. This kind of fear-driven silence is not what we are called to have. We’re called, instead, to be a people that fears the Lord, rather than fears man. We’re called to trust in the Lord and His safety. And we’re called to speak out, even when it might cost us. Christ even spoke about a godly fear that puts our fear of man into perspective. He calls us to have a vision of God that is so clear that it can’t help but wash away the fear of man. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Christ is calling us to focus on God first, and then, having filled our eyes with the truth of who God is and what he’s done, we’ll necessarily be driven to obey him rather than our fearful, sinful temptations.
And how the cross casts out our sinful fear of man:
But the cross not only demonstrates his righteous standard and his holy wrath, the cross also demonstrates the great lengths to which he is willing to go in order to purify his people. He was willing to take on flesh, to give up the majesty of Glory in order to enter into the frailty of humanity, he was willing to suffer the reproach of mankind in our place. He fully feared the Lord in your place, and was willing to endure the punishment for our man-fearing in his body on the cross, all so that we might be freed from our fear of man, all so that we might be liberated from bondage to fear. When we grasp what is going on at the cross, we don’t remain in our fear of terror, we don’t have to keep our fear of man, the kind of fear of punishment that drives us away from the object of our fear. We don’t have to be like Adam hiding in the bushes, fearful that God might actually find us in the nakedness of our sin. Adam was afraid of God because he was afraid of the punishment for sin, which is death.
But when we gaze at the cross, we see that the punishment for sin has been removed. We no longer hear from God the judgement that we have sinned and earned death, but rather we hear the pronouncement of God himself saying “it is finished.” The curse of death for man-fearing has been removed, the condemnation has been taken away, and the sentence has been lifted. When we remember that, we have our fear terror transformed into a godly kind of fear, a fear of reverence, a fear of awe. We stand and gaze at Christ on the cross and have a sense of amazement. Our mouth stands open as we wonder, “why would he do this for me?” Why am I given such a gift? We can say with Charles Wesley:
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?