Fear of Jesus – Luke 8:22-39

Most people would have absolutely no fear of Jesus.

  • There are some who deny he even existed, but they’re just lazy – there’s abundant evidence that he was real.
  • Most people accept that there was a man called Jesus of Nazareth and that he probably did some good stuff.

But still, that’s a long, long way from actually fearing him. And anyway, you might think, isn’t he supposed to be gentle and lowly – what is there to fear?

In our reading we find three instances where those who actually met and spent time with Jesus were terribly afraid of him. We’ll look at those three instances, and then I’ll tell you why you should have a fear of Jesus too. The good news is that no-one need fear him. We’ll come to that.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church Wirral in January 2023. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

The apostles were afraid because they didn’t know Jesus is God

Read Luke 8:22-23.

The early part of Jesus’ ministry in Luke’s gospel is entirely in the north, around the lake of Galilee.

  • Very roughly, the lake is just a bit smaller than Wirral.
  • They’re kind of travelling from Moreton to Bromborough, about 10 miles across the lake.
  • Some of them are seasoned fishermen so they know the lake and they know what they’re doing.

They’d have been through plenty of rough waters there before. But not like this. This time, they feared for their lives. But that fear would switch pretty quickly from the sea to Jesus.

Read Luke 8:24. What does it mean that he “rebuked” the wind and the waves?

  • The sea is always a symbol of chaos and death.
  • It’s far from the ordered peace of God’s creation.
  • In rebuking the wind and raging waves, Jesus is calling his creation back into order.
  • In chapter 4, Jesus rebuked a demon and a disease: He calls his creation back into order by command.
  • He can do that because he commanded it into existence.

So read Luke 8:25.

  • Jesus rebuked the disciples too.
  • They lacked faith in God – his Messiah isn’t going die in a boat.
  • They lacked faith in Jesus – even after the miracles they’d already seen.
  • They only saw the storm. We’ve all done that.

Fearful and amazed

But now they’ve seen what Jesus can do they’re “fearful and amazed.”

And that’s because they haven’t yet realised that Jesus is God.

  • Psalm 107:28-29 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
  • Or Jonah 1:15-16  Then they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea stopped its raging. The men were seized by great fear of the LORD.

The apostles asked, “Who then is this?” The answer should be obvious. But then they land and meet a demon-possessed man.

The demons were afraid because they did know Jesus is God

Read Luke 8:26-27.

That poor man. We can’t imagine his torment. The demons within him had made him something less than human. But we soon realise how scared the demons are of Jesus.

Read Luke 8:28. They could torment that man all day long, but now they are filled with terror themselves – at Jesus.

Why are they so afraid of Jesus?  Because he is Son of God Most High and therefore has complete authority over them. They cannot resist his will.

Read Luke 8:29-31.

  • Literally, v31 is “they begged him so that he would not command them to depart to the abyss”
  • What’s the abyss? We read of it in Revelation as a place of torment and judgement for the wicked. Hell.
  • And the demons know that if Jesus issues a command to them to go to the abyss – as he did to the wind and the waves – they would not be able to resist.

They know he’s God, and they’re terrified of his judgment.

“I believe in God”

How many times have you heard people say they “believe in God” but they don’t do anything about it. 

  • They just carry on, hoping God will somehow be favourable to them, even though they show him no honour and spurn his love shown in Christ.
  • The demons don’t “believe” in God – they know he’s real and they’re terrified of his holy judgment.
  • If you really “believed” in God but had never confessed sin before him, you should be terrified of his holy judgment too. Even the demons can teach you.

So the apostles were afraid of Jesus because they hadn’t realised he’s God. Demons are afraid of Jesus because they know he is. “Who then is this?” the disciples asked.

  • Jesus is the Son of God who commands all creation into existence and sustains it by his will – all things seen and unseen by us.

But there were even more people with a fear of Jesus:

The townsfolk were afraid of the cost of following Jesus

Read Luke 8:32-37. Mark’s gospel tells us there were about 2,000 pigs.

You might think that sounds a bit cruel.

  • To a Jewish mind, they were unclean pigs. No loss.
  • If they’d been rats, or snakes, or spiders, you might not worry so much about them.
  • And most of us eat enough meat not to take any kind of moral high ground.

In any case, the important thing for us is the reaction of the townsfolk.

  • They’d known the man before. They’d even chained him up and seen him break the chains with supernatural strength.
  • And now they see him: Free, not chained. Dressed, not naked. In his right mind, not like an animal.
  • “And they were afraid.”
  • They asked Jesus to leave the area “because they were gripped by a great fear.”

What might they have done?

  • Rejoice with the restored man? Throw a feast?
  • Draw closer to this miracle-worker from Nazareth and see what else he can do?

But no. They want him gone. Like when someone has done you a great damage and you just want them gone. Jesus has cost them 2,000 pigs. And yet he’s obviously done a miracle to this man.

In normal circumstances they might ask for restitution, to cover their losses. But they’re scared of him. Worse (to them), if they get involved with this Jesus, who knows what it might cost in the future? They prefer their normal lives, not one with Jesus in it.

You might like just enough Jesus to keep you ticking over, but not so much it causes you to have to change, or lose something.

You don’t want to say it out loud, but he’s not worth it to you.

And you’re afraid of following him, just as they were. But:

Maybe you should be afraid too

Here’s the thing, when you think about the reasons everyone in our reading was afraid of Jesus, those reasons apply to you too. Jesus died and rose again from death, and is now ascended in heaven awaiting a day when he will return and judge everyone who ever lived.

  • His death and resurrection is a statement of God’s love to you.
  • You’re a sinful person (we all are).
  • Your sin deserves God’s wrath; you deserve hell.
  • You don’t deserve heaven or blessing or life.
  • We often don’t realise the full strength of these things simply because we don’t see how sinful we really are – we’re quick to fault others, but slow to own up ourselves.

When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t deserve it.

He willingly chose to do it specifically to be punished in your place.

  • The risen Jesus today calls you to repent of your sin, and ask for forgiveness.
  • God can and will forgive you – and justice is still served because the Son of God has been punished instead of you

But what if you’re never come to him, turning from sin and asking for forgiveness?

Time to fear

Then be afraid of him. Fear Jesus. For the reasons we’ve seen:

  • Fear Jesus because he is Son of God Most High, able to command the wind and waves to calm and demons to hell – and he will command you to hell one day.
  • You should also fear Jesus if you prefer your love for the things of this world rather than the love of God for you. Because look what he did when the people of that area rejected him: “So getting into the boat, he returned.” (v37)

How many times must you hear that God loves you before you will respond? Are you the kind of person who wants your “good life” now and maybe plan to turn to Jesus later on in life?

He walked away from them, and you may well find he’ll walk from you too.

  • “Seek the Lord while he may be found.”

But in all the events in Luke 8, there was one person other than Jesus who wasn’t afraid. Which is good news:

You can have nothing to fear from Jesus

Read Luke 8:35 again. There was not an ounce of fear in that man. All he wanted to do was be with Jesus, not away from him.

Read Luke 8:38-39. Why wouldn’t Jesus let him come?

  • Maybe because he was a Gentile.
  • Quite possibly it was simply to spread the good news on that side of the lake.

But whatever the reason, wherever that man went he would be telling of what Jesus had done for him.

Which is what Jesus can do for you too: Deliverance, restoration, peace.

  • You come to Jesus in all your pain and uncertainty, all your sin and rebellion, and cry out for forgiveness.
  • He will forgive you. 
  • Instead of being your Judge, he becomes your advocate, brother, Lord and saviour.

Some of you will be going through storms.

  • Not wind and waves, but things external to you that knock you around and threaten to overwhelm you.
  • With a single command, Jesus has the power to resolve those storms.
  • Often though, it is sufficient to know that he will be with you in the storm, and he will bring you safely through to land.

For others here, the storms aren’t “out there” but within you.

  • Doubts and fears about the future.
  • Struggles with temptations, sin and guilt.
  • Anxieties for others.
  • Sometimes these storms are actually the result of our idolatry, filling our lives with things – the storm comes when our idols are at risk.
  • Other times your internal storms may be caused by your own pride, or your unwillingness to forgive; your hard heart
  • Jesus cast a legion of demons from one man that day, and he can free and restore you too.
  • May Christ dwell richly in your heart.

Secure for the future

In casting out those demons, and in their fear of the abyss, we’re reminded of a day when Jesus will dismiss all evil away from his new perfect creation.

If you’re a Christian, you have a down payment from Christ already: The Holy Spirit is his seal, his confirmation both to you and to him that you are his.

All of which means peace for the future and peace now. And you will find no greater peace than that man found that day: Simply to rest at Jesus’ feet.

But if you still have some lingering worry or fear that maybe Jesus might love others but not you, notice one last thing about Jesus’ day:

  • He crossed the sea of Galilee through a storm.
  • He healed that one man of his demon possession.
  • And then he returned back across the sea.
  • He gave up his day to go for that one man.

Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came to seek and to save the lost.

He came to find you, to save you. Without him, you have only fear and loss ahead.

With him, you have nothing to fear in this world or the next.