Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. (Philippians 1:18-21 NRS)
Some people make it look easy! World-class athletes, musicians, dancers, and vocalists make their very demanding crafts seem effortless and their performances are full of beauty, power, and grace. While we know that what they do requires arduous practice and countless hours of work, we marvel at the magnificent ease of their final presentation.
However, some things are too big and too hard for everybody. Far from handling them well, no one can handle these kinds of things at all. These things make up our primal fears — fears rooted so deeply in our human psyche that we instinctually fear them at one level or another. We can label these four primal fears as deep, demons, disease, and death. Each of these is too big for any of us. Down in our souls, we know that anyone who has an answer to these four terrors is not like anyone we know.
Yet as the Gospel of Mark tells the story of Jesus, the Holy Spirit blatantly challenges us to open our eyes to Jesus. (Mark 4:35-5:43) In staccato fashion, Jesus demonstrates that he not only has an answer to each of these primal fears, he also has absolute authority over them. He calms deadly storms on the sea. He easily conquers uncontrollable and undefeatable demons. His touch delivers from diseases no physician can cure. He tenderly plunders death's pain and steals away grief's grip by robbing the grave of its goal.
In just a few verses, the Spirit gives us four stories of Jesus' compassion and power. We are also blessed with two significant truths for our own lives.
First, we know that Jesus can handle what we most fear. More than just knowing about his victorious power, we also realize that he will join us as we go through the horrors of facing these fearsome foes. He is not a distant power, but one who comes to the middle of our storms. He stands in the face of evil's power and orders demons out of our lives. He places God's healing within our reach. Most of all, he enters our rooms of mourning and orders away our grief while bringing back the joy of life.
Second, we know that in those times when it appears his power has not been available for us, he has brought deliverance despite all appearances. How so? He, the powerful one, allowed himself to be crucified! And why? To show that some deliverance is not FROM what we fear, but THROUGH it.
Jesus chose to enter our world and die like us so that we could always know that he is not absent or immune to our most terrifying fears or bewildering experiences. In the middle of these storms of satanic fury and mortal limitation he comes and leads us to life on the other side of our fears.
Dear friend, when you welcome the "new born King" with songs of glory in this season of joy, please don't forget the other side of his story ... which is also our glory.
Mild he lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Veiled in flesh the God-head see;
Hail the incarnate Deity;
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel!
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel!(Charles Wesley in Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)