Unpacking the Promise of “Fear Not”
Listen to the promise. You can have peace and good cheer. You can have joy in the midst of tribulation! “Jesus, why have you told us all this?” The disciples have enjoyed a meal, had their feet washed, and have heard a great lesson from the Master Teacher Himself. Why these lessons?
Jesus provides a simple answer. He knows what they will have to endure. He knows what is coming. He can see the persecution and the martyrdom for nearly every person in the room. He simply states, “I’ve told you this so you can have peace, so you can take courage!”
The word translated good cheer (tharseite, θαρσειτε) carries the connotation of “take heart, have confidence, have assurance, be firm and resolute in the face of danger.” It’s a great word! “Gentlemen, I’ve told you all the things you will face. Take courage, however. Here’s why: I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD!”
In this first promise, Jesus promises peace and boldness to those who would follow Him in a hostile world. This boldness doesn’t stem from the fact that we are intelligent or naturally brave. It doesn’t stem from our personality traits. Rather, it is rooted in an action that Jesus has already accomplished: He has overcome / conquered the world.
I don’t mean to be too technical, but it’s definitely worth noting that John records Jesus’ words in the perfect tense. For native English speakers, we typically think of only three tenses: past, present, and future. (We have more, but we don’t normally consciously think about them.)
What does the perfect tense convey that the past tense was deemed insufficient to tell us? Michael Heiser and others define it as,
The tense used…to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present “state of affairs” resulting from the past action.
When Jesus says, “I have overcome the world,” He may be referencing an event that happened in the past, but He is emphasizing the results of that event in the present (not in the future).
Jesus is not saying, “Great news…I conquered this problem in the past.” Rather, Jesus is saying, “Because of what I have accomplished already in the past, you can live right now in this hostile world with peace, confidence, hope, and boldness.” The emphasis is the blessings in the here-and-now that comes from understanding our position in Christ as believers.
Understanding today’s Application
Is “the Christian nation” becoming a hostile place to live out the tenets of Christianity? According to the California Family Council, discussing a recent Barna research poll, argues that this research shows America is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity.
David French, writing for the Wall Street Journal, entitled his article: “Yes, American Religious Liberty is in Peril.” His thesis was that traditional religious values and beliefs are on a collision course with the agenda of a post-Christian, post-religion America.
In October 2020, a Vietnamese Baptist Church was burned to the ground by those who would not tolerate their message. This happened, ironically, in Philadelphia, the “city of brotherly love.”
Consider what happens in “the land of the free” today for those who are believers. Starbucks, on November 27, 2020, fired an employee who refused, on religious grounds, to wear a gay-pride shirt as part of the uniform.
All of us can remember during the Coronavirus lockdowns where protests were allowed and liquor stores were open – but houses of worship were not allowed to assemble. These are but a few of the signs of the time that we are living in a hostile territory.
Yet, be that as it may, the words of Jesus are just as relevant for us. Don’t fear. Live with peace. Have boldness, confidence and assurance. Why? Jesus has already conquered this world’s system, allowing us to live as overcomers as well.
Just joining us on the journey? Follow the links below to see the previous posts. (To minimize the number of links, I’ve only added the first part of each section.)
- INTRODUCTION: Click here
- CHAPTER 1: Click here
- CHAPTER 2: Click here
- Promise 1: Click here