What are you afraid of? Has anyone ever asked you that question? Perhaps it was asked sarcastically, meaning, “You shouldn’t be afraid of this!” – whatever “this” happened to be. Or, more sincerely asked, it could have been an opportunity to share your fears. We all have them. I’ll share one of mine.
At the top of my list would be heights. When I was much, much younger I would scale the bluffs near my childhood home without so much as a rope or harness to keep me safe. I never thought about what would happen if I lost my grip, because I trusted my young and healthy body to do its job! But, as I grew older I realized that it would hurt really badly if I fell from a significant height and hit the ground! I believe the first time I realized it was when I went repelling with my older brother. He was an avid repeller, climber, spelunker, scuba diver, and participated in just about any other “extreme sport,” as they’re referred to today. He may have been the first adrenaline junky I ever knew. We were at a cliff of about 1,000 feet in height (actually more like 75, but it seemed like 1,000), and it was my turn to repel down. I’d never done it.
So, I put on the harness and leaned out over the edge giving my weight fully to the rope. I froze. There was absolutely no way in all of God’s green earth, that I was going to move one step down the face of that cliff! I was coaxed, cajoled, proded, encouraged, teased, and all but kicked over the edge, but I was NOT moving! Even if my body had wanted to, my mind wouldn’t let me. There was no way I was going to trust my then young life to a teeny, tiny little rope made of a few strands of thread, to support my 175 pounds! That was the end of my repelling.
The next time I felt a fear of heights I was at another cliff, and we were jumping the bluffs at Greers Ferry Lake. I’d never had a problem with that. I’d done it practically my whole life. Like everyone else, I’d started on the lower cliffs when I was a child, and worked my way up to the largest cliffs by the time I was in my teens. The king of all cliffs was “Campsite I,” so named because it happened to be at Campsite I (creative name, wasn’t it). It was between 80 and 90 feet high, depending on the depth of the water at any given time.
Now, to appreciate the feat of jumping Campsite I, you have to know what was necessary to accomplish it. You had to run down a wooded path to the cliff’s edge and jump out as far as you could, to clear a tree that grew out about six feet horizontally from the face of the cliff, about five feet below your stone exit ramp at the edge of the cliff. I’d done it dozens of times with my buddies. It was a right of passage in my teens to be able to say you’d jumped Campsite I.
But, the last time I jumped it, something went wrong. I learned that water can hurt you really, really badly! I landed with one leg slightly bent and when I hit the water I immediately felt the most excruciating jolt of pain shoot through my body that I’d ever known. As I floated back to the surface I couldn’t move my legs. At first, I panicked! I thought I was paralyzed. But, then I realized that couldn’t be possible, because I could feel the pain in my lower body. Suffice it to say that 31 years later, as I write this, I’m sitting with a heating pad against my lower back.
My fear of heights is a legitimate fear based on the experiences I’ve had in life.
Do you have any legitimate fears? Probably, so. I would imagine we share, or have shared, at least one legitimate fear: death. It’s human nature to fear death. It’s final. Lights out. Party over. No more chances. You’re done. For that reason, and because we have so little control over the time, circumstance, and nature of our death, in the natural realm we all fear death.
If you say you don’t fear death, then what prompts you to jump back on the curb when you hear a vehicle approaching that you didn’t realize was there? Or, why do you take your medications exactly as prescribed, rather than just swallowing a whole bottle in hope that it will improve your condition? Or, why do you hold a shotgun with the stock against your shoulder, rather than the barrel against your shoulder? It’s simple: you fear death – and so do I.
Right now, we’re hearing a great deal about death. Every night on the news we’re being told how many people have died each day due to Covid-19. It’s really, really sad! It breaks my heart to know that so many loved ones are being left behind. Parents are losing their children. Children are losing their parents. Brothers are losing their sisters. Sisters are losing their brothers. Friends are being mourned. Wives are left alone. Death stinks! It separates. It isolates. It controls. It creates emotional and spiritual pain. It is a rotten reality that we’re all becoming more keenly aware of at this very moment in time.
But, there is a legitimate sense in which we don’t have to fear death. It is possible to say, “I’m no longer afraid of the fact that one day I will die.” How is that possible? By virtue of the fact that someone, just like us, died for us, and in so doing destroyed the power of the one who keeps us in bondage to the fear of death.
Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says:
“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death” (Heb.2:14,15).
So far, in Hebrews we’ve talked about Jesus’ divinity. He was, without doubt, divine; the one and only fully divine Son of God. That’s been our focus in chapter one and up until verse 10 of chapter two. But, it’s just as critical that we understand his humanity! He was fully human. He had bones, internal organs, skin, hair, blemishes on his face, warts on his hands (when he was a teenager), and he got an upset stomach when he ate the wrong things. When he hit his finger with a hammer it hurt, and when he missed his mark with his saw, he bled. He suffered to the point that he died, just like us. But, better than that, he died for us. That’s the difference. Because he was both fully divine and fully human, he had the power to overcome death and in so doing destroy the one power that Satan has had over mankind ever since mankind willingly chose to disobey God.
How we have access to this freedom from the power and fear of death is another topic, and one we will discuss in depth in Hebrews. But for now, just understand that there is One who is powerful enough that he was able to overcome the thing we fear the most, and in so doing freed us from that fear.
I don’t like being afraid of heights, but I can live with it. In fact, I’d say my fear of heights has kept me alive at times. However, I can’t live with a fear of death. It stifles my joy and robs me of hope. I’m certain you know those feelings, too. It’s the one fear I’m certain we have in common. But, we don’t have to be afraid if we have Jesus Christ. He’s destroyed the work of the devil and in so doing destroyed the one thing we feared the most. Praise God! Praise Jesus Christ, our Lord!