A Righteous Fear
In Mark 9:30-31, we have the record of Jesus traveling throughout Galilee in secret. It seems that he was "unwilling for anyone to know about it," perhaps because he was spending some extra time with His disciples. He was teaching them about His coming suffering, death, and resurrection. Verse 32 seems to be a strange fact to be inserted here. When Jesus spoke of the resurrection, they did not understand Him, just as in 9:10. But the text goes on to say that these loving friends and disciples of Jesus "were afraid to ask Him." What were they afraid of? As we read through the pages of scripture we are made to understand that fear was not an uncommon emotion when one was dealing with true spiritual power. After the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 6, verse 11 states that "great fear came upon the whole church." And it was not just upon believers, but "upon all who heard of these things." Jesus never harmed a soul during His ministry, but when He walked out of His tomb on the first day of the week, highly disciplined Roman troops "shook for fear of Him and became like dead men," according to Matt.28:4.
It seems to me that there is a fear which is good for men to experience. The pride, arrogance, and cruelty of soldiers who mocked Jesus and scorned Him melted away at the resurrection of our Lord. They became as humble as little children. I have no doubt that if Jesus had asked anything of those soldiers at that moment, they would have done it, without question.
A good and proper fear can shut men's mouths. No questions, no arguments, if the Lord says it then that's that! A God-fearing appreciation for the church and Christ's holy relationship of ownership to it can cause men to get serious about their own relationship with God and their attitude toward the kingdom. The occasion in Acts 6 also seems to indicate that this sobermindedness is not limited to believers. Even those outside the body can be impressed, whether they choose to obey God or not. That high esteem for spiritual things can later change to obedience according to Acts 6:13-14.
It certainly seems as if a righteous fear of God has its proper place. As we observe men's behavior, both in the body and out, perhaps we are able to understand better the actions of many people. When men malign the church or aspects of it, when they mock its efforts, speak disdainfully of its leaders or pick and find fault with Christ's brethren, they reveal more about themselves than they do about the body. They themselves do not have a proper fear of God in their hearts.
When worshipping the Creator means so little to us that we will not bother ourselves to arrive on time, to stay awake, or to focus on the act of worship being engaged in, can it be said that we truly "fear God?" When we never miss a day of work, but can't make four services in a row, who do we really fear? When we demand good school grades from our children, but never ask them about their Bible lessons, who has our real respect? When men think the mission of the Lord's church can encompass gymnasiums, ball teams, and church kitchens, or that we can worship God any way we please and He will accept it, or that everybody that goes to church somewhere and believes something is going to heaven in their own way, then we are able to understand that the real problem is a lack of righteous fear. We need the reverence and respect and "fear" for God that will make us hush and listen to God's word. We need the "fear" that will make us obedient to what He says without change or addition. We need the "fear" that motivates us to speak well of God's people, or not at all. And we need the "fear" that will motivate us to placing service to God above all else in this life, things that are passing away. Don't be afraid to let righteous fear take its place in your life.
By Carl MacMurray
From Expository Files 4.2; February 1997