Topical Sermon on Passages in Luke
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 10/29/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch:

Please open your Bibles to Luke Chapter 1.

This is another sermon in our read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year sermon series. Actually, I’m fudging just a bit as we start out this morning, because your bulletin said that this week’s reading-range was from Luke 6 through Luke 24. But we’re going to spend a little time in Luke 1 before we go on.

I’ve called this sermon “Fear Switch.” Halloween is sort of like “fear season,” isn’t it? Yesterday I was reading Shelley an opinion article on The writer was a mother, and she talked about how she, and other mothers she has heard from, are deeply concerned about how horrific some of the Halloween decorations are which she seen this year.

The article is called “Something Fake and Wicked This Way Comes,” and it’s written by Hannah King. Here’s the first paragraph (and I’ll give the link when I put the manuscript of this sermon online):

“Last October, my three-year-old developed an attachment to our neighbors’ Halloween décor. On our frequent walks to visit the enormous inflatable cat, I fielded questions about other yard displays. When we passed a house featuring plastic tombstones with corpses climbing out of the ground, I wasn’t sure how to answer the question “Mom, what does that mean?”” The article goes on to describe even more horrible and graphic decorations.

As I read through the book of Luke this week, I discovered that there is a surprising amount of fear in this fourth gospel. Again and again you see people becoming afraid. They’re afraid of the sudden appearance of an angel. They’re sometimes afraid of miracles they see happen. They’re afraid of news they didn’t want to hear. They’re afraid of persecution. They’re afraid of end time trauma. They are afraid of lack, or poverty. And the Pharisees are even afraid—afraid of Jesus, and afraid of what the people would do to them if they arrested Jesus.

Using my online Bible software, I copied-and-pasted a lot of Luke’s “fear” verses into a Word file. They all use the Greek words phobos, phobeo or phobeomai in them. That’s where we get the word “phobia.”

But I found something interesting as I read through these passages. Not only do we see a lot of fear, but also we see Jesus and His Father providing us with several dependable “fear-switches.”

Back when I was a kid on the farm, my dad tried to get into the egg-business for a while. He bought a lot of hens, and he built for them a sort of wall cabinet that had little cubicles about a foot square, each big enough to fit a hen and give her a little comfortable elbow room. Dad put straw in each of those cubicles, and fondly hoped that when they felt an egg coming on, the hens would flop their way up into the cubicle and sit there contentedly waiting for the big event.

Unfortunately, very few hens took advantage of these little condos. They had other things to do – perhaps careers to develop, hobbies to pursue. So they would lay their eggs all over the place. Finally, Dad gave up on the egg business.

Instead, he used the little cubicles to store miscellaneous items one would use about the farm—pipe joints, old spark plugs, pliers, coils of wire. I remember that in one of those cubicles was an electric wall switch.

Nowadays if you walk up to a wall and flick the light switch, you hear almost nothing, because the switches are designed to be silent. But in those days switches made loud, snapping clicks.

Dad had of course warned me about not trying to experiment with wall-electricity. A couple of careless, hand-numbing shocks drove this point home. So as I played with that switch – which was not connected to electricity – I remember clicking it and thinking, “There. The power can’t get through as long as this switch is off.”

I don’t know what fears you are facing right now. And I don’t know to what degree these fears affect your life. But in my study this week I found what I think of as several fear-switches which Jesus and His Father provide us. We’ll have time for three of them this morning.

Let’s take a look at the first one.

Luke 1:5 – 12 [NKJV]: There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

So here is this elderly, veteran priest, and he sees an angel, and he is frightened. Watch what happens next.

Verse 13: But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

The angel tells him, “Don’t be afraid. Your prayer has been heard.” And this prayer seems to have been that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child. We don’t know how old Zacharias was at this point, and we don’t actually know whether either of the two was still praying this prayer. But the angel tells them that their prayer has been heard.

And Zacchaeus isn’t the only person in Luke who had an angel appear to him. Later in this chapter, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary. In verse 26, it doesn’t say she’s afraid, but it says she is “troubled.” Notice how the angel responds.

Verses 29 – 30: But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Have you ever feared heaven’s nearness? If so, you’re in good company. When you were a child, did you ever dream about the Second Coming of Jesus? If you did have have dreams about this, did you feel a bit of worry?

My hand is up. I don’t think I’ve had a dream about the Lord’s return since I was a child, but I do remember being worried.

But here, God gives us what I think of as the first fear-switch to turn off worry. If you’re taking sermon notes, here comes Sermon Point One.

Rather than fear Heaven’s nearness, remember that God understands your heart.

Even though both Zacharias and Mary found themselves fearful and troubled when heaven came near, they didn’t have to be. Zacharias was a faithful priest, and had a long experience in praying to God. And Mary shows through her prayer after Gabriel told her his errand that she had a deep and thoughtful understanding of how God deals with humanity.

In their campaign appearances, political figures always make sure to mention if they came from a working-class background. They’ll tell how they got a job after school as a teenager, how when they were first married they had to pinch pennies to make ends meet, and so on. This lets us know that as our leader, they understand our struggles.

So if God understands our heart, how do we make sure that our hearts are in tune with His? For one thing, we need those hearts to be “contrite.”
Psalm 34:18 says, The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.” In Matthew 5, Jesus is right up-front with how important our heart-attitudes are. His very first Beatitudes go like this: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:3 – 6)

How can we make sure our hearts are ones which don’t need to fear heaven’s nearness? Put a marker of some kind here in Luke, and turn to Ezekiel 36.
Ezekiel 36:26 – 27: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

That’s how to have a heart that God resonates with. Give Him your heart, and keep asking Him to soften and change it, and He will.

Now let’s look for a second powerful fear-switch here in Luke. Turn to chapter 5.

Something else which often caused people in Luke to be afraid was when they saw miracles happen. Actually, this is a spin-off of heaven coming near. If heaven comes near, and miracles start happening, that can cause certain amount of worry.

Here in Luke 5, three hard-working fishermen have been fishing for hours in Lake Gennesaret, which is another name for the Sea of Galilee. That lake is 8 miles wide and 13 miles long, but they could not find any fish in it. They worked all night long, and caught nothing. Now they’re back on the shore, probably cleaning their nets.

It’s daytime now, and Jesus is teaching a crowd of people. He’s actually sitting in a boat which is a few feet offshore. That boat happens to belong to Simon Peter, one of the three frustrated fishermen.

Luke 5:4 – 8: When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

And Jesus senses his fear. Notice how He switches off that fear.

Verses 9 – 11: For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

Notice how incredibly effective Jesus’ second fear-switch is? We start with a frightened fisherman who doesn’t feel worthy to be in Jesus’ holy presence, and we end with three fishermen who abandon their livelihood and follow Jesus.

Here’s what I think we could call this second fear switch.

The first fear-switch is rather than fear Heaven’s nearness, remember that God understands your heart. And the second fear-switch is rather than fear Heaven’s miracles, join God’s team.

If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you have seen miracles of God. The fact that you are here in this room, worshiping on Saturday rather than Sunday, is a miracle. And you have probably had personal miracles happen to you. They don’t happen often – at least they don’t for me – but every once in a while the Lord steps in and shows how powerful He is.

And each time this happens – and each time we hear about how God has definitely intervened in someone else’s life – we need to remember that Jesus wants us on His team. In John 4:35, Jesus told His disciples, “Look. The fields are white. The harvest is ready. The Lord needs laborers in His harvest field.”

Last week at Rosario, Bob Grady told about leading a group of people to Africa, and how the Lord worked to create a harvest of baptisms. Then during the worship service last week, Douglas Stockhausen told the stories from his own life, showing how powerfully and tender-heartedly God reached out to him and drew him back to the church of his childhood.

So what do we do, now that we know this? A little prayer that I have often prayed – and keep praying if I think of it – is “Lord, lead me to someone who needs me today.” In other words, “Lord, I have seen your miracles in my life, and I want to be on Your team.”

What about you? Would you like to pray a prayer something like that as the days go along?

Now let’s go hunting for just one more fear-switch. We’ll find it in Luke chapter 12.

Luke 12:1: In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Isn’t that interesting, what Jesus did there? This humongous crowd of people is crowding close to Him, but He first speaks to His disciples. And I can imagine that at that point His voice tone was conversational, and this must’ve made the rest of the people in the multitude frantically shush each other and crowd in even closer, to hear what this popular Teacher is teaching His disciples.

We don’t know just when Jesus started projecting His voice to the larger group, but we do know that He is introducing a third fear-switch.

Verses 2 – 5: For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

Now if we were to stop right here, somebody might say, “Whoa. This is the most fearful fear so far! Here we’re talking about the ultimate fear – the fear of being eternally lost. I can’t see any fear-switch yet.”

That’s because we haven’t read far enough. However – it’s important to pause right here and understand these verses before we go on. Because they seem to be giving us an intimidating view of God.

Let me see your hands if you were taught to drive by a parent or someone who was serving as your parent. My hand is up, because it was my dad who taught me to drive.

And I don’t know how it was with you, but I remember that my dad filled me with a whole lot of fears during his instruction. If you’re heading up a hill on a one-lane gravel prairie road, pull to the right and slow down, because someone might come racing over the top of that hill and bear down on you from the other side. Look both ways twice before you enter an intersection, or someone might come along and T-bone you.

Dad had actually seen a terrifying accident happen at an intersection. The oldest of my two sisters and I were also in the car that day. We didn’t see it happen, but dad did. (I’ll tell you right now that nobody was killed, but it was close.)

A woman in a pickup ahead of us was giving a couple of boys a ride to town. She did not look both ways, and she pulled out in front of a large semi truck. The truck hit the pickup and spun it around. Its doors flew open, and the two boys landed in the far ditch. The woman landed spread-eagled on her back in the center of the highway. A wheel broke off of the semi, and rolled rapidly down the highway, then off into a yard, and slammed up against the side of a house, leaving a dark tire-mark.

As I say, miraculously no one was killed. I think the woman may have broken a hip.

I remember my dad’s reaction to seeing that accident. He had been taking my sister and me to town, but instead he tremblingly turned around and drove us back home. I remember hearing him mutter over and over again, “I am never going to drive again. I am never going to drive again.” On the ride back, I remember thinking to myself, “Mom doesn’t drive, and if Dad isn’t going to drive, what will happen to us?”

Well, dad regained his composure before the day was over, and he went back to being a faithful and even-more-careful driver after that. But dad had been afraid. And a few years later, when he sat in the passenger seat and talked me through how to use the clutch and the brake and the gas pedal and the shift lever, Dad was petrified as he thought about turning his oldest son loose on the road.

That was fear. And that caused dad’s desperate threatenings about every part of the driving experience.

And can you imagine God’s emotions when He thinks about the eternal death of any of His children?

Before we worry about our own fears, let’s think about God’s fears. God opens His heart in Ezekiel 33, verse 11. I can hear something of my own father’s fear-filled tones as God speaks. . . . ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’

Back here in Luke 12, I mentioned that it’s hard to see anything like a fear-switch in what we have read up to the end of verse five. But in the next two verses, Jesus click that switch.

Verses 6 – 7: “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

That’s a pretty dramatic fear-switch, isn’t it? In verse 5, Jesus insists that we should fear God (because He has the power of life and death), but immediately insists that we not fear Him (same Greek word), because we are incredibly valuable to Him.

So what’s this third fear switch?

The first fear-switch is rather than fear Heaven’s nearness, remember that God understands your heart. The second fear-switch is rather than fear Heaven’s miracles, join God’s team. The third fear-switch is rather than fear persecution, remember how well God knows and loves you.

Anyone who might persecute you even to death need not cause you fear. The One who has the final power of life and death cherishes those who humbly invite Him into their lives.

Shelley and I went up a day early to our Rosario weekend last week, and we ate in a Thai restaurant in Anacortes. As we were eating, we saw a tall, portly man enter. On his arm was a little dark-haired girl who probably wasn’t even a year old. To me, the man looked like he might’ve been the little girl’s grandpa. But Shelley insisted that he was the dad, and she turned out to be right.

But what was so endearing about that scene was how closely the father held that little girl. She was propped in the crook of his arm, and her face was next to his, and he was smiling widely and contentedly.

I could tell that this dad was exactly where he wanted to be. He adored that little girl, and carried her so gently and so close. And I knew that to prevent any harm coming from his daughter, he would have promptly sacrificed his life.

I think that you and I would do God an immense favor if we hold that picture in our minds, and remember that God is an even more doting father than this man is. Please remember that God smiles. God cuddles. Remember what Zephaniah 3:17 says:

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

How often that dad in the restaurant sings to his daughter, I don’t know. Probably a lot, when he’s alone with her. And imagine the tones of love he uses.
And then imagine God doing that.

Can you imagine that? Our closing song will help us make our imaginings even more real. Let’s stand and sing it together.

(Closing Song – Be Still, My Soul – #461)