how to be very afraid

how to be very afraid
These are some powerful verses and I think it's worth mentioning that this word for fear appears 23 times in the gospel of Luke alone. The word "love" only appears about 16 times.


This is a continuation from my previous post found here:

In that post, I found all the places in the gospel of Luke that say, "Do not fear":

reference in luke text (niv)
1:13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
1:30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
2:10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
5:10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will fish for people."
8:50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed."
12:4 "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

I think these passages are easy enough for us to understand and they give us a lot of good things to remember during difficult times. They've definitely helped me in times of trouble!

let's look at some more verses in luke

Luke 1:50, 2:9, 8:25, 8:35, 9:34, 9:45, 12:5 (three times!), 18:2, 18:4, 19:21, 20:19, 22:2, 23:40. Click below to read all of these:

Multi-Verse Retrieval

These are some powerful verses and I think it's worth mentioning that this word for fear appears 23 times in the gospel of Luke alone. To compare, the word "love" only appears about 16 times.

First I want to break these verses up into smaller groups:

  • Misplaced fear – 20:19, 22:2, 9:45, 19:21
  • Fearing the supernatural – 2:9, 8:25, 8:35, 9:34, (9:45?)
  • Fearing God – 1:50, 12:5
  • Not fearing God – 18:2, 18:4, (19:21?), 23:40

The question marks indicate a verse that I had a hard time placing in only one group. In the following sections, I'll explain my grouping and see what we can learn from it across several posts to keep them short and help me think about this over several days.

misplaced fear

reference in luke text (niv)
20:19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
22:2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.
9:45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
19:21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'

The first two verses are quite clear: the chief priests and teachers of the law were afraid of the people. Their fear prevented them from doing what they hoped to do based on how they thought the people might react. (A slightly more subtle thing to mention is that their desire to get rid of Jesus is motivated by their fear of Jesus himself, but I'll look at that later.)

This is a really strange reversal and builds off a theme that runs through the entire Bible: the teachers and priests have legitimate authority from God, but they allow the people to control their actions. It's supposed to be the other way around! And it gets even worse: the teachers and priests should know the moral standard, yet in this case, the crowds of regular people keep them from sinning.  

Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." - Genesis 1:26 NIV

This theme of reversal of authority started in the garden of Eden when the humans listened to an animal, the serpent, rather than ruling over the animals like God told them to in Genesis 1:26. First, these teachers and priests forfeited their role as shepherds of the people through their own hypocrisy and lack of love. This is exactly why Jesus said not to fear them, "for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known" (Matthew 10:26).

I'm beginning to think that this word for fear has to do with who controls whom. Let's move on and see how that holds up.

In 9:45 and 19:21, we have more examples of misplaced fear even though in both cases the people fear God. Since the outcomes of both of these examples of fear are negative, we can ascertain that whatever the people were doing was not quite right.

In Luke 9, the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus for understanding; but why? Was it because of the power Jesus just displayed in the earlier verses by casting out a demon? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that "it was hidden from them"? Or maybe they simply didn't ask because they were afraid of appearing incompetent? I can easily see myself in any of those positions.

Regardless of the source, I imagine that this type of fear is the type that we shouldn't have: it prevented the disciples from understanding the words of Jesus and it prevented a good result. They allowed either their ignorance of Jesus' good character, spiritual blindness, or other people's perceptions to control their actions.

The same thing is true in Luke 19 in the rather disturbing parable of the nobleman and his servants. The third servant was afraid of his master which led him to inaction rather than investing his gift into producing more. I think this could be the same type of fear that the disciples showed: he misunderstood the character of his master and allowed that misunderstanding to control his actions leading to terrible punishment.


I'm going to make a bold statement: when we allow something else to control us, it will always end badly. Reading a bit ahead, I think there is exactly one exception to this rule, but for now I will focus on understanding what I fear; that is, what controls me.

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In later posts, I'll look at the other groups of verses to try to get a grasp on all of this fear business:

  • Fearing the supernatural – 2:9, 8:25, 8:35, 9:34, (9:45?)
  • Fearing God – 1:50, 12:5
  • Not fearing God – 18:2, 18:4, (19:21?), 23:40

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