Father Kolbe was a Franciscan priest arrested by the Nazis and confined in Auschwitz. Kolbe gave generously of his meager resources, and finally volunteered to be starved to death in place of another man.
Kaj Munk was a Danish Lutheran pastor and playwright, Munk strongly denounced the Nazis who occupied Denmark in the Second World War. His sermons and articles helped to show the anti-Christian nature of the movement.
Read Luke 12:4-12
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
What did Jesus say His disciples should and should not fear? (Luke 12:4-5)
What proofs of God’s care did Jesus offer to His disciples? (Luke 12:6-7)
How was the disciples’ loyalty to Jesus linked to Jesus’ loyalty to them? (Luke 12:8-9)
What was to happen to those who speak against the Son of Man? (Luke 12:10)
How much were the disciples to prepare for their encounters with religious and political authorities? (Luke 12:11)
What situations tempt people not to acknowledge Jesus before others?
What does the imagery about the sparrows and hairs say to us?
How can you pray for those who suffer for their relationship with God?
“If we should not be afraid of people who can kill us, then far less should we fear people who can only scorn us. Many Christians are far too easily frightened. They are afraid to take a moral stand at work that might cost them their careers. They are afraid to defend a consistent Christian position in the college classroom, or the faculty lounge. They are afraid to challenge their friends when they are going in the wrong spiritual direction. They are afraid to talk to strangers about the gospel. But Jesus said we should not even fear people who could put us to death; we should not be afraid of them.
There is only one right and proper fear, and that is the fear of God. When Jesus speaks here about someone who “has authority to cast into hell” (Luke 12:5), he is not talking about Satan; he is talking about almighty God! Hell is not Satan’s dominion, but only his prison. God is the one who has authority over heaven and hell. This is one of several places where Jesus speaks frankly about hell. The word he uses relates to the physical geography of Israel. Gehenna, as the place was called, was a valley outside Jerusalem. It was a ravine of smoking refuse, an accursed place of perpetual burning. The Bible uses this God-forsaken valley to describe the torments of hell as an everlasting fire. Some people may not believe in hell, including some people who call themselves Christians, but Jesus certainly did! Jesus plainly taught that God will banish unrepentant sinners to hell; therefore, he is to be feared.
Fearing God is far from popular these days. If people are looking for God at all, they are hoping to find a more user-friendly deity. They no longer worship God with reverent trembling, not even in church. Instead, they worship with casual triviality. But Jesus said that God is to be feared. He is to be treated with respect and awe, because he holds the power of eternal judgment.
When we tremble at God’s authority over heaven and hell, we are ready to defend his cause in the world, little fearing what other people will think. We will be like John Knox, the man who brought the Reformation to Scotland. Knox never backed down from a challenge, spiritual or otherwise. He wielded his sword in battle; he rebuked reigning monarchs; he turned the heart of his nation back to God. At the end, as his body was lowered into the ground, someone at the graveside pronounced Knox’s epitaph: “Here lies one who feared God so much that he never feared the face of man.”
The first disciples were men of such courage. According to the New Testament, they boldly preached the gospel all over the ancient world. According to tradition, all of them also died violent deaths, except for John. They faced suffering with great courage—defying their enemies—because Jesus taught them to fear God more than anything or anyone else.
When John Hooper was sentenced to die for preaching the gospel during the English Reformation, some of his friends encouraged him to recant. If only he would deny the gospel of justification by faith, the Roman Catholic Church would be satisfied, and his life would be spared. But Hooper was viewing things from an eternal perspective, and thus he did not fear those who could only kill his body. “Life is sweet,” he said, “and death is bitter. But eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death is more bitter.” When we learn to make this taste comparison ourselves, we will have the courage of our Christian convictions.”
Ryken, Philip Graham. Luke. Ed. Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Daniel M. Doriani. Vol. 1. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009. Reformed Expository Commentary.
Heavenly Father, give me a rich measure of Your Holy Spirit, that I may boldly confess Your name before an increasingly faithless and hostile world. Turn the hearts of your enemies, so that that they may receive Your salvation, by trusting in our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.