The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Luke 12:8-12....
Jesus said to the disciples, "And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say."Today's reading continues the same underlying theme we looked at yesterday . . . fear. This reading also shows us the road to freedom from fear through Jesus.
One of our greatest fears in life is the fear of rejection. And the ultimate rejection is rejection by God.
Here Jesus addresses that fear. He tells us that if we acknowledge him before others, then he will acknowledge us before the angels of God. What good, reassuring news that is! When we join the church in baptism or public profession of faith in some way, we are acknowledging Jesus before others. When we tell others directly what Jesus means to us, or simply share that we are praying about something, then we are acknowledging our relationship with Jesus. What this comes down to is the fact that God does not want us to hide our true selves from others.
Of course, Jesus also says that if we deny him before others then we will be denied. That is a worrisome thought. But think of this... Peter denied Jesus before others. He was immediately sorry about this, and Jesus later gave him the opportunity for restoration through a renewed acknowledgement of his love for the Lord. Thank God we serve the God of Second Chances! Because of Jesus we do not have to fear the ultimate rejection.
Another fear some people have is the fear that they may have committed "the unforgivable sin". The idea of such a sin comes from this passage. Jesus says that if we say a word against him, we will be forgiven. But if we say a word against the Holy Spirit then we will not be forgiven. What does Jesus mean?
Jesus was saying this to the Pharisees who had said he was demon-possessed. Jesus was saying, "Look, you aren't just speaking against me, you are speaking against the Holy Spirit working in me." When a person starts calling good evil and evil good that person is in a sorry state indeed.
But here is the good news: Jesus will always receive those who come to him. We can always be forgiven when we repent, when we turn away from our sin and turn back to Jesus. Jesus says in John's Gospel, "Anyone who comes to me I will never drive away!"
A final thing Jesus mentions here that we are often fearful about has to do with evangelism. We worry about what to say to communicate the good news about Jesus to others. Jesus told his first disciples that they should not worry even about being brought to trial for their faith. He promised to give them the words to say in that situation.
There are many situations in life where we worry ahead of time about having the right words to say. How good it is to turn those cares into prayer. When we tell Jesus what we are worried and fearful about, he promises to give us the words to say . . . and our fears dissipate. What freedom Jesus provides . . . freedom from any and every fear when we come to him in prayer!