Life is scary. Jesus is scarier.
A couple of weeks ago, the week before Easter, our family watched the first episode of The Chosen, a series about the life of Jesus. The first episode depicted a few scenes in which Mary Magdalene experienced demon possession. It wasn’t too graphic, but it was enough that even our older kids were scared.
Later that same week, we watched the classic Jesus movie. That was a bit tamer, but it still included the Gerasene man possessed by demons. And even though the crucifixion scene was nothing like The Passion of the Christ, our kids still couldn’t watch, and understandably so—this was a torture scene, no matter how the moviemakers tried to make it workable for a broader audience.
As I was thinking about this, it struck me how scary many stories in the Gospels really are. One thing I emphasize in my Biblical Interpretation course is the need to really put ourselves in the place of the original audience, hearing and seeing what the biblical authors are recording. To be honest, we often tame the Bible—and Jesus—down, not recognizing how intense and scary this is.
Think about it: Zechariah encounters an angel and is struck mute for months. Angels bursting into a dark night with news for freaked-out shepherds. Babies being murdered by Herod. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fleeing to become strangers in a strange land. Members of Jesus’ hometown trying to push him off a cliff. Near-death experiences on raging seas. Encounters with demon-possessed people. Jesus crossing acceptable boundaries to have contact with sick and unclean people (a fear maybe we can relate to a bit more these days). Constant challenges by religious and political leaders who have the power to kill Jesus.
Why is it so important to recognize how scary this is? Because we have to recognize that Jesus wades into the middle of life’s scariest stuff with us. This is not tame, flannelgraph, Sunday School Jesus. In fact, this Jesus is scarier than the scary stuff life throws at us.
We see this especially in the Gospel of Mark. After Jesus calms the storm, the disciples are terrified and afraid…of Jesus! (Mk. 4:41) After Jesus heals the demoniac named Legion, the people are afraid…of Jesus, and they ask him to leave (Mk. 5:15). After the resurrection, the disciples of Jesus were afraid.
In life’s scary times, we need a scary Jesus. We need a Jesus who faces our most troublesome, fearful moments head on. So next time you read the Gospels, don’t sugarcoat how scary these circumstances are. And take comfort in a Savior who is scarier and more powerful than anything life can throw at us. Look again at the Jesus of Revelation 1, the One who holds the keys of death and Hades. He has faced the scariest possibility anyone could, and his love for you holds you fast, no matter what. This is the Jesus who tells you, “Fear not.” Today, hear his voice again.