By WILL JOHNSON
Special to The Hays Daily News
Seething, clamorous multitudes pushed and shoved and trampled the disciples. Enraged leaders poured out threats against them.
And yet the master said, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Jesus warned his disciples that political powers would engineer their deaths and drag them before intimidating councils, and yet he repeatedly told them, "Don't be afraid." How could he?
Jesus assured them by saying, "Your Father knows that you need food, clothes, shelter and the like." But if God won't give iron-clad assurances that they'll never be in want, what is the good of knowing what they need?
Fear and worry won't be eliminated by God's assuring us we'll never want -- he'll give no such assurance. Fear and worry are only overcome by knowing that the God who knows we need things can be trusted to act in our best interests, whatever he chooses to do.
The whole 12th chapter of Luke is about worry. And yet, that's not all; it's about trust and about getting our priorities right. Since the Christ gave them the power of the Spirit, whose very presence announced the downfall of Satan, what wouldn't he give them?
Even in the face of clashing multitudes desperate for the kingdom of God and religious leaders madly anxious to control that kingdom, the little flock had no reason to fear. For it was their Father's good pleasure to give that kingdom to them -- not to experts in the law but to theologically naive blue-collar workers.
And since that is true, what does he then say to them? He calls them to reckless generosity and a wise prodigality. Can you believe it? Those who might be tempted to hoard the little they have because they have the jitters about the future -- they are the very ones he calls to sell all and give it away for a greater treasure.
What is it that would lead Jesus to speak to his insecure, "little flock" in this way? "What will happen if I can't work? If I can't meet my bills? If I can't provide for my family? If I can't find healing of my disease?" Though it achieves nothing, anxiety about such things is perfectly natural.
What in Christ's statement -- "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom" -- what in those words to his disciples would change their view of themselves and life, enabling them to rise above something as natural as fear and worry?
Well, he spoke of "your father." The sovereign Lord of the universe was more than the sovereign Lord; he was their father. That must count for something. Knowing he was their father wouldn't keep them from feeling hunger pangs and the pain of isolation, but it would mean their futures were secure. The sovereign Lord was their Father. Not only is the future anchored for those whose Father is God; the present is transformed.
Jesus also told them that it was their Father's "good pleasure" to give them the kingdom. Not that he was reluctant to do it or that he was merely willing, but that it "pleased" him to do so. The word used carries both the notions of God's will and his pleasure. It pleased God to elect them as kingdom heirs.
If he finds pleasure in giving them a treasure rich beyond expression, it cannot be that he would withhold from them, in Scrooge-like fashion, what he gives to the birds of the air or the grass of the fields. Sinful parents give their children bread and fish, and the Father of this little flock knows how to give.
All this takes the anxiety out of kingdom seeking. Stampeding multitudes, a fragmented nation, a brooding Rome, a fearful and power-mad leadership -- none of these can keep the kingdom from them. Their Father is pleased to give it to them. To them.
So, who do we Christians think we are? Let the failed marriages, the money problems, the parent/child turmoils and the lower rungs on the social ladder -- let them all speak their piece. Allow the approach of old age and death to speak; let the chilling medical report have its say; let the bedlam of life, the entrenched powers of evil, the predatory landlords and politicians make their point.
When they've all spoken and our poor hearts are fractured, let's listen for the whisper of the words the Holy Spirit has given us. "Don't be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."
The Father knows our vulnerability; that's why Jesus called us a "little flock." But a little flock with the eternal God as their Father -- whether or not they are hungry deprived -- will go on triumphing when all the well-fed, slick-talking, nation-manipulating "players" of the world have passed away.
The sovereign Lord is the Lord of history and circumstances, and he is the Father of the little flock whose fears are passing.
Those who are not his children meet realities they can't control. They gave no refuge, and what they fear most will come upon them. Surely, this is an inexpressibly sad situation -- to go out into the dark without a Father.
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Will Johnson is minister at the Church of Christ, Hays