What more practical and revealing window exists into the human soul than fear? At root we are weak and timid creatures, full of many fears. Fear of death probably tops the list. It is a universal fear shared by our entire race. And individually we each harbor multitudes of our own private fears. All these Jesus sweeps away, saying, "Believe in me and you need fear nothing!"
Among my favorite passages of Scripture are the Upper Room chapters of John 13-17. This poignantly intimate final dialog between the Lord and his disciples is rich with significance on so many levels it is impossible to enumerate them briefly.
Another group of the most frequently given but often overlooked Commands of Jesus might be summarized in many ways--bravery, stout heartedness, courage, valor, fearlessness, boldness. They are here gathered together as two, which we consider as Take heart, take courage, and simply Do not be afraid.
The Command to watchfulness has deep but often overlooked consequences. Counterfeits creep in to distract us when we let our spiritual guards down. The moment attentiveness wanes, our eyes drift off the bulls eye of God's purpose. We observe this pattern with the twelve. Every time they became distracted by peripheral concerns, Jesus brought them back to foundational priorities with one or another variation of, "You lost your focus...now pay attention."
In The Commands of Jesus, we discovered the frequency with which Jesus issued certain commands. We found this telling component clarifying where our own priorities ought to lie.
A serious examination of the Gospels reveals three surprising combinations of injunctions emerging as the most frequently given commands of Jesus. One would assume, from their prevalence, that these three groups would form the bedrock of Christian teaching, that we would hear them from the pulpits of our churches week after week, that they would form the basis of most dialog and discussion between Christians. If Jesus emphasized them most, would it not be logical to assume that we would too?
Again we confront the dichotomy between who we are and who we want to be.
It may be that the injunction toward prayer is the single Command of Jesus we most readily witness throughout the earth. Christians pray, Jews pray, Muslims pray. Even many who profess no religion yet claim to pray. It is an astonishing fact to contemplate that more than half of mankind probably prays regularly in some fashion. It is surely no exaggeration to say that prayer is being lifted to the heavens every second round the clock. Mankind is a praying species. The earth is a praying world.
Jesus makes two of the most shocking statements of his ministry on the night before his death. They are recounted only by the Gospelist John. Though Matthew was also there that evening, it clearly took not only an eyewitness, but one like John with particular insight into the Lord's heart, to capture the powerful essence of this pivotal message that Jesus wanted to leave with his disciples on his last night with them.