Don’t Be Afraid!

Dr. Tommy Boland, Cross Community Church Pastor

“Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid’” (Matthew 17:1-7).

Be Afraid of God? Don’t

Have you ever been afraid of God? The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), but do we really have that fear of the Lord? In the New Testament, we’re told to “Work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). I like the way the New Living Translation renders that verse: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” Then you have the admonition in Hebrews 12:28-29 to “Be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’” 

So it sounds like the disciples got it right! Peter, James and John saw the excellence—the glorified perfection—of the Lord Jesus Christ when they were with Him on the sacred mountain (2 Peter 1:18), and they were terrified. Mark’s gospel—which many scholars believe was given to him directly by the apostle Peter—essentially tells us that when Peter suggested erecting the three shelters, he was more or less babbling. “He [Peter] did not know what to say,” Mark reported, “they were so frightened” (Mark 9:6). 

And then the voice thundered from heaven, “This is my Son . . . Listen to Him!” Now no one was speaking; all three disciples were so afraid that they fell on their faces on the ground, no doubt trembling with fear.


The gentle touch of Jesus

What happened next is so lovely! Jesus came to them and touched them. “Get up,” He said. “Don’t be afraid.” Now, Jesus certainly didn’t have a problem correcting His followers when they were behaving badly. Not even a week earlier, He had turned to Peter and sharply rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). But here on the Mount of Transfiguration, He spoke to His disciples softly . . . kindly. “Don’t be afraid,” He reassured them.

Cling to those words, Christian! We read the Bible, and just like the disciples on the mountain, we are confronted by the inexpressible glory of God. We clearly see His perfection in the perfection of His Word, all of it breathed out by the pneuma, the Spirit of God, who convicts us of our sin (John 16:8). If we are even partially honest, when we examine ourselves in the white-as-light brilliance of God’s truth, we realize that we are sinful; we are vile; on our own merits, we are utterly unworthy to come into the presence of the perfection of Jesus Christ. In that moment we may be discouraged; we may be dismayed; we may be terrified! 

Our thoughts accuse us: “How can I, in my sinful state, possibly come into the presence of such a righteous and holy God?” We may cower in fear like the disciples. We may cry out in despair like Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

And what does Jesus say? Does He rebuke us? Does He tell us to go get cleaned up first? (As if we could possibly make ourselves “clean enough” to come into the presence of a perfectly righteous God!) No, but if we cry like the leper, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” He will come to us and touch us and say, “I am willing. Be clean” (Matthew 8:2-3).


Zechariah’s vision

be afraid
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – MARCH 5 , 2015: The fresco the Angel Gabriel Appearing to Zechariah in the temple in Greek orthodox Church of St. John the Baptist in Christian quarter.

Consider the vision that the Spirit of God gave to the prophet Zechariah:

“He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?’ 

“Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’

“Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on  you’” (Zechariah 3:1-4).

The angel of the Lord whom Zechariah saw is surely the Lord Jesus Christ. Joshua’s “clothes” are filthy as he stands before the Lord, just as even our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) when we stand in the presence of the glory of the Lord. And Satan is right there in Joshua’s ear, just as he is constantly yammering in your ear and in mine. “Look at you!” the accuser sneers. “Look what you did! Look what you thought! And you call yourself a Christian!

And do you know what? The enemy is right! What we did is pretty bad. What we thought was even worse! We glance guiltily, perhaps even fearfully, at Jesus, expecting to see a look of disgust . . . perhaps even righteous fury. We drop to our knees before the Lord, dreading His harsh words of condemnation. Instead we hear Him say gently, “Get up. Don’t be afraid. I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” 

And so we can exult with Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). 


Come to me

For many of you, by the time you read this article, your new year’s resolutions have already fallen flat. Maybe your solemn promise to draw closer to the Lord—spending more time in the Word, in prayer, in service, whatever—has gone up in smoke. Maybe you’re discouraged. Maybe you’re feeling a little fearful, wondering, “Why would God keep forgiving me, when I keep messing up like this? Sometimes I wonder if I’m even saved.” 


You’re almost afraid to raise your eyes to heaven . . . you fall to your knees, half-expecting condemnation . . . and what does our loving Lord say? “Get up. Don’t be afraid. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. I have engraved your name upon the palms of my hands. You are mine!” (Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 49:16, 43:1).

And if by chance you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you now know that you have nothing to fear from Him. He holds out His nail-scarred hand to you and says gently, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Why not get this new year off to the best start ever? Don’t be afraid; take His hand and respond to His loving invitation. Simply echo the prayer of the tax collector, who said from his heart, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13 NASB) . . . and salvation is yours this day. 


This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN! 

Happy New Year!  


Dr. Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach ( He blogs regularly at

For more articles by Dr. Tommy Boland, visit

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