Fearless Witness: Part 1- The Foundation of Gentleness
Fear is a primal and dominating emotion with which we all immediately identify. I have clear memories from my childhood of how frightened I was of my father’s wrath, and in the months preceding my conversion was too paranoid to walk down a public street. The first time I tried to enter a Christian meeting I was literally paralysed by a wall of fear whose origin proved to be demonic. Various other traumatic experiences over the years have been weaved by God into a tapestry about Christ which underlies this teaching series.
Since ““the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?”” (Amos 3:7-8 ESV), it is to be expected that the Spirit will communicate to prophetic members of the Church something of the nature of God’s plans before they publicly unfold. I am sensing the Lord is about to sovereignly release many “fearless witnesses” in the city. The first layer of the anticipated move of God is the most foundational.
Australia’s Severe God
I recall a pastor’s son saying his father would often speak of “the kindness and severity of God” (Rom 11:22), but somehow the “severity” seemed to dominate. This is the common human apprehension from the Fall onwards (Gen 3:1 ff, 8). Some years ago flying back home across the Pacific the Lord directed my attention to the Parable of the Talents. The focus was on the words of the servant who did nothing with the talent given him. “‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.’”(Matt 25:24-25 ESV). The Spirit testified that this fearful and lazy servant (25:26) was “a typical Australian”, for Australians struggle to multiply the gifts God has given them for the purposes of his kingdom. In the material realm this land is superabundant, and in the spiritual realm our blessings in Christ are full (Eph 1:3), but the advance of God’s kingdom through this nation is paralysed by a view of God as harsh and severe. This major spiritual stronghold no doubt goes back to the foundation of our nation as a convict colony ruled by armed forces. This stronghold can only be broken by true Kingly power.
The Gentle King
In comparing his conduct with those who murdered a common enemy David tearfully states, “And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I.”” (2 Sam 3:39 ESV). Then in words placed at the end of his reign, “You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.” (2 Sam 22:36 ESV). As the Old Testament type of the coming Messiah David grasped that the coming together of divine and human gentleness released the power of God’s kingdom on earth.
Jesus knew himself as the fulfiller of this mystery. ““All things have been handed over to me by my Father … Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…” (Matt 11:27ff.). The Father has entrusted universal authority to the Son because of his complete gentleness of spirit; a spirit that is totally sensitive to the will of God. In this spirit Jesus enters Jerusalem as an anointed and gentle King on the way to be slain (Matt 21:5; Mark 14:8).
On the eve of the crucifixion fear strikes Christ’s heart for the first time. In Gethsemane the Son struggles to obey the Father (Mark 14:36); “No man ever feared death like this man.” (Luther).The mysterious nature of Christ’s fear will only be resolved by resurrection, meanwhile Jesus goes forward without protest; “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter…so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7; Matt 26:63). It is as the gentle Lamb of God that Christ will take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). On the cross all humanity’s fears of a severe God come to a climax, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). The abandonment of the sinless Son is surely the final proof that God is as hard as we have always suspected.
The resurrection however throws prophetic light on what was actually happening in Jesus death. “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death… For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa 53:12) The resurrection reveals that the terror of a severe God which Jesus carried on the cross was that of our twisted and fallen minds. The gentleness of the sacrificial Lamb perfectly images the gentleness of the Father’s unlimited resurrecting power. The gospel teaches that gentleness is God’s way to greatness and it is a visible sign that the powers of evil have finally been destroyed. It is the gentle Lamb of God, not the mighty beast, who is forever triumphant (Rev 5:612; 17:14).
The Gentle Testimony
Christians testify to Jesus as the final revelation of a Gentle Father whose power is limitlessly good. The disconnect between the image of an approachable human Jesus and a distant Father-God will be overcome in a culture preconditioned to believe in divine severity by visible gentleness in the face of abuse. In a passage devoted to the boundless goodness of God (Rom 8:28) and the unlimited conquering life of believers (8:37) Paul comments, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Rom 8:36 ESV). In the midst of a society whose foundational values daily oppress and mock God and his people the believer has many opportunities to bear witness to the triumphant Lamb of God. The best apologetic to a culture rapidly moving against authentic Christian testimony is not better arguments but miraculous tenderness; “a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Prov 25:5). The image of the risen Lamb is an image of fearlessness in the face of evil which we all carry within us. For such testimony the power of the Spirit of God is freely given to God’s gentle saints (Matt 10:19-20).
Jesus explained, “among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28). John came “in the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1:78), yet even his fearless witness reached a limit (Luke 7:19). We are in a different position from that mighty prophet. The resurrection is the Father’s powerful testimony that the gentleness of Jesus has broken the power of every human fear (Heb 2:14-15). Through Jesus we can bear a remarkable and fearless witness of the gentlest kind in the midst of the most severe circumstances of life. ““The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”” (Heb 13:6). It is the character of this testimony that can change the spiritual culture of Australia and open our nation up to a genuine biblical revival.
 In the parallel passage of the ten minas the master is described as “severe” (Luke 19:21).