The Old Testament teaches us to fear God; the New Testament teaches to love Him, as we learn in Matthew 17:1-9.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.
As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
I remember some time ago X-Games fans carrying the product logo around with them, “Fear Nothing,” and conservative Christians responding with anger, “Fear God!” They preach from the Old Testament rather than from the Gospels of the New Testament. In today’s passage, Peter, James, and John are clearly before the Father and they fall prostrate in fear. But Jesus in His compassion and love says, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” That’s the message of the Gospels of the New Testament.
It’s not that we shouldn’t honor and glorify God. It’s not that we shouldn’t respect God. Here, Jesus calls on us to not be afraid of Him but love Him, for God loves us. And as Jesus, the Son of God, He walked among us, full of love, compassion, and mercy. He didn’t want our fear, he wanted our love, which we are to share with others. And Jesus tells us elsewhere, to know the Son is to know the Father, and to know the Father is to know the Son.
I’m not sure I would have done much different than Peter, James, and John under the same circumstances. But with Jesus’ assurances, I would certainly have gained a new understanding of my relationship with God afterwards.
God is approachable. God is reasonable. God is lovable. Rise, and do not be afraid.