God is free to do what he wills. That little statement is a fundamental truth about the nature of God, of God being God and not some lesser being. God is free to do what he wills because it is of God’s nature that He is unconstrained by anything or anyone else. God is fully and completely free to act as He sees best.

That does not mean that God is free to act in capricious ways. God’s liberty is not some arbitrary freedom from responsibility or care. God doesn’t ‘do’ random (as the kids would say). Rather, God is free so as to do what is good and true and gracious. God’s freedom is always for excellence.

We heard two examples of God’s freedom in today’s readings. Firstly, we heard that God freely gave his prophetic spirit to Eldad and Medad, a couple of young men who had not been selected by Moses as designated elders among the Israelites. We heard of Joshua’s annoyance that they were prophesying without being authorised to do so. But we also heard of Moses’ openness to God’s free action to do something good in those two young lads.

Secondly, and similarly, we heard in the Gospel how John, the beloved disciple, like Joshua, was a bit miffed when he discovered that un-designated disciples were exercising spiritual healing in Jesus’ name. And we heard Jesus, like Moses, telling John not to get so hung up on his own sense of authority, and to allow for God’s grace to flow out through others.

In both stories, we see God’s freedom for good in action, we also see a loss of freedom in Joshua and John because of their perceived loss of authority and control, and finally we see in Jesus (as well as Moses) a true and real image of the liberty of God, welcoming the signs of grace wherever it flows.

Let me say a little more on the disposition of Joshua and John. These two disciples – one of Moses and the other of Jesus – were used to having been chosen and designated as disciples. We can be sure they relished the honour and took seriously their responsibilities. These were good and faithful disciples. But both Joshua and John were also marked by fear – a fear of not being in control; a fear of letting others share in their calling; a fear of losing authority. They did not want God to share with others what they had received themselves. It was this fear that constrained them from seeing God’s free will in action.

Fear is the opposite to freedom. It constrains us from seeing the possible; it immobilises us from acting for others; it leaves us insulated and isolated from what is good. Fear wants to control and dominate, but instead it imprisons and turns to violence.

We have witnessed a lot of fear on the streets of Melbourne this past week. Understandably people are hurting, this lockdown is distressing. But acting violently out of fear will not lead us to a freedom that revives and finds a path to hope. At his resurrection appearances, Jesus said two things: ‘Peace be with you’ and ‘Do not be afraid’. This is the language of God’s freedom at work. May it be ours as well.