November 18, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 7:10-13.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but [as it were] in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the feast and saying, “Where is he?” And there was considerable murmuring about him in the crowds. Some said, “He is a good man,” [while] others said, “No, on the contrary, he misleads the crowd.” Still, no one spoke openly about him because they were afraid of the Jews.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary helps me understand this passage. “The critical accusation that Jesus may be a deceiver, one who leads people astray is repeated in 7:47. Later Jewish and Christian sources report that the Jews condemned Jesus as a ‘sorcerer’ and one who ‘leads the people astray.’ Jesus is thus condemned as a ‘false prophet’ under the law in Deuteronomy 18:18-22. Apocalyptic writings described the coming of false prophets who would lead the people astray and work signs. John 7 answers such accusations.”
Who were the Jews who were looking for Jesus and why were the crowds afraid of them? Barclay believes that this passage refers to both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees set themselves apart from ordinary Jews with their devotion to myriad petty regulations and concomitant vocal, public condemnation of those they viewed as impure. There was a fear that they were closer to God and could influence Him to punish the spiritually unclean. The Sadducees were a political party that collaborated with the Romans. Most of the priests were Sadducees. They typically lived quite comfortable lives and were loathe to have the system that benefited them challenged in any way. So, they had the power to influence the Romans who could punish and kill trouble makers. The Pharisees and Sadducees join together in their hatred of Jesus and desire to remove him as a threat to their power, status, and “right” way of worshipping God.
Throughout my life I often have failed to speak up because of fear — generally fear that people will think negatively of me. Yet how am I to come to a clear understanding of what I believe if I don’t allow myself to be challenged to articulate those beliefs? There is a danger in keeping everything to myself, but there is a greater danger if I only associate with people who believe just as I do. Both lead to isolation and extremism. It’s important to have an airing of different views. It can do two things for me. It can lead to an expansion of knowledge and therefore modify what I believe. It also can cause my beliefs to become crystallized as a reaction to something that doesn’t make sense to me or is repellent.
Jesus always encouraged his disciples and followers to speak up. Either they were talking among themselves or just wondering to themselves. He knew their hearts; he knew the minds worked especially in the culture in which they lived. He drew them out. He made them face up to what was bothering them, so that he could teach. So that he could help them see with different eyes. They wouldn’t have been able to speak up if they feared Jesus. They knew they were safe with him, that he accepted them and forgave them when needed and loved them unconditionally. Fear precludes that from happening.
God doesn’t want me to fear him. He doesn’t want me to live in fear of punishment. He gave me His Son to banish fear from life. Jesus is my anti-fear hero who encourages me to be myself, to speak up, to be a life enhancer not a destroyer. In him I can discover what I believe and he is continually opening my eyes to new and deeper insights. In him I have no need to fear anything. My anti-fear savior.