“What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48)
The chief priests and the Pharisees with their scribes were thrown into a panic when they heard that many people had come to believe in Jesus. What was their fear? If everyone comes to believe in Jesus as the Messiah (the King of the Universe), the Romans would consider it as an act of rebellion and come to destroy their nation.
This fear is concretely summed up in John 19:12 “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.” Note that the Romans were their colonial masters at that time. The Jewish leaders were ready to do anything just to maintain peace with Rome.
Like Herod who killed all the male children born at the time for fear of a rival king, the Chief priests and Pharisees were shaken with fear. Caiaphas speaking prophetically as High Priest noted: “It is expedient for one man to die than for a whole nation to perish.” Little did Caiaphas know that he had just summarized the entire mission of Jesus Christ on earth – “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
For the Jewish authorities at that time, Jesus needed to die to save Israel from destruction by the Romans. In reality, Jesus died not just to save Israel but mankind as a whole from destruction. But for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, none of us would have had any hope of being reunited with God in heaven.
The action of the Jewish leaders teaches us that fear is such a dangerous thing. Have you ever wished evil for someone just because you fear that he or she is better, richer or more popular than you? If only the Jewish authorities knew Jesus was not seeking after earthly power, they would have understood that and their fears were completely unfounded. Jesus would later say to Pilate, “My kingship is not of this world…” (John 18:36).
Fear is often caused by a lack of faith coupled with our ignorance of the truth. The bad news is that fear paralyses us leading us to very bad decisions. The good news however is that ninety-nine per cent of our fears would never happen. When afraid, we always seem to know exactly what would happen next but the fact is that only God can predict the future. At best our fears are merely clever guesses. Just when you think that all hope is lost, God can still show up to turn things around in your favour.
Our first reading and our responsorial psalm today teach us to place all our trust in God’s protection especially when we feel threatened. Indeed, when you consider how close God is to you, like a mother holding her baby in her arms, you would wonder how you manage to accommodate so many fears in your heart. Our Psalmist sings: “The Lord will keep us, as a shepherd keeps his flock.” Do you sometimes think of yourself as a sheep led by God, the Good Shepherd? Fear Not.
After prophesying to the dry bones as instructed by God, Ezekiel was shocked to see them receive flesh once again. God told Ezekiel that like these bones, He would gather His people again. “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Ezekiel 37:26-27).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, save me from falling into sin as a result of my fear. Amen.
(Saturday of the 5th Week of Lent. Bible Study: Ezekiel 37:21-28, Jeremiah 31 and John 11:45-56).