Read: Luke 22:1-6
Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people.
Read the last seven words in that passage and dwell on this question: Who were the chief priests and teachers of the law (aka, “the establishment”) afraid of? Not Jesus…certainly not. As they subsequently proved, and as has always been the case, killing one person is easy enough to do. Killing an idea that motivates many to challenge the prevailing power structure — well, that’s not so easy. In the case of Christianity, we can all judge from history just how well that worked for the Romans — and ponder the divine irony of the seat of the “Roman” Catholic Church being located in the very center of power of the empire that once attempted to suppress it.
Having come of age in the tumultuous ‘60s, I tend to have a problematic relationship with authority figures. If their power devolves from an organizational structure, that’s one thing. You can at least hope for some rational context for how that power is wielded. My issue is with demagogues and populists — those who derive power by exploiting the worst fears and most venal instincts of those around them.
But even if you terrify a population into submission, there is always the possibility it will turn on you. Which is why the chief priests and teachers of the law were fearful. Had they come into their office with a servant’s heart, they would have had nothing to fear from Jesus — the ultimate servant. As it was, they instilled their own paranoia and cynicism on those whose spiritual well-being they were accountable for.
Once again, the Bible has as much to tell us about the times we live in as it does about the times Jesus lived in. As Jesus proved, fear may be a time (dis)honored way to harness the power of the masses, but love is ultimately stronger…and certainly more enduring.
Lord, grant me a servant’s heart that I may lead others to the love of Christ…and may that love leave no room for fear of anything but the absence of God in my life. Amen.