“… so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot. Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples…”
People are being trampled underfoot and Jesus begins to speak to his disciples!? That seems a very odd response to an apparently extreme situation. Why isn’t Jesus jumping into the midst of this and setting things straight?
Jesus has just come from a teaching moment with the Pharisees regarding their attachment to the law at the expense of the people. The laws were intended to secure the Israelites relationship with Yahweh, not bind them to the laws themselves. We now hear Jesus telling the disciples not to fear the wrath of the Pharisees. “Do not be afraid” he tells them.
In the Psalm we read, “…like the dear that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.” In the opening prayer, we pray,“…awaken in us a longing for true holiness.”
There is inner struggle going on, not just physical. In a world of countless reasons to be fearful, my fears cling like shadows to my shoulders and my longings are as fragile as spring’s seedlings. And Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”
How is Jesus speaking these words to me? “Do not be afraid.” Is Jesus desperately pleading with me, calmly cautioning me, forcefully encouraging me, or gently inviting me? As I say the words out loud what do I hear, what is the voice that comes from the wisdom of my own body? I must name my fears and honor and nurture my longings.
And Jesus says: Do not be afraid…. Do not be afraid …. (my name).... Do not be afraid.
By Joan Blandin Howard