The Destructive Power of Fear

The account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate makes no logical sense, until you figure in the emotion that was present. Just days before, the crowd had praised Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem, declaring him to be the son of David. The religious leaders should have followed Jesus and rejoiced at his coming, because they knew the Old Testament and that Jesus fulfilled all that the Scriptures had said about their Messiah. Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent and not a threat to the Roman government. His wife had even warned him about who Jesus was. Yet Jesus was still crucified and we must ask the question “why”? Actually, it is an example of what happens when fear rules the day. The chief priests were afraid of Jesus’ popularity which could have caused the Romans to take away their position of influence, so they contradicted their own law and plotted to kill Jesus. The people were afraid of the leaders excommunicating them, because they had threatened to put anyone out of the synagogue who followed Jesus. Being excommunicated in that society meant that they would be shunned from society would not be able to function within their own community. Pilate was afraid that the crowd might riot, which would put his position in jeopardy, because he was not able to keep the peace. So in the end the fear of the religious leaders manipulated both Pilate and the crowd into sacrificing Jesus. The irony of Jesus’ death is that everything that each one feared came to pass. Pilate was removed from his position after a few years. Jewish revolutionaries became more powerful and brought the wrath of Rome down on Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and the city. The religious leaders lost their position and the people lost everything.

Anytime fear is driving our decision-making, we make poor decisions based not on reality or truth, but out of our perception of self-preservation. Driven by fear, our leaders make poor decisions, driven to maintain their position of leadership. Finally, because of the poor decisions, the people suffer and the real underlying issue is not addressed. We often conclude that people making decisions we don’t like or agree with are the problem. When leaders, whether we agree with them or not, make decisions based on fear, they are not the fundamental problem, but they do reflect and illustrate the problem. It is the fear that is driving their and our decision-making that needs to be addressed.

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