Have you ever been in a large crowd that was on edge? These times are powerful, yet unsettling, as though at any moment the collective consciousness could snap and everything could spill over into an "every man for himself" melee of pandemonium and chaos. It's an unnerving thing to be in an anxious sea of humanity. You feel like you could be swept away or pulled beneath without time to get away to safety. You're at the mercy of the rising fear.
Luke describes this exact type of scenario in chapter twelve of his gospel account, when Jesus, surrounded by thousands of people who are pushing and shoving in anxious and increasing upheaval, leans in and says something that's seemingly cryptic to his disciples;
"Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or nothing hidden that will not be made known."
Jesus was setting his disciples up for a new, deeper perspective, to look past the outward appearance or physical manifestation of what was going on before them, back to the root, to the "yeast," the source of the anxiety and edge that was in this large crowd.
You can almost envision Jesus giving a wink and a nod to his disciples (who were likely still processing the meaning of his statement) when he steps forward and addresses the whole crowd.
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
He proceeds to point out the root of the angst and unrest in the edgy mass, it was the simple fact that they feared the wrong power. They had allowed the religious leaders (the Pharisees), to influence them, bully them, into a place of anxiety and concern, to the point that there was pushing, shoving, and likely every other kind of self-preserving human activity.
Jesus tells the crowd, and us, that if the fruit of your life is unrest, anxiety, frustration, and concern, then at the root of it all, you have a fear problem. The problem is not that you have fear, but that you have feared the wrong thing. Fear is the highest form of trust. You are most confident in that which you fear the most. It will own your focus and drive a response. This is why Jesus first bursts the bubble and delusion of fearing temporary things, reminding the crowd and reminding us that there is One who has the power to oversee ALL of our lives, not just the years we have right now, but the forever after. He says, "fear God" because ultimately, God is the only One worthy of that kind of trust and attention. To fear anything other than Him, in Jesus's words, is "a fool's errand."
Then comes the good news. Not only is God the only One that we should ultimately fear, but He is ultimately good. If He cares for sparrows, who weren't crafted in His very image and glory, how much more will He not care for us? See what Jesus did here? He effectively says, the only power in the universe that is actually worth fearing, is God, and God is so good, so for you, so into you, so attentive to you, that He's got the hairs on your head numbered. If this is true, which Jesus believes it is, then it sets us free from a life of angst and fear.
Are you willing to believe Him, the one who demonstrated this greatness and goodness by the most brutal death imaginable, in your place?
Maybe today, the yeast of some power is producing anxiety in you. Like the Pharisees, it is bullying you to a place of unrest and unease, and you are bumping into it constantly. Hear the Word of the Lord today that says, there is One who is much greater than cancer, Covid-19, job loss, family fractures, past mistakes, uncertainty, or economic downturns. And get this, He is for you.
May you not allow yourself to be bullied this week by any power, but may you rest in the ultimate power and goodness of the One who formed you, knows you, cares for you, and will see you through today, tomorrow, and forevermore.
Peace, be still.
My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27