The Devil's Territory in God's Country
Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles in secret. But that secret visit didn’t remain so for long since His intention was to appear in the Temple to share His message—the message that the religious leaders wanted to kill him over (7:1).
But quite apart from the battle between Jesus and the religious elite found in this passage, is the undercurrent of fear among the general population. People talked about Jesus wherever He went. They had opinions—pro and con (7:12, 13). But they voiced those opinions in whispers and behind closed doors. “...no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews” (7:13).
As I read this I was reminded about another incident in John 9 where Jesus healed a blind man. The man whose sight was restored had no problem speaking up for Jesus but when the Pharisees approached his parents for an explanation they demurred, saying: “...'how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.' His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue” (9:21, 22).
The Apostle John writes, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Safe to say that there was no love shared between the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and their congregations. The people were afraid to express a contrary opinion for fear of reprisals. They were right to be afraid—the blind man was tossed out of his place of worship (John 9:34) after he was accused of “sinning” as though a different opinion was a sin.
We could lift our chins and say: “That was the Pharisees!” But the same fear exists among believers today. And where the fear of punishment for holding a different opinion exists, there no love can survive. Where the possibility of an exchange of ideas without anger and reprisals doesn’t exist, there reigns the spirit of darkness, not of light.
There is the devil’s territory even in the heart of God’s country.