Fear is a bad thing. Fear destroys discipleship. In the case of the gospel story today, fear kept the disciples from understanding. As well we know, Jesus was speaking to them about his passion and death, and they didn’t get it. They didn’t get it because that was not their idea of what should happen to the messiah. They were looking for a king who would bring Israel back to political greatness, not someone who was going to suffer and die. So they didn’t understand it, but worse yet, they were afraid to ask Jesus what he meant.
Why were they afraid? Maybe it was because they had invested themselves totally in Jesus, and they couldn’t bear to think of what people might think of them if they had spent all this time following a man who clearly was not the messiah they were looking for. That would explain why Judas made the deal for thirty pieces of silver, and ultimately why he took his own life.
Or were they afraid to find out that if Jesus was to accept suffering and death, they would have to do the same? Certainly that was true for most of them; they had to actually give their lives for what they believed. Whatever the case, they didn’t want clarification or understanding right now. They could not deal with the truth.
It’s hard to blame them for that, because I strongly suspect that all of us avoid the truth at one time or another in our lives. We think about something that is confronting us, and think: “I don’t want to know…” But we disciples can’t avoid the truth. It catches up with us someday, some way. Fear merely keeps us from confronting that truth with our God, the God who was willing to take the cross for us and is therefore with us in all our sorrows and joys.
The Christian disciple should never be afraid of the truth. What we need to fear is what the world would be like if the truth were never spoken.