“Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna….”
In the secular culture that surrounds modern Western man, the only image of Jesus that is acceptable is that of a spiritual teddy bear. The idea that Jesus makes demands or sets boundaries is incompatible with modern secularism.
What to make of today’s Gospel passage, then? Jesus declares: “I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.”
Still, just three sentences later Jesus demands: “Do not be afraid.” There seems to be a contradiction. Jesus tells us to be afraid, and then not to be afraid.
Jesus insists that we have a fully-rounded, rather than two-dimensional, view of God. We may consider Jesus to be speaking of God the Father, or of Himself, when He describes the one whom we should fear. As God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit condemn the one who is a spiritual hypocrite. Fear of God, the Just Judge, however, is a fear that helps us shape our lives. This is a “holy fear”, or rather, “fear of the Lord”. This fear gives direction to our days on this earth and to each day’s choices. But guided by this holy fear, we can trust God who guides us to Himself.