Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
“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 the killing of the body, has power 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.
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:1–12)
Paradox is a word we use to describe apparent contradictions. We face one in this passage. First Jesus tells his followers that they should “fear” God. But then he tells them, “don’t be afraid.” In Greek, the words translated “fear” and “afraid” are identical.
So, Jesus told us not to fear those who can merely kill us. Instead, we should fear God, who can throw us into Hell. But at the same time, we don’t need to fear because God cares so much about us.
So what was Jesus really saying? That it is silly to worry when we have God with us, the God that is powerful enough to destroy us, but has chosen not to. Such a God won’t let mere mortals thwart us. He’ll see us through whatever happens, even death—because he’s on the other side of death. It’s those who are against God—those who want to harm us—that really have something to be afraid of.