"The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, 'Where is he?' And there was much muttering around him among the people. While some said, 'He is a good man,' others said, 'No, he is leading the people astray.' Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him."
The subject of all this hushed discussion and debate is Jesus, of course. He's quite a captivating character. Everyone has an opinion about him. "Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly about him." The people don't want to run afoul of the authorities by being overheard talking about Jesus, Who isn't exactly in the good graces of the earthly powers that be. So they whisper a little bit with those close by and say no more.
I think most of us today are in much the same position as the people at that feast almost 2,000 years ago. Most of us have pretty strong personal beliefs one way or another about Jesus, or about Christianity, or about God or religion more generally. And while I'd guess that most people aren't held back by fear of the Jewish authorities these days, there is something that keeps the great majority of us from speaking openly about our beliefs.
I think that nowadays the fear that keeps us clammed up about our religious beliefs is the fear of offending people, or of being labeled as "narrow-minded" or "judgmental." Our silence does no one any real good, though. It only prevents the possibility of real understanding between people of differing beliefs.
We need to start talking, not offensively, not narrow-mindedly, not judgmentally, but openly and honestly.