“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
(John 12:42-43 ESV)
For those of you following our journey through John, this Lenten season, you’ll notice that chapter 12 was our reading from a few days ago. However, something stood out to me that I’d like to share.
As we read through this chapter, one thing that is highlighted is the unbelief of the people. We’re told that, even though they’d seen so many signs, they still did not believe. And we’re told that this had been prophesied by Isaiah.
Yet, even though the people would not believe, we’re told that many of the authorities believed in Jesus. However, because they feared the Pharisees, they were unwilling to publicly confess it. And John explains their unwillingness, telling us that they loved the glory that came from man more than that which comes from God.
As we read this, it may seem like a harsh statement. It seems harsh because we can identify with the fear of these authorities. Even though we believe in Jesus, we also fear man. We fear the reaction of those around us. And, like these authorities, we seek to keep our faith private.
But even though this is true, we take issue with the explanation of John. We would deny that we love the glory of man more than that which comes from God. We would insist that we do, in fact, place a priority on God’s glory.
We might go on to offer several justifications for our actions. We insist that, if we suffered for our faith, it might keep us from serving God in other ways. If we were arrested, it would keep us from ministering to our family. If our reputation were destroyed, it would hinder even our more secretive attempts to share Christ with others.
However, the simple fact remains that, by keeping our faith secretive, we’re trying to please man. We’re ignoring the fact that we’ve been called by Christ to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. We’ve been called by him to make disciples of all nations. And we can’t fulfill this calling by keeping our mouth shut.
What we’re doing, in reality, is looking out for ourselves. We’re seeking only to protect our life and reputation among unbelievers. And we’re seeking to do so at the expense of the call of God.
As believers in Jesus, we should be much more concerned about what God thinks of us rather than what man thinks of us. We should be more concerned about pleasing God than man. While man might harm us, and while he might even take our life in this world, God has authority over our eternal fate (Matthew 10:28). He has authority to grant life and to take it away.
It’s true that we might be rejected by men, but so too was Christ. It’s true that we might suffer at the hands of men, but so did Jesus. He suffered in this way that we might receive salvation. And, in the same way, we’re to consider others more important than ourselves. We’re to lay down our lives in the service of Christ and the gospel.