“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
Two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry and it was impossible to miss him. He taught in a way that no one had ever taught (Matthew 7:28-29), he performed signs and wonders no one ever had seen before, and he carried himself in a way that was entirely unique. As scripture testifies, “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). Truly, Jesus was non-ignorable.
For those who witnessed these events, two options were available. Believe in Jesus as “the one who is to come” (Matthew 11:3) or reject him. Put another way, either you acknowledge that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, or deny Him and fail to believe. Over time, more and more people became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Even some of the Jewish authorities became convinced as they heard him teach and watched him perform miracle after miracle.
The sad footnote to this is that even though they were “believers” they still rejected Jesus. How? They failed to “confess it.” The apostle John tells us that “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” In other words, they feared man more than they feared God. They were more concerned about their reputation and social status than they were about the truth. They valued present comfort more than they valued future glory.
Earlier in the gospel of John there is another story that illustrates this. Jesus healed a man who was blind from birth and the Pharisees refused to believe that Jesus had performed this miracle. Eventually they decided to interrogate the man’s parents. His parents responded by saying, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself” (John 9:20-21).
The next verse offers a tragic indictment of his parents. John tells us “they feared the Jews.” In other words, they were terrified about what the religious leaders would do to them if they confessed that Jesus had healed their son.
We can only imagine how thrilled they were when their son’s eyes were opened for the first time in his life. It had to be hard for them to watch their son struggle along in life as a blind man. But in a moment that all changed! You would think that in the midst of such joy and elation, their “fear of man” would evaporate. It didn’t, and through these circumstances, the true condition of their hearts was revealed.
The Bible says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). The fear of man is so deadly that it can actually keep a person from entering the Kingdom of God. Millions and millions of people have put all their stock in this world, and not the world to come. They are more concerned about their reputation and their comfort than they are about the glory that comes from God.
Jesus said, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
As the cultural currents of our day rapidly shift, the genuineness of our Christian profession will be put to the test like never before in this country. It used to be easy to confess Jesus as Savior and Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). Not anymore. It used to be easy to say the Bible is the inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Not anymore. It used to be consensus to acknowledge that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Not anymore.
As you hold to the truth claims of scripture and the confession of your faith, there will be a price to pay. We all know this. The question is: what kind of glory are we after? The glory that comes from man or the glory that comes from God? These two glories do not jive or overlap in any way. They are antithetical. If you think you can have one foot in the kingdom of man and one foot in the Kingdom of God, you are mistaken (Revelation 3:15-16).
I pray that God gives us the grace to say along with Peter and John, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).