Day 4: They Didn’t Believe
Today’s reading: John 12:37-50
They Didn’t Believe
It’s Wednesday of Passion Week. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and the stage has been set. It’s clear that the Pharisees and teachers of the law are infuriated by His following and His teaching. Yet, Jesus remains steadfast, unwavering from His paradigm-shifting position.
The people are amazed.
Luke, the gospel writer, records that “all the people came early in the morning to hear Him at the temple” (Luke 12:38).
Let me paint a picture.
It’s estimated that Jerusalem had a population of 100,000. But during Passover, that number would have skyrocketed, as many came from the neighboring villages to celebrate. And, the old city of Jerusalem was only one square mile in size. So you have hundreds of thousands of people moving in and out of one square mile.
Now condense many of those people into the temple square and you have quite a scene.
Close your eyes and imagine this?
It’s incredibly busy, people are everywhere and Jesus is at the center of the commotion. With that context, let’s look at the passage below.
Faith, Fear, and Approval
The gospel of John places a small section of Chapter 13 just before the events of Thursday that particularly resonate with me this morning.
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him . . . Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in Him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” —John 12:42–43
Jesus’s message of the kingdom of God is one of healing and fullness and wholeness. Yet, many didn’t believe.
The passage tells us that they were afraid.
The fear of ridicule, rejection and the unknown kept people from truly embracing what Jesus had to say. In short, they were more concerned about what everyone else thought and as John writes, “they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
People are quick to trade almost anything for approval. We’re willing to offer our image, our beliefs, our money, our identity, even our physical bodies for a chance at it.
For many years I lived this way—a slave to the opinions of others. I used competition with my coworkers as a way to gain the approval of my company. As a father, I sized myself up against other dads to validate my fatherhood. Socially, I looked for likes on social media as a way to prove my popularity. But even in this attempt to feel worthy and approved, I felt empty.
You see, like those in the story, I had proximity to Jesus and I even heard the words He said, but I didn’t give Him the entirety of my life.
Is fear keeping you from the fullness of Jesus?
Fear and approval do keep you in the dark. But the good news is that Jesus entered the darkness on our behalf.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” —John 12:46
Today I’m reminded that Jesus’s last week was one last push to reach in to the hearts of the people and draw them out of the darkness of worldly approval. But even as Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (John 12:47), people still didn’t believe.
I challenge you to wrestle with one question:
What do you really believe about Jesus?
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” —C. S. Lewis
1. Are you willing to trade the fear of the opinions of others for the fear of the Lord?
2. How have those fears kept you from believing Jesus?
3. Can you identify where you are seeing the approval of others over the truth and opinion of God?