A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders
Reading – Obey God Rather than Men (John 10-12)
The proverb declares that “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Pr.1:7). Another declares “Fear of man will prove to be a snare” (Pr.29:25). In chapters 10 to 12 of John’s gospel we see people who are well instructed in the former nevertheless falling into the snare warned of in the latter.
In chapter ten “The Jews” (John’s term for the religious authorities) challenged Jesus to put his cards on the table saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (24) Jesus, in his answer, declares that his position could not be clearer, his miracles spoke for him. Why did they not see it?
“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (25-29)
There is no doubt that they understood what he was saying when he declared that he gave eternal life, that his sheep were secure in him, that he and the Father are one. They picked up stones to stone him declaring that it was for blasphemy, “because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (33)
In chapter 11 we read of the raising of Lazarus, the result of which was that, “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” (45) Again we find the Jewish leaders plotting to kill Jesus.
“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called together a meeting of the Sanhedrin...from that day on they plotted to take his life.” (47-53)
In chapter 12 we read of Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem. “[A] great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him shouting, ‘Hosanna!’” We read that the word of Jesus’ mighty works spread and that, “Many people, because they had heard that he had given his miraculous signs, went out to meet him” (12-18)
Yet we read, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they [the religious leaders] still would not believe in him” (37)
When they asked him for a definitive answer he pointed to his miracles. He did not come with fine words claiming to be the Messiah (plenty came with fine words and outrageous claims) but with a demonstration of God’s power showing who he was (1 Cor.2:4). The people who put their faith in him did so because of what he did and how he lived, and in Jerusalem “Many people, because they had heard that he had given his miraculous signs, went out to meet him.” The common people knew and understood something of the significance of these signs but the leaders, who saw what they saw and heard what they heard “still would not believe him.”
Their motives are revealed in two clear statements of concern made by these leaders. After the triumphal entry “the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look now, the whole world has gone after him!” They plotted to kill him just as had been predicted in Jesus’ parable of the Tenants (Lk.20:14) and for the same reasons.
“Here is this man performing miraculous sings. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (Jn.11:47-48)
They served themselves by serving Rome and feared to lose what they had. They feared men more than they feared God and events proved the proverb true because within a few decades they lost their place and their nation.
There are those today who reject Jesus for similar reasons. They fear losing the approbation of their friends, the reputation they think they have and the consequences of admitting that they had been wrong all along. From people with a well developed sense of the religious to those who simply follow after the crowds too many fear to lose their place, begrudge giving up their status as leaders to become followers.
As Christians we need to demonstrate that it is liberating to consider as junk all that we lose in order to gain Christ (Philip.3:7) and to examine our own walk to see if there is something we are holding onto and denying Christ for fear of men. Just as the evidence of Christ’s identity was in the works he did and the life he lived, so today the evidence for the gospel is in the lives we live before a watching world.