A Lack of Confession
36When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, 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; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. 44And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
Throughout a study of any of the Gospels you witness the struggle between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. The ugly conversations between Jesus and the Pharisees are a big part of all four Gospels. Today, we read the most heartbreaking verse of all those spoken of the Pharisees.
“… 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.
Jesus’ words and actions actually did have an impact on some of those who led the Jewish people; some of them did believe in Him. But they allowed their fears to shut their mouths. They remained silent about their new found beliefs. The incrimination of this passage reaches right into our lives today. How often do we allow our fears to still our tongues?
Often on my Facebook feed will be posts from people who want you to share their status about the faith. The post usually goes something like, “Jesus didn’t deny you on the cross, so if you love Him you’ll repost this.” Those challenges bother me – a great deal. The implication is if I don’t repost your little meme, I don’t love Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. And that certainly isn’t what the text for today is discussing. The tragedy of this passage is that there were those who did indeed believe that Jesus was the Messiah but they were too afraid of their own neighbors to be honest about that belief.
We face very similar circumstances today. Being a Christian in some circles is dangerous. Being vocal about your faith may get you ostracized from many social settings. You don’t even have to be loud or vociferous about it. Just knowing you are a Christian will have many people back away. It’s sad. So, we have to have some sympathy for those Jewish leaders who recognized the Messiah when they saw Him, but were too afraid to say it out loud. But God has told us how to witness to our world without being abrasive or confrontational. It’s all about loving the people around us and showing them grace rather than rancor. Jesus' example is clear and we will see it displayed with force in the next chapter of John. Reaching out with judgment and defensiveness nets us nothing; reaching out with love and grace wins souls.