John 12:42-43 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
What a tragedy we have here in John 12:42. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead! The miraculous works and the powerful words of Jesus were bringing many to a place of believing in him. We know, however that the hardest group to reach were the ones bound up in religion; it was hard for them to break away from all that they knew and believe that Jesus was the Messiah. In verse 42, it says that many even among the leaders believed in him. That is an exciting thing really because we know that when the leaders of a nation are saved, the people are sure to follow. That is not the tragedy, of course. The tragedy is this: they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be thrown out of leadership.
It seems that when self-preservation becomes the center of our life, we achieve it. The problem is that Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” When preserving our image and our status becomes a priority over living for Jesus, we suffer a personal spiritual casualty. For me, I am not so sure I want to preserve myself. When I take a good look at who I really am, losing me sounds pretty appealing. In fact, I would much rather have God’s version of me present at all times than my own version of me. His Brad is way mo betta!
I think John hits the nail on the head when he gives the reason for their problem: they loved human praise more than praise from God. Let me attempt to illustrate. Let’s say that you have a football player, a quarterback. Now he wants to do a great job for the coach. His coach is the one who has invested in him, taught him all he needs to know, and calls the plays. But as he plays each game on the field, he noticed a group of young women who really like to give him praise – the cheerleaders. They chant his name and tell him how great he is. During halftime one game, his favorite cheerleader tells him: “I love watching you score a touchdown. You are so fast!” So he’s got this in his head, to give them a good show with his running ability. The game is on the line and the coach calls a passing play. The coach tells him, “I believe in your throwing arm. You can do this.” The ball is snapped, the receivers take off and there is a man wide open in the end zone. But he hears the voice in his head, “I love it when YOU score the touchdown.” So he takes off down field, eluding defenders and is tackled just short of the endzone. Game over. The home team loses.
Okay, stay with me here. This may sound like a far-fetched scenario, but there is a point. You see, this quarterback ought to be receiving his praise and worth and direction from the coach, not the bystanders. He should be so in sync with what the coach wants to accomplish, that he puts the coaches words in top priority with his game play. But he was distracted by the onlookers; he was distracted by the pretty girls who were cheering him on. And such is life.
God is the coach. He wants to call the plays. He wants to be the one to build us up and tell us who we are. He is the one who should be guiding us and leading our every play on the game field. But so often we go after the accolades of the onlookers. We get distracted by the cheerleaders and lose our focus. We think we can go about the game our own way and still succeed. But like the coach, God has a view of the whole field. He knows what is going on. More importantly, He knows who we are. I think it is about time that we start placing God’s words to us into a place of priority in our lives. I think it is time that the praise of men takes a backseat to the praise of God. When we allow that to take place, we are sure to have success on the field!