The Praise of Men – John 12:37-43
By Pastor Lee Hemen
August 16, 2015
There’s a saying that states, “Different strokes for different folks and some folks need a lot of strokes.” I have always found it disconcerting people need constant affirmation for every little thing they do. The need for constant affirmation has created a self-indulgent and narcissistic generation. Of course this is nothing new; there have always been those who love the accolades of the adoring crowds, even if it is forced. It has been likened to a narcotic and those who become hooked need their fix often. Starlets, politicians, dictators, and now even the more common folk look for ways to be recognized, adulated, revered, and remembered. Instagram and Facebook postings that record our every waking moment, and the regurgitation our lives on the Tweetersphere are all part of this self-absorbed lifestyle. We love the praise of others, the praise of men.
In fact, many of us live in fear of losing the praise of others. Some in Jesus’ day did. Let’s find out what happened and why we should not be concerned for the praise of men…
Jesus never craved nor cared for the phony praises of others in order to sooth his own ego. He came to seek and save the lost and that is exactly what he would do. Sadly, not everyone could see Jesus for who he was and in fact, we discover that…
I. The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah! (Vv. 37-38)
Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
1. John is incredulous. He simply cannot believe that the crowds, the Pharisees, and others would be so calloused in their thinking. I believe John is referring perhaps to the miracles which were done at and around Jerusalem. Those which brought Nicodemus to Jesus, the cure of the lame man at Bethesda’s pool, the giving sight to the man born blind by anointing his eyes with clay and sending him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead at Bethany, which was within two miles of Jerusalem — and yet “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” However, John realizes there is more at work here than recognition by the adoring crowd, he understands “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?'” The crowds and the religious pundits of the day could not understand the miracles because they did not understand God! There are those who think God should only work only as they see fit. Anything outside of their preconceived notions of what they think God should be or act it totally unbelievable to them! Isaiah the Prophet had remarked on this very thing! People refuse the message of God when it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of God! Isaiah asked this question when he wrote his prophecy concerning the coming Messiah after realizing that many would not believe God’s message! Like many do today, Israel would not understand the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Now least you misunderstand, they deliberately decided not to believe in the message of Jesus! The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah!
EXAMPLE: You would think that folks would use more critical thinking than they do, but they do not. People are more motivated by their emotions than their critical thinking skills and in fact, most schools no longer teach critical thinking. This is why politicians use catch phrases of hope or patriotism rather than the truth to garner votes. This is why some will promise their significant other anything just so they can get what they want out the relationship. What is truly sad is that if you sat folks down and asked them to think clearly and rationally about the choices they are about to make with their lives rather than using their emotions, most folks will still choose their emotions! I used to think if I came up with the ultimate argument or I could answer every question concerning the gospel, then everyone I came into contact with would believe. Then I realized that there are those who know the truth and simply decide not to believe it. I now realize I am only responsible for giving the message and not how it is received. The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah!
John continues to explain his nation’s unbelief. As incredible as it sounds, we must never forget that the unwilling are unwilling because God desires it. And here we discover that the praises of men were so much noise because…
II. The unbelieving constantly reject God’s message! (Vv. 39-41)
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
1. John tells us that the reason his people could not and would not believe in Jesus as their Messiah was that they “could not believe”! We find this difficult because we think humans are the epitome of everything there is; after all it is all about “me” right? We have the ability to decide for ourselves whether or not the claims of Christ are true or not, right? Except we forget one major attribute of God, namely, he is omniscient. God is all-knowing. The Bible teaches us that God created everything, including time and space, that he has no beginning or end, and that a thousand years is like a day to him. God knows our coming and goings, when we lie down or get up, and he knows every moment of our lives before we are even born! So why is it so incredible for us to understand: God already knows who will believe in him and who will not believe in him? And in fact we know for certain that God has hardened the hearts of people like Pharaoh in the face of tremendous displays of God, he has hardened the hearts of kings, rulers, the religious, and the non-believing for his purposes. Now you may ask, “Why?” Because he already knows how these folks will respond and if these totally degenerate folks could ultimately be given some sort of second chance they would still want God on their terms! Sinful man does not like being reminded they are in need of a Savior; this is why, “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.” We learn from John that “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” The unbelieving constantly reject God’s message!
EXAMPLE: In flying there are those who have lost their lives by flying directly into the ground. The same holds true for some scuba divers who get disoriented and drown. What do I mean? Well, they trust what they think they see and what they think their minds are telling them, only their brains are giving them the wrong message. The same holds true for those who willingly give their lives over to the world’s message of self-reliance. We think we have to “do” something in order to “earn” our way into the heart of God. The Bible makes it plain that there is nothing we can do to earn the grace of God in our lives, it is by faith we are saved otherwise we would boast about how much we did to earn it. We bore into the ground or misjudge the surface thinking we know so much more than God does. Are you one of those who do? The unbelieving constantly reject God’s message!
The Apostle Paul is a good example of how a man’s heart can be hardened to the point he does not believe what he hears or sees. Holding the cloaks of those who would stone to death the beautiful man Philip, he would later meet his Messiah as he went on a terror to destroy Jesus’ early church. And so here in John’s gospel we discover that…
III. Even the fearful of heart can find faith! (Vv. 42-43)
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.
1. We discover that within these sad lines of John’s gospel there is a tiniest glimmer of hope. A little light flickers in the darkness of the heart of the Israelite nation. The NIV says “yet” the KJV and NASB uses “nevertheless” and others simply state “even then.” This small word brings such hope. Yet, yet there were some. “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him.” While they were willing to give Jesus some credit for his miracles and teachings, they still held back. They believed but they also liked their positions of authority. They feared that their contemporaries would think differently of them if they publicly declared Jesus as the Messiah, so they secretly believed. Real men don’t believe in Jesus. Church is for my wife, it is her thing. Jesus is for cowards or the uneducated. How in the world did these stupid notions gain any ground in God’s church? Simple, we give more value to what others think of us than what God does! The words of our so-called friends mean more than the wonderful truth of God in our lives; and the things of the world burn within our souls brighter than the truth of Scripture. We fear man more than we fear God. “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.” It is time for the fearful of faith to step out of the shadows and give their lives to Christ! Even the fearful of heart can find faith!
EXAMPLE: The term “stand and deliver” is an old phrase from dueling whereby the combatants were challenged to “stand and deliver.” It was also a phrase used by 17th century highwaymen (robbers) in the UK, when holding up stagecoaches – literally “stop and deliver me of your money”. Highwaymen were also known as “bidstands”. The phrase appears frequently in drama/literature and is as much a stock device of a highwayman as a parrot, eye-patch, and peg leg are for a pirate. Yet we also discover it is used for those who need to stand and give the right answer to the question asked of them. In the movie, “Stand and Deliver” is the true story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout prone students to learn calculus. When giving their answers, they had to “stand and deliver.” There will come a time when all people will have to “stand and deliver” what they believe about Jesus. Today might be your day to do so, and dear child just remember that even the fearful of heart can find faith!
The unbelieving deliberately misunderstand the message of the Messiah! The unbelieving constantly reject God’s message! Yet, even the fearful of heart can find faith!
This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.