Holy Week - Wednesday: Privately Worshipped, Publicly Denied

The Pain of Secret Discipleship

John 12:37-50

In this passage John tells us that despite Jesus’ many miracles, people did not believe His message. Here is a hard truth: we often think that if unbelievers could just experience a true miracle, then they would believe. However, Scripture tells us otherwise…even though there were men that saw Lazarus raised from the dead, they still did not believe, but rather began to plot His death more earnestly! This unbelief fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53. The note in the Nelson Study Bible says, “The consequence of repeated rejection is loss of the capacity to believe. Isaiah taught that some could not believe because God hardened their hearts after they repeatedly rejected the truth.”

On the other hand, in this passage, we see those who DID believe, but would not openly confess their faith.  “Rulers” in this passage refers to the members of the council, the Jewish religious leaders. There were some that believed in Him, but only secretly. The reason for their secrecy is revealed in verse 43 – “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”’ Their position in the religious community, and the acceptance of their peers was far more important to them. We may be quick to condemn them, but which of us have not done the same? Philip Yancey, a respected and highly successful Christian writer, in Reaching for the Invisible God explores this same thought when he says, “’I am not ashamed of the gospel’, Paul told the Romans. Why do I speak in generalities when strangers ask me what I do for a living and then try to pin down what kind of books I write? Why do I mention the secular schools I attended before the Christian ones?” (One of the reasons I read everything he writes, is that I am gripped by his honesty and willingness to explore issues that we Christians find difficult to admit, much less discuss.) Many times,  I must painfully admit, I have loved the praise of others, rather than the praise of God.

In John 19:38-40, we read that Joseph of Arimethea (a secret disciple of Christ) and Nicodemus (who came to see Jesus at night) were the men who physically took Jesus’ body from the cross and quickly buried Him according to Jewish law and custom. I am so grateful that John included this bit of information in his gospel. Despite the public denial of their faith in Jesus, they were the ones who were willing to go to Pilate for permission to care for His body (where were the disciples?). They were the last ones to see His wounds. The challenge in our reading today is this: Am I a secret disciple? Too fearful to confess Christ because of what others think? The reader can’t help but wonder how Joseph and Nicodemus felt on Sunday!

Prayer for Today: Lord, please forgive me for being a secret disciple at times. It is my wretched pride that wants to glory in myself rather than in You. Help me to never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation. May I be so filled with love for You, that I only care what You think of me.

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