Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 22: Faith or Fear?

Today’s passage: John 12:37–50

Focus verse: 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. (John 12:42)

After John writes that many people believe in Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead, John seems to flip-flop. Next, he says the opposite. He writes that despite the supernatural signs Jesus performed, the people still don’t believe in him.

John sites Isaiah, who asks, “Who will believe?” (see Isaiah 53:1). Another time Isaiah prophesies that unbelief will result from those who interact with Jesus (Isaiah 6:10).

After building a Scriptural case that no one will believe Jesus, John reverts to the outcome of Lazarus’s resurrection. He confirms that a few Jews believe in Jesus.

John explains this discrepancy. Yes, some Jews believe Jesus, but they keep quiet. They’re afraid to tell anyone. Their belief is secret. They keep their faith to themselves. Why?

They stay quiet because of threats from the Pharisees. Jesus’s growing popularity threatens these religious leaders. He’s taking their followers. They can’t tolerate that.

The people’s approval is more important to them than God’s. So, they oppose Jesus and his miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. They pressure anyone who believes in Jesus. 

The Pharisees threaten to expel from the synagogue anyone who professes their faith in Jesus. This would block them from taking part in any religious practices. It would remove them from spiritual interactions with other Jews.

These are both key parts of Jewish society. In effect, the Pharisees will ostracize anyone who believes in Jesus.

This isn’t the first time the Jewish leaders make this threat. Recall Day 16, “Rule Follower,” when Jesus gave sight to the blind man.

When they interrogate the blind man’s parents, they cover two items. First, they confirm that the man was born blind. Then they ask how the man can now see.

The parents are afraid to give credit to Jesus. Instead, they defer to their son, saying “We’re not sure. Ask him. He’s an adult.”

They respond this way, not because they don’t know the answer, but because they fear the ramifications if they acknowledge Jesus as the source of their son’s healing.

Though these parents believe Jesus healed their son, they won’t say so out of fear.

In the same way, many of the people who put their faith in Jesus because he raised Lazarus from the dead, give in to fear over retaliation from the Pharisees should they take a public stand.


  1. How valuable is your faith if you won’t share it with others? 
  2. If you are a silent believer, what must change?
  3. How can you make sure you don’t elevate the approval of others over the approval of God?
  4. Have you ever ostracized or threatened another person because their theology was different than yours? How can you correct that mistake? 
  5. When have you let fear keep you from saying or doing what is right?

Discover more about the blind man’s parents in John 9:18–23. What insights can you glean from this passage?

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Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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