I am a people pleaser. I’m not proud of this and this character flaw does present a considerable number of challenges. I’ve recently discovered a new challenge this presents and I’m hoping my discovery will cause us all to think about our approach to life.
In John 5 Jesus goes to the feast in Jerusalem. While walking around the city he encounters a man who has been unable to walk for 38 years. He encountered many people who were ill, and for some reason chooses to interact with this one man. It was the Sabbath and Jesus heals the man, commanding him to take up his bed and walk. Walking a short distance on the Sabbath was permissible. Picking up your bed and walking with it were not. John’s telling us the story of this healing is just a brief introduction to a lengthy interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees.
The focus of Jesus’ message to the Pharisees was His relationship with the Father. God works and Jesus works. The Father is the source of life and so is Jesus. God the Father and Jesus the Son are connected. The depth of the connection results in Jesus’ incredible focus on doing the will of the Father and seeking to please the Father.
The Pharisees are not focused on doing the will of the Father. Here is what John 5:44 says in the New Living Translation.
No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God. (John 5:44 NLT)
The Pharisees cannot believe that Jesus is the Son of God because they are not looking at God, but at each other. They have searched the scriptures and established their own merit system. They seek to be honored by each other as they perfect their ability to meet a religious standard of righteousness. In Matthew 6:1-18 Jesus clearly tells these same religious leaders that when they are honored by people for their religious activities they have received all the honor they are going to receive.
This is serious, but Jesus’ words in John 5:44 sound an even greater warning. As long as the Pharisees are focused on the praise from people that comes from extraordinary religious achievement they will be unable to accept that Jesus is God’s Son and put their trust in Him. I don’t remember a time when the Pharisees praised Jesus. He did not care about their system or their praise. He sought only the praise and glory that comes from God. For that reason, they could not recognize Him and would not follow Him. This is no longer a matter of rewards. This is eternal life or death.
So, how does this apply to me? When I am seeking the approval or praise of people I have taken my eyes off Jesus. I will find it impossible to trust Him completely. I may do a good thing and receive praise, but I will have sinned, I will have missed the mark. Instead, if I am trusting God and seeking to please Him I can be much more confident that good will be done and love will be expressed. I’ll know this is true when God receives the glory and I am full of gratitude that this is the case. This is my desire and I hope it is yours.