Summary: If we want to live lives of real influence, then we must fear God, not people.
One day, a bus driver was driving along his usual route. He didn't encounter any problems for the first few stops; a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well. At one stop, however, a big hulk of a man got on. He was 6' 8" tall, built like a wrestler, and his arms hung down to the ground. He glared at the driver and told him, “Big John doesn't pay!” Then he sat down at the back of the bus. The driver was 5' 3" tall, thin, and very meek, so he didn't argue with Big John. But he wasn't happy about it.
The next day, the same thing happened. Big John got on again, made a big show of refusing to pay, and sat down. It happened the next day, and again the day after that. The bus driver began to lose sleep over the way Big John was taking advantage of him.
Finally, he could stand it no longer. He signed up for body building courses, karate, judo, and a class on finding your self-esteem. By the end of the summer, the bus driver had become quite strong and felt really good about himself.
The next Monday, Big John entered the bus and again declared, “Big John doesn't pay!” Enraged, the driver stood up, glared back at Big John, and bellowed, “And why not?!”
With a surprised look on his face, Big John replied, "Big John has a bus pass." (Ed Rowell, Monument, Colorado; www. PreachingToday.com)
That poor bus driver. He went through all that trouble to get control of the situation, and it was all for nothing.
God has a better way to gain control and real influence in people’s lives. We don’t have to pump up our self esteem and take body-building courses. No. If we’re going to overcome fear to be a godly influence in people’s lives, we just have to learn to fear the right things.
In the New Testament, there was a group of religious leaders who prided themselves as being in charge. If you asked them, they were in control of the situation, but to any outside observer, they had no real influence in people’s lives. That’s because they feared the wrong things.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Mark 11, Mark 11, where these religious leaders challenge Jesus’ authority. He had just overturned tables in the Temple the day before, and now they are trying to regain control.
Mark 11:27-28 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” (ESV)
These religious leaders want to know who gave Jesus the right to clean up their mess in the Temple. It’s a question of who’s in charge here, because they know THEY didn’t give Jesus permission to overturn tables and throw the merchants out of the temple. They’re trying to establish their own authority, but Jesus counters their question with another question, which puts them in a trap.
Mark 11:29-30 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” (ESV)
Jesus was basically saying, “My authority comes from the same place John the Baptist’s authority came from.” It’s either from God Himself in Heaven or from mere men here on earth. In other words, Jesus says, “You answer my question; it’s the same answer to your own question.”
Mark 11:31-33 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (ESV)
Jesus refuses to answer their question, because they didn’t answer His. You see, the religious leaders had already rejected John the Baptist as a legitimate prophet from God, so they couldn’t say John’s baptism came from God. But if they said what they were truly thinking, that John’s baptism was merely a human invention, then they would face a riot from the people, who really believed that John was sent by God.
The religious leaders feared the people, and so they abdicated their power to influence them. The Greek word for “they feared” in verse 32 literally means “they were put to flight.” The religious leaders were so concerned about maintaining control, that they ran away from any control they might have had whatsoever. They wanted to be popular with the people, but that prevented them from having any power over the people they were trying to influence. Instead, the people controlled them.