God Over Self-Preservation

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” — John 11:45-48

Regardless of how often I have read the Gospels, I have always found how people respond to Jesus interesting. There are basically two responses — acceptance or rejection. Listeners either accept, believe, and follow him or they reject, ridicule, and walk away. But from this moment forward, in the Gospel of John, we will see next-level rejection from the spiritual leaders. One that builds into such hatred that it drives them to devise a plot to kill Jesus.

But I want you to notice this line in the text. The comments that are made by the religious council:

“What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Now the question presented here is a good question. "What are we to do?" is always the right question. The correct response is to accept his message and believe. But that's not the direction they go. They move toward self-preservation, but to see this, you have to understand who this council is to see their motivations at this moment in time.

This council is called the Sanhedrin. It was the highest judicial, religious body for God's people. There were about 70 members at the time of Jesus. It was comprised of men with various theological beliefs and roles. Most were Sadducees who did not believe in a bodily resurrection and mainly served as priests in the Temple. Others were Pharisees, who were scriptural experts and retained a powerful minority. And then there were a few others who were elders and aristocrats. And an "executive" member ruled this group called a High Priest.

But here's the problem with this group. During the time of Jesus, the Roman government got entangled in the affairs of the Sanhedrin. They, of course, understood that to govern in this region, they would have to hold sway over the Jews who dominated the area. One way they did this was by getting involved in selecting the High Priest. Rome hijacked the selection process and chose a High Priest who would do their bidding — and he did. And this High Priest held executive sway over the Sanhedrin. In addition, all the council members (Sadducees, Pharisees, elders, and aristocrats) were always on edge with the Roman government. As we see here, they became far more concerned that Jesus and his followers might set off an uprising that would bring down the total weight of Rome upon their heads. If this happened, they concluded that they would be in danger of losing their position, power, and prestige.

So with this backdrop in mind, let's reread one line of our text. The final comments by the Sanhedrin were:

"If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."

And the word that captures my attention here is the plural pronoun "our." Listen again to the text, "The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." All they are concerned about is themselves. They are not concerned about God, the Messiah, the truth, or the scripture. They are only concerned about personal protection and political positioning. They are worried about their position, power, and prestige — that's it. And now they are going to make decisions in that direction.

So here are two admonishments for you today. First, true believers are never concerned about self-preservation. They are only concerned about the preservation of God's name, God's mission, and God's glory. They are so committed to this that they are willing to sacrifice power, position, and prestige. Are you willing to do that? Willing to give up your career, your title, your income, and your security for Jesus? And second, they follow spiritual leaders who are concerned about the same. Spiritual leaders who are concerned only about God's name, God's mission, and God's glory. Who demonstrate that they are willing to make big sacrifices, bold proclamations, and give more attention to God's work than the butts in the seats of their churches or the bucks that pad their wallets.

Remember, there are always reflection and discussion questions below!


  1. Are there areas in your life where you find yourself more concerned about self-preservation rather than wholeheartedly committing to God's mission and glory? How can you identify and address these areas to align your priorities with God's purposes?
  2. In today's world, it can be challenging to find spiritual leaders who prioritize God's mission and glory above personal gain. How can we discern and support leaders who demonstrate a selfless commitment to God's work? What qualities and actions should we look for in spiritual leaders to ensure they are leading with integrity and a genuine focus on God's kingdom?

DO THIS: Stop seeking self-preservation.

PRAY THIS: God, help me to let go of self-preservation and wholeheartedly embrace your mission, sacrificing my own desires for the sake of your glory and the advancement of your Kingdom. Amen.

PLAY THIS: Let It All Go.

short + biblical + practical
Read through the Bible daily with Vince Miller.

6 thoughts on “God Over Self-Preservation

  1. Carl says:

    So what is one to do if called to make a bold financial stance for Jesus but that decision isn’t supported by wife/church?

    • gonzalo correa says:


      Without knowing the specifics and not knowing you personally, your questions is definitely challenging. God would not ask us to put our wife (family) and our church in jeopardy. So, my question to you is are you actually listening to the Spirit to make such decision? Have you have other brothers pray over this that is an unquestionable that God is leading you this way?

      • Carl says:

        I have shared with other brothers and Pastors of my church with mixed responses. My desire to go this way is rooted in extensive Bible study and a desire to love others the way Jesus loves them/me. He gave everything for me, why shouldn’t I/we be willing to give everything to others?

        • Eddie Ackerman says:

          My only question to you, Brother Carl, is are you and your wife both praying over this decision or are you praying for this decision alone? You two are one flesh, so you should be able to find God’s answer for your lives if you are BOTH connected to the Vine through prayer and reading the Word. That is my only suggestion, if you are not both praying together about a decision that affects your future, that sounds a bit selfish to me personally. As our lead pastor at our church says, we are all imperfect people with spiritually defective DNA. The local church is not going to support everyone’s financial decisions, so as long as it’s not UNANIMOUS that it’s a bad decision from your local church, that’s not always the best metric for following God’s plan or not. I hope that helps Brother Carl, I won’t try to lead you one way or the other, as I also don’t know all the details, nor do I need to know them, but pray with your wife and talk it over when you feel you are in sync with each other and God.

  2. Bill says:

    It’s ALL about identity. I am a believer and follower of the Lord of ALL Lords, ONLY Savior, Redeemer, Sacrificed Holy Lamb.
    Mere words cannot describe the love of God , Jesus and Holy Spirit.
    ALL to Jesus I’ve surrendered.

Comments are closed.