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Mark 11:32

ESV But shall we say, ‘From man’?”—they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet.
NIV But if we say, 'Of human origin' . . . ' (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
NASB But should we say, ‘From men’?'—they were afraid of the people, for they all considered John to have been a real prophet.
CSB But if we say, 'Of human origin' "--they were afraid of the crowd, because everyone thought that John was truly a prophet.
NLT But do we dare say it was merely human?' For they were afraid of what the people would do, because everyone believed that John was a prophet.
KJV But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed.

What does Mark 11:32 mean?

The tragedy of the chief priests, scribes, and elders is that they think their choice is between losing their power and authority to Jesus or losing it to ignominy. If they affirm John the Baptist's message of repentance, they must affirm John's message that Jesus is the Messiah. If they deny that Jesus is the Messiah, they'll have to deny John's message of repentance, risking the disapproval of the people. Either way, they would diminish in political clout. From a purely spiritual perspective, the choice should be obvious: to stand on the truth. Their reaction, of course, proves that truth is far from their highest priority.

Jesus already commented on this attitude. He condemned the elders' habit of publicizing their giving and orating grand prayers in synagogues and street corners. Jesus said if you "worship" God to impress men, your reward will likewise come on earth and not heaven (Matthew 6:2–6). God is more interested in sincere humility and softened hearts than prideful legalism (Luke 18:9–14).

It is truly freeing to reach the point where we don't care about what others think or what influence we hold and instead commit ourselves to God's approval and living as if we are citizens of His kingdom (Philippians 3:20). Rarely will this involve wearing camel hair or living on honey and locusts, as John the Baptist did (Matthew 3:4). Such a life usually doesn't even involve giving away all our possessions (Mark 10:17–31). It means loving God and others (Matthew 22:37–40) and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us so that we want the same things God wants (Philippians 2:13).

If the chief priests, scribes, and elders had understood and accepted this, they would have deserved their titles and their positions. They would not have been in danger of "losing face" by standing for what they truly believed.
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