There were many Jewish leaders who believed on Jesus, but they did not say this openly because they would lose their positions, be kicked out of the Synagogue, and ostracized by the Jewish community.
They had “good” reasons
Spurgeon once listed the “good” reasons Moses should have stayed an Egyptian as opposed to identifying himself with the people of God. The same thing applies here. There are many “good” reasons these people had to stay secret Christians. Think of all the good they could do in that position. Hadn’t God put them in that position for a reason? Why cause unnecessary pain and conflict? They needed to maintain unity among God’s people. They couldn’t abandon the Jews. A more wicked person might take their place if they stood up. They had to provide for their families. They didn’t want to lose influence over their culture. It just didn’t fit with their personalities. They couldn’t win their friends if they stood up for Jesus. What good would it do? It’s a losing cause. These are all “good” reasons to stay a quiet “follower” of Christ.
We are the same way
Compromise is rampant within what is called Christianity today. We make the same excuses for our lack of evangelism. We make the same excuses in our families. We make the same excuses within the church. We make the same excuses for our political compromises. We have become just like the rulers who believed in Jesus yet stayed silent. We have “good” reasons, but as we all know they are just poor excuses for not taking a stance for Christ.
The conclusion of Scripture is that these men loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. That truly is the bottom line. They would rather maintain a comfortable life than suffer any loss for the glory of God. The same is true today. Most “Christians” are more concerned with being with the “victorious” majority than being a persecuted minority that glorifies God. It is possible to lose while winning. You can “win” in the eyes of the world and lose your character and soul.
We must seek the approval of God alone
What does it matter if the world hates you but God loves you? Who cares if everyone calls you stupid if God calls you wise? We must live our lives to hear, “Well done!” We must seek approval from the only One that matters, God Himself.
How is God calling you to stand up for Him? Will you acknowledge that it is a love for the praise of men that is keeping you from taking a stand? Will you live for the day you hear, “Well done!”?