“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing. But Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself know what was in man,” John 2:23 – 25.
We like things neat and explicable, clearly defined and understandable; life is seldom clearly defined and understandable, it is seldom neat and explicable. So we invent myths, myths in the sense that they are stories to explain things to our satisfaction so that we can have the illusion of the neat and explicable, the clearly defined and understandable.
When we try to explain and identify the motives of others we are engaging in conjecture and conjecture can quickly become myth. Often when we try to explain why God does the things He does, or why things are the way they are, we engage in conjecture and once again we are in danger of perpetuating myth.
The belief of the many people in the name of Jesus at the Passover is something we’d like to understand; in John 1:12 – 13 we’re told that “to all…who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Yet, there is something in John 2:23 – 25 that cautions us against thinking that the “belief” of John 2:23 is the same belief of John 1:12. We cannot look to New Testament Greek for a difference in the words for they are the same word for belief, and yet we sense that the belief is different – the words are the same, the actions are not the same. Jesus is cautious and He will not entrust Himself to the people, His caution is our caution.
In John Chapter Four a woman of questionable reputation believes on Jesus; we sense the fidelity of her belief, we feel no caution. We may not understand all that transpires between this woman and Jesus, but we sense that the transaction is real – the woman makes no pretense, she is hardly a woman to put on airs. She goes and tells others and others come to believe in Jesus.
The man Jesus heals in John Chapter Five is problematic, we see healing but do we see belief in Jesus? This man’s response to Jesus is hardly the response of the blind man who Jesus heals in John Chapter Nine – the blind man has the fidelity of the Woman at the Well in John Four; and like the Woman at the Well the man born blind has no pretension – he tells it like it is and he believes in Jesus.
In John 6:15 we see a mirror of John 2:24, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” Then in 6:26 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.”
Then in John 6:66 we read John’s words, “After this many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.”
All who believe in Jesus do not believe in Jesus; all who call themselves disciples of Jesus are not disciples of Jesus; all who walk with Jesus do not walk with Jesus.
This is not neat or explicable or understandable or definable – yet we try to make it so by confessions and rituals and traditions and litmus tests. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have confessions and rituals and traditions and expectations in doctrine and practice – the Bible contains much about doctrine and practice, what we believe and how we live matters – the Epistles are all about doctrine and practice. And yet, when we have done all we can do, we are wise to say that we just don’t understand all there is about belief, and walking with Jesus, and being His disciple.
Peter hardly looked like a disciple on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas – yet because we know the outcome we know that Peter was indeed a faithful disciple. The two or three days of denial and unbelief that Peter experienced could be two or three years in another person’s life, or it could even be two or three decades – we hope not, we really hope not, but it could be. And because it could be we do well not to write the person off, not to cease praying, not to consign the person to the realm of Judas. We are never as smart as we think we are, never as wise, never as all-knowing; we never know the hearts of others the way our Father does; consider the words of Paul: Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. It is a relief not to be God.
We planted 18 tomato plants this year. One died within 2 – 3 weeks, it was from the same source as the other plants but it died. I don’t know why it died. The plants around it are still living, this one died. Some of the 17 remaining plants are twice as tall as the others, I don’t know why; they all came from the same source, they are all in the same environment, some of them might be different types and that could be the explanation. Some of the plants are bearing fruit already (May 31st!), some are not, some have more blossoms than others – I can conjecture but I really don’t know the reasons behind these things.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we are given the Parable of the Sower; seed and soil, soil and seed. We learn from this parable, hopefully we are challenged by this parable. I struggle with the thorns and cares of this world, I relate to that soil – Lord help me, remove the thorns and briars and weeds from my life so that I will be fruitful in You. Even after reading this parable for countless times for over 40 years it is still a mystery; I know more than I did but what I know is nothing compared to all there is in that parable. Seed and soil, soil and seed; God’s Word and people, people and God’s Word – a wonder, a mystery.
Toward the conclusion of John’s Gospel he writes: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
This is, after all, the Gospel that gives us: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life.
We have a certain and sure faith and yet we hold it in mystery; for it is a faith that transcends ages and creation and time and space; and yes, it transcends our highest understanding and knowledge. It is good to be certain about Jesus and uncertain about ourselves
Are we with the crowds at the first and last Passovers? Are we the man healed by the pool in Chapter Five? Are we the Woman at the Well or the man who was born blind and who can now see and who will not back down in his witness for Jesus? Are we with those disciples who turn away after hearing Jesus’ hard teaching in John Chapter Six? Have we denied Jesus along with Peter and are now looking for restoration in our relationship with Him? Are we soil and seed among weeds crying out to the Master Gardener to come and weed us and cultivate our soil?