Gospel of John 12: 37-43 (NIV)
37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
In this passage the Apostle John has explained at least two reasons for peoples’ rejections of belief in Jesus as Messiah, as God incarnate:
- there were those who refused to believe who Jesus was despite the evidence of all the miraculous signs he performed in their presence; and
- there were those who accepted the evidence but refused to act on the evidence because that would demand that they move beyond their present comfort zones.
We might wonder why those whose eyes have been blinded (and whose ears have been dulled – Isaiah 6: 10) and whose hearts have been deadened are then to be held responsible for not seeing (and not hearing) and not understanding. Well, we wonder too why those who, despite signs and repeated warnings and alerts, will still drive a motor vehicle into swiftly-flowing flood waters expecting that the vehicle will safely negotiate a submerged road and exit without mishap on the other side! It is as if their eyes have been blinded too!
More easy to understand, perhaps, are the attitudes of those among the leaders of Israel who believed in Jesus but would not confess faith in him for fear they would be put out of the synagogue. They “loved praise from men more than praise from God”. This is the equivalent of fearing the disapproval of colleagues more than fearing the disapproval of God, so evident in our own society. We speak of “peer pressure” particularly in the context of children in a school environment. Peer pressure is manifest on the sporting field, in popular culture and unquestionably in the workplace including in Parliament House. There is an expectation that employees will conform, that supervisors will conform, that leaders will conform and that Parliamentarians will conform, not only with the laws of the land but also in subtle ways with the mores of those elements of the community in which each desires to circulate and feel comfortable.
The implication of refusing to believe who Jesus is or of believing but not then acting on that belief is to forego the healing, the salvation from sin that Jesus offers. Rejection of Jesus then, after all those miraculous signs had been done in the presence of the Jews, or now, in Australia today, is a rejection of God and of God’s authority in our lives. An inevitable consequence of unbelief is judgement – a judgement far more eternally significant than that of peers or colleagues, whether employees or supervisors or leaders or Parliamentarians.
Lord, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24)