Day 43: John 12:36b-50

At the end of Jesus’s public ministry, John tells us that “Though [Jesus] had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him” (12:37). By all accounts, they should have believed Jesus. His ministry was riddled with signs which pointed, over and over again, to the stories and the promises of the Old Testament. He was recognized as the Messiah by people on the fringe of Jewish society all throughout John’s gospel. Yet those who studied the scriptures most closely and waited most attentively for the Messiah missed it when he finally arrived.

Jesus emphasizes the magnitude of their unbelief when he highlights his relationship with his Father, the very same God of the Jewish scriptures: “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak…What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

The Jewish leaders were so focused on believing in the Messiah that when the Messiah himself came and lived among him, they couldn’t see him for who he was. Even those authorities who did recognize Jesus as the Messiah were too concerned with the status quo to act on what they believed. John tells us that “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” (12:43).

As you read through the book of John, be on the alert for any spots where believing “in” Jesus – beliefs that you might have learned in Sunday school growing up, or a theological bias you’ve developed over time, or a passage of scripture that offends you – might be preventing you from believing Jesus as he shows himself in the text.

Jesus says, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” God’s Word, the Bible, was given so that we might be enlightened about who God is and how we can participate in the story he is writing. When we let our theological camps, emotional baggage, or anything else get in the way of what the Word is communicating, we remain in the darkness of unbelief. So let us come to the Bible with a self-critical lens, letting the Word examine us even more closely than we examine it.

Prayer: Lord, expose the places where we impose our preferences, ideas, or emotions on our understanding of who you are. Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel who you really are. Make us thirsty to know and believe the real you.