It’s hard to wake someone up who’s pretending to be asleep.
We can close our eyes and minds and ignore reality right in front of us. Moreover, we will enjoy our own “substitute reality” that doesn’t have to deal with the truth. We see it constantly in so many ways.
We also see it when it comes to people’s reactions to Jesus.
Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time before His death at His Triumphant Entry. The crowd thought they were welcoming a warrior who would rid them of the Romans. Jesus was preparing to save the world from its sin. We continue the story in John 12:37-50.
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.“
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”John 12:37-50
New International Version
All the signs Jesus performed were meant to function as road signs inspiring belief in Him. The road signs were laid out in front of the people, but they refused to see the evidence in front of their eyes.
So, if the evidence was right before their eyes, why was there such a catastrophic failure of Jesus to prove His identity? Why didn’t they believe? We believe, and we don’t have these signs. They were there! This unbelief, however, was not only foreseen by Scripture but was necessary.
These explanations are given in verses 38-40. Their unbelief fulfilled part of the prophecy regarding Jesus’ identity. Does this mean the Lord has created a scenario where the people had no choice but to live with blind eyes and hardened hearts? In isolation, the verses certainly seem to indicate this. Verse 37, if you remember, sets this against the culpability of humanity when it says, “they still would not believe in Him.” It did not say, “they COULD NOT believe.” It said, “they still WOULD not believe…” There’s a big difference. It isn’t merely that they lacked the ability to believe; their own hearts lacked the desire.
To be sure, the entire crowd present during the triumphal entry itself didn’t hear these words recorded in verses 44-50 but in passion and fervor, Jesus tells any who will listen.
In this affirmation, our Great King engages the crowd of disciples and those with ears to hear. He tells (in verse 45) that those who have seen Him have laid eyes on the Father. For those of us who have Him in our hearts, we have felt the heartbeat of the Father. Jesus again reminds us: to have the Son is to have the Father and to have the Father is to have the Son.
And this is why it is so vital for people to understand Who Jesus is. He didn’t claim merely to be a good teacher. Nor a mere moral person. Nor a mere Rabbi or a new sect of Judaism.
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed that if we want to get to Heaven, it’s going to be through Him.
It doesn’t matter if people pretend to be asleep and don’t want to hear. Our mission is to do our best to wake them up. We MUST try.
As Charles Spurgeon famously (and solemnly) said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped around their knees. If hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go unwarned or unprayed for.”
Jesus-followers, let’s go wake them up!