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 knew what was in man.
In his gospel account, John is pushing the doctrine of Christian belief. He wants to put forth the necessary element of belief in Jesus as the Son of God for the salvation of sins. Therefore, throughout his gospel, he is using the word belief over and over again. For example, in John 3:16-18 he uses some form of the word believe four times. He says near the end of the account, in 20:30-31 that he wrote it so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ. Obviously, believing is at least one item on John’s agenda.
In the account above, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Passover feast. He is teaching and performing miracles and causing some kind of belief in many. But, the way John writes it, the folks don’t necessarily have true belief, that is, saving faith. They believe in Jesus up to a point but not all the way to believe in him as the Christ – The one who they’d been waiting for. Perhaps he was a prophet like the prophets of old who could perform miracles. They certainly saw it with their eyes but it was really a vain faith. It was a faith that got them something, maybe a story to tell or something like that, but it wasn’t a faith that looked upon Jesus as the fulfillment of all history.
John says that Jesus didn’t entrust himself to them. He did not because they ultimately believed not. We know from the gospel accounts how the religious leaders saw Jesus: as a blasphemer and insolent rebel, not as the Christ.
What John says, though, is striking to me for two reasons:
1) Jesus knows all people. He needs no one to tell him how people are. Being God he’s omniscient. That’s a truth about God. But in the humanity of Jesus, there is a more relational aspect to this statement of John, which leads to the second point of emphasis.
2) Jesus himself knew what was in man. Not theoretically, not distantly, not hypothetically, but personally. John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Jesus became flesh. He put on humanity and dwelt with us. That means that he understands man in the most personal of ways, in the ways that only a man could understand man.
This second point is important for at least two reasons:
1) Jesus being man and understanding man gives him even more right to condemn the wicked, unbelieving man. If Jesus himself, who was a man, was able to believe with perfect belief, as we know he did, then how can we say that there is any reason not to believe? Jesus proved in his humanity that there was no reason. Mere miracles are not enough for true belief; it must extend into the whole being of man, from conviction of sin to joy in salvation. Belief in Christ is what gives us the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
2) Jesus being man and understanding man gives us extreme comfort. If Jesus understands man as John proclaims in the way that he proclaims it, then that means the he can understand exactly the way in which you are being tempted, the acuteness of your suffering, the severity of your need. He was tempted in every respect yet did not sin. He himself partook of the same things as you. He had to go away to quiet places to be alone to pray in trying times. He was misunderstood by his best friends, abandoned by his inner circle, alone in a crowd because of his faith, despised because of his scandalous mercy. In so many more ways he lived as a man in this world to the limit. If there is anyone who understands man, it is Jesus. Therefore, if there is anyone who is able to help, it is Jesus. He himself knows. He is able to help those who are being tempted. We can draw near to him to find mercy and grace to help in times of need.
Jesus understands you. He understands more deeply how sinful you are. He also understands more deeply how to help you despite of it. But because he understands it so well, he knows how damnable it is. The issue in John 2 was not that they saw Jesus’ works and believed in he could do those works, it was because they saw those works and didn’t believe in his ultimate work. The work of Jesus accomplishes us nothing good if we don’t look upon him in faith to see that it is sufficient to save us from our sins. And no one understands that more clearly than Jesus.
Having a hard time believing? I know someone who can help with that.