Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.
So they said to Him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe You?
What work do You perform?”…
But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.
John 6:30, 36
THE EVIDENCES FOR THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE
What does it take for someone to believe the Christian message? Miracles? God visibly appearing to them? Hearing directly from God? When Jesus the Christ appeared and did many extraordinary things – including each of the things just mentioned – many people did indeed believe. But, even despite many of these evidences being demonstrated before their eyes, some still would not believe. What was it that people were either accepting or rejecting, or believing or refusing to believe? The Christian message is what Jesus taught. It might be summed up as: all people are alienated from God by their sin; Jesus Christ had come to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who would die to atone for the sins of all mankind; His death would be the means by which God forgive each person of their sins; but this forgiveness could only be enacted if each person turned to the Christ as their Saviour by putting their trust in Him and what He taught. Jesus supported His claims by performing many miracles, which the apostle John described as “signs”. In fact, when he eventually wrote his gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, John chose seven of Christ’s signs to demonstrate that He was who He claimed to be: God in the flesh.
¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
JOHN’S SEVEN SIGN-PROOFS LEADING TO BELIEF IN JESUS
The apostle John carefully selected seven profound miracles performed by Jesus that revealed His claim to be the eternal God. Each of these miraculous signs revealed that Jesus was the eternal God who was Lord over creation, the weather, time, the laws of nature, and even death.
|1. The Changing of Water into Wine||John 2:1-11||Master of quality|
|2. Healing of the Official’s son||John 4:46-54||Master over distance and space|
|3. Healing of the 38years of being a lame invalid||John 5:1-9||Master over (the ravages of) time|
|4. The Feeding of The Five Thousand||John 6:1-14||Master over quantity|
|5. Walking on water||John 6:16-21||Mastery over natural law|
|6. Healing of the man born blind||John 9:1-12||Master of misfortune|
|7. Raising of the four-days-dead Lazarus||John 11:1-46||Master of death|
Any one of these miraculous signs would have convinced any reasonable person that Jesus of Nazareth was no mere mortal. But despite these extraordinary evidences, some people still refused to believe in Jesus.
Though He had done so many signs before them,
they still did not believe in Him.
Quite possibly the most dramatic, and otherwise inexplicable, miracle that Jesus did before His own physical resurrection, was the raising of Lazarus from dead. Lazarus had been dead and entombed for four days. People had witnessed him die and more people had witnessed his dead body being placed in the tomb. The absolutely startling thing to me is the extent to which some people will choose to remain closed to the evidentially-based truth! Not only did some not believe in Jesus after witnessing this astounding miracle, they sought to oppress those who did become believers — and even made plans to kill Jesus so that people would stop believing in Him!
When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.
Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
¶ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did,
believed in Him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do?
For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him,
and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
WHY SOME REFUSE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS
Every time I read this story I am deeply struck by the hardness of heart among the Jewish Council comprised of chief priests and the Pharisees. John gives us an insight into why these religious leaders were not prepared to accept the evidence that Jesus was Immanuel (“God with us”, Matt. 1:23). They feared their loss of power if they turned to Jesus and accepted that what He was saying was true – “the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” they said.
LOSS OF POWER: Power comes in many forms. It comes from an appointed position. It comes from a popular vote. It comes from prosperity. It comes from their place in a family. It’s true that turning to Jesus could lead to a person losing their position, their popularity, their prosperity, or their place in their family. Jesus acknowledged that this could be the cost of following Him.
How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and
do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Some people refuse to believe in Jesus because they fear a loss of power or prestige – but in the process they may put their immortal souls in risk of eternal peril!
Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out,
those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
LOVE OF SIN: Sin is what alienates all mankind from God for eternity unless it is judiciously removed. Mankind is completely unable to remove our own sin. Its power over us utterly enticing. The Bible describes sin as being able to deliver “fleeting pleasures” (Heb. 11:25). This is especially the case with sexual sin. The ancient sage described sexual sin being sweet to the taste that then becomes bitterness once swallowed which causes pangs of pain similar to being stabbed by a two-edged sword (Prov. 5:3-4). It is true that turning to Jesus necessarily involves repentance (turning from sin) which would mean renouncing sexual sin (sex without, or beyond the bounds of, marriage). By the way, all sin is in some way a distortion of something that God made and designed to be good in some way. This is true of sex which God had designed as something very good which was meant to unite a husband and a wife, have the potential to pro-create children, bring comfort and acceptance to a spouse, provide a pleasurable means to tame otherwise wild sexual passions/desires — and most importantly as a shadow of the type of love that God has for the Church (Eph. 5:22-30).
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.
What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
God had designed for us to flourish without ever having to sin. Yet the Evil one has deceived mankind into thinking that their Creator is against them and wants to keep them from pleasures. This is lie. Our Creator is for us. He created us to share His love and good pleasures with us. He has created all things for us to enjoy (1Tim. 6:17). The Enemy of our souls whispers into our minds that there is no good evidence for believing in Jesus – when he, above all people, knows that there is actually ample evidence for believing in Jesus.
The first 11 chapters of John’s Gospel describes the seven signs that Jesus gave. The last ten chapters of his Gospel culminates Christ’s signs with the Ultimate sign: His resurrection from the dead. John concludes his Gospel by writing –
¶ 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.
WHY SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE
Confronted with the same evidence, why is it that some people believe and others do not? There seems to be one consistent similarity among everyone who becomes a believer. They are open to accepting the evidence. This openness nearly always (if not always) results in them prayerfully affirming their openness to God with a prayer that sounds like a desire to know the truth about God.
“God, if You’re real, reveal Yourself to me.”
Jesus actually promised that if someone would just be open to the evidence, and seek the truth, they would find it (Luke 11:9-10). I recently heard the story of a French atheist, Guillaume Bignon, who thought that Christianity was equivalent to fairy-tales and that anyone who believed it was “below par”. But then he met a reasonable Christian. He set out to prove to them that they were wrong, but in the process he encountered evidence that he was not aware of, and eventually prayed an openness prayer. It was from that point, that his life dramatically changed. You can view his testimony here.
Perhaps you are reading this and have either thought that there was no supporting evidences for Christianity; or, possibly, you think it is all irrelevant. But if what Jesus Christ said was true, then as the apostle John wrote, the Christian message is actually the most relevant message any person anywhere on the planet could ever give their open consideration to. Therefore, if I may, I would like to invite you to begin a journey of openness to the claims of Christ by praying the openness prayer and see what happens. And maybe, just maybe, you too will discover that all people who transition from unbelief or non-belief to belief have all commenced their journey to believing in Jesus by praying a variation of the openness prayer.
Let me know what happens if you do.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
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