Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Meaning of Jesus Not Entrusting Himself in John 2:24

Most English translations of John 2:24 do not make much sense to the average reader. Many Jews, who saw the miracles that Jesus had been performing, “believed in his name”; but Jesus either “did not commit himself” (KJV), “did not trust himself” (ASV), “did not entrust himself” (ESV), or “would not entrust himself” (NIV) to these new believers. But what does it mean that Jesus did not commit or entrust himself to others?

It is good that many people believed in Jesus as a result of the miraculous signs that he had performed. Christians know that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10), yet Jesus in John 2:24 does not seem to have responded to the conversion of a large number of people with a great deal of enthusiasm.

The key to making sense of Jesus’ response here is to note that the word translated as commit or entrust in John 2:24 is from the Greek verb πιστεύω, the same word that is often translated as believe. In fact, the verb πιστεύω occurs in the previous verse: “many believed [ἐπίστευσαν] in his name.” The repetition of πιστεύω in adjacent verses suggests that there is a kind of play on the word πιστεύω at this point. Many believed in Jesus, but Jesus did not believe in them! These people claimed to be followers of Jesus, but Jesus was not confident in them, and could not confide himself in them.

But why did Jesus not believe in these new converts? A large number of people being converted and coming to faith is surely a time for celebration … but only if such faith is a true faith that endures to the end. Jesus knew, however, that he would end up being rejected by the majority of the Jewish people of his day. He was cognizant of the fact that many of the people who believed in him at the start of his public ministry would end up abandoning him. Jesus knew the fickleness of people’s faith in him.

Further explanation is given in John 2:25. Jesus did not need anyone to tell him what human beings are like, because he himself knows what we are like on the inside. Jesus was well aware of the weakness of human nature, and just how fickle human commitment can be. Jesus knew that in the end he would be rejected by the majority of the Jewish nation, just as God had been rejected by the majority of Israel during the time of the Old Testament, and just as God had been rejected by Adam and the human race more generally throughout the centuries beforehand.

The Jewish rejection of the Messiah is a one of the key themes of John’s Gospel. Many Jews believed in Jesus, but only for a time. Jesus had crowds of people following him around the countryside. This reached fever pitch particularly after the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. Free food! Exciting preacher! Who wouldn’t want to be one of his disciples?

But when Jesus started teaching the people things that they could not readily accept, or when opposition or persecution arose, many of these believers ended up abandoning him (see John 6:60, 66). We are also told in John’s Gospel that there were many in the Jewish leadership at the time who also believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but sadly they were not prepared to confess this belief out of fear of being ostracized from Jewish society (John 12:42).

The Christian confession of faith that “Jesus is the Christ” is a necessary cause for celebration, but true Christian faith is more than just a momentary conversion experience. The question is how genuine such faith is, and whether or not it will endure till the end.

You say that you believe in Jesus, but does Jesus believe in you?



Randa said...

Thought provoking and challenging - thank you for posting Steven.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your excellent post.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Wow! This hit me right where it was supposed to!