“Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”
One of the themes which run throughout the Gospel of John is the way the actions of the Lord Jesus Christ bring about a division among the people of Israel. They are given a clear revelation of Jesus’ nature and identity in the way in which He engages in works which reflect the will of the Father as it is revealed in the Scriptures. They are then brought to a dividing point where they must decide between faith and unbelief. John’s purpose in this Gospel is to confront our unbelief and to bring us to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact John tells us this at the end of the second last chapter of his Gospel when he writes the following.
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.” (John 20:31)
When we look carefully at the unbelief which is described here in John’s Gospel one thing becomes very clear to us. This is that the unbelief of the Jews described here is not really an absence of faith. It is a belief in the wrong things. The Jews did not believe in Jesus because they believed in other things. In the same way we fail to believe in Jesus because our faith, and worship, is centred on other things. G. K. Beale in We Become What We Worship (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., 2008, p. 17) writes about this as he seeks to define idolatry.
“Before launching into our study, I need to define idolatry. Martin Luther’s larger catechism discussion of the first commandment (“You shall have no other gods before Me” [Ex. 20:3]) included “whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.” I might add here, “Whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security.” “The idol is whatever claims the loyalty which belongs to God alone.” These are good and basic definitions of idolatry. The word idolatry can refer to the worship of other gods besides the true God, or the reverence of images. According to both the ancient Near East and the Old Testament, an idol or image contained a god’s presence, though that presence was not limited to the image. The ultimate biblical assessment about the purported divine reality behind idols is well summarized by Christopher Wright:
“Although gods and idols are something in the world, they are nothing in comparison with the Living God…
While gods and idols may be implements of or gateways to the world of the demonic, the overwhelming verdict of the Scripture is that they are the work of human hands, constructs of our own fallen and rebellious imaginations…
The primal problem with idolatry is that it blurs the distinction between the Creator God and His creation. This both damages creation (including ourselves) and diminishes the glory of the Creator.
Since God’s mission is to restore creation to its full original purpose of bringing all glory to God Himself and thereby to enable all creation to enjoy the fullness of blessings that He desires for it, God battles against all forms of idolatry and calls us to join Him in that conflict…
We need to understand the whole breadth of the Bible’s exposure of the deleterious effects of idolatry in order to appreciate its seriousness and the reason for the Bible’s passionate rhetoric about it.” (C. J. H. Wright, The Mission of God, Downers Grove, Ill., Intervarsity Press, 2006, pp. 187-188)
Beale goes on in his book to make the point that whatever we worship will form us into its image. This is why it is of such vital importance that we see clearly who the Lord Jesus Christ is, the Son of the Living God who has come into this world to set us free from the idols which we worship and to bring us to truly worship the God who has created us and who wishes to restore His image in us so that we might bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
John calls us to a point of decision regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. What do you believe about Him?