Having been a boy scout for several years, I can still remember most of the Scout Law. There are twelve character qualities given in the Scout Law: A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. I wondered why it started with “trustworthy”. I guessed that, in case you forgot all the others, you would still remember that one! It worked because I did remember that one and most of the others as well!
“Trustworthy” – worthy of trust, dependable, believable, consistent, enduring. Over the last several years I’ve experienced the untrustworthiness of people more than at any other time in my life. It seems to me that the number of people who can be trusted is growing smaller, and that deceitfulness and hypocrisy are on the increase. I hope this observation is only true in my case. There has been the temptation to become paranoid and not trust anyone anymore. But that wouldn’t be right either. Greater care needs to be taken, and more research done on my part before trusting a person or making a decision. More prayer needs to precede decisions As the saying goes: “You can’t always judge a book by its cover.” Have you had similar experiences? Have there been times when you wished that you could read people’s minds and weigh their motives before you put your life, your health, your confidence, your money, your house, or your car in the hands of a doctor, lawyer, realtor, salesman, mechanic, “friend”, or relative, as the case may be. It’s often a step of faith, isn’t it?
The Lord Jesus teaches us a lesson about faith and trust in these last three verses of chapter 2. He had recently performed His first miracle when He changed the water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana. People were beginning to notice Him and ask questions about Him, and say good things about Him. Then He cleansed the Temple, and people are wondering, “Who gave Him the right to do that?” People were beginning to take sides for or against Him, and many were saying evil things about Him.
I. THE MIRACLES (verse 23)
It was the time to celebrate the Passover, the first Passover since beginning His public ministry. Verse 23 begins with the words: “Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast.” The celebration lasted for eight days and Jesus may have arrived early. Crowds of people were there from Judea, Galilee, and the surrounding areas in order to obey God’s command and remember God’s deliverance of His people Israel from their slavery in Egypt. The next section of the verse tells us what the Lord Jesus was doing during that period of time. “Many saw the miraculous signs He was doing.” Obviously, Jesus was performing many miracles while He was there – probably healing miracles. Now there was visual evidence and public testimonies of His power to heal. Jesus was getting the attention of everyone.
II. THE RESULT (verse 23b)
Verse 23 ends with the words “and trusted in His name”. These people were amazed at the miracles Jesus was performing, and having seen them up close, they came to the conclusion that He must be the Messiah or a prophet, because nobody else could do such things. They were responding to His miracles in a positive way. Was their faith a saving faith, a life-changing faith? Is there any way that we can know for sure? Do these “believers” meet all the criteria? Remember that it is very early in the public ministry of Christ. This may be the first time they had ever met Jesus, and they may know nothing else about Him other than the fact that He performs miracles. Let’s see how Jesus responds to this news.
III. THE RESPONSE OF JESUS (verse 24a)
Verse 24 begins with these words, “Jesus did not commit Himself to them”.
The word translated “commit” in this verse is the same Greek word that is translated “believe” in verse 23. J. Oswald Sanders, in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, has these words to say about verse 24: “Our Lord trusted no man; yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in His trust. . . . If I put trust in human beings first, I will end up despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man can ever be – absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.”
IV. THE REASONS (verses 24b-25)
The apostle John gives the following reasons for Jesus’ response to those who “believed in Him”: “for He knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.” Jesus was all-knowing. This was another one of the evidences of His deity. He knew what was in their hearts – the reasons and motives for their actions. He knew human nature. These people who had been reported to Him as having believed in Him were Jews who were attending the feast. The Lord Jesus realized that many of these same people who believed in Him at the start of His public ministry would later turn from Him and turn against Him. They were uncommitted and easily swayed by the Jewish leaders.
As I have studied the Gospels, Jesus wasn’t calling people to believe in Him; He was calling them to follow Him – the full-sense of the Greek word for “believe” (pisteuo). At the end of Jesus’ life there were very few who were called His “followers”.
In this present age of internet websites and social media, the words “follow” and “follower” have a very precise meaning and application. If you like a particular site and would like to receive updates and notifications of new postings on that site, you simply click the button labelled “FOLLOW”. When you do so, you instantly become a “follower”. It’s as simple as that! The fact that you are here at this site may indicate that you might have a site of your own and have followers as well.
In this computer-age, is it easy to become a follower of Christ? Has our computer technology made it easier? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there is easier access to Bible translations, Bible study materials, commentaries, sermons, etcetera. No, in the sense that the decision itself is a costly one, and the price hasn’t changed. A profession of faith is not enough. A profession of faith and baptism is not enough. I see no distinction being made in the Scriptures between a believer in Jesus Christ and a follower of Jesus Christ. In Acts 8:13, Simon the magician believed and was baptized. Later, in verses 18-19, Simon offers to pay money so that he also can lay hands on people and they could receive the Holy Spirit. He thought it was a magic trick! Peter says to Simon, in verse 21, “You have no part nor share in this ministry because your heart is not right with God . . . I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
So how does one become a follower of Jesus Christ? The Lord Jesus answered that question Himself in Luke 9:23 when He said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Death to self and dedication to Christ on a daily basis.
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? In John 10:27 Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” The proof is in the following. At this time of the year crowds of people are standing in lines all over the world, waiting to return gifts they received for Christmas, or exchanging them for another gift. Why not begin this year with the crowds of people who have decided to become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ by exchanging gifts with Him – your life in exchange for His? It’s the best gift exchange you will ever make, and you’ll experience the real joy of this season when you choose to follow Him. Now is the time.
If you are a genuine follower of Christ, why not set some spiritual goals for this year. Organize your day around Him by setting aside a place and time for fellowship with Him in His Word and in prayer. Follow a one-year Bible reading program to read the Bible in a year (approximately 20 minutes a day), put together a prayer list of people you want to pray for daily or weekly; possibly pick a passage of Scripture that you want to memorize this year. There are many potential goals that you can set. Just make sure you write them down and put the list in a place where you will see it often. It also helps to have another Christian that you can share accountability with, and be of mutual encouragement to each other. May we be good stewards of what God has given us this year, growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Truth.
Welcome to another work-in-progress. Wishing you a happy New Year 2017. I do have two New Year’s messages in my posts somewhere if you would like to search for it. One is entitled “A New Year’s Commitment”, and was published in January of 2015. The other message was for New Year’s 2014. Let’s organize this day, this week, and this year around Him, and put it in writing so that we can see, and He can see, that we mean business.