Obstacles to Belief

It seems that after every amazing wonder performed by Christ before the people, the crowds fall into two groups. Jesus reveals that he is true food, the bread of life, and many believe, but many disciples turned back after hearing such a difficult statement. Jesus heals a blind man and the people cannot understand how Jesus could do such a thing. They wonder how could a man who is not from God restore sight, but would a man from God heal on the Sabbath? Divisions arise whenever Jesus speaks boldly and reveals himself to the people.

You might think that believing today is difficult. To put faith in something we cannot see is hard, and maybe if only we could see Jesus and see what he is able to do, then our doubt would be definitively cast aside. But that wasn’t the case in Jesus’ time, so why would it be so today? It is more than seeing. It is more than our experience. We must trust in Christ, and follow him even when we do not see the way.

What greater miracle could people ask for and what more would–if anything could–convince the crowds and Jewish leaders than raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Jesus isn’t messing around here. Lazarus was dead for days. He was wrapped in linen and buried in a tomb, trapped behind a large stone. But Jesus calls him out. He calls Lazarus out of the tomb and back to life, and Lazarus listens. Jesus had already revealed his glory and power in multiple ways, but now he reveals his power over life itself.

And you’d think, of course everyone would believe, trust, and follow Christ now. But again Jesus divides. Many believe in him, and others do not. Seeing Christ overcome death was not enough. The chief priests and Pharisees do not believe and go even further the other way. They gather and decide they must put a stop to this man. If they do not “everyone will believe in him.”

Why is belief in Jesus so bad? John 11:48 says the consequence of that is Rome will come and and take away our place and our nation. They fear that as Jesus increases, they will decrease (which is exactly the goal of John the Baptist, John 3:30). Jesus will disrupt their world, he will challenge their power. It didn’t matter what signs they witness or miracles Jesus performs. They fear Jesus will change their lives and take away what they value. This is not only the fear and weakness of the leaders, but of the people at large. As it says in chapter twelve, “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

What do we value so much that we can’t risk losing it for the sake of Christ? What positions of power or items of comfort are greater than what we receive in Christ? Do we value the approval of our peers more than that of God? These are real obstacles to faith. Surely seeing Jesus stand before us and turn water to wine would impress. But miracles are not enough. We must in faith believe in him, trust him with our lives, and love him more than we love ourselves.

Fortunately for us, even though we are petty and sinful, Christ still came to save. Back in John 11, as the leaders plot to stop Jesus after they heard about Lazarus, one priest, Caiaphas says that Jesus must be killed. His words serve as an unintentional prophecy and give us the reason Christ came. Caiaphas acknowledges a truth greater than his lips realize, “It is better for one to die for the people, than for the whole nation to perish.”

Jesus came to do more than perform miracles. He was sent to this world to overcome sin and to suffer the death that we deserve. He knew that this was the only way, that the one should die so that we may live.

May this be enough for we who have not seen, but still believe.

3 thoughts on “Obstacles to Belief

  1. This also makes me think of Mark 10:21-22, when the rich man ‘went away sad’ after Jesus told him that to receive eternal life he would have to, “Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor”. Rather than do as Jesus said, rather than receive treasure in heaven, he walks away sad “because he had great wealth”.

    • That’s another great example–and not even from this week’s readings! It’s so easy to think we wouldn’t make these same decisions, but what we value in life is powerful and alluring. These passages are good “gut checks.”

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