“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25)
John Calvin once said, “The human heart is a factory of idols.” Calvin did not originate the statement because it is a biblical truth of which we all must be aware.
Genesis 6:5 says, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
Mark 7:20-23 says, “And he (Jesus) said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Galatians 5:16-21 says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
John 2:23-25 is but a brief section in the Gospel of John and easily overlooked. This is because it occurs immediately after Jesus’ dialogue with the Jews following His cleansing of the temple in John 2 and immediately prior to Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemas in John 3. However, these three verses, which conclude John 2, indicate not only the nature of the human heart or soul, but also Jesus’ awareness of its fallen condition and fallen man’s need of a spiritual rebirth, or regeneration, which Jesus will speak of to Nicodemas.
Jesus is attending the Passover Feast (See John 1:13-22). There are two verbal expressions mentioned in John 2:23-25. One concerns the actions and behavior of the people who witnessed the signs which Jesus performed. The second concerns Jesus’ reaction to the actions and behavior of the people who witnessed the signs He had performed.
The text does not specifically tell us what “signs” Jesus did. The word “signs” (σημεῖον; semeion) means an event with a special meaning. It refers to a miraculous type of occurrence. (See (Matthew12:38; Mark 8:11; Luke 2:12; 21:11, 25; John 2:11; Acts 2:19; 7:36; Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 1:22; 14:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Hebrews 2:4; Revelation 19:20).
Jesus displayed this miraculous power among the people and they “believed in His name” when they saw (θεωρέω; theoreo) or observed the signs He was doing. The word “believed” (πιστεύω; pisteuo) means to trust in, commit to, depend upon and worship. The reader is left with the potential understanding that these many, unidentified people became converted and true disciples of Jesus Christ.
However, the text then goes on to describe the reaction by Jesus to this act of believing by the many because of the signs He did. Jesus did not entrust Himself to them: that is the many who believed. Why?
The word “entrust” is the same word in the Greek for believe. Jesus continuously did not trust in, commit to, depend upon or honor the people who ostensibly or apparently trusted in Him. Again why not?
The text provides us the answer; “because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” The word “knew” (γινώσκω; ginosko) means to have knowledge of and to understand. Jesus understood what was fundamentally within the soul of man: an idol factory. Christ perceived everything which is in man which is concealed from others. Jesus knew and understood that these people did not belong to Him.
John Calvin goes on to explain that, “Christ had not given such a sign as the Jews demanded; and now, when he produced no good effect on them by many miracles—except that they entertained a cold faith, which was only a shadow faith—this event sufficiently proves that they did not deserve that He should comply with their wishes.”
Calvin continues by saying, “Yet this was not a pretended faith by which they wished to gain reputation among men; for they were convinced that Christ was some great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18) and perhaps they even ascribed to Him the honor of being the Messiah, of whom there was at that time a strong and general expectation. But as they did not understand the peculiar office of the Messiah, their faith was absurd, because it was exclusively directed to the world and earthly things.”
Calvin concludes, “It was also a cold belief, and unaccompanied by the true feelings of the heart.”
Jesus was on His guard against such people. Christ did not regard the many as genuine disciples but rather regarded them as volatile and unsteady. In other words, not everyone who professes Christ, then or now, possesses Christ.
Proverbs 21:2 says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.”
What about your heart? What about your faith in Christ? Is your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross and the empty tomb? Or is your faith a moralistic, therapeutic deism in order to make your life here on earth as comfortable as possible?
Consider your answer very carefully.
Soli deo Gloria!