Jesus was teaching. He spoke in such a profound way that people either recognized Him as the Son of God, the Messiah, or they couldn’t see the truth through their preconceptions and pride.
The Pharisees had made up their minds and no one was going to change them. They were so full of pride and surety of their convictions that they could only believe what fell in line with those opinions. Jesus spoke openly and truthfully. He passed every test they threw at Him, trying to trip Him up. Yet, they always came up with another reason to hate Him.
But some people, even a couple of the Pharisees did believe. What were the differences between the people who believed and the people who didn’t?
The Pharisees thought they knew it all already. They had already decided what the Christ would look and act like. They assumed He would be like them. They were puffed up by their own righteousness. They were full of pride about their knowledge, goodness, and position. Those who believed Jesus had no goodness of their own to brag about. While many had ideas about the Christ, their minds were not so closed that they couldn’t accept new information and restructure those notions.
Verses 12-13 read,
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.”
The Pharisees had to try anything to discredit Jesus, because He was really upsetting the status quo. So they came at Jesus with, “You can’t say that about yourself!” Jesus knew His answer wouldn’t affect the Pharisees, but it would affect the crowd. So instead of reminding them of John the Baptist who had said that very thing about Him, He referred to His Father and His Divinity.
Verses 14-18 in The Message record Jesus’ response.
“Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me, the Father. That fulfills the conditions set down in God’s Law: that you can count on the testimony of two witnesses. And that is what you have: You have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.”
They wanted to know where His father was. And Jesus said, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” (Verse 19).
Now the Pharisees were getting angry and Jesus was right there in front of them teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested Him because it wasn’t time yet. Verses 21-24 of the message detail what happened next.
“Then he went over the same ground again. “I’m leaving and you are going to look for me, but you’re missing God in this and are headed for a dead end. There is no way you can come with me.”
22 The Jews said, “So, is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by ‘You can’t come with me’?”
23-24 Jesus said, “You’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons. You live in terms of what you see and touch. I’m living on other terms. I told you that you were missing God in all this. You’re at a dead end. If you won’t believe I am who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins. You’re missing God in your lives.”
The Pharisees thought they were the best of the best. They had dedicated their entire lives to studying the scriptures and upholding the law. And Jesus was telling them they didn’t have God in their lives! They were getting angrier and angrier. They had no defense, because Jesus was speaking the truth. He was shining a light into their souls and it was showing them the plain hard fact that though they loved the law they didn’t even know God or love Him.
They didn’t want to hear it though. What He was saying didn’t align with their mindset. So they kept asking Jesus, where He was from and who He was. He told them. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” (Verses 25-26).
The Pharisees still didn’t get it that Jesus was talking about the Father so Jesus continued. Verses 28-30 read,
“So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”
The educated and pious Pharisees couldn’t grasp what Jesus was talking about because their minds were obscured and confused by their prejudices and pride. But many in the uneducated crowd did understand Him and believe. They may have had preconceptions about who Messiah would be, but their minds were not closed up by their smugness.
Jean Piaget was a developmental psychologist who developed a theory about how people learn. His Theory of Cognitive Development revolutionized education and still impacts education today. In the simplest terms he said that, children develop ideas or schemas about the world and through exploration they come across discrepancies in those structures. When that happens they must reorganize the ideas and build new schemas. For instance, a toddler has a pet cat and he knows that furry animals with four legs and tail are kitties. But when he meets a dog and calls it kitty, he learns that this is called “doggy.” He must reorganize his knowledge and learn that only some furry things are kitty and others are doggy and perhaps others are also different.
The Pharisees were too full of themselves to allow new information to upset their knowledge. Most of them missed out on the awesomeness of grace. How about you? Are you too full of yourself to accept the whole truth of Jesus? Are you so insecure in your beliefs that you can’t hear something that might not fit your convictions? Will new ideas destroy your structures of information or build them into better stronger structures?