“Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptising in the early days. There He stayed, and many people came to Him. They said, ‘Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.’ And in that place, many believed in Jesus.” John 10:40-42 NIV.
Thus concludes a dramatic and tempestuous encounter between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, and a temporary lull in the conflict between them. He retreated beyond the Jordan, not because He was afraid of them but to allow the dust to settle before the last and final battle that would end in His death.
The writer, John, assures his readers that, in spite of the opposition of the Jewish hierarchy, there were many of the ordinary people who were convinced that He was the Messiah and that John the Baptist’s testimony about Him was true. At this stage they were probably still wobbly believers, convinced of who Jesus was and yet wary of the Pharisees because the religious leaders had the power to do damage to these infant believers because of their position in their religion.
In a few short weeks, the faith of these baby believers would be sorely tested when Jesus was finally arrested and brought to trial before His adversaries. John’s purpose was to present Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so that his readers would be convinced of His identity and put their faith in Him. Throughout the gospel John assured his readers that this was happening in spite of the hatred of the Jewish leaders towards Jesus.
After the episode of the healing of the blind man, no doubt the common people were in on the hot debate that raged between the Pharisees and Jesus. They heard the accusations levelled against Him because that He had healed the man on the Sabbath. They had listened to Jesus’ defence: ‘Evaluate my works and see whether they don’t match the nature of the Father.’
These enquirers had done their own thinking and concluded that a demon-possessed man could never do the miracles Jesus was doing to bring health and comfort to suffering people. At least they had the good sense to be honest, to weigh up the evidence with an open mind and to reach the conclusion that the Pharisees refused to come to because the Pharisees were convinced they were right.
The Pharisees not only denounced Jesus; they also dismissed the common people as ignorant and stupid! What an indictment against them!
Where were all these so-called believers when the mob, led by the Jewish religious hierarchy, was baying for Jesus’ blood? Were they in the crowd, swayed by mob hysteria to demand His death? Were they too afraid to stand up for Him lest they suffer the same fate? Was their protest so feeble that they were shouted down when they tried to defend Him? We will never know.
However, there must have been many of those early shaky believers who joined the tide of people who repented and were baptised on the Day of Pentecost. Their failure to support Jesus for whatever reason was only a part of the process. They were not denounced or disqualified for their weakness. They were included in the ranks of those who became staunch followers of the risen Messiah.
Does this not encourage us to believe that where we are now, or where our loved ones are now, is not the end of the story? Where was Saul on the day when he stood watching the fanatical Pharisees hurling stones at Stephen and thoroughly supporting what they were doing? Where was he when he set out for Damascus to do as much damage to the church there as he could? He was only hours away from a life-transforming encounter with the Living Christ that would set his life in a new direction.
We must never give up on those for whom we are praying because they are also at some point in the process of becoming new in Christ. God has promised to complete what He has begun and we can count on His promise, not matter what!
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.