“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).
As children, many of us were fascinated by the performances of famous magicians like David Blaine and Chris Angel. Their tricks seemed like magic, almost miraculous. However, we never believed that Chris Angel was an angel or considered David Blaine as the Messiah. We intuitively understood that seeing isn’t believing. In John 2:23-25, we find a similar theme: belief based solely on seeing signs and wonders falls short.
They Believed When They Saw
At first glance, it appears that everything is going well in Jerusalem. Jesus is performing signs and miracles, and as a result, many people believe in His name. We might assume that this aligns with the purpose of John’s gospel—to inspire belief in Jesus through documented events; however, John reveals a deeper truth: Jesus did not entrust himself to these people because He knew what was truly in their hearts.
The Limitation of Belief Anchored in Signs
The Greek word used for both “believed” and “entrust” in this passage sheds light on the limitation of belief based solely on signs and miracles. Belief anchored in signs is insufficient. Other individuals, such as Moses, performed miracles but were not the Son of God. Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians engaged in a “miracle-off,” demonstrating that miracles alone do not define one’s identity or authority. Real, saving belief requires more than being impressed by Jesus’ power; it necessitates submission to his reign and rule.Belief based on signs and miracles is insufficient: seeing ain't believing. Click To Tweet
The Purpose of Signs and Miracles
Signs and miracles serve to validate the person and message of Jesus. Jesus demonstrates his identity as the Son of God, the King of Kings, and the Savior through these miraculous acts. His message calls for repentance and belief in the Gospel, which holds the power of God for salvation. The signs build up to the ultimate event in human history—the resurrection, exemplified by Jonah’s experience of being swallowed up and emerging after three days. The resurrection becomes the ultimate sign of Jesus’ authority and victory over death.
Jesus Knew What Was in Man
Jesus understood the hearts of the people who believed in him based on signs alone. Despite their amazement, he did not entrust himself to them. Often portrayed as messengers, angels cannot tell God anything he doesn’t already know. Similarly, Jesus knows the hearts of humankind. However, this knowledge is not used as a threat or means of withholding grace but as a reason to freely offer the gift of grace.
John 2:23-25 invites us to examine the kind of belief we possess. Are we merely impressed by Jesus’ power? Do we find practical usefulness in His teachings? Or do his teachings lead us to moralism or genuine worship? Remember that Jesus knows our hearts, and there are no surprises for Him. We are called to come to Christ in honesty and humility, receiving the gift of grace and believing in him. Belief based on signs and miracles is insufficient: seeing ain’t believing. Our faith must extend beyond being impressed by Jesus’ power to submit and trust in His Lordship. Signs and miracles serve to validate the person and message of Jesus, culminating in the resurrection. Jesus understands our hearts and offers us grace freely. Let us approach Him with honesty and humility, receiving His grace and proclaiming His death until He comes again.
Alexander Wade is the lead teaching pastor at Worthy Redeemer Church in Huntsville, Alabama. “Wade,” as his friends call him, studied marketing and played football at Northwestern College, and audio engineering at McNally Smith College of Music. Wade is an MDiv student at the Reformed Baptist Seminary. He and his wife Alyssa have four children.