ATP Blog 14 Discerner
As Jesus begins His ministry on earth, He starts to reveal His character. In Cana, Jesus submitted to His mother in quiet humility, and in the process, produced a sign that convinced the disciples that were with Him. In Jerusalem, He demonstrated zeal for God’s house and its purpose of prayer. His passion for truth led Him to give another sign, the sign of His body as a temple, which would be destroyed, and then raised up in three days. The disciples only understood this after the resurrection had occurred.
Today brings us to a follow up, that demonstrates the discerning heart of Jesus Christ. John begins with a timeline, ‘Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast ...’ (v23a) putting this section within a week of the Temple clearing incident. We are told that ‘many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.’ (v23b) It sounds like Jesus is quickly gaining popularity and influence with the crowds! He could have started a mega-church, or a revolution against the Romans, which were both expectations of the religious leaders (and some of the disciples) when it came to the Messiah. Yet, He did not. In fact, John tells us (v24) that ‘Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men.’ If Jesus was not willing to commit Himself to these people who seemed to believe in Him, two questions come to mind: Why not? Who or what did He commit Himself to?
The ’Why not?’ is answered by the latter half of that verse, where it states that He knew all men. These people ‘believed’ in Jesus, but He did not believe in them. Their faith was shallow and superficial. Although many claimed to believe, Jesus knew that mere intellectual assent proves nothing, since even the demons have that kind of faith (James 2:19, John Macarthur). Saying that ‘He knew all men’ describes the discernment of the heart that Jesus had because of His reliance on the Holy Spirit. He had demonstrated this discernment first with Nathaniel (1:47), and now was showing it with this crowd. His commitment was with those who truly believed and desired to grow (be discipled). Take note that the ‘men’ Jesus talks about refers to mankind, or people of both genders.
This discernment allowed Jesus to get to the root of the issue at hand. We will see that much more as we go through His period of ministry on earth, as there are many examples. I believe that we can also learn this discernment when we rely on the Holy Spirit through prayer and the study of Scripture. We will then be able to hear from God what the real issue is, and what to do about it. Since Jesus could discern through observation and reliance on the Holy Spirit, John tells us that He ‘had no need that anyone should testify of man.’ God understands our hearts better than we do, as often we even deceive ourselves. Jesus knew ‘what was in man’ otherwise known as the sin-nature. It was because of this that He was able to discern who was ready to receive ministry, and who needed to be passed by for the time being.
May we exercise this discernment that God may be glorified, and people drawn to Him through our ministry. Without the exercising of discernment, we push too hard, not hard enough, or in the wrong direction.