The Danger of Skepticism
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 10:19-21 (Holman) Again a division took place among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying, AHe has a demon and He=s crazy! Why do you listen to Him?@ Others were saying, AThese aren=t the words of someone demon-possessed. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?@
The debate recorded in these verses was preceded by some of Jesus= best known statements: AI am the door of the sheep.@ AI am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.@ AI am the Good Shepherd.@
We might think Jesus= life and words were so pure and loving that all people would have flocked to Him. No. His teachings repelled many, and still do.
Some of Jesus= listeners claimed He had a demon and was an insane lunatic. This is the fourth time in John=s Gospel that Jesus was accused of having a demon.
The charge was issued here after Jesus claimed to have absolute power over His own life. The charge had been previously leveled after He accused the leaders of seeking His life (7:20), after He claimed the leaders were not of God (8:48), and after He said, AIf a man keep my saying, he shall never see death@ (8:52).
This charge against Jesus was scandalous. Since demons are selfish, Jesus could never have had a demon. Demons never have cared about helping people, but Jesus spent His whole life blessing others. Demons could not, and would not if they could, heal the blind. They would sooner put out eyes than open them.
Some refuted the accusation of demon possession. But even they confined their views of Jesus to the negative. They said what they thought Jesus was not, but did not venture an attempt to say what He was.
John 10:22-23 Then the Festival of Dedication took place in Jerusalem, and it was winter. Jesus was walking in the temple complex in Solomon=s Colonnade.
The dreariness of winter provided an apt setting for the grim relations developing between Jesus and the leaders. Solomon=s Colonnade was a roof supported on pillars. Jesus was in the Temple at Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah), an eight-day celebration that falls near our Christmas. The Feast celebrated the dedication of a new altar and the purging of the temple by Judas the Maccabee in 165 B.C.
This cleansing of the temple had been necessary because of Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled Syria from 175 to 164 B.C. Loving Greek culture and wanting to eliminate the Jewish religion once and for all, he attacked Jerusalem, massacred 80,000 Jews, sold multitudes into slavery, and made circumcision punishable by death. Mothers who circumcised their sons were to be crucified with their children hanging around their necks.
Antiochus polluted the temple when he offered on its altar pigs to Zeus, the pagan god. Incensed, the Maccabees rose to fight. In 165 B.C., when their struggle was won, the Temple was cleansed and purified.
Only one little cruse of unpolluted oil could be found to light the Temple lampstand. There was only oil enough to light the lamps for one day, but by a miracle it lasted 8 days, till new oil had been prepared according to the correct formula for consecration. The 8-pronged Menorah commemorates this event.
John 10:24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and asked, AHow long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.@
In Jesus= day, Hanukkah commemorated the last great deliverance Israel had known. It stirred hopes God would do it again. They celebrated their winning of liberty from Antiochus as if it had been a resurrection from the dead. They wanted it to happen again, this time against Rome.
At the Festival discussed in our text, Messianic speculation would have been at a fever pitch, with Jesus being the main object of conversation. The leaders, determined to get a straightforward answer from Him, circled Him. They hemmed Him in, demanding an answer.
John 10:25 AI did tell you and you don=t believe,@ Jesus answered them. AThe works that I do in My Father=s name testify about Me.@
Jesus claimed He had already told them what they wanted to know. He had not spoken directly with words, but eyes and ears of faith would have understood His meaning. Anyone with the right attitude plainly saw what Jesus was.
Jesus did not claim Messiahship outright, because one spark of the ancient Maccabee flame would have kindled flammable spirits into a blaze of irresistible fanaticism. At Jesus= command, thousands would have reached for their swords, but the day for political deliverance was past.
Jesus had in view a higher, wider deliverance. His role was broader than the leaders desired Messiah=s role to be. They wanted a King for Israel, not a Savior for the world.
They hated Jesus. He was Messiah, but not Messiah as they chose to define it. He was Messiah as portrayed in the Old Testament, but not the Messiah of Pharisaic hope. Since they had erroneous concepts, Jesus could answer neither Ayes@ nor Ano@ to their question. Either answer would have been misleading.
Jesus chose rather to do and say things that proved the genuineness of His Messiahship to any who truly sought for God=s Christ. Messiahship is still something that can be recognized not by all, but only by eyes of faith.
John 10:26 ABut you don=t believe because you are not My sheep.@
Jesus accused them of stubborn unbelief. The struggle was between their common sense, which told them Jesus was Messiah, and their corruptions, which said no, because He was not the kind of Christ they expected.
Jesus proved what He was. There has never been a lack of evidence, just unwillingness to accept it. Anyone sincere in their inquiry need not be in suspense a moment longer. Obstinance, not lack of evidence, causes skepticism.
People disbelieve ultimately because they do not want to believe. The wish always fathers the thought.
With regard to Christ and His Word, skepticism is not good. It is dangerous, risking eternal life.
Skepticism can reveal hypocrisy. Though professing to be in search of truth, the skeptic is sometimes actually seeking evidence to destroy truth.
Skepticism can reveal irrationality. Skeptics refuse to accept overwhelming evidence in favor of truth. They often hold the balance in such a way that the best arguments still can not weigh down trifling nit-picky objections.
Skepticism can reveal immorality. It sometimes springs from a heart devoid of compassion for Christ, or from a life clutching a favorite sin.
Beware skepticism. We humans are not to tell God how He should teach us, or prescribe to Him how plain He should be. We are to be thankful for revelations received. If we do not believe what He has already revealed, we would not be persuaded if He meticulously adapted Himself to tickle our fancy.
Jesus spoke plainly enough. Accomplishing on a broader scale what the Maccabees had achieved in the Temple, Jesus dedicated a new, abiding Temple. He re-cleansed the old one (John 2:18ff) and began a new one (Hebrews 10:20).
The leaders sought plainness at the wrong point. The question is not, AWhat is Jesus?@ This was settled by the resurrection (Romans 1:4). He is God=s Son.
The leaders should have been asking what their duty to God was. The question is, AWhat must I do to be saved?@ The answer is, ABelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ.@