Jesus and the Hearts of Men
“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” (vv. 24–25).- John 2:23–25
Today we return to the gospel of John and pick up our study at the end of chapter 2. John is continuing his account of the first visit of Jesus to Jerusalem recorded in his gospel, and he notes that while Jesus was there, He did many signs and people believed in Him (2:23). In John’s gospel, the word translated “signs” generally refers to miracles, but we do not find in John any record of the signs Jesus did during that visit to Jerusalem. These included the signs that John said he did not record because if he did, there would not be enough books to contain them (20:30–31; 21:25).
John 2:24–25 gives us further insight into what John means when he says that many people believed in Jesus. Verse 24 indicates that Jesus did not “entrust” Himself to these people. The Greek word for “entrust” is the same word that is translated “believed” in verse 23. In other words, people believed in Jesus but He did not “believe in them.” John means that the people in Jerusalem who believed did not, for the most part, have true, saving faith. They saw great signs and on account of that had some understanding of who Jesus was, but they did not actually receive and rest upon Him for salvation. It was a primarily signs-based faith and not a primarily gospel-based faith. John Calvin comments that their “faith depended solely on miracles, and had no root in the Gospel, and therefore could not be steady or permanent. Miracles do indeed assist the children of God in arriving at the truth; but it does not amount to actual believing, when they admire the power of God so as merely to believe that it is true, but not to subject themselves wholly to it.”
How did Jesus know that their faith was spurious? Because, John 2:25 states, He “knew what was in man.” He knew the hearts of those professing faith. This is an indication of our Lord’s deity, for only the Lord can search the heart and make the right evaluation (Jer. 17:10). As finite creatures, we cannot see into the hearts of others. We can only see outward actions that can give us some indication of the state of a person’s heart. Even then, we are not infallible. That is why when church discipline is conducted, it should be done carefully so that elders are able to see a person’s fruit over time and come to the most accurate possible judgment about the state of the person’s heart. Even then, they can only say, “As far as we can tell, this person appears to be making a false profession of faith.” But this is not true of Jesus. He always knows the state of our hearts.
We can hide our motivations and thoughts from other people, but we can never hide them from Jesus. We should be honest with Him about our sin, because He knows it anyway, and the way to find forgiveness is to confess our sins readily to God through the mediation of Christ Jesus (1 John 1:8–9). What sins do you need to confess this day?
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 16:7
1 Kings 8:37–40