During the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. — John 2:23-25 (NIV)
This passage is sobering and perhaps more than a little troubling, yet important for us to embrace, especially those of us in any kind of ministry. Jesus “knew what was in man”, and because of that knowledge, He did not entrust Himself to them. What was this thing that was (and is) in people that caused Jesus to be guarded in what He revealed? Contextually and from what Jesus experienced before His crucifixion, I think I can say that this is the fickleness of people — our ability to be passionate for one thing one day, and passionate for the opposite the next!
In context, the writer tells us that many people believed in Jesus as a result of the miracles (healings mostly) that Jesus was doing. Then he immediately writes, “But Jesus…” This suggests that Jesus knew that many people who believe just because of the miracles could easily get bored and move on to the next “flavor of the day”. This is not to suggest that those who are convinced to put their faith in Jesus because of the evidence of the miracles always turn away, or that miracles are not valuable for drawing people to consider the Good News (not to mention, the value to the recipients of the miracles). But it recognizes how perverse people can be.
We see that reflected elsewhere in Jesus’ life. First, in the parable of the seeds, one of the seeds represented those who received the Good News with joy, but as soon as life got hard, they turned away (Mark 4:16-17). Then we see it in Jesus’ days before being crucified. He entered Jerusalem amidst cheers and shouts of praise and adoration, with palm branches and cloaks being laid, as a king in his triumphal entry. A few days later, the crowd shouted to crucify him, and to let a criminal go free instead.
Clearly Jesus did entrust Himself to some. To His disciples, He explained everything. Yet to most people, He did not entrust Himself. Those who have been in ministry a while have an expression: “Sheep bite”. That is to say, those you seek to help can easily turn on you to do you harm.
My advice to all people of faith: make extra effort to be kind to those in ministry (and while you’re at it, to everyone else, as well). Don’t seek revenge for perceived shortcomings in pastors or churches. And for those in ministry, I would say that you need to be open with your hearts to at least some people — as Jesus was — but keep a good supply of bandaids and antiseptic on hand! And remember, you will be perpetually frustrated if you serve people to get their approval or affirmation. A better strategy is to always seek God’s approval, and let the chips fall where they may.
First posted on March 1, 2010