Written Word

John 10:24 – “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ tell us plainly.”

The Jews’ question to Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense?” implies that their state of unbelief was the Lord’s fault, not theirs, and so they requested Jesus to tell them “plainly”. They were not asking Jesus to speak more slowly or to enunciate his words. Their question showed that they understood the ancient prophets to have foretold the coming of the Messiah, and they lived in expectation of this. Furthermore, they could not ignore the extraordinary ministry of Jesus; there was an outside chance that he might be the Messiah. Hence their question.

Why They Did Not Believe

“Tell us plainly,” they said, and Jesus replied, “I did tell you but you did not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” (John 10:25-26) First, their unbelief cannot be attributed to the silence of God. The miracles, Jesus said, “speak for me”. Miracles have something to say – they identify Jesus as the Son of God. Repeatedly Jesus pointed to his miracles to (1) confirm who he is and (2) to make it possible for those who hear to have faith in him. Nicodemus had figured this out because he came to Jesus and said, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2) And the blind man who received his sight drew the same conclusion, “If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:33)

Second, Jesus said, “You do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice: I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:26-28) His sheep (1) listen to his voice and (2) follow him. Their unbelief cannot be attributed to an uncommunicative God, but rather to their own unwillingness to listen to and take to heart what Jesus said.

A Problem with the Filter

Why did Jesus’ message meet with such resistance? Why didn’t the people understand him? They heard Jesus through a particular filter, namely the “traditions of men” (Mark 7:7-9) and since Jesus’ teaching was outside this tradition it was rejected. Furthermore, their expectations of what the Messiah would be, an expectation that was without Scriptural support, formed a part of the filter through which their religious information passed. Since Jesus did not fit their picture they rejected him. But their action was unacceptable because not only had John the Baptist testified that Jesus is the Christ – and all the people accepted John to be a prophet – but the miracles of Jesus bore testimony to him. This compelling evidence should have caused them to consider the possibility that the filtering system might be seriously flawed.

They remained in unbelief and confusion – unnecessarily so – because their hearts were not open and receptive to truth. Though they professed to be devout followers of Moses, they needed to remember his words, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Numbers 14:2) They asked the right question – “Are you the Christ?” – to the right person – Jesus the Christ, the Son of God – and got the right answer, but then refused to accept it. Why? Their ears were closed and their hearts were hard.