John 12:37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,
As we read this statement in verse 37 we become aware of a question that perhaps we had taken for granted, but one that John here expresses and perhaps out of his own incredulousness over the disbelief of the people. The question is this: with all these incredible miracles that Jesus has done, how is it that they wouldn’t believe? John broaches this question and then answers the question by quoting from Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53 where it was prophesied that they would not believe.
The answer to the question is not that they could not believe, but they chose not to believe and God allowed them to harden their hearts against Jesus to the point where they could not believe. The evidence was undeniable and right before them, yet they would not receive Him. We should not be surprised by this as even today most people choose to close their eyes to the truth, preferring the deception of pride. In John 18:37, when responding to the questioning of Pilate, Jesus said:
John 18:37c (NIV) “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
We see this denial of truth played out vividly in the accepted contradictions of today. For instance, the world says a baby outside the womb is a baby, yet, a baby inside the womb is just tissue, the difference of only a few inches. The world says, to kill a baby outside the womb is murder, yet to kill a baby inside the womb is a woman’s right. We see this same “acceptability of contradiction” play itself out also in the church. The Bible says, to bear false witness is a sin. The Bible says, homosexuality is a sin. Yet many churches bear false witness by saying homosexual behavior is okay. Jesus never excused sin. He forgave sin and said, “Go and sin no more.” So, if Jesus says, “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” then what side are those churches on who affirm sinful lifestyles, and who are they listening to?
Now, perhaps we could question the fairness of what John quoted Isaiah as saying, “that they could not believe?” Well, let me approach that question by pointing out that faith is not of nature but of grace … It doesn’t come naturally, but only by the grace of God. Yet at the same time, we are not forced into faith, but are allowed a choice. You see, God is so wonderful in that He doesn’t want a relationship that is forced, but a relationship with us that is mutually desired. His desire for a relationship with us has been expressed continuously from the beginning, and His desire for us to willingly choose Him has also been expressed continuously from the beginning … From the two trees set in the midst of the garden of Eden allowing man to choose … to God’s IF / THEN statements that He made to Israel … IF you will love me and do what I say, THEN I will deliver you and bring you … If you will choose Me, then I will protect you, clothe you and feed you.
The whole idea of God’s sovereignty and our free will can be a very difficult thing to pin down and I doubt there has ever been a person who has been able to fully grasp it. Yet the Bible certainly teaches both election and free will and so we, being unable to understand it, have to depend on faith rather than on feeble attempts to draw hard lines and create rules where scripture doesn’t. We can choose to receive Jesus or we can reject Him. If we receive Him, then God has graciously given us the faith to do so.
There is a difference between someone who is born blind and someone who chooses to keep their eyes closed. Both cannot see the light but only one cannot see the light by their own choice. When Jesus first announced Himself as Messiah at the beginning of His ministry everyone had a choice to make. And as Jesus continued His ministry, everyone had a choice to make. And as He ended His earthly ministry, everyone had a choice to make. Every time they chose not to believe, their hearts grew a little bit harder until finally, their hearts were so hard that there was no chance of them believing in Him. Because they had chosen not to receive Him, there came a time when they no longer could receive Him.