Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
“He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. (verses 37-41)
This is a sad, somewhat troubling, passage. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there to see all Jesus did and to hear all he said? Yet there were so many who had that very privilege, but would not believe. How sad and troubling. How could it be?
These verses plunge us again into the mystery of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. We are told both that these people “would not believe in him” (verse 37), indicating their own willful response, and that the Lord “has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts” (verse 40, quoting Isaiah 6:10), indicating his own sovereign act.
This is the same puzzling dynamic as in the story of Pharaoh and the Exodus. When commanded by the Lord to “Let my people go!”, Pharaoh refused to do so time and again. The biblical text tells us both that he hardened his own heart and that the Lord himself hardened it for him. Which is it?
It seems to be both. For Pharaoh and for these unbelieving observers of Jesus’ ministry, both dynamics are at work. If we take 1 Timothy 2:4 seriously, the Lord “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” John’s Gospel itself, in a classic statement, reinforces this truth, indicating the Lord’s sacrificial investment in fulfilling the longing of his own heart: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The intense longing in God’s heart is matched with an invitation that lies open before human free will for “whoever believes.” God wills it. The human heart can choose it.
Yet, Jesus also says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). This is corroborated in our present passage with the opposite truth, that the Lord blinds eyes and deadens hearts.
Here, then, are some conclusions that seem to flow from all of this:
• Each one is invited to believe in Jesus – this is the Father’s heart.
• When we respond in faith, we discover it was the Lord himself who was drawing us – what great cause for thanksgiving!
• The opportunity to respond in faith should never be taken for granted – our own hard-heartedness, or that imposed by the Lord, may short-circuit the opportunity.
• How sad, how tragic, to miss embracing Jesus.
Finally, keep eyes open to see the glory of Jesus. Isaiah saw it and declared it in advance. John saw it and rejoiced. So, too, for us. Nothing could be greater.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you have given me opportunity to respond to you in faith. I affirm that response again, from my heart. Father, I am eternally grateful that you have drawn me to Jesus. Thank you for this gracious gift. Holy Spirit, keep giving me eyes to see and ears to hear, that I may glorify Jesus, each and every day.
Pray: Take time to give thanks: for the gift of eyes to see, the gift of ears to hear, the gift of faith, the gift of salvation, and each gift that continues to flow from that source today, and each day.