“Likewise, the chief priests mocked alongside of the Scribes and the Elders, saying, ‘He saved others, is he not able to save himself? He is King of Israel; if he comes down from the cross now, we will believe in him! If he trusts in God, let him deliver now if he wills it! He even said that ‘I am the Son of God.’’”
“Likewise, the chief priests mocked to one another along with the Scribes, saying, ‘He saved others, is he not able to save himself? The Christ is the King of Israel, come down now from the cross in order that we may see and believe!’ And the ones crucified with him heaped insults on him also.”
“Jesus said to him, ‘do you believe because you have seen me? Blessed are the ones who do not see and believe.’”
“Though you do not see, you love; in him that you do not now see, you believe and are overjoyed with an unspeakable joy and praise, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.”
(1 Peter 1:8-9)
How does the old phrase go? “Seeing is Believing!” Then again, for those of us who grew up in the Star Wars generation, the mystic words of Obi Wan Kenobi ring through our ears: “Your eyes can deceive you; don’t trust them.” Magicians and Illusionists make a living deceiving the eyes, whether with smoke and mirrors or with a slight of hand, for indeed, as they say, “the hand is quicker than the eye.”
Where am I going with all of this? The detractors…the Chief priests, the scribes, and the Elders are saying, “Come down from the cross so we may see you do it and then we will believe that you are who you say you are.” In other words, as they had done before during Jesus’ ministry, they wanted a show of miraculous power (Luke 4:23-27; John 6:30). They wanted to see a circus side-show. Then again, God is never the side show.
We can bring this idea even into the modern age. Often people have said to me, “If God would just do one more big miraculous event — part the sea or something like that, I would believe.” Yet, that is not how things work. God does not speak about faith in the context of sight, but faith in the context of hearing…and more specifically, hearing the proclaimed Word of God (Romans 10:14-17).
So, here, the Jewish leaders are totally missing the boat. Faith comes by hearing and they had heard. No matter the amount of flash and show of power, that will not change the heart of man. Frankly, they had already seen such powers as Jesus had been healing people, raising the dead, working miracles over nature, and casting out demons and he did so publicly — in their midst! Yet, they did not believe. Neither did Judas. And so, one must not only hear the proclaimed Word of God, but one must also have one’s ears opened by the Holy Spirit…first…before the spiritual hearing can take place. One indeed will never see the Kingdom of God unless one is born again (John 3:3)…but that is because without being born again, they cannot spiritually hear the preached word that God uses to bring about faith and then that faith, which is a result of spiritual ears, becomes spiritual sight that we may walk by in this world and see and discern the Kingdom.
The mocking continues, but knowing that it is a matter of hearing the Gospel and not seeing the smoke and mirror show, what does this say about those churches and denominations that have made preaching secondary to the activities of worship? What does this say about those who go to church not looking to listen but simply hoping to be entertained? Indeed, the fingers may point accusingly at these Jewish leaders, but they point accusingly back at many Christian leaders today as well. How we ought to take pause and evaluate how we do what we do and why.