Luke 7:11-35 (AD 28)
Christians are often accused of valuing blind faith over scientific evidence. It’s frustrating, as Jesus a lot of his ministry talking to people urging, commanding, goading, encouraging, provoking and asking that they value the evidence of what they could see.
Jesus avoided, on a number of occasions, giving a straight answer to the question about his identity (e.g. Mark 11:27-33 & John 8:25-30 when he answered with a riddle). His explicit claims to be God – other than at his trial (Mark 14:61-62) – seem generally to have been without someone asking him. On this occasion, when given a direct question about his identity he told them to look at the evidence – in particular the evidence that had prompted the question itself: raising a boy to life.
The world is full of people who are sure of things for no good reason, and no justification other than their own feelings or the word of someone just as ignorant as themselves. Jesus wasn’t looking for ignorant followers, whose faith would be only as strong as their memory of his last healing. He was building the case through his words, actions and behaviour that he was who he claimed to be, the promised and chosen one from God.
“’Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.’ Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.” (John 10:37-39)
His reply to the questioners from John the Baptist was a flurry of miracle healings and an instruction that they go back and tell John “what you have seen and heard”. i.e. tell John the evidence and let him work it out for himself. Over the course of his ministry, as the claims to be God occurred, John and the people could check those claims against the evidence of Jesus’ works and see that his claim was irrefutable.
Having an irrefutable claim and providing ample evidence doesn’t of itself make anyone a believer. The Pharisees had all of that but chose to disbelieve, as did many of the ordinary Jews. Jesus pointed out that the rejection of him was deliberate, and not an intellectual error. His enemies didn’t care about the evidence. John came – Jesus reminded them – as an ascetic, kind of an out-there, spartan, oddball, classic religious type and they thought he was weird and didn’t believe him. Jesus came as a far more ordinary, everyman kinda guy who’d eat with anyone…and they thought he wasn’t religious enough.
Ultimately we are biased against everything we disagree with. With our attitudes to politicians that can be unfortunate; with friends, family and colleagues it can be very damaging. But when we refuse to trust the evidence that Jesus presented about himself, it’s tragic.