Empty Tomb
Empty Tomb

Barriers to Belief – Part 1

I came up with the idea for this series of blog posts after reading one of the most significant events in the New Testament. I am referring to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. When He shows up at the tomb, we find that Lazarus has been dead for four days.

Upon arriving, we are told in John 11:19 that there were many people at the tomb, and they were consoling Martha and Mary. So when Jesus performed this incredible miracle, there were a number of witnesses who could attest to the event.

Jesus instructs them to roll back the stone that covers the tomb’s opening. The crowds protest the request because they anticipate a stench from the decaying body. John describes what happens next:

41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that you have heard me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me. 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11: 41-44
If you had been present, how would you have responded? Here is a man who displays authority over death. As you read the 11th and 12th chapters of the book of John, you see this event has significantly impacted the community. Yet it is interesting to see how people responded. There seems to be three different responses. We will examine one of those today.

In John 11:47, we are told that many of the witnesses went straight to the Pharisees and told them what they witnessed. Their response to this news is quite interesting.

47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.
We are then told that from that day forward, they began to plot Jesus’ death.

What I find to be so fascinating is that the Pharisees were quite intrigued by Jesus. In Luke 5:17 we are told they came from far and wide to hear Him teach and always hoped to see a miracle. What strikes me is that they knew of Jesus and were aware that many believed Him to be the Jewish Messiah. Upon receiving the news of Lazarus’ being raised from the dead, you would think these Pharisees would want to go check this out. They would inquire and investigate. You would think that it might cause them to think, “Maybe this is the Messiah we have been waiting on.” At least they would ask, “Who is this man who raises the dead?”

They were clearly guilty of what Dallas Willard, the great philosopher calls “irresponsible disbelief.” This is when one chooses not to believe in something without arriving at that way of thinking by way of investigation and sound reasoning.

For these Pharisees, their personal ambitions were more important than the truth of God. They saw Jesus as one who would completely disrupt their lives, and they wanted no part of it.

Isn’t this what keeps so many of us on the outside of the Christian faith? Our personal agenda is more important than the truth of God. However, when you boil it all down, the real barrier to faith is our failure to love the truth.

This was true of these Pharisees. They had no real interest in whether Jesus was the true Messiah or not.

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us that many people will spiritually perish because “they refuse to love the truth.” (II Thessalonians 2:10)

When you study the life of a C.S. Lewis, you will notice very quickly his love for the truth. He made it clear that this was a key component in his coming to Christ. His approach to life was “follow the truth wherever it leads.” Lewis clearly recognized that, if you do not love the truth, you can be assured that you will never find it.

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