I’m sure we all have at least one friend who thinks he/she knows everything, and who is always ready and insistent on sharing their knowledge with everybody. In this information-based era, it’s very easy, with all the information circulating, to get caught up in everything that’s being passed on as fact. I mean, we want to believe it, and some of it actually is true. But then, some of it is just out there. For instance, “WTF Fun Facts” or “Did You Know?” How do we know these are actually true?
All throughout the gospels, one of the big themes is “seeing”:
- Luke expressed seeing in the 3 parables about the lost items, and the great excitement when the lost item was once again seen and thus found.
- Mark also took on the theme of “seeing” as being witness to Jesus and thus reinforcing our testimony.
- In John, when Andrew asked Jesus where He’s staying, Jesus said “come and see”. When Philip told Nathan of Jesus, and Nathan asked if anything good could come from Nazareth, Philip said, “come and see”, both examples of responding, “come and see for yourself”. And when talking with Nicodemus, Jesus said “we tell of what we have seen.”
- In Matthew 11, beginning in verse 2, John the Baptist who was in jail, sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He is really the one they had been awaiting, or if there is still another to come. But instead of giving a straight-forward answer of yes or no, Jesus said: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The lame walk; the lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the poor have good news brought to them; and Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” Everything Jesus mentioned here are the works of the Messiah, as predicted in Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6, and 61:1, and John, whose father was a Hebrew priest, would recognize this. So Jesus was telling John’s disciples to watch and listen to what Jesus does and says, recognize it, and report back the evidence as their testimony to John.
When I talked with youth about Jesus and the scriptures, I always liked to challenge them by insisting they not take my word for it, but instead check the scriptures. For I might be wrong and not know it (this has happened once before)! So I insist that they pray on it, read the scriptures until it’s in their heads, research it in commentaries, talk it out with other Christians, and wrestle with it. If they should find that I am in fact IN-correct, then they should bring their findings back to me so I may wrestle with it, too. Why? Because if I’m wrong, then I want to know so that:
- I may be corrected;
- I may repent;
- Reconciliation (and respect) may prosper between us;
- I may apologize and correct my teachings to the rest of the group (and whenever I teach it in the future, I can mention -this experience as an example -for many things- to others); and
- I may correct my practice of it.
But if they should find that I AM CORRECT, then it is now THEIR responsibility to:
- Put it to practice;
- Teach on it to their peers (since their research is now their testimony on the subject);
- Inform me of their research and findings so that I too may be encouraged in the Body and the Scriptures.
Either way, I insisted that they let their testimony be not based on what I told them, but on the evidence of their own research.
In Matthew, Jesus knows that many will come claiming to be Him. So to prevent from mixing in with them, Jesus instead tells them to recognize what He says and does, so that when they tell John, he may decide for himself, based on the evidence, whether or not Jesus is in fact the awaited Messiah.
In other words, if I simply tell you, then your faith is based simply on my words. But who am I to tell you anything if you’re already in doubt? So do the research and let my answer to you develop out of the evidence of your own findings.
One of the differences between Christianity (and Judaism) versus other religions is that it (these) can be proven, and that research/testing is encouraged. Why? Because the evidence will point to the evidence written in the Bible, thus proving that it is in fact Truth (no others can claim this. In fact, many/most others discourage their members from doing any research).
For example, archaeologists have found (and continue to find) actual evidences, not only of the towns and kingdoms’ boundaries as mentioned in the Bible, but even inscriptions from these times (both in places of question, and supported by such in surrounding lands), supporting their findings. For example, in his book “Evidence for Christianity”, Josh McDowell mentioned a Sir William Ramsay, regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists ever to have lived, but who firmly believed that the Book of Acts was a product of the mid-second century A.D. But “in his research to make a topographical study of Asia Minor, he was compelled to consider the writings of Luke. As a result, he was forced to do a complete reversal of his beliefs due to the overwhelming evidence uncovered in his research…(concluding) after 30 years of study that ‘Luke is a historian of the first rank, not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…but that his writings should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” (p. 93-94).
Scientists also continue to prove God’s existence, some even claiming the Bible to be “far ahead of any other writing of its time.” Such examples confirmed include the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as research from doctors on how Jesus died on the cross, proving that He did in fact die as the scriptures say.
So you see, even these people didn’t just hear and accept what others had said, but took the responsibility of doing their own research, based their own decisions on the evidence from it, and informed others of their findings so that:
- others may learn from the evidence of their research
- others may have more reason to accept/deny the Truth
- others may have a step up in their similar research
- to encourage believers (as John’s disciples did him).
Jesus said to John’s disciples (paraphrased): “do the research, then report back your findings so that he may recognize and be encouraged based on the evidence.”
But now, that’s not the end, for after John’s disciples left, Jesus talked with the people about John and John’s mission: ‘What did you expect when you went out to see him? A man who wavered his stance in the wind (as false prophets do/did when rejected or challenged)? A man in soft robes? (Only people in worldly royalty wear soft robes, but though John is great in the Kingdom of Heaven, those who are least in it are wearing the soft robes)…A prophet? Yes, and greater…’. Because John’s mission was foretold in Malachi 3:1. All the prophets spoke of and longed to see this day. The Law prophesied of this day that Jesus was to arrive (Gal.3:23-24). Jesus is telling them who He is without straight out saying it. Why? Because He wants them to figure it out for themselves. See, if He simply tells them, then their faith in Him is based solely on His acclamation (and people can also use it later against Him). But if they put all the pieces together, figure it out and realize it for themselves, then their faith will be strong in Him. ‘Look at John. The prophets of old and the Law spoke of him. Look at John’s mission, Malachi 3:1 spoke of his mission. Now look at me! Do you notice anything? They all spoke of Me!’
Now say I taught the Truth correctly, and the evidence even points to this conclusion, but you continue to reject it. This was what Jesus was addressing when He said that their wisdom is proven by their actions…they claimed to be wise, but they refused to accept it – their “wisdom” and actions were not in sync – for if they were really wise, then nothing would have stopped them from repenting and believing. But since they did not, Jesus says “Woe to you!” And “He began to denounce the towns where He performed many miracles and did many deeds, because even with the evidence in front of them, they refused to repent.”
Then after all his woes to those who rejected Him and His message, Jesus thanked the Father for hiding the mysteries of the Kingdom from the “wise”, and instead revealing it to the un-“wise”. Why? Because, as He mentioned in verse 12: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.” I wonder if these “violent people” were those who considered themselves wise, and thus believed that they should get in without repenting, and without Jesus Christ, but instead by their own “wisdom” (See also 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). But then Jesus speaks the passionate words that we have all heard, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I believe that God wants everybody to accept Him and join Him in Heaven for all eternity. I also believe that Jesus gives us all every opportunity to do so, but that we do have to repent and believe in/upon Him — an invitation to respond to the evidence — before we die. But in that, I also find it’s something huge when you look at the fact that many people (and preachers) out there say, “you should believe what I say about Jesus because…”, when Jesus Himself told John’s disciples to do the research, then go and tell John what they heard and saw.