25: Total Assurance (John 2:23-25)
25: Total Assurance
Around the time that I wrote the first draft of this chapter, a relative of mine went to be with Jesus. Neville Nicholson (Uncle Neville to me) lived all of his life in Alston, the highest market town in England. Like many of his fellow northerners, Neville was a hardy man who didn’t like to call the Doctor or get others to do what he could do himself. He loved to help others and he was appreciated by many. The Town Hall was full for his funeral.
One of his favourite hymns was written by another stoic survivor, Fanny Crosby, the little woman, blind from birth, who influenced Presidents and touched the hearts of millions with her songs and ministry to the poor.
She wrote: “Blessed assurance Jesus is mine”.
Uncle Neville so loved the hymn that when, in chapel, they got to the last verse and chorus, he would carry on singing the chorus one more time even though the organist had stopped playing and everyone else had stopped singing. Invariably everyone joined in.
Assurance is a wonderful thing. And we can have it in Jesus.
One of the reasons that we can have assurance in Jesus is because He has it in Himself.
This is not the arrogant swagger of human self confidence but just the quiet inner confidence in who He is and what He is doing.
Neither is it an unjustifiably high opinion of Himself that distances Him from those around Him. No, He is perfectly at home among people and for the most part they don’t feel judged by Him even though He knows everyone inside and out and His judgements about them are absolutely true.
He is already attracting attention. He had been giving them signs, so that even the religious leaders could see if they wanted to. The signs that He was doing were not just gathering an audience but adoration. Many of the people were so impacted by Jesus that they started to believe in Him.
“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” (John 2:23).
They were half way there. John has already told us that the requirements of being given the right to become a child of God are that we receive Him and believe in His name.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12).
They were half way there. They saw the signs, including the clearing of the temple and they believed in His name. This probably means that they believed He was the promised Messiah. However, they had not yet fully received Him.
Jesus was gathering a crowd of believers. But he wasn’t excited about that. He didn’t get carried away.
They might believe (“pisteuo” in Greek) in Him. Meaning that they wanted to put their trust in Him and follow Him as the new Messiah and leader of Israel.
But He wasn’t going to “pisteuo” them. It is the same word in the Greek. He wasn’t going to put His trust in them. He wasn’t going to put any weight on their new found enthusiasm for Him.
“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself (“pisteuo”) to them,” (John 2:24)
He couldn’t, because He knew all of them, inside out. Everyone heard what was coming out of their lips.
“The Messiah has come.”
“Did you see what He did in the temple?”
“Did you hear that He turned water into wine?”
“God has visited His people!”
But Jesus knew what was in their hearts. They wanted to believe. They wanted to follow. But Jesus knew that they wouldn’t and that they couldn’t, not in their own strength anyway.
“But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all (people – word added, not in the original Greek) and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:24-25)
Jesus knew “all”. Not just all people. He knew everything that He needed to know. Even in human flesh, with a human brain. At the age of twelve he was already confounding the wise and learned religious teachers and leaders with His knowledge.
“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46-47)
The human brain has huge capacity, largely untapped. It is largely untapped because it has huge cracks in it’s very foundations. It is meant to function from a place of perfect peace and assurance that can come only from a relationship of total trust in God.
“You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
When we don’t have that (as is the case with all of us) a considerable amount of brain energy is spent just trying to hold our thoughts and lives together. When we are so distracted by survival, it is impossible to thrive intellectually. The fact that the human mind has achieved great things does not take away from this argument. It merely proves that there is so much more that we could accomplish if our minds were at peace in their created order.
Adam and Eve were vulnerable in this area. Satan tempted them in the area of their trust in God and His words. They began to “double think” God. The result of that was the fall. The result of the fall was fear. They hid from God. Ever since, we have all struggled with our “mental health”. We all find it difficult to come to that place of “perfect peace” in our minds, because we struggle to totally trust God.
As a result, our brains are so preoccupied with survival (rather than trusting God) that our brains don’t have the energy to operate at the level for which they were created. Add to that a pre-disposition towards sinful thoughts (all of which find their roots in a lack of trust in the goodness of God – or more clearly the God Who is good), and you have a brain that is not functioning anywhere near it’s potential.
But then there is Jesus. A mind perfectly at peace because it totally trusts (and therefore obeys) His Father. The capacity of such a brain is beyond our understanding. It is huge because a mind that is trusting God, hears and receives the words of God.
The human brain was never meant to be an end in itself, the ultimate computer on which is stored all the necessary information for life. It is meant to be a conduit of the greatest mind that there is. It is meant to be a conduit of the mind of God. We were not created to just think our own thoughts, we were also created to think the thoughts of God and our brain is set up to do that.
Jesus’ mind is the only human mind that has perfectly operated like that. Jesus’ mind was completely clear of the confusing clutter that comes from having to try and figure things out. He thought absolutely clearly about everything. As a result His mind was not only capable of storing beautifully organized information, but also receive, without prejudice, the thoughts of God. Therefore He did not have the brain capacity of a man, He had the brain capacity of God. He knew all.
He knew all and needed no one to bear witness (Greek “martyreo”) about man (Greek “anthropos”) for He knew what was in man. Mankind needed someone to witness about Jesus because they didn’t know Him. So God sent John the Baptist as a witness. He was called a “martyreo” three times in John 1:7 & 8 and then calls himself by the same title in verse 34.
Even though the word isn’t used, Andrew certainly bore witness about Jesus to Simon Peter and Philip did the same to Nathanael.
Jesus needed (and still needs) people to bear witness about Him because the world does not know Him. But He doesn’t need anyone to bear witness to Him about mankind, because He knows us inside out. He knows all.
Jesus didn’t need the accolades of men. He still doesn’t. He knows who He is. And He knew that the excitement of the crowds would soon vanish when the season changed and many of them would be shouting abuse at Him where they had been showering Him with praise.
Jesus knew that He couldn’t trust the human heart. Too fickle. Too changeable. Too impressionable. Too easily deceived and led astray. Right from the beginning.
He wouldn’t let anyone put a crown on His head, either figuratively or in reality. Unless it was a crown of thorns. Because that was at least an honest representation of what was in the human heart towards Him.
Yes the crowds wanted to crown Him. But all their crowns, like all of ours, are ultimately made of thorns and briars, not gold and precious stones. Outside of the grace of God, we are destined to wound and hurt, to despise and reject, to pierce and mock. With very few exceptions, those we raise up, we will find a way to tear back down.
This is nowhere more true than with Jesus.
So he will not entrust Himself to them. He will put no weight on their fleeting adoration. Because they have human hearts and they cannot be trusted or relied upon.
There is no assurance for the independent human mind and human heart. But Jesus had total assurance, such that He didn’t need to get it from anyone else. He had it because His mind was fully trusting in His Father and His heart was fully obedient to His Father.
The lovely thing, is that being born again includes a heart transplant and a mind transformation. Jesus’ mind and Jesus’ heart. We can have assurance. An assurance that grows as the new heart takes over our wills and the renewed mind reforms our thinking.
Uncle Neville was not the most demonstrative Christian in the world. But he had a quiet assurance of faith. When he got to the last chorus of Fanny Crosby’s hymn he would start up the chorus again:
“This is my story”
Because it was. It was his story.
They sang the hymn at his funeral. At the end of the last chorus the music and singing stopped. Without saying anything to anyone else, Doris his wife, his three daughters Carol, Judith and Ann and their families had devised a plan. They all started to sing the last verse again a Capella, just like Neville did.
“This is my story.”
Of course, the whole hall joined in.
It was Neville’s story. It could be yours too. If you have Jesus, you have assurance. Blessed assurance. It is a foretaste here on earth of what we are going to have in heaven.
As Fanny Crosby so eloquently put it:
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,
Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.”