There’s a saying amongst sports fans; it’s the hope that kills you. Why would supporters follow their teams up and down the country when only one or two teams have a realistic chance of winning a major trophy? It’s the faint hope that they might defy the odds and put a run together. We all know that the odds are stacked heavily against success for the smaller teams.
‘We still believe, we still believe, we still believe
Its coming home, Its coming home, its coming
Footballs coming home.’
(Ian Broudie, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner)
The song written for the England football team in Euro 96 became a favourite of German fans so I suppose football did come home for someone. They at least still believe.
If sport fans can cling to belief, why can’t people believe in Jesus? It is a good question and its one that John considers in today’s reading.
A couple of things to consider;
- There is no Plan B. In a few days we will be reading Jesus’ words; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (14:6). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father (12:44-45). It’s a message that can be seen right across the New Testament. There is no room for an ‘I believe in God but I’m not sure about Jesus’ type theology. As Peter would later say;
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
- Unbelief is a choice. ‘Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.’ (12:37). The Bible teaches both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility. There was plenty of evidence; the signs, the witnesses and a sinless life but still most refused to believe. John seems to be genuinely surprised by their response.
- God will judge. He judges people by hardening their hearts (12:40). It isn’t easy to read but it’s a reminder that salvation was won at enormous cost and though it is free it is never cheap. I’ve watched people that I care about come very close to becoming Christians but have then turned away and their hearts have become hardened. It doesn’t mean that we can judge who can come to faith, we should still pray for them and God does sometimes melt the hardest of hearts. However it certainly means that we can never take the Gospel lightly, it may be your last opportunity.
- The words of Jesus bring life. Of course failure to respond will inevitably result in judgement and it is a sobering thought. ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ (1:12). The life that Jesus brings is eternal life.
‘For this is what I’m glad to do;
It’s time to live a life of love that pleases you.
And I will give my all to you;
Surrender everything I have and follow you;
I’ll follow you.’ (May the Words of my Mouth – Time Hughes)