MITRA: Common barriers to belief
Duane Litfin, president emeritus of Wheaton College in Illinois, wrote that “the gospel’s inherent power does not fluctuate with the strengths or weaknesses of its messengers.”
In the gospels, Jesus was God’s power incarnate, the pillar of strength even while on Earth.
The challenges he faced, even from his religious contemporaries, did not weaken his resolve at all to fulfil the will of God.
The apostle John related the story in chapter five of his gospel, when a cripple was healed by Jesus from his disease of 38 years.
Yet, before doing the instant miracle, Jesus asked him a strange question: Do you want to be healed?
It is easy for physical weakness, mental depression, a sense of hopelessness and despair to take away our willingness to do anything in such circumstances.
The cripple did not understand how Jesus could help him but, when Jesus spoke to him, he obeyed and was healed.
He had overcome one barrier to belief.
Later, he had not bargained on religious prejudices of the Jews watching him.
At times, religious people create serious barriers to belief for would-be disciples.
In the story, the Jews had become legalistic about observing Sabbath.
The law was the Sabbath must be different from other days.
The Jewish ecclesiastical leaders were not content with broad principles.
They set out 39 classifications of work.
John gave two reasons for the growing hostility of religious bodies towards Jesus:
• Because, though Jesus kept Sabbath in principle, he ignored the petty rules and regulations imposed by the church of his day.
• Because Jesus claimed to be equal with God.
When the Bible said God rested on the seventh day, it meant He rested from one form of activity — creation — and continued in other activities.
It did not mean that, from that moment, He ceased to be active in the affairs of men.
“My Father is working still and I am working,” Jesus said.
To the Jews, these words made Jesus a blasphemer who was claiming to be equal with God and therefore deserving of death.
The real question is whether Jesus had a right to say such things.
We must be willing to obey the truth when we discover it; and we must be ready to distinguish between religious prejudice and religious principles.
If we do not, we shall find ourselves diverted from truth or even be hostile to it.