“Many believed because they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people; he knew what was in them.” – John 2:23-25
Jesus sounds stand-offish in this passage, but he’s just protecting himself from the neediness of the people clamoring for miracles. It’s a trap, and he wants to steer clear. But he’s not condemning anyone for feeling that need. ‘He knew what was in them’—desire for sensation, love of the spectacular, confusion about power. He’d struggled with those same temptations for forty days and nights in the wilderness. It could have gone either way.
I think he came out of that experience with a sense of the precariousness of goodness so strong he finds it nearly impossible to condemn anybody. The only people he condemns are those who refuse to see that what we call sin is more often haplessness than perversity; that human choice is never simple; that our motives are complicated; that pain is everywhere; that we’re so desperate for worth we’re prepared to do almost anything to get it.
He knows what is in us. This is our hope in those trembling moments when we face ourselves in God’s presence. It saves us from imagined divine condemnation. More crucially, it saves us from self-condemnation. “When we are vulnerable and fragile,” writes Rowan Williams, “it is Jesus who is wounded and broken, carrying all our hurt in himself. So we may take our whole selves to him in the sure trust that nothing will be thrown back at us to wound or destroy.”
Nothing thrown back to wound or destroy—this is the gospel whose ministers we are. Offer it to someone today.
You know what is in us, Jesus. Thank God you do.
Mary Luti is Interim Senior Pastor, Wellesley Village Church, Wellesley, Massachusetts.