Predestined and Responsible!
At the time some believed because of the signs Jesus did, but many Jews rejected Him. The large scale rejection of the Messiah by the Jews, to whom the prophetic Scriptures about Him were written, requires some explanation.
The Christian answer, articulated by the Apostle Paul in Roman 9:9-11 and by John here, is that this unbelief was not only foreseen by Scripture, but necessitated by it in the prophecy of Isaiah 6:10. But such unambiguous predestination in Scripture never sets aside human responsibility! Verse 37 assumes they chose not to believe. Verse 43 tells us that it was fear of man and the glory of themselves that causes the hardening of hearts.
The passage tells us that the inability to believe is tied to Scriptural prophecy and that the prophecy is of God’s hardening of hearts. Isaiah had been commissioned by God to prophesy to people who would not respond. God’s hardening of hearts frequently surfaces in the New Testament. But if it sounds harsh and robotic, note these four points raised by D.A. Carson:
- God’s sovereignty is never pitted against human responsibility
- God’s hardening is not presented as cursing morally neutral or even pure people, but as a holy condemnation of a guilty people who do what they have chosen (see Romans 1:18 ff.)
- God’s sovereignty is a cause for hope – if He is not sovereign there’s no point praying for help.
- God works in strange ways (Isa 28:21-22) that bring his redemptive work to fruit.
Many followed despite the almost wholesale rejection of the Messiah by the Jews of the time. Fear of man stopped them declaring it though – it would seem to me that their lack of confession of Jesus’ Lordship (Romans 10:9) meant that their belief was only head, not heart, and they were not born again.
For comment on the rest of the passage and feet washing, see these notes