It is a strange truth, but when we are under intense pressure—opposition comes, even persecution—there lies an opportunity otherwise not available to us. It was “as he was saying these things,” and as the Pharisees were criticizing him, opposing, seeking to trap him, that “many believed in him.”
This insight has frequently been confirmed through church history. The blood of the martyrs is the seed bed of the church. It was when the Reformation heroes Latimer and Ridley were being burned at the stake, that Latimer said to Ridley, “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, we this day shall light such a candle as I trust by God’s grace shall never be put out.” Be of good cheer, too, then suffering sister, discouraged brother: you have before you an opportunity. People notice when you are being opposed, and they watch how you respond. People notice when you suffer, and they watch how you speak of your suffering. There are open ears to Christ when Christ’s people are in pain. Could it be that this truth of God is powerful enough even in that kind of situation? And when you prove that God is faithful, may it be that “many would believe in him” through your witness in extreme circumstances.
The Pharisees’ discussion with Jesus causes Jesus to speak such profound truths that people put their faith in him. He warns them that without faith in Jesus they will die in their sin. We speak more clearly at times when under pressure. May we also clearly speak of the one way to salvation that comes only through faith in Christ!
He tells them again who he is, the “I am” (the expression “I am he” in verse 28 represents the double entendre of both saying “I am he” but also that Christ is the eternal “I Am”). They pressurize him to reveal more of his identity, and in so carefully and deliberately speaking of his person, many put their faith in him.
Perhaps you are suffering or opposed by some other religious leaders: would you pray this morning that God would grant you not just the faithfulness to preserve your faith in such trying times, but also the wisdom to utilize this opportunity for the maximum in revealing the person of Christ to those who watch you suffer? And would you, again, read these words in this section and be among those who also “believe in him”?
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