Thursday in the Twenty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

John 12:36b-43

The Recompense of Unbelief

If we will listen, the Bible explains to us who we are; it tells us all about ourselves and how we came to be this way.  It does this so that we may fear the Lord and obey His word; otherwise, fearful consequences await.  What do I mean?  Let us allow the Bible speak for itself.  In Romans 1:18-32 where Paul is explaining to us what the unbelieving Gentile world looks like, a world without knowledge of God, three times he says those frightful words, “God gave them up” (1:24, 26, 28).  God gave them up to what?  To the lusts of their hearts, to dishonorable passions, to a debased mind.  On what account?  Because they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  So God rightfully gives sinful man over to his lies that he may believe them and spiral further from the knowledge of Himself.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, Paul warns us again, this time about the coming of the “lawless one” or antichrist.  He writes that on those who are perishing (those who know not the Lord by saving faith), God sends a “strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.”  And why does God judge them so?  “In order that they may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”  And in the Apostle’s Letter to the churches in Galatia, he reminds those born of God that they must “not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption” (6:7-8).

In each of these passages, we see that the consequence of sin, the consequence of rejecting the knowledge of God, the consequence of disobedience, is the hardening of one’s heart that he may further follow that path.  In short, the consequence of sin is more sin, more darkness, more hardening.  And how does this happen?  The Bible shows us two causes: one is the man himself who chooses such a path; the other is God who hardens the man who so chooses.  (I suppose the classic case is Pharaoh who, the Bible tells us, both hardened his heart and was hardened by God, Exodus 7:3; 8:15.)  So we now turn to our passage today in John’s Gospel.  We read the frightening words that God “blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”  And then we read how those who would believe in him would not say so out of fear, “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”  But the good news is that as those who reject the knowledge of God spiral downward, those who receive such knowledge grow in grace and spiral upward (2 Peter 3:18). The blessing of obedience is drawing ever nearer to God.

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