In John 7, we see multiple examples of people struggling to believe in Jesus because he didn’t fit their expectations of the Messiah.
In verse 27, the people were saying, 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” I don’t know what scripture or teaching they were relying on, but they were confused, and it prevented their believing.
Despite his not meeting their expectations, verse 31 tells us, 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”
The religious leaders heard the crowd whispering about him, and sent temple guards to arrest Jesus.
40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”
41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”
Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.
45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”
We see three general categories of people in John 7.
First, some people just believed in Jesus because of the miracles he did and because of his teaching.
Second, some wanted to believe, but they knew some scripture (like the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem), and they thought they knew some facts (like Jesus came from Galilee, and not from Bethlehem), and they couldn’t reconcile the two – so they struggled to believe.
Third, we see the religious leaders, who knew the scriptures far better than the common people, but flatly rejected Jesus — partially because he broke the letter of the law by healing people on the Sabbath, and partially because he was disrupting their hold on the religious establishment of their day.
It’s easy to look back at those people and think, “They were so stupid. Why didn’t they just believe?” What about us? Are we any better? Do we have pre-conceived expectations of God, or Jesus, or Christianity that just don’t seem to fit our knowledge or experiences, so we’re struggling? Have we studied the Bible so much that we already “know it all” (like the Pharisees), and are relying more on our knowledge of scripture than relying on our relationship with God and His son? Or will we take Jesus at his word, as recorded in John 7: 24… 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”
The good news is, regardless of whatever you decided before, you get to make your choice again today. Choose wisely.