24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.
The Jews were not in any way against a Messiah coming. In fact they were eagerly anticipating it. The problem is that they had built up in their own minds what this Messiah would be like and what he would do apart from the whole body of scripture. It is not that they didn’t use any scriptures. They held onto scriptures that fit with what they wanted to see and built their image of the Messiah based on those verses. So when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, is standing right before their eyes, they do not recognize him because they have built up their own version of him and he does not seem to fit the mold. They where expecting a military and political leader to come and free them from Roman rule and restore Israel to its rightful place as the most powerful nation in the world. After all, they were God’s chosen people, which they knew from the scriptures. So when Jesus presents himself as a humble sacrificial servant who eats with tax collectors and sinners, and does not accept the praise and acclaim given to him, who turns away the rich man, and does not seek to please the Jewish leaders of the time, the Jews have many doubts about his claims to be the one that they have been waiting for.
This is something that we so often do as Christians today. We like some parts of Jesus, his love, his mercy, his forgiveness. So we build our own picture of who Jesus is based on these things, and there is much evidence for them in scripture. The problem comes when we start reading our bibles or we hear the word preached and we start to see some of the other characteristics of Jesus. He is holy and righteous, he is exclusive in his language, he says things that seem to be very harsh, and he does not bring along anyone who simply shows interest in him (“count the cost”, the rich young ruler, etc…). These things do not fit into the picture of Jesus that we have created, who is nice, and kind, and gentle, and loves everyone. So in the same way as the Jews, we don’t recognize the Messiah when he, through His Word, presents himself to us.
The biggest problem here is that we have created an idol in our hearts, and his name to us is Jesus. We have made our own version of Christ that fits with what we like about him and we have worshiped him. This can lead us to a very low view of the inspiration and infallibility of scripture. If this is the Jesus we worship and we see something in scripture that contradicts “our Jesus'” character, than we may disregard that passage or be completely okay to toss it right out of the bible.
This is why we so desperately need the church and we need to be spending time in the Word, getting to know who Christ really is. Time spent apart from the church and apart from the Word of God can very quickly distort our view of Christ. He reveals himself to us through his Word. So when we know the Word, we know Christ. The church is so important to lead us and guide us a we study the scriptures. Our brothers and sisters in Christ can help us as we learn more and more of who Christ is and can help us when we struggle with particular aspects of His character. We can also see the image of Christ lived out in the church as we love and care for each other. Christianity is not an individual religion. We are meant to be together in community so that we can truly taste and see what the love of Christ looks like. And it is not this sappy emotional dating kind of love. It is a fierce and strong and powerful love that draws us closer to Christ and farther from sin. It strengthens and encourages holiness and disciplines and corrects ungodliness. It is a love like nothing in this world. It is the love of our true Messiah, Jesus Christ. So when we see him face to face there will be no questioning, “if you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” We will say, “I know you, my Master, my Savior, my Lord. Jesus!”