Symptoms of Unbelief

John 11 marks the turn of Jesus’s public ministry to His private ministry. Jesus states that the purpose for the death and resurrection of Lazarus is the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified (John 11:4). The response to this miracle by the Jews and the religious leaders is the focus of the remainder of this chapter. Though some Jews believe in Jesus because of this miracle (John 11:45), many who were eyewitnesses to the death and resurrection of Lazarus do not believe in Him (John 11:46). We see unbelief acknowledge the miracle but resist submitting to the lordship of Christ.

First Symptom of Unbelief: Replacing God’s Authority with Man’s

Rather than believing and glorifying God, some of the eyewitnesses ran to their authority, the Pharisees, the popular leaders of that day (John 11:46). Though the Pharisees were the minority on the ruling counsel, they had profound influence among the common Jews in mainstream Judaism. The systems of the world are as strong today as they were during Jesus’s time.

Second Symptom of Unbelief: Self-Preserving Motives

The chief priests, who were Sadducees, met with the Pharisees to decide on what to do about Jesus, being greatly concerned by the many signs performed by Him (John 11:47). Until Jesus, these two Jewish groups had worked against each other, yet now they cooperated to prevent losing their positions (John 11:48).

There are only two worldviews: living for Jesus or living for self. These religious leaders acknowledge that Jesus is performing signs that only God can do, yet they fail to believe in Him because they are motivated by self-preservation, as they were owned by the Roman overlords. In Christ, we are owned by Jesus, our Savior, and therefore, our motivation is to serve and please Him.

Motivated by self-preservation, the religious leaders cast off absolute morality as they made plans to kill Jesus (John 11:53), believing their greatest need was to keep peace politically, regardless of the cost (John 11:50). John makes it clear that God is expressing something different through Caiaphas’s words, a prophecy that Jesus would die for more than one nation to unite all who believe as God’s children (John 11:51-52).

Third Symptom of Unbelief: Religiously Distracted

Knowing about Jesus is not the same as trusting in Jesus. Many religious Jews gathered to purify themselves before the Passover while wondering if Jesus would show Himself (John 11:55-56). Distracted by the religious system of preparation, these Jews missed the truth of Jesus being the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Application Points

  • Has your belief in Jesus changed to whom you look for approval, and has your faith changed your worldview?
  • Have your motivations and your understanding of absolute morality changed with your growth in Christlikeness?
  • Has your relationship with Jesus changed your view of religion?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Psalm 2, John 15, John 17
A Hymn to Encourage: "At the Name of Jesus"
  1. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
    every tongue confess him King of glory now:
    'tis the Father's pleasure we should call him Lord,
    who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
  2. Name him, Christians, name him, with love strong as death,
    but with awe and wonder and with bated breath:
    he is God the Savior, he is Christ the Lord,
    ever to be worshipped, trusted, and adored.
  3. In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue
    all that is not holy, all that is not true:
    crown him as your Captain in temptation's hour;
    let his will enfold you in its light and power.
  4. Surely, this Lord Jesus shall return again,
    with his Father's glory, with his angel train;
    for all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
    and our hearts confess him King of glory now.