26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” 28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.” John 9:26-29 NIV
A blind man healed by Jesus was cast out of the temple because he attested to the fact that Jesus healed him. These very words riled the religious leaders: ” Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind” (John 9:32).
The Pharisees would not accept the miracle even though he was staring them in their faces with eyes that were blind from birth but now are able to see. They had hearts of stone, fixed, immovable, unpersuadable; they had hearts of unbelief.
What is unbelief? Dr. Lloyd-Jones expounds upon it as a power that controls and manipulates men, a state and a condition that leads to wrath. The Pharisees were so filled with indignation at the testimony of the man who was healed by Jesus that they cast him out. There were other accounts of this consuming animosity, including one time when the Pharisees were so enraged at Jesus that they took Him to the brow of the hill in order to throw him down the cliff.
Unbelief is a power based on prejudice. Here was the undeniable evidence of the miracle healing power of Jesus, but the Pharisees would not acknowledge it. They came up with reasons, from saying that Jesus was “merely” the son of Joseph the carpenter, to the accusation that Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath.
It can be argued by persons who reject the message of the Gospel, that it is a matter of intellect; they would say that they cannot believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because their understanding won’t allow them to do so, that they would be committing intellectual suicide if they did. Not so, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones. It is not a matter of intellect, it’s a matter of prejudice. This is his argument:
” If the possession of intellect and understanding and the capacity for reason makes it impossible for men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, well then I can say that no man of intellect has ever been a Christian. But the fact is of course that some of the mightiest intellects that the world has ever known have been great Christians and saints adorning the life of the church.”
“Christ and the Gospel and the way of salvation that were able to satisfy the intellect of Paul and Augustine, of Luther, Calvin, Knox, Whitfield and a whole lot of other intellectual giants is at least worthy of your careful and serious consideration”.
The other element of unbelief is pride. What is holding people back from believing the Gospel message is that they are concerned about themselves, their standing and reputation. It is intellectual pride and fear that the rest of the unbelieving world would call them fanatical, that they have “lost their capacity for reason”.
Pride and prejudice are the pillars of unbelief. Dr. Lloyd-Jones concludes that unbelief is a tragedy. It blinds us to God’s most glorious blessings in time and eternity: His gift of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ Who came into this world to preach the gospel to the poor: the poor in spirit, the down and out and the broken, the lost whom nobody else could help because they have made such a mess of their lives; He came to bind the broken-hearted, to give them beauty for ashes, to open prison doors, to deliver people from their sins and the many things that ruin people’s lives.
Unbelief makes one hate and revile the Son of God, much like the Pharisees when, face to face with Jesus, they had so much loathing and abhorrence for Him, that they were blind to His glory and majesty and they rejected Him, accused Him wrongfully, and put Him to death on the cross.
The good news is that hearts of stone can be transformed to hearts of flesh, as in the conversion of the apostle Paul’s stony heart to a heart of love; from breathing out murderous threats against Christ’s followers, to preaching the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.