Lucy and Charlie Brown were talking, "I would have made a great evangelist,” Lucy said. "Is that so?" "Yes, I convinced that boy in front of me in school that my religion is better than his religion." "Well, how did you do that?" "I hit him over the head with my lunch box."
There are a lot of ways to persuade people to our opinion. Typically, we begin with logic to try and explain our position clearly so they’ll agree. If that doesn’t work, we turn to pathos to draw them to our point of view emotionally. Then, if all of that fails, we simply threaten them to agree or else.
Often parents will try to negotiate with their kids. To win them over with a special prize if their child does what the parent wants. Or they think they can talk their child into submitting. Some beg and plead with their kids. Most of us grew up in the era of “I have spoken” followed by a swat if we needed further convincing. Back then, the balance of the negotiation rested in the hands of the parent not the kid. It gave the parent the power of the convincing argument.
A convincing argument is made when the last word in a discussion settles any disagreement and both sides agree. There is a difference however between convincing and persuading.
Salesmen don’t convince. Salesmen persuade. Demonstrators convince. Demonstrators let their product speak for itself.
It’s much easier to persuade someone than it is to convince them. Persuasion can be spur of the moment. That’s why most salesmen use some measure of pressure or sense of urgency or a time limit to an offer. Convincing takes time but lasts.
Persuasion lasts as long as the motivation that caused it lasts. That’s why we often experience buyer’s remorse after a purchase we really didn’t need. We can remain persuaded until that persuasion is challenged.
My brother had a sign in our room as kids. It said: My mind’s made up. Don’t confuse me with facts. In other words, persuasion lasts until someone comes along and convinces us otherwise.
The people Jesus dealt with were used to being persuaded in what to believe. The Rabbis and Scribes gave them the information and the Pharisees enforced it with the power to punish anyone who disagreed. It was a working system that, for these religious leaders, produced their image and reinforced their standing within the community.
But right under the surface was the fact about their lack of desire to know the truth.
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, some of the people who saw it John 11:46 went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. 47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
You can imagine how unsettling it was when Jesus came along and began challenging this status quo. “We have to keep things as they are. We’re safe. If we accept Jesus is the Messiah, that will mess up everything we’ve worked for.” Which meant, they really didn’t want Jesus to be the Messiah because they weren’t ready for what that would mean. Giving up their comfortable lives.
Jesus was a threat to their system by what He taught and what He did.
Matt 7:28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
The scribes taught what others had said about Scripture and the Pharisees reinforced the accepted message. Jesus taught as though He was the voice of God. Which He was.
But, even like it is today, most teachers teach only what they want their students to know. Which means students don’t always get the information they need in order to see the bigger picture. This is especially unfortunate when they’re left with no foundation for understanding what’s going on in their lives within the current moment.
That’s why we spend so much time in here giving insight and resources for trusting God.
There is more than enough in Scripture for us to know how to live as God called us to live. Just as there was more than enough in Scripture to tell them what the Messiah would be like. But most of that had been skipped over because it didn’t fit the narrative the leaders insisted was right. They wanted a military leader to wipe out Rome but keep their world intact. They didn’t want the ministering, Suffering Servant of Isaiah who would change that world. But Jesus was exactly what Scripture said He would be. So, if you’d only been told that the Messiah would come as a military leader, you’d never recognize Him when He came as the Bible said.
In The Decline and Fall of Teaching History, an essay by Diane Ravitch, she argues that an ignorance of history will prevent people from being able to make independent judgments on current issues. We need to know how, what’s going on now, connects with what went on in the past. She quotes a college professor. “My students have no historical knowledge on which to draw when they enter college,” she said “We are in danger of bringing up a generation without historical memory. This is a dangerous situation.”
Why don’t they know history? They aren’t being taught it. Removing history erases the connection that shaped and directed us to become the nation we are. We’re seeing that in the cancel culture of today. Anarchists have no sense of historical connection, neither do they want any because it gets in the way of their agenda. They’re taking away the voice of history. Without the voice of history, they become their own authorities.
Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up.
Most of the people of Jesus’ day were generally ignorant of the specifics they needed that would have helped them understand what to look for in the Messiah, because, almost without question, they believed whatever the Rabbis and Scribes taught them and did whatever the Pharisees told them to do, until Jesus came along.
John 10:22 At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon.
Feast of Lights – Hanukah. A Festival begun after the Maccabees expelled the Greeks from Jerusalem and reclaimed the Temple in 167 B.C. It was and is held each year to remember what God did in extending the oil in the lamp to burn seven days. This was celebrated at the end of December, two months after the Feast of Booths.
Now it was around this time in history that the Pharisee came into being. When the Greeks controlled Jerusalem and established pagan practices, a group of pious men called the Chasidim rose up against them. After the success of the Maccabees reclaiming the land and the Temple, the Chasidim remained as watchers over the nation. But the zeal of the Maccabees soon gave way to worldly ambition putting the Chasidim now in opposition to the Maccabean kings and those they appointed for the high-priesthood. Many of the Chasidim died for their outspoken convictions, which pushed them underground until one King a couple of generations later wanted a group of pious and trustworthy men to go throughout the land and make sure the laws of religious contributions were being observed by the people.
This grew into the recognizable role of the Pharisees to make sure the Law in general and specific was being followed by the people. But what began as a helpful way to encourage the people to be faithful to God became a controlling method for forced compliance. It was during this time the Law expanded to 613 rules. Authority corrupts and absolute authority corrupts absolutely.
You can understand how upsetting it was for Jesus to come along and challenge that authority. It wasn’t God-given. It was man achieved. And because of Jesus, the persuasive power they held over the people was losing its grip.
John 10:24 The Jews then gathered around Jesus, and were saying 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, these testify of Me.
When did He tell them? Two months ago, at the Feast of Booths. How much clearer could he have been? “I am the Living Water. I am the Light of the World. I am the salvation of God.”
“That didn’t convince you? If My words were not enough, then take a look at the product. Look at what I’m doing and align that with Scripture. See if what I’m doing isn’t within the Scriptural expectations for the Messiah.”
Isa 29:18 On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. 19 The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the LORD, and the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
What have I done? Luke 7:22 the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.
He’d given more than enough dots to connect. Why couldn’t they see it? Because they were blind guides leading the people into further darkness. Their culture had blinded them from the truth. You can see how this had even affected the disciples.
John 14:8 Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.”
“Philip, you need proof as well? I’ve given you plenty of proof. What I say, what I do, all adds up to who I am.”
The people were convinced when they realized they were listening to the voice of the Great Shepherd and believed. Jesus was the convincing argument.
- We make temporary adjustments to our lives by what we are persuaded to do.
- Our lives are transformed by what we are convinced is true.
- Rarely, if ever, do we question if Jesus is the Messiah: our Savior and Lord, but regularly, we are challenged by what those words require from us.
- We may be persuaded by men but we are convinced when we recognize the voice of God.