Lent 5: Avoiding Blind Eyes and a Hard Heart

People are always intrigued by the prospect of Jesus’s Second Coming. Some groups anticipate that Jesus will return, not unexpectedly but in a way they have already imagined. He will come as the Just Conqueror, riding upon a white steed and triumphing over the enemies of God. This view is widely promoted in popular literature about the Second Coming. Years ago, a popular adult teacher in one of our congregations fervently advocated this view, dedicating many weeks to teaching Revelation and the Second Coming from this perspective. The topic arose in a class I was teaching at the time. I have always believed, and still do that we cannot predict how history will conclude or how Christ will defeat evil. However, his first coming might offer insights into attitudes we should avoid.

Missing the Messiah

The Jewish leaders of the day “missed” the coming of the Messiah because he did not meet their expectations as to what the Messiah must be like and must do. Jesus constantly taught the people and did what John calls “signs,” visible evidence of his divine nature. He healed the sick, cast out demons, and changed lives that could not be changed otherwise. However, he did not raise an army. He did not support the religious status quo. He did not preach rebellion against Rome and any other Gentile rulers. Most importantly, he did not physically attempt to create an earthly kingdom of David. All in all, the leaders of the Jews and most citizens did not think of him as the expected Messiah.

After his triumphant entry, John records an exchange between Jesus and the people’s rulers, who were already plotting to kill him. Judas had already determined that Jesus did not meet his expectations and was becoming willing to betray him (12:4). The chief priests were also plotting against him and Lazarus, whom he raised from the dead (v. 10). Then, Jesus entered the city on a donkey as had Solomon the Son of David years earlier as the crowds cheered him (v. v. 12-18). This solidified in the minds of the leaders of the people their desire to get rid of Jesus (v. 19). It was near Passover, and Jesus’ fame was such that even Greek-speaking Jews had heard of him and wanted to meet him (v. 22). Jesus responds by prophesying his death (v. 24-28). None of this endeared Jesus to the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the teachers of the law, or the Priests.

            It is in this context that John records the following:

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason, they could not believe because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him (John 12:37-41, emphasis added).

In other words, the false expectations of the leaders of the people left them blind to who Jesus was and what Jesus was doing in their midst. Their expectations had hardened their hearts to the Good News that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

Missing the Messiah Today

When asked about the signs of the Messianic Kingdom by a class member that day in the 1980s, I disappointed their expectations that I would talk about the Anti-Christ, the European Union as the New Roman Empire, the locusts as helicopters, and the rivers of blood at Armageddon, Christ coming in Clouds of Glory and the like. I responded that we should be careful about our expectations so that we do not mess up the Second Coming, just like the Jews missed the First Coming. Given all we know about Christ, I expect the Prince of Peace to come in Peace. If he has an “Army of Angels,” I suspect there will be no violence. I suspect that the God who is love will end history just as he has promised—by a victory of love over hate, peace over violence, reason over chaos and terrorism, justice over tyranny, and goodness over evil. In other words, I suspect without knowing that God will act as God often acts: in a way we can only imagine and could easily miss or misinterpret unless we are careful.


The Philosopher Charles Peirce, whose work I have reviewed in the past in these blogs, did not like the Revelation of St. John. He thought it an angry and bloodthirsty book describing a God in complete disparity with the God of Love found in the Gospel and Letters. [1] There is a point to what Peirce, who was reasonably devout, says. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the point is based on the same misreading of Revelation that I find in other writers: A failure to take seriously the symbolic nature of the book and the likely true meaning of the symbols.

As an example, the Robe dipped in Blood has on it the blood of the cross, and the sword coming from the mouth of the victorious Messiah is most likely the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Spirit of Love, for God is Love (Revelation 19:13-15). One day, I would like to write a complete piece on Revelation and the true meaning of the symbols used in the book to show people why we should not look for a “Warrior King” at the end who will reveal a God different from the God already disclosed to us as Jesus Christ. This underscores the need for open-mindedness and respect when interpreting the book of Revelation, as it is a complex and symbolic text that requires careful study and reflection—a reflection that cannot ignore who Jesus was and how Jesus acted and encouraged us to act.

As we come to Easter 2024, we might ask God to remove our false ideas of who God is and how God should act in history. During an election year, perhaps it is even more than ordinarily crucial for Christians to think clearly about the phrase “God is love” and its meaning. No one of us (certainly not me) knows “the times and the seasons” of God. Jesus tells us that there are some things known only to the Father.  “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. (Matthew 24:36). Our job is not to know what God will do but to live with Faith, Hope, and Love amidst what God is doing now (v. 36). Lent is the season in which we take time to contemplate just how far short we fall of the Faith, Hope, and Love Jesus embodied.

Copyright 2024, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved

[1] Edward C. Moore, “Evolutionary Love” in Charles S. Peirce: The Essential Writings (New York, Harper & Row, 1972), 237.