In the 23rd chapter of Luke we have an account of the trial and crucifixion of the Son of God. This is recorded as part of that story in verse 32: â€œAnd there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, â€˜Father forgive them for they know not what they do.â€™â€ (Luke 23: 32 â€“ 34).
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23–25 ESV)
Verses 23-25 of John 2 are the beginning of the scene with Nicodemus which follows in chapter 3. Notice that John once again notes the Passover, drawing the significance and symbolism of that feast into this discourse that Jesus will have with Nicodemus. John records that many believed in Jesus’ name when they saw the signs he was doing. However, Jesus did not entrust himself to people because he knew what was in them. The wording here is an intended wordplay. Most translations obscure the word play, but the word “believed” in verse 23 is the same Greek word translated “entrust” in verse 24. The HCSB gets close, “…many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them….” Jesus did not believe those who believed in him. John reveals to us that this Jesus is God because he knows the heart of every person. People are believing because of the miracles they are seeing, but there is not a heart change in these people, and Jesus knows it. Belief is supposed to lead to a change of heart and life. Belief is supposed to lead to the people placing their firm trust in Jesus. True belief will initiate the new birth. But Jesus knows their hearts and knows this is not happening. This is a veiled reminder that though people in Jerusalem seem to “believe,” the Passover lamb will still be sacrificed, and these people are going to be the ones to reject him and hand him over to the Romans for death. It is useful to us to remember Jesus’ parable of the soils, where we see many ears receiving the word, but it seed of God’s word does not take root and grow in the heart. Nicodemus will recognize that Jesus had come from God (3:2) but life transformation was still needed to have true belief that leads to eternal life (3:16).