[This is the second of three brief articles, intended to bolster the faith of Christians and to give them confidence when contemplating the anti-Christian viewpoints of some people in the ‘intellectual class.’]
In the first article on this topic, we saw how in Mark 2:1-11 Jesus used something that was empirically verifiable (the healing of the paralytic) to validate His claim of something that was not empirically verifiable (that He has authority to forgive the sins of any human being). And we considered how we now have a verifiable event of more weight and significance, which is the resurrection of Jesus, predicted by Him and by the Scriptures, and which took place in real history, not in some mythical ‘religious history.’
We now turn to another incident which displays an interesting phenomenon, viz., that people’s very perceptions are colored by their receptivity to Truth.
In John 12:28-30, in the middle of a rather intense and brief discourse, we hear Jesus crying out to His Father, and the response of the crowd:
“Father, glorify Thy name.” There came therefore a voice out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.”
Now, please note here that there was one phenomenon, one event: the Father spoke to the Son, and said comprehensible words. But there were three different perceptions of this one phenomenon:
– Jesus (and presumably at least John) heard actual speech;
– others who perhaps had some spiritual interest but in some way were not fully receptive to God identified what they heard as ‘the voice of an angel’;
– a third group heard nothing more nor other than thunder.
Curious, isn’t it? The very same event received three distinct interpretations. C.S. Lewis depicts this same kind of phenomenon in the Creation scene towards the end of the Narnia book The Magician’s Nephew, where Uncle Digory cannot perceive that the animals are talking, only that they are bellowing and braying. (He shows a similar effect in the great gathering scene in Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in the under-rated space trilogy.)
What this should tell us is that people’s perceptions of spiritual phenomena— such as the Resurrection, the Bible, the life of Jesus, His claims on every human being— can be fundamentally affected by whether or not they are receptive to spiritual truth. This is all the more reason to pray, to beseech God to open the eyes, ears, hearts, and minds of those around us who so desperately need to hear and heed His voice!!