I find myself pondering the question of whether they were really and truly looking for “proof,” or if their sole purpose was to deny Christ no matter what evidence they were given of His existence. I decided to refer back to the word of God and find examples of those who denied Jesus’ authority even though they were staring in the face of undeniable proof that He was indeed the Son of God. Here is what I found.
The Good Shepherd and the hireling
“Truly, truly, I say to you, He who does not enter into the sheepfold by the door, but going up by another way, that one is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3The doorkeeper opens to him, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him. For they know his voice. 5And they will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. 6Jesus spoke this parable to them, but they did not understand what it was which He spoke to them. 7Then Jesus said to them again, Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters in by Me, he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12But he who is a hireling and not the shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away. And the wolf catches them and scatters the sheep. 13The hireling flees, because he is a hireling and does not care for the sheep. 14I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are Mine, and I am known by those who are Mine. 15Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep who are not of this fold. I must also lead those, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one flock, one Shepherd. 17Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I might take it again. 18No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down from Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I have received this commandment from My Father.” 19Then a division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. 20And many of them said, ‘He has a demon and is insane. Why do you hear him?’ 21Others said, ‘These are not words of one who has been possessed by a demon. A demon is not able to open the eyes of blind ones.’ (John 10:1-21 MKJV)
Wow! Here is an example of what Jesus was talking about.
First, the miracle.
“Then they took away the stone where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42And I know that You hear Me always, but because of the people who stand by I said it, so that they may believe that You have sent Me.’ 43And saying these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, Here! Outside!’ 44And he who had died came out, bound hand and foot with sheets, and his face was bound with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go!’ 45Then many of the Jews who came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:41-46 MKJV)
As we see in this portion of scripture, while some who had witnessed this miracle repented and accepted Jesus as their Messiah, others refused to believe and went straight to the Pharisees to report what they had witnessed.
Next, the hirelings and the wolf
Then the chief priests and Pharisees gathered a Sanhedrin, and said, ‘What can we do? For this man does many miracles. 48If we let him alone this way, all will believe on him. And the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’ 49And one of them, Caiaphas, being the high priest of that year, said to them, ‘You do not know anything at all, 50nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation perish.’ 51And he did not speak this of himself, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; 52and not for that nation only, but also that He should gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. 53Then from that day they took counsel together that they might kill Him. (John 11:47-53)
Even the Pharisees, knowing what Jesus had done, refused to accept Him as their Messiah and, instead, worried more about what could possibly happen in the physical instead of realizing the blessing of witnessing prophecy being fulfilled before their eyes. By operating in the physical, they rejected the power of God in favor of appeasing the wolf (the Romans). These “hirelings” were so concerned about their own lives that they were willing to run away from the Good Shepherd and the flock He was gathering. Their solution was to throw the Good Shepherd to the wolf and allow the Good Shepherd’s flock to be scattered.
Let’s look at some other examples of people rejecting the truth even when they were staring proof in the face.
As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man, who had been demon-possessed. 33And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb one spoke. And multitudes marveled, saying, Never was it seen like this in Israel! 34But the Pharisees said, He throws out demons by the ruler of the demons. (Matthew 9:32-34 MKJV)
The Pharisees can’t deny that the healing took place because they themselves were witnesses of the miracle, but they chose to reject proof of Jesus’ authority on earth and instead said that he casts out demons with the power of Satan. Proof rejected!
Then He began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works were done, because they did not repent. 21’Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the powerful acts which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes! 22But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to the heaven, shall be brought down to hell. For if the mighty works which have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.’ (Matthew 11:20-24 MKJV)
Jesus performed miracles in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum and although they witnessed these miracles, they still refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Proof rejected!
Healing a man’s withered hand
And when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10And behold, a man having a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbaths? This so that they might accuse Him. 11And He said to them, What man among you will be, who will have one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the sabbaths, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out? 12How much better is a man then than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. 13Then He said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And he stretched it out, and it was restored whole like the other. 14Then the Pharisees went out and held council against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. (Matthew 12:9-14 MKJV)
Again, Jesus performs a miracle, but instead of throwing themselves at Jesus’ feet, the Pharisees rejected the Good Shepherd and plotted ways they would destroy Him and His ministry. Proof rejected!
Just as He was rejected by those who witnessed these miracles first hand, so He has been rejected by the majority of people who have lived on this planet since that time.
You may say, ‘This is a new generation. If Jesus were to create signs and wonders again, everyone will repent, right?’ Well, let’s look to the book of Revelation to see what God has to say about that.
God warns the remaining population of the planet
And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those dwelling on the earth, even to every nation and kindred and tongue and people, 7saying with a great voice, Fear God and give glory to Him! For the hour of His judgment has come. And worship Him who made the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. 8And another angel followed, saying, The great city, Babylon, has fallen, has fallen; because of the wine of the anger of her fornication; she has made all nations to drink. 9And a third angel followed them, saying with a great voice, If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives a mark in his forehead or in his hand, 10he also will drink of the wine of the anger of God, having been mixed undiluted in the cup of His wrath. And he will be tormented by fire and brimstone before the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. And they have no rest day or night, those who worship the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name. (Rev. 14:6-11 MKJV)
There is now no doubt that God is who He says He is. Everyone on the planet hears the words of the angels of God and know that God truly exists. They’re told to repent and are warned not to take the mark of the beast or to worship the image of the beast. They can no longer deny God’s existence, so how does the population respond? We have to turn back to scripture.
Was the proof accepted? From what we read in the following portions of scripture, it was indeed accepted, but what will those living on the earth do with that “revelation?”
And the fourth angel poured out his vial onto the sun. And it was given to him to burn men with fire. 9And men were burned with great heat. And they blasphemed the name of God, He having authority over these plagues. And they did not repent in order to give Him glory. (Rev. 16:8-8 MKJV)
They recognize that God has authority over the plagues and they blaspheme His name. Proof accepted… God rejected!
And the fifth angel poured out his vial on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom became darkened. And they gnawed their tongues from the pain. 11And they blasphemed the God of Heaven because of their pains and their sores. And they did not repent of their deeds. (Rev. 16:10-11 MKJV)
Again, they blaspheme God and refuse to repent. Proof accepted… God rejected!
So my question remains. Are Atheists and Agnostics really looking for proof of God’s existence, and if offered that proof, are they willing to accept it? By looking at human behavior through scripture, we can see that visible proof of God’s existence doesn't lead to belief if someone has set their mind and heart against God. As we see through God’s word, many times the proof is rejected. So when dealing with an Atheist or Agnostic, the first question to be asked of them is, “Do you really seek proof or have you already set your heart and mind against accepting anything that God wants to show you?” I don’t know if they can honestly answer that question, but it’s a start.
Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!