*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

John 2:23-25 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • John 2:23
  • John 2:24
  • John 2:25

John reports that while Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Passover, many people believed in Him because of the signs He was doing. But Jesus does not entrust Himself to them because He knows the fallibility of the human heart. 

There are no apparent parallel accounts of John 2:23-25 in the Gospels.

In John 2:13, we were told the Passover feast was near. During the Passover, many pilgrims would come to Jerusalem to celebrate, as God had commanded (Deuteronomy 16:16). Jesus was in Jerusalem in compliance with this commandment. Following Jesus’s cleansing of the temple from the corrupt and exploitative merchants and money changers, and His confrontation with the priests they worked for, the scene shifts to some of the other things Jesus did in Jerusalem during the time of Passover. 

Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing (v 23)

The Passover was the first part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and commemorated the night when the angel of death “passed over” the Israelite families who put the blood of an unblemished lamb on their door posts. 

In many contexts, the night of Passover and the seven-day long Feast of Unleavened Bread that immediately followed it were used synonymously—such appears to be the case here. It was after the night of the first Passover that Pharaoh relented and allowed Israel to leave Egypt (Exodus 12:27-28, 31). The Israelites were told to make bread in haste, without leaven, that they might be prepared to leave immediately. 

To learn more about these Jewish festivals, see The Bible Says article: “The Original Passover.” 

At this time, many believed in Jesus. John explains that the reason why many believed in Him was because of His signs which He was doing. This indicates that these miracles that Jesus performed in Jerusalem during this Passover were among the first public signs and miracles He accomplished. Previously, Jesus had turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-10). This miracle seems to have been done fairly discreetly with possibly only the wedding servants, the disciples, and Jesus’s mother initially knowing about it. John says that the miracle in Cana was the beginning of Jesus’s signs which demonstrated His Messianic and Divine identity (John 2:11). 

Now in Jerusalem with all of Israel gathered for the Passover, Jesus seems to have been performing signs more openly and/or with a wider audience of witnesses who were observing and discussing the miraculous things which He was doing. John does not specify what Jesus did as signs—he only writes that many believed in Him because of them. 

Jesus may have been healing people of various afflictions and/or disabilities, and/or casting out demons. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe Jesus doing these types of miraculous signs (Matthew 9:35, Mark 1:32-34, Luke 5:15-17).

When John writes—many believed in His name—he means that many Jews of various walks of life believed the Jesus was the Messiah and/or God. As Jesus will soon explain to Nicodemus, this kind of faith is necessary to be born again and see the kingdom of God (John 3:1-3) and to receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16). In John 2, these many who believed in Jesus—that He was the promised Messiah and/or that He was God—believed in Him on the basis of the signs they saw Him do. 

However, Jesus maintained caution. 

But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man (vs 23-25). 

While Jesus genuinely engaged with each person He encountered during His earthly ministry, He also maintained a realistic view. He knew that humans are fallen. Even those who believed in His name were still susceptible to deception. 

As such, He could not entrust Himself to them to ensure that His mission to die for the sins of the world would not be derailed (John 1:29). John 2 ends with a sobering reminder in verses 23-25 that all human beings—even those who are believers—are corruptible. Though many people believed in His name, Jesus was not entrusting himself to them (vs 23-24). 

Why did Jesus not entrust Himself even to those who believed

There are a couple of potential reasons. First, the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent. So, though these people believed in some genuine capacity, they did not yet have the power of God dwelling within them. 

Additionally, even those who have believed after the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) still have a fleshly will and must make a daily choice whether to follow the flesh or walk in the Spirit. This is a topic about which the Apostle Paul writes extensively, even noting his own struggles to walk apart from sin (Romans 7:14-17, Galatians 5:13-16). 

John says that Jesus knew what was in man, that is, He knew about the fleshly self-seeking nature of humans (v 25). Consequently, He did not entrust Himself to them. This again speaks to the deity of Jesus. God’s purposes are not dependent upon humans. Rather, people are fully dependent upon Him, and do well to entrust themselves to Him, because He is trustworthy. 

Jesus came as the promised Messiah, the anointed one whom God appointed to reign over Israel. But Jesus did not entrust Himself to those who had believed in His name, understanding the untrustworthiness of humans. And even though Jesus entrusted His disciples with considerable responsibility both before and after His resurrection (Matthew 10:5-7, 28:18-20), Jesus did not entrust Himself to His closest disciples. 

One rather memorable instance of Jesus not entrusting Himself to His disciples was when Jesus rebuked Peter for criticizing God’s purpose, which was for Him (the Christ) to die and be raised (Matthew 16:21-22). Jesus sternly rebuked Peter for trying to assert his human wisdom and desires above God’s: 

“Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
(Matthew 16:23)

The chapter’s conclusion therefore prompts believers to examine themselves and ask whether they are keeping in step with God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:25) or are allowing themselves to be corrupted by their fleshly desires. 

We are called to be like Jesus in all things. This means that we should not entrust our hope in other people—even other believers whom we see as godly. We should not even put our trust in ourselves or our work—because we are sinful and full of deceit. We should only entrust our hope in Jesus

Biblical Text

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

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