18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
JOHN 2:18 ESV
18 ἀπεκρίθησαν οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· Τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν, ὅτι ταῦτα ποιεῖς;
JOHN 2:18 SBLGNT
R. C. H. Lenski, in his book, ‘The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel’, writes
“John merely calls them “the Jews” as though he cared to give them no higher title, where the term is explained and where its first use by John already has an unpleasant sound. Here the hostile attitude is quite marked. We infer from their formality and words and the character of Jesus’ reply that these were Sanhedrists accompanied by some of the Temple police. They speak as men who have full authority and demand that Jesus show his credentials to them, ἡμῖν emphatically at the end. The question to Jesus is based on the assumption that he has no official authority to proceed as a public reformer of the established Jewish customs. An unknown layman and mere visitor cannot be allowed to take matters into his own hands. A second thought behind the question put to Jesus, one that may in some part also help us to understand why Jesus met no resistance from the traders and the money-changers, is the general Jewish expectation of a “reliable prophet” who, when he would come, would either confirm their cultus arrangements or appoint better ones. For this reason also, many of the rabbis attached to their decisions the formula, “until Elias comes.” The same thought lies behind 1:21. These authorities, therefore, are quite careful in their proceeding against Jesus. They demand his credentials and take that these must consist in some “sign” of nature to vindicate his right to interfere in the Temple arrangements. We may read “what sign” or “what as a sign”; and ὅτι, “since,” may be called elliptical: this we ask since, etc. Also, “these things” implies that Jesus may attempt to go further and upset more of the Temple arrangements.”
The manner the Jews sought to make Jesus act was their attempt to discredit Jesus, and they intended to make Jesus prove his worth and authority over those in the temple. Hence it was premeditated to find cause against Jesus’s actions. They needed to find fault, and because their naivety did not convince them that Jesus may be a prophet or someone with authority, they wanted proof. Their actions were not wrong, as we today must be vigilant against false teachers that seek to propagate self-righteous gains from peoples faith. However, they did not take Jesus’s answer to their question with any merit, as we see in the following verses.
The theology within this one verse reminds us that even the Jews were vigilant. Even though their underlining principles were acceptable, they were only motivated to ask to avoid any challenge to their authority, power and wealth. However, if our objective reasons are caused to investigate and seek the truth, the question is not without merit. Therefore, our principles and driving force in our journey must be undergirded by an alliance to our faith in Jesus. Since our reasoning may sometimes influence our theology, we must be vigilant against false teachings and our own wrong theological interpretations of God’s Word.
It is a double-edged sword that reminds us that we must first battle our objectivity against false teaching and be discerning against wrong teachings. The Word of God is alive, and we must always be ready to listen and discern. Seek his Word and Jesus always, and the Spirit will always guide you. This is the reason I wanted to view this verse on its own. No doubt the verse in the context of the passage provides far greater theological emphasis but on its own, it allows us to look at our views and the manner we discern them.
Unless we realize that the journey is laden with challenges and choices, our manner is accountable to ourselves and not the world around us.