Yesterday we saw part 1 of John’s description of the close of Jesus’ public ministry. And today we come to part 2 of John’s description of the close of Jesus’ public ministry, which also ends John’s description of Holy Week. And like everything else in John’s Gospel there is huge difference between how John depicts the close of Jesus’ public ministry and how Matthew, Mark and Luke depict it.
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.—12:37-43
This section explains why so few believed in Jesus during his earthly ministry. The quotations from Isaiah explain (from a prophetic perspective) what was taking place at this time. The lack of response of the crowds was not a failure on Jesus’ part but was part of the divine plan. While Isaiah referred to God’s glory, John make no distinction between the glory of God and the glory of Jesus. Not everyone rejected Jesus’ signs as being from God, but because of the fear of the Jews, many did not confess him openly. They loved the praise and glory of people more than the praise of God.
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.—12:44-46
Jesus’ public ministry closed with a stirring call to faith. This passage reiterates many key themes found in the first half of the Gospel. The fact that Jesus “cried out” places great weight on what he said. Jesus reiterated his oneness with the Father. To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father, and to see him is to see the Father. Once again Jesus identified himself as the light. Those who believe in him will not live in spiritual darkness.
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”—12:47-50
Jesus came into the world to save sinners and not to judge. Those who believe in Jesus demonstrate their belief by obedience, while those who live in disobedience demonstrate their lack of faith by their rebellion. Those who accept Jesus’ words accept God’s words, and those who reject Jesus’ words reject God’s words—a truth that is one of the central tenets of John’s Gospel. Jesus came as God’s emissary.
Now let’s circle back around to two key phrases that we find in this passage. And the key phrases that we are going to look at are: “they could not believe” and “they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”
- “They could not believe”—The people could not believe because their own views and decisions about Jesus closed their minds and hearts to his purposes. In other words, they chose not to see what God had revealed to them. As a result, their hearts became even harder and more resistant to God. The message of Christ demands a decision and will always bring change in those who hear it—even if they refuse to accept it. The message will soften the hearts of those who are receptive and harden the hearts of those who are resistant to God. The Apostle Paul says that the people of Israel were cut off their relationship with God because of their unbelief. Yet the spiritual hardening was not permanent for every individual in that nation. Anyone who accepted Christ and followed him would receive eternal life. In fact, many in Israel did believe after the events involving God’s Spirit and the bold preaching of God’s Word on the day of Pentecost.
- “Loved praise from men”—Because they loved the honor and approval of their fellow human beings, many people sacrifice their beliefs and convictions and do not follow their God-fearing conscience. They choose to accept the majority opinion and follow the crowd rather than accept the truth and follow Christ. The secret of gaining victory over the fear of others and the desire for their approval is faith in Christ—a faith that recognizes that no one will ever care or sacrifice for is like Christ. It is faith that sees, God, Christ, heaven, hell, the judgement and eternity as realities. And claiming to follow Christ while seeking human approval above God’s approval is a sign of spiritual hypocrisy. And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we move into John chapter 13.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Kings 1, Acts 4, Psalm 124:1-8 and Proverbs 16:24
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