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November 7, 2023

John Part 36

When we left off a few weeks ago, Jesus was teaching in the Temple. Remember the setting.




John 12:35-50

[Before Darrel’s testimony show slide with Sparkman kids]

When we left off a few weeks ago, Jesus was teaching in the Temple. Remember the setting. It’s Passion Week as we call it, the last week of Jesus’ life. On Monday the crowds hailed Jesus as their Messiah – “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” By the end of the week, on Friday, Jesus is going to be rejected by many of these same people and will at their urging be crucified. Jesus, being God, knows this. It’s the whole reason He came – to die so that we could be saved. Here in Ch 12 in the passage we’ll be looking at this morning we are somewhere in the middle of the week, Wednesday or Thursday, and John records Jesus’ last sermon, His last public message, and with it His final invitation to the people of Israel.

The audience listening to Jesus on this day in the Temple is made up of both Jews and Gentiles, regular folks as well as many of the religious leaders. They’ve all gathered for the Passover. Jesus’ message in v 23-34 (which we looked at last time) was clearly understood by everyone who heard it – “I must die.” In v 32 Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth [referring to His crucifixion], I will draw all people to myself.” So Jesus’ message is that He must die in order to fulfill His mission of salvation, of redemption. This wasn’t exactly the message the people wanted to hear was it? What? The Messiah must be killed? They didn’t like that. It just didn’t fit their theology, their preconceived ideas about the Messiah. You see, their understanding from reading the law, what we call the O.T. scriptures, was that when the Messiah finally does come He’s going to save the nation of Israel from its enemies. He’ll defeat the Romans and set up His kingdom in Jerusalem. Their Messiah was to “remain forever” and yet Jesus is talking about dying! Jesus’ message here in Ch 12 turns the tide of public opinion against Him. His message is not the one people want to hear. The last question the people asked Jesus, v 34 – and this is really the essential question which the Gospel of John tries to answer – “Who is this Son of Man?” The people are confused. They had thought that Jesus just might be the Messiah but now - - now they’re not so sure. Beginning in v 35 Jesus responds to this question in what becomes His last public message.

READ John 12:35-50

I 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” [Jesus has used this imagery of light before to describe Himself, back in John Chs 3 and 8]

Continuing with v 36…When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. [Jesus is done speaking publicly. His last sermon is completed and He exits stage right]

I 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [John quotes Isaiah to show that the people’s unbelief had been prophesied. Their unbelief doesn’t take God by surprise]

39 Therefore they COULD NOT believe [mark these words, we’ll come back and talk about them]. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [another quote from Isaiah when he was commissioned by God to go]

41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

I 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

At the end of Ch 12 John recaps for us some of the words that Jesus taught during His public ministry. Remember, Jesus has just exited the scene so He isn’t saying all of this right now. John’s whole reason for writing his Gospel is to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, Savior of the world. And a major part of John’s argument is Jesus’ own claims, His own testimony. So with Jesus having just finished His final public sermon what John does from v 44 to the end of the chapter is summarize for us some of the most important claims Jesus made about Himself publicly. By the way, many people will say that Jesus was just a great moral teacher. But, as you’re about to see, these are not moral teachings but claims of deity.

I 44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me [speaking of God the Father]. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

I 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment--what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Comments? Questions?

V 35-36, What was Jesus message in His last public sermon? Let’s take a look. Like I said before Jesus is referring to Himself here. In John 8:12 He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the light here is Jesus.

He says, “The light is among you for a little while longer.” Jesus knows that in a few days He’s going to die on the cross. His time is near. And so He gives one final invitation: “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.” Darkness is by definition the absence of light. So if light represents Jesus, then darkness represents life without Jesus, sinful man’s lost state. A condition of hopelessness, being spiritually dead and doomed to an eternity separated from God in hell.

Jesus’ appeal here is to “walk.” In other words to live and act like you really believe what you say you believe. Genuine faith impacts the way we live, our actions, our behavior. This was the central message in our James study.

Perhaps Jesus has in mind here the words of Jeremiah 13:16: “Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness.” The bottom line message that Jesus is giving here is this: “Turn to God, believe My message, follow Me, place your faith in Me now while I am with you – don’t wait.”

The Bible teaches that there is a limited window of opportunity for us to be saved. We have only so much time to respond to God’s message, to receive the Gospel. In Genesis 6:3 God gives this warning: “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” That was back then. We have less than 120 years now. The point is that we are all finite human beings so we only have so much time to respond to God, to get saved. The reality is that none of us knows how much time we have. In 2 Cor 6:2 Paul says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Here in John 12 Jesus extends a final invitation – “Walk in the light (believe in Me, exercise real faith) that you may become sons of light (become My followers).”

In v 36 Jesus departs the Temple. John says that He departed “and hid Himself from them” (Hid Himself from who? From the crowd of people who had been listening to Him). Jesus’ public ministry, the message He came to deliver to the people of Israel, is complete. Oh we’ll hear more words from Jesus. But after Ch 12 when we hear the words of Jesus it will be Him speaking in private to His disciples. We’ll hear His response to His accusers in a mock trial. We’ll get to listen in as Jesus speaks to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and later on the cross. After His resurrection Jesus only appears to and speaks to His followers. To the masses of people, to the nation, Jesus has said all there is to say. The people now must either accept or reject His message. Most rejected it then and most reject it still today. But Jesus’ words, as Peter professed it so well in John 6:68, are “the words of eternal life.”

V 37 tells us that despite all Jesus’ many signs, all those incredible miracles that He performed, in spite of all the evidence to His deity which He displayed on a daily basis for the 3 ½ years of His public ministry “[the people] still did not believe in Him.” John told us this back in Ch 1, v 11 “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” But this is no surprise. God knew it would happen. He knew that His covenant people would reject Jesus. He even prophesied thru Isaiah the prophet, Isa 53:1, which John quotes in v 38.

In v 39 we realize that there’s something more going on here than merely the willful rejection of Jesus by a stubborn people. For sure you have that. But here we come face to face with the reality of God’s sovereignty. This is a doctrinal issue that, frankly, many Christians struggle with. I have as well. But we cannot ignore it. V 39 says, “Therefore they could not believe.” And then, quoting from Isaiah 6:10, we’re told WHY they could not believe. Why? Because God Himself, blinded their eyes. Because God hardened their heart. Now why would God do that? After all, doesn’t God want everyone to be saved? God does this in order to accomplish His divine purpose at the time. In Isaiah’s day God’s purpose for hardening their hearts was to bring judgment on His people. And He did this thru the 70-years of Babylonian captivity. Remember Pharaoh back in the Book of Exodus? Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? In Exo 7:5 God tells us why – “[So that] the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” In Jesus’ day God’s purpose for hardening the people of Israel’s hearts is to fulfill His mission of redemption to be accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross. God always has a purpose whenever He hardens people’s hearts.

A quick point here about the sovereignty of God. Contrary to what a lot of people think, our free will and God’s sovereignty are not in opposition to each other. These two somehow, some way actually work hand-in-hand. We see this with Pharaoh in Egypt, with the sinful world at Noah’s time, Israel downward spiral toward eventual exile. We see it in the Book of Revelation in the last days. And we see it here in our passage this morning. Human beings harden their own hearts first, an act of their own free will, they choose not to believe, not to repent, and their willful rejection may go on for centuries. Our God is so patient! Eventually, however, God has enough and judgment comes. In verse 37 we’re told that the people “did not believe in Him.” They exercised their own free will. It was their choice not to believe in Jesus. Then in verse 39 it says, “Therefore they could not believe.” God’s sovereignty. So at first they DID NOT and then they COULD NOT. It’s a bad place to be, rejecting God, ignoring God, running away from God. A person never knows when they cross that line. A person who continually rejects Jesus or says, “I’ll accept Christ later” is a fool. Jesus warns us in this passage that we need to walk while we have the light because we won’t always have the light. When is the best time to believe in Christ and ask Him to save you? NOW. Today, when the Holy Spirit begins to stir your heart. Not later. You have no guarantee of another opportunity later on.

V 41, John makes an amazing statement here about Jesus. What he’s telling us is that Jesus is the Lord God, Yahweh of the O.T. John says that when Isaiah saw the glory of God in the Temple in Isaiah 6 (“Woe is me!) what Isaiah saw was the pre-incarnate Jesus! Back in John 1:14 when John talks about seeing Jesus he says that “we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus, God’s glory veiled in human flesh. John says we saw it. Isaiah saw it too.

V 42-43 Some of the religious leaders have a superficial belief in Jesus. There is some debate as to whether or not they had saving faith. Jesus encountered this kind of belief throughout His ministry. In John Ch 2 we’re told that Jesus did not entrust Himself to people who had a superficial belief. (v 23-25) Jesus knew what was in their hearts and He knew they did not possess a genuine faith. In John Ch 6 at the temple in Capernaum we’re told that many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him. (v 66) Our passage here says that many believed in Jesus but out of fear they did not confess their belief. So the question is did these religious leaders have saving faith? In Matthew 10:32 Jesus says, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” So was their belief saving faith? Only God knows their hearts, but based on what Jesus said, it probably was not.

V 44 “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.” In John 5:24 Jesus said, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” So here Jesus emphasizes the unity of the godhead – You can’t believe in God the Father and not believe in God the Son.

V 45 “And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.” In John 10:30 Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

V 46 “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” This is the point Jesus made earlier in v 35-36. In John 3:19 Jesus said, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light,” In John 8:12 He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

V 47 “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him.” In John 8:15 He said, “I judge no one”; Continuing in v 47, “for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” In John 3:17 Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”

V 48 “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge” In Luke 10:16 Jesus said, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Jesus goes on to say in v 48, “the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” Here Jesus is referring to the judgment of the Lord God mentioned in Deut 18:18-19 and which you can read about in Revelation 20. In John 5:45 Jesus said, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” Your own scriptures judge you as guilty.

V 49 “For I have not spoken on my own authority , but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment--what to say and what to speak” In [John 5:19 Jesus said, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” He said the same thing in John 5:30, 7:16, 8:28, 8:38. 

V 50 “And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” In John 8:28 Jesus said “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”

Close with application for us:

Jesus is the Son of God. He is one with the Father. He is the Son of Man. He is the Light of the world. This is Jesus’ claim. Do you really believe this? Do you believe what Jesus said? If you do then confess Him before others. Be bold in your witness. Live like you believe that. Be sons and daughters of light. As we close make this your prayer of praise and commitment to your Lord – My Jesus I Love Thee!

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John 12:35-50

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