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“Behold, your King is coming …” (John 12:13)
Discussions of The Gospel of John
Chapter 12 begins six days before the final Passover. Jesus remained in Judea after raising Lazarus (Chapter 11), but most of the time he stayed outside of Jerusalem in order to put off his arrest until the “hour” came for his departure. Shortly after he began his ministry, at the wedding at Cana, Jesus told his mother, “My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). In Chapter 12 Jesus says to his disciples, “The hour has come” (12:23). So in this chapter, the time had finally come for our Lord to die for the sins of mankind. Read Luke 12:49-50, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! …” Do you think the days of his ministry always passed quickly for Lord Jesus? Why did he wish the fire were already kindled? Why was Jesus never really anxious about these things, the way we are? Recall John 6:3839, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; …”. Chapter 12 records four events that bring an end to our Lord’s public ministry: • v. 1-11: The anointing of Jesus at Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem. • v.12-19: The triumphal entry into Jerusalem. • v.20-36: Jesus is sought by the gentiles and speaks publicly. • v.37-50 Causes of unbelief; Jesus’ final words in public. After Chapter 12 ends, the gospel moves to the Last Supper, and everything John recorded from that point until the time of the arrest in the garden (in Chapter 18) was between Jesus, his disciples, and God. John 12:1-8. Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5”Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. 7Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” 1 • Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, … The most likely interpretation of this is that Jesus came to Bethany on the Saturday before Good Friday. He knew his hour was approaching, and yet even now he had time for a quiet visit with friends.
Bible quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.
2 • … where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Whatever reputation Lazarus had before this, he was now known as the man who had died, and lain in a tomb four days, and been raised to life by Jesus, the prophet from Galilee. No doubt people from all around had heard of this miracle, and would come and ask Lazarus, “Tell us again how it happened!” From time to time we hear of near-death and out-of-body experiences, but if Lazarus were with us, he could relate one that would top them all. • There they made him a supper; Martha served and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. The table was not like the table in your dining room. It was low, and the people sat or reclined on the floor around it. The meal was eaten in a leisurely manner. You can imagine Jesus with his friends, enjoying the meal and the fellowship, thankful for a time to relax before the trying days to come. Although the setting for this occasion was quite different from your home today, the meal itself had something in common with the traditional kind of evening meal in Christian countries today, where the family gathers together to eat and share the events of the day. The “modern” family in which everyone eats at different times may not know it, but they are missing an important part of family life. • Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair … There are similar “anointing” accounts in all three synoptic gospels. First, consider the accounts in Matt 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9, both of which took place at Bethany, shortly before the Last Supper. Assume these are accounts of the same incident we are discussing in John 12. Do you see any problems in this assumption? If not, discuss things we learn by putting the accounts together: (1) The “disciples who were indignant” in Matt 26:8 amounted primarily to Judas (John 12:4), and probably a few others who grumbled their agreement. (2) John does not say where the supper was held, but Matthew and Mark say it was in the house of Simon the leper (Matt 26:6). Nothing else is known of Simon, but his name is interesting. A man with leprosy would not own a house in town. So why, do you think, would Simon, a good friend of Jesus, be called the leper? Why might he even have been glad to be known as Simon the leper? We should also note the third “anointing” account in Luke 7:36-50 is obviously an account of another occasion. It took place in Galilee, not Bethany, and at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. The “costly ointment” in this case consisted of the woman’s tears, worth a great deal in the eyes of Jesus. • ”Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” What was the worth of the ointment (v.5)? Was Judas’ criticism therefore logical? Imagine how a remark like this could have changed the atmosphere among Jesus and Mary and the people with them, from seeing the beauty of her worship and enjoying the aroma of the ointment filling the house, to thinking, “But this is wasteful.” We see the same thing occasionally in church meetings when someone suggests a generous gesture, like donating to a mission or forgiving a debt, but another says, “We can’t afford that. The church needs to be run like any business. We can’t spend our funds that way while the parish hall needs roof repairs!” • Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. Jesus could have exposed the facts about Judas in v.6, that he stole from the money box, but instead he saved the evening for the rest by supporting Mary and restoring the atmosphere of worship. “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me,” he said. Mentioning this in connection with his burial, plus the warnings he had already given of his impending death (Matt 20:28, Luke 9:22, etc.), reminded his friends of the value beyond price of these few hours they were able to spend in fellowship with their Teacher and Lord. Meanwhile, Judas remained the exception. In the darkness of his spirit, he turned from the light and fellowship of his friends to his own dark thoughts. Soon, at the Last Supper, he would leave the company of these friends forever, never to see them again in this life or the next. Read Luke 6:43-45, “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, …” and discuss the application of that passage to Mary and Judas, the two main characters in this passage we are reading in John 12. For you, the situation is similar. Jesus is alive forever, but you are not. “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.” The days are precious, so let us pray each day that we may walk in the light of fellowship with our Teacher and Lord.
3 Let none of us be lost, as Judas was. Many have left the church over an insignificant insult or argument, real or imagined, and some have never returned. We should never let this happen. The first part of our Lord’s saying, “The poor you always have with you,” is often quoted. The saying has been true throughout the history of mankind, and today we have the poor and homeless with us, as well as entire countries full of poor and starving people in other parts of the world. Why have men, given the brains and resources we have, always been unable to change this condition among ourselves? John 12:9-11. When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. • The great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there. That is, the great crowd that had begun to arrive in Jerusalem for Passover heard that Jesus was in Bethany. The word got to Jerusalem, but at least they had time to finish dinner. In our age of cell phones and internet, they would never have made it through desert. • They came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. Most of us have heard or read about the “near-death” experiences of others. How do you picture Lazarus describing his experience? What would have compelled the people to come and see him? Compare this now with some of the scriptures on being spiritually dead, and being raised to life: 1. The experience of the prodigal son, whose father exclaimed, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). 2. The words of Jesus, “He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). 3. The saying of Paul, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). 4. The words of John in his first letter, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Verse 11 says many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus on account of Lazarus. What do you suppose Lazarus said to the Jews? What were they “going away” from, and what were they believing? John 12:12-19. The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, 15“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass's colt!” 16His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him. 17The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. 18The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.”
The Triumphal Entry (Dore – 1865) www/textweek.com
• The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming … According to verses 1 and 12, how many days now remained until Passover? Why was such a great crowd in Jerusalem at this time? They had not come to see Jesus. They had come for Passover, a major feast day (see the Chapter 5 notes, p.1) when all Jews able to travel came up to Jerusalem.
4 Discuss this event (the triumphal entry) as if you were among those who came from Galilee for Passover. You had probably at least heard of Jesus of Nazareth, and possibly seen him in Galilee. Now you come into the city, and find excited people talking about how Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead. So you take some palm branches and join the throng going out of the gates and down to meet him coming into the city from Bethany. People are shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” What are your thoughts at this time? What do you expect to find in Jesus? The event is recorded in Matt 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19. Read the account in Mark 11:1-11. Note how they “found” the young ass Jesus sat upon in John 12:14. Mainly, note how similar these descriptions are, especially in what the people were shouting, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!” In other words, who was Jesus in the eyes of these people, and why? Using the account in Mark 11, trace the steps of Jesus using the map (north is to the right). He came up the road from Jericho. As he passed Bethany (east of Jerusalem, below the map), where Lazarus lived, he sent for colt. He then rode into Jerusalem from the east (red line), coming down from the Mount of Olives, and entered through the eastern gate of the temple. Then, when he had looked round at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve (Mark 11:11). He had probably noticed the merchant closing up, because when he came back the next day, he drove them all out of the temple. • “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming …” The prophecy is from Zech 9:9, also quoted by Matthew (21:5). Why would both gospel writers (John and Matthew) quote this passage, which depicts the coming of a triumphant Messiah, “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he …,” considering what is coming the gospel story? What “triumph” was being celebrated here, that even the celebrants themselves did not yet understand? • His disciples did not understand this at first … This probably means the disciples did not at this time, in all the commotion around them, link this singular way of entering Jerusalem with the prophecy of Zechariah. But after the resurrection, and especially after Pentecost fifty days later, their eyes were opened to the meaning of this prophecy as well as other OT prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This is why the OT is so important and relevant for Christians – so much of it is fulfilled in Christ. • The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. That is, they had heard the excited accounts of the raising of Lazarus. And as it was then, so it is today. Whenever you speak out and bear convincing testimony to what Jesus has done in your life, others are drawn to him as well • “You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.” This is what the Pharisees said to each other, and it must have seemed that way at the time. But most of them seemed blind to the evidence – they were set on stopping him and blind to facts which they could easily verify if they wanted to. Is this any different from the way men see Jesus in the world today? John 12:20-26. Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the
5 Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.” It bears mush fruit.
• Among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. These may have come originally from Greece, but since they “went up to worship at the feast,” they were probably Greek proselytes who had adopted the Jewish faith and were allowed to join the Jews in the Temple worship. Why were they seeking to see Jesus? Probably for the same reasons we discussed with the previous passage. • So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida … Bethsaida was a village near the Decapolis, so perhaps the Greeks were from that region and felt comfortable coming to Philip. The detail John includes, like “Philip went and told Andrew,” etc. in v.22 enhances the credibility and authenticity of the account. • “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” It is not clear whether Philip was able to bring the Greeks to Jesus, but he probably was, and if not he would have relayed the Lord’s words back to them, just as John is doing for us. The Greeks could have interpreted these words in terms of the triumphal entry, but from what follows we know Jesus had his own suffering, his death, and his resurrection in mind. Our Lord’s hour had finally come, as he said it would. Review John 2:1-4 where Jesus first said, “My hour has not yet come.” How much time would you guess had elapsed since that time? Then review John 7:1-6 where Jesus again said, “My time has not yet come” (also 7:30). Again, how much time had passed from that time until this passage we are presently reading? • “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Here is another important statement our Lord prefaced with “Truly, truly” – important because it is (1) clearly true in the literal sense for a wheat grain, (2) indicates the reason and necessity for the cross, and (3) is just as true in the spiritual sense for a human. (1) Why is the statement true in the literal sense? What happens when a grain of wheat falls into the earth? In what sense does it die? What changes does it undergo, and how does it eventually fulfill the rest of the statement, “if it dies, it bears much fruit”? Where do the ingredients of the fruit come from? (2) How does the statement point to the crucifixion? What would the world be like if Christ had not died on the cross? Without the cross, what hope would you have? Recall the words of Isaac Watts, Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. In other words, you and I and all throughout the generations are the fruit of that grain that fell to the ground when our Lord Jesus died on the cross. Because he gave his life, we have life in him. (3) Lastly, the statement applies to your life, and mine. When you die to yourself, you begin to bear fruit. Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20). Jesus said clearly that if a man would save his life, he must surrender it completely. Anything you try to keep, you will lose. “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it” (Mark 8:35). This is very similar to what Jesus said next in v.25, “25He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” To bear fruit in the kingdom of God, like the grain of wheat, we must first die to our selves, then come to life in Christ. • “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also…” There is our Lord’s command here, as well as encouragement. The command, which Jesus often gave his disciples, is “Follow me!” This means more than church on Sunday. It means I must try my best to pattern my life after his, and seek his will in all things. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, …” he said (Matt 11:29). The encouragement comes from his saying, “Where I am, there shall my servant be also.” Let’s say you prepared a meal for a sick friend and drove to his house to deliver it. Do you realize who was riding along with you? When you serve Christ, he is present with you.
6 • ”If any one serves me, the Father will honor him.” The Father will honor your good works, and he is glad, in this dark world, that you are working for his kingdom on earth. But the main thing God honors is your love for his Son, whom he loves. It is your love for Jesus, rather than your works, that God honors. John 12:27-36. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify thy name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; 32and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33He said this to show by what death he was to die. 34The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” 35Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. • “Now is my soul troubled.” A troubled soul is usually the result of mixed feelings. And although our Lord was definite in his resolve as no other ever has been, he regretted having to leave this world so soon. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” he had said earlier (Luke 10:2), and clearly there were many more souls among his people yet to be gathered into the kingdom. There was so much yet to be done, and yet his hour of departure had come. • “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” Here is the more profound reason for the troubled soul of our Lord – a reason we well understand. Jesus was tempted to forget us and save himself, and when one is tempted to disobey God, the soul becomes troubled. The Bible says Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8), and since John did not record the temptation in the wilderness, this is a good place to cover a few important aspects of temptation. Some have objected to the saying that the Son of God could “learn” anything he didn’t already know. They quote Heb 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. But Heb 5:8 says he did in fact learn obedience: Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. There is something important in this. Phil 2:8 says, “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” When we combine this with Heb 5:8 and Heb 4:15, we conclude that Jesus himself was never disobedient to the will of the Father. He never will be. And yet, when he came to us, something really new did happen. He did not learn to become obedient. He never had to. But he did learn, as he had never before learned, how hard it is to remain so. This is what the Temptation was all about, and what Scripture means in saying he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross, and that Christ learned obedience by resisting temptation and suffering the consequences. You and I learn obedience this way as well, but to a lesser extent, because obedience is learned by being obedient, or in other words, by resisting temptation. C. S. Lewis wrote2, A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means - the only complete realist. It follows that if I have yielded to temptation and am now struggling in the bonds of sin, the best person to help me is not some friend doing the same thing. The leaky boat would sink even faster with two aboard instead of one, and neither of us would have a clue about how to save ourselves. The best person to ask for help is a friend who has successfully resisted, and the best of these is Jesus Christ.
Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 11.
7 • “Father, glorify thy name.” This brought God’s reply, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again,” and our Lord’s explanation, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.” How had God already glorified his name in Jesus, and how would he glorify it again? This was the same voice they heard when Jesus was baptized, “…and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matt 3:17). It was the same voice they heard at the transfiguration, “… and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’” And it was the same voice they would have heard if the crowd had not shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). As they shouted, some of the Pharisees, fearful of the consequences, warned Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” (Luke 19:39). He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” God would make his Son known to all men, one way or another. Jesus implied this in John 12 when he said to those who heard the voice of God, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine” (v.30). • “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out;…” Discuss how these things, the judgment of this world and casting out the ruler of this world are related to the passion and crucifixion of the Christ. Note that Jesus never disputed (and in fact affirmed) the fact that Satan has power over this present evil world. He did not dispute Satan’s power in the temptation (Luke 4:5-8), and he called Satan “the ruler of this world.” But also, on the night of his arrest, he said to the disciples, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me …” (John 14:30). From these scriptures we may conclude (1) our world is ruled by Satan – an evil ruler, (2) Satan has power over this world, but no power over God, and (3) the world has been judged for the state it is now in. We may also assume (4) Satan also has been judged and cast out, not from earth but away from the presence of God, and (5) having been judged, both Satan and the world he rules now await their final sentencing at the end of this age. Discuss these conclusions. Do you agree with them, or have other ideas based on the verses we have considered? • “…and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” John added the explanation, “He said this to show by what death he was to die” (v.33). Compare this with John 3:14-15, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” We discussed this earlier3, but now we can go a step further. Review Num 21:4-9 which concludes, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” Again, when the Israelites looked on the serpent, what came to their minds? They were reminded of how they had sinned through lack of faith. Then they became conscious of God’s mercy and received healing, not through magic, but through faith. Similarly, when men look at the cross today, we are reminded of our sins that have separated us from God our Father, and we are drawn to Christ, the Son of God, and healed through faith in him. In other words, the central issue is faith. The lifting up of Christ on the cross has drawn the world to see what he has done to save us, but the rest of the story is, “… that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Once again, John’s great purpose in 20:31, “… that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name,” is affirmed in this passage. “Eternal life” and “life in his name” are one and the same – there is no “eternal life” other than life in Christ. • “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?” The crowd seems to have understood that being lifted up would somehow result in Christ’s departure – that he would not remain forever. Were they correct in understanding what they had heard from the law? How would the Jews interpret the following passages, which were considered to be Messianic, regarding Christ’s eternal nature? How do you interpret them? Ps 110:1-4, … The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”
Chapter 3 notes, p. 5
8 Isa 9:6-7, … and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. …” Ezek 37:24-28, “…They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children's children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever. Dan 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, … .” Job asked, “Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death” (Job 14:14, NLT). Men had always wondered about this, and the Jews were no exception. There was no proof until Jesus came and raised the dead, but it seemed that a person should live again. Anyone could see life isn’t fair. People who are good at their own expense in this life should expect some reward when it ends. Those who are bad should expect to have the scales balanced when it’s over. All these issues, including the question the Jews were asking above, were resolved when Christ died on the cross and then rose from the dead. • “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, …” In Chapter 8 we discussed our Lord’s use of light in connection with his saying, “I am the light of the world” (8:12)4. John’s prologue (1:4-5) says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” When John wrote this, Jesus had been gone for decades. Thus, “The light is with you for a little longer” was meant for his listeners, and we must take it in a different sense. At the end of v.36, Jesus departed and hid himself from them. From this point on, “Walk while you have the light” and “While you have the light, believe in the light” would not imply being in the physical presence of Christ. In fact, this was never the intent of these sayings. How do the following scriptures explain a life lived not with, but in Christ? Eph 5:6-10 … once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 1 John 1:6-7 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. In the latter passage, how can one know whether or not he is walking in the light? How do we walk in the light, as he is in the light? What is the main benefit of walking in the light? What is the benefit of believing in the light according to John 12:36? John 12:37-43. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; 38it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” 41Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. • Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him;… This is a disturbing passage, for several reasons. First, beginning at Cana, Jesus had indeed done many miraculous signs that were witnessed by thousands, yet “they,” that is, the authorities and most of the Jews, did not believe in him. This is disturbing for us because now these things are far removed in time and even more difficult to accept.
Chapter 8 notes, p. 4
9 Second, men do not want to believe the miracles of Jesus because if we do, then we must assume that what he said is correct – that we will perish unless we repent and live in obedience to him. If you hope something is not true and yet believe it probably is true, this is disturbing. • … it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled … Third, the passage is disturbing because, the way John put it, the people did not believe in order to fulfill the prophecy, that is, unbelief in the world is inevitable. Read the prophecy in Isa 53:1-3, Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? …, and Isa 6:9-10, “… and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Why do people refuse to believe? Does the prophecy actually cause the unbelief we see throughout history, or did God see that, as a result of the fall, men free to choose would choose not to believe? Do you believe the statements in the gospels about the signs Jesus did? Why or why not? • Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Isaiah died several centuries before John was born, but there were many reasons why John was able to assert this. When he first preached at Nazareth, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Isaiah 53 is an accurate explanation of the crucifixion, which John may have had in mind when he wrote that Isaiah saw his glory and spoke of him. • Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue … We saw this at the Feast of Tabernacles: For fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him (John 7:13). Later, when the officers who were sent to arrest Jesus returned and said, “No man ever spoke like this man!” the Pharisees replied, “Are you led astray, you also? Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?” As a matter of fact, some of the authorities had believed in him; they just weren’t saying so in order to protect themselves. Also, recall how the parents of the man born blind would not answer the authorities because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if any one should confess him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). It is tempting to excuse the authorities’ not confessing their faith. Doing so would mean the end of one’s livelihood, one’s reputation among the Jews, and one’s most “important” friends. It would mean beginning a different life – every bit as different as the Saul’s life when he became Paul the apostle. The authorities were by no means alone in keeping quiet. There are plenty of examples of this throughout history. In the polite Episcopalian society of the 1930’s, we did not discuss religion, or sex, or politics, because these subjects tended to be controversial – disturbing an otherwise peaceful occasion. • … for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. This may seem to be a harsh judgment when one’s livelihood is threatened, but nothing, even life itself, must keep us from confessing our faith in Jesus Christ, who gave his life to save us. Jesus said, “… And I tell you, every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God” Luke 12:8-9). John 12:44-50. And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45And he who sees me sees him who sent me. 46I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. 49For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. 50And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.” • “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.” Why did Jesus cry out and say it this way, and not, “He who believes in me, believes also in him who sent me”? What was he calling attention to in the way he said it here? He went on to say, “He who sees me sees him who sent me,” as if the important thing was for the people to see God, not the person standing before them.
10 • “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” We have discussed this previously with Chapters 1 and 8, and above (p.8). In proclaiming himself the light in this case, he also implied that all men are in darkness before they begin to believe in Christ, and those who decide not to believe remain in darkness. What does a person who remains in darkness believe that is not true, and not believe that is true? • “If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” John 3:17-18 is similar: For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. Taking these verses all together, comment on the correlation between keeping the sayings of Jesus and believing in his name, that is, between righteous living and faith. Compare also John 5:22-24, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, …”. At first this may seem to contradict the words of Jesus above, “I did not come to judge the world …” Discuss how both statements are true in the light of, for example, our Lord’s description of the last judgment in Matt 25:31-46, “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, …” • “He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge.” We will be judged, Jesus said, according to the word that he has spoken, and the judgment will take place on the last day. Thus, all will be raised at the last day to be judged according to our response to the Word of God. Those who, in this life, choose to believe God’s Word, and those who reject it, will be judged according to what we have done. And the Judge will be the Lord Jesus – the One who has spoken to us. Our Lord’s saying, “The word that I have spoken will be his judge,” suggests a different, stricter judgment under the new covenant. We live since the time God gave his Son to this fallen world, and, as our Lord said, “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” (Luke 12:48). • “What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.” If the word of Jesus is going to judge all men and determine our eternal destiny, his sayings must have the authority of God himself. No lesser being could be the judge of mankind and make such a determination with everlasting consequences. We are talking here not of a life sentence, which men may pronounce, but of man’s eternal destiny, which only God can decree. Thus Jesus reiterated what he had already said, “… I do nothing on my own authority, but speak thus as the Father taught me” (John 8:28). We consider the words of Jesus to be the words of God. Thus, as we finish Chapter 12, the account of our Lord’s public ministry has drawn to an end. The four gospels, taken together, record many sayings of Jesus, suggesting the passing of several days from the triumphal entry to the time of his arrest. No signs of Jesus during this time were recorded, however; suggesting that his final sign may have been the raising of Lazarus. Why might this be the case, considering the author’s purpose in 20:31, “… that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.” ?
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