John: Belief and Unbelief Among the Jews

Read John 12:37-50

John has to look back at this moment and shake his head in utter disbelief that so many people have seen what Jesus has done and heard His words, yet turn away. When Jesus met with the disciples after His resurrection, He opened their minds to all the scriptures (Luke 24:45) so they could see the complete picture with clarity.

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?” John 12:37-38

While John was given the ability to have this incredible hindsight, Isaiah is one that was gifted with amazing foresight.

Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. John 12:41

Long before Jesus was even born, Isaiah saw Jesus. I’m convinced that Isaiah not only knew Jesus hundreds of years in advance, he also knew he would never see Him face-to-face on earth. Yet he never faltered from his calling as a prophet. It wasn’t for his personal gain. He preached Jesus before anyone had a clue. While he tried to explain in words and images for people to understand, few could piece together the significance of his words.

John is one of a few people on earth who truly got this on every level. And he was able to convey the message to the unbelieving crowds, turning a few that ultimately became many.

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. John 12:42-43

Then we have the Pharisees. Let’s be clear on this point, the Pharisees didn’t know they were wrong. In fact, they were convinced they were the few religious leaders that had their act together. As a minority in the Sanhedrin, they were the ones trying to convince the Sadducees that they were misguided. While the Pharisees had a point worthy of attention, they were unable to see that they were lost inside the world of religion. A box that Jesus was not about to be placed.

They didn’t know. Like many who are walking in the footsteps of men in power, we need to be mindful of who we are following. Do we love human praise more than praise from God? Is our motivation wrapped up in a title or position? It is my hope to let go of all these earthly things and simply seek to follow Christ, to be an example for others, but always pointing to Jesus, definitely not myself.

John captured the words of Jesus at this point. My guess is this was something he heard many, many times so he drives home the conclusion of this chapter with strong words from Jesus. I don’t typically quote a large section of the NIV for you, but in this case, I would rather let the words of Jesus as captured by John speak for themselves:

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 “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. 48 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. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” John 12:44-50

Since Jesus declared that He came to save the world, not point a finger as judge, it seems fitting that we should step down from our lofty positions and stop judging others. Instead, we should adopt a very different approach and simply love God and love others. Even those we don’t understand.

I’m writing this particular post on the first day of 2019, a year that I hope will be a turning point in my life. The past year has left scars of broken friendships that I truly regret and disappointments that kept me awake many nights. While I could dwell on my past mistakes, my sins, and misplaced loyalties, I prefer to live as a forgiven son of the Most High while praying for forgetness in addition to forgiveness.

May this year be one where we hear the words of Jesus clearly — and keep them. Part of keeping the words of Christ includes action. It’s not enough to check the box. The things we do reflect the values we hold dearly. My prayer is that we receive the very words of Jesus deep in our hearts and this gift would compel us to love others in new and unique ways as the Spirit prompts and guides.

Father, I pray that Your words would be the ones that fill my heart and mind so much that they come out of my mouth with grace and truth as part of Your perfect plan. Amen.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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