John 12:37 – Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,

After a very intense interaction in the temple, Jesus left Jerusalem to give the Jews time to consider the truths he had revealed to them.  They were still very hard-hearted; they continued to be skeptical of his claim to be the Messiah.

As John points out, that was a hard position to defend given the many miracles Jesus had done.  John is not referring to any miracle done at the temple that day, but to the myriad of proofs the Jews had already seen – the sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind saw, food was multiplied, demons were cast out and even the dead were raised to life. 

The miracles of Jesus were many in number, mighty in nature, and literally performed right in front of their eyes.  They even heard the voice of God affirming the ministry of his Son, yet they refused to acknowledge the truth.  What more proof did the Jews need, especially in light of their own belief that only God could perform miracles?

John 12:38 – … 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?”

The unbelief of the Jews had been predicted long before by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:1). 

Who’ refers to the Jewish people.

Who has believed’ is a rhetorical question – Isaiah is saying that very few have believed and accepted the message of God as delivered by his messengers the prophets.

What he heard from us’ (your translation may say ‘our report’), generally refers to all of the teachings and doctrines of God, but specifically those related to the suffering, humiliation and rejection of the Messiah.

The arm of the Lord’ is a common symbol of power, by which someone executes their purposes.  Simply put, it refers to the power of God (Isaiah 51:9, 52:10, Psalms 77:15 etc) in defending his people, overcoming his enemies and bringing his plans/purposes to fruition.  In this specific case, it refers to God’s power in producing salvation for mankind through the Redeemer.

Revealed’ means understood or perceived.

So let’s put this all together. 

Back in the day, Isaiah was prophesying that the future Redeemer would be mighty in power and greatly exalted:

Isaiah 52:13 – Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.  

But he then pauses and details the depth of the humiliation, suffering and sorrow that the Messiah would endure on the earth.  He reveals that the Messiah will actually be despised and rejected by the Jews prior to his exaltation.  This idea of the humiliation of the Messiah was so astonishing and unexpected, the Jews back in the day of Isaiah did not believe it.  Many chose to ignore it, and concentrate only on prophesies that spoke of the Messiah’s victorious reign. 

What was true back in the day of Isaiah was also true during the life of Christ – the vast majority of the Jews refused to believe that the Messiah would suffer and die before being exalted/glorified. Yet, this had been disclosed to them on numerous occasions:

  • Jesus testified many times during his ministry that he would be put to death for the sins of the people (Mark 8:31, Mark 9:12, Luke 9:22, John 3:14, etc). 
  • It was prophesied by the high priest Caiaphas (John 11:49-52). 
  • Jesus has just confirmed that truth once again, with his example of the seed which must die so that the plant can grow and bear fruit (John 12:24). 

The Jews, however, hardened their hearts to the doctrine/message of God.  Essentially, they formed a false picture of the Messiah – one who is exalted in glory and power but without any suffering; one who will set up a magnificent earthly kingdom. 

Based on the teachings of Jesus and the Old Testament scriptures, they should have recognized their false beliefs and rejected them.  But instead, they held on to their illusions and rejected Christ, exactly as Isaiah had predicted.

It should be noted that the Jews did not reject Christ so that this prophesy could be fulfilled; Jesus deems the prophesy fulfilled because they have rejected him.  The rejection was the consequence of the Jews own choice to remain in unbelief.   

John 12:39-40 – Therefore they could not believe.  For again Isaiah said, “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.”

This is a paraphrase of Isaiah 6:9-10.  The word ‘therefore’ refers to the cause of their unbelief which is found in the prior verse.  Namely, since they did not believe the word of God given through the prophets concerning Christ, they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Having resisted the word of the prophets and the evidence of Christ’s miracles, God gave them up to the darkness and hardness of their own hearts (Romans 1). 

Look at the words of Isaiah again.  They indicate that back in Isaiah’s day, if Israel had turned to God in repentance and submitted to his ways, he would have healed their nation.  But since they didn’t, their nation was headed for destruction.  Sure enough, in 586 BC Judah was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and the Jews were forced from their land.

A similar circumstance occurred during the time of Christ.  The Jews refused to believe the gospel message given by Jesus and later the apostles.  As a result, their hearts were hardened against the truth and they refused to turn to God.  In 71 AD the holy city of Jerusalem, their beloved temple and their nation were all destroyed by the Romans.  Intense persecution caused them to once again flee the land.    

Let us once more remind ourselves that God did not blind them first so they were forced to reject the truth and harden their hearts.  They first chose to reject the truth and as a direct result they became spiritually blind.  Their blindness was the result of their unbelief, not the other way around.

Interestingly, a paraphrase of Isaiah 6:9-10 actually occurs six times in the New Testament – Matthew 13:14-15, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, Acts 28:6-27 and Romans 11:8.

John 12:41 – Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

This reference is to Isaiah 6:1-5, where Isaiah describes his vision of Jehovah, seated on a throne in the temple surrounded with seraphim. (If you haven’t read this recently, you should take a minute and do so.  It is very powerful.)

During that vision, Isaiah saw God’s glory which is referred to as the Shechinah glory or the visible cloud in which God manifested himself over the mercy seat.  This was regarded as the equivalent to seeing God. 

Now remember that here in John chapter 12, the apostle John expressly applies this (seeing God’s glory) to the Lord Jesus Christ. 

In other words, it was the glory of Jesus that Isaiah saw that day.

Since Isaiah’s vision and prophesy were of Jesus, then his description of hard-hearted unbelievers (Isaiah 6:9-10) must describe the Jews who were present during the incarnation of Christ.   

And that is exactly what is recorded by all four of the gospel writers.

John 12:42-43 – Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed on him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

The fierce opposition of the Jews had reached such a fever pitch, that someone in our day might assume that all of the Jews, without exception, had rejected Jesus as the Christ. 

But John assures us that was not the case.  Even though the bulk of the nation had gone mad, there were still some with a sound mind.  There were members of the Sanhedrin who were convinced that Jesus was the true Messiah.  Nicodemus and Joseph were among that group (John 19:38-42).

While these leaders had a secret belief that Jesus was the expected Messiah, their conviction was not strong enough for them to openly confess and assert him to be such.  At that point, they were weak in their faith.  They were afraid of the consequences they would suffer at the hands of their colleagues, the Pharisees.  As we know, the Pharisees had decreed that anyone who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ would be banned from the synagogue (John 9:22), and they did not want to be excluded from the church or lose their positions of authority (not to mention their jobs).    

John tells us that that these men preferred the honor and praise of men more than the honor and approval of God. 

John 12:44 –And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.”

John does not tell us exactly where or when Jesus spoke these words.  The assumption is that it is a continuation of the discourse in verses 30-36 of this chapter.  He gives them to strengthen the faith of those who believed on him and to give them the courage to confess him. 

Having said that, it is also possible that the teaching in these last few verses of chapter 12 were spoken at a different time, but John groups them here because they are relevant to the topic of this chapter.  In any case, these last few verses present us with the consequences of belief or rejection of the words of Christ. 

Notice how Jesus delivers these last few verses – he cried out.  He spoke in a loud and forceful voice, showing his earnest desire that they heed his words.  After all, there is a lot at stake – if they will listen to him, they will find salvation. 

Jesus speaks of the relationship between himself and the Father.  We know that God is a trinity or triune being – Father, Son and Spirit.  As we discussed in earlier posts, the three are separate distinct personalities, yet they are also intertwined in one; there is complete unity and agreement among them.  The will of the Father is also the will of Jesus and Holy Spirit.

In this verse, Jesus explains that because of the indivisible nature of the Trinity, belief in him is tantamount to belief in the Father (and Spirit).  Likewise, seeing Jesus is the same as seeing the Father.  Honoring Jesus is the same as honoring the Father (Mark 9:37).

So when people believe in Jesus, they are not placing their faith in a mere man, but in the one who is also the true God, equal in power, authority and glory to the Father.  Believing in Jesus was also a belief that Father God (and Holy Spirit) had sent him to be the Messiah.  

John 12:45 – “And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.”

And again, because of the nature of the Trinity, Christians can know the Father by examining and observing the life of Jesus.  Because they are essentially the same, anyone who knows Jesus also knows the Father. 

If Jesus is love, so is the Father.  If Jesus is merciful, so is the Father.  The works that Jesus does are the works of the Father.  The words Jesus speaks are the words of the Father, etc.

Think of it this way:  Let’s suppose you applied for a job at a national firm.  You get a call to meet with someone from the Human Resources department.  When they meet with you, they are representing the company.  If they offer you a job, it is the same as being offered a job from the company itself.  Any job they offer you will be in absolute compliance with the rules of the firm, because the HR person represents the company, not themselves.  The representative and the company are essentially one in the same.

So it is with Jesus and the Father.  Jesus does not operate independently of Father God; he represents the Father on earth.  Whatever is true of Jesus is also true of the Father who sent him.   

John 12:46 – “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

To walk in darkness is to walk in error or sin (John 3:19, I John 1:5).  Darkness can also describe the state of living without the comforts of true religion.  Individuals as well as entire nations can walk in darkness (Joel 2:2, Isaiah 8:22, John 8:12).  

Jesus is the light that has come into the world to deliver it from this darkness (John 1:5).   He came to dispel ignorance, superstition and wickedness.  He came to reveal the will of the Father.  He came to clearly show the way to eternal life.  He came to be the payment for our sin.

In order to acquire this great benefit (deliverance from sin and error), a person must believe in Jesus as the Messiah, sent by God.

Those who do will find that Holy Spirit leads/directs them in the paths of righteousness, reveals divine truth to them, and instructs them in the ways of holiness.  He assists the believer in every single aspect of spiritual and physical life.  

Furthermore, the light of Christ shines so that all men can see it; it is available to anyone who wants to enjoy it:

Isaiah 55:1 – Ho, everyone that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

John 6:35 – And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.    

While God makes the blood of Christ available to all people, he does not force them to partake of his salvation.  There will be some people who die in their sin/darkness, by their own choice.

John 12:47 – “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.”

Jesus has been very clear that during his incarnation, he was not on earth to judge/condemn mankind, but to save them (John 3:17).  Obviously, that is exactly what Jesus did by purchasing our salvation through the cross.  This is why he is referred to as the ‘Lamb of God’ during his incarnation – because he was the true Passover lamb who was slain for our sin (John 1:29).

For the past 2000 years, Jesus has laid aside the office of judge in order to offer salvation to all without reserve.  He stretches out his nail scarred hands to embrace ‘whosoever will’ (John 3:16).  He actively pursues/draws all men unto himself through the work of Holy Spirit.      

Nevertheless, scripture is also clear that at some future date Jesus will return to earth.  Only this time, he does not come as a meek and mild lamb, but as a ferocious, dominant, powerful, roaring lion – the Lion of the tribe of Judah.  Those who rejected his kind and merciful offer of salvation will not go unpunished.  They will face his judgment and condemnation at the end of this age (Revelation 19:11-21, Daniel 7:9-10). 

John 12:48 – 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.”

The first point to be made here is that the one who is judged by the word is the one who has both heard it and rejected it.  It then follows that those who have not heard the gospel will be judged by whatever measure of light/truth they were under:

Romans 2:12 – For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Obviously, God is not going to judge you by the gospel if you never heard it.  I have no idea how God will deal with that issue, but we can be sure that he is completely righteous and just.  We don’t really need to worry about it, and we certainly don’t have to explain it.

Secondly, there is no neutral ground.  Those who have heard the gospel must make a choice.  They are either with Christ as a brother/sister or they are against Christ as an enemy.  There are no other options.  Failing to make a decision is the same as a rejection of the gospel message.  

Third, the wicked may reject Christ’s salvation, but they will not escape judgment.  There is no need for Jesus to accuse them; the gospel of Christ, which these sinners despise and reject, is enough to condemn them on the last day.  The word itself will judge them. 

John 12:49 – “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.”

The word, which will be the ultimate judge of sinners, did not proceed from the flesh-and-blood man standing before the Jews.  It originated with Father God:

John 7:16 – Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

When delivering the word, Jesus said only what the Father commanded him to say.  Therefore, divine authority rests upon the Holy Scriptures.    

John 12:50 – “And I know that his commandment is eternal life.  What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

The words that the Father speaks are the cause or source of everlasting life.  Simply put, God’s command to Jesus was to preach salvation to the lost world, and to give himself as a ransom for all.  God’s command to us is to believe on his Son, because everyone who does will have eternal life:

1 John 5:11-12 – And this is the witness that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life.  

Since eternal life depends on the faithful preaching of the gospel message, Jesus proclaimed it in the face of all opposition, contempt and persecution. 

This is a principle that we too must keep in mind.  The message that we share with the lost is not just a religious ritual, but a life giving message connected to the eternal welfare of the hearer.  Therefore, we should fearlessly deliver the message even in the face of persecution and contempt, just as Jesus did.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

The Jews are not the only people to hold onto false pictures of God.  For instance, some people believe that ‘God is love’ and he would never condemn anyone to hell.  While it is true that God is love, scripture is very, very clear that he is also a God of justice.  The price for sin must be paid and any person who does not allow Christ to pay that debt will answer for it themselves at the end of the age.  This is true whether you believe it or not.

So let’s ask ourselves a difficult question:  Are we holding onto any false pictures of God?  When something occurs in our life that does not match up with our perception of God, what do we do?  Do we become angry and blame God?  Or can we search the scriptures, seek him in prayer and admit we are wrong? 

If you are ever tempted to be mad at God for something, I encourage you stop and look at your perception of him.  If it doesn’t match up with scripture, you need to admit you are wrong and change your view of God.

Let me offer you some relief:

While most Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, there were some who believed in him.  However, they were weak in their faith; they were afraid to openly confess Jesus as the Christ. 

Perhaps you and I can relate to that.  Was there ever a time when you were afraid or embarrassed to acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior?   Maybe you even denied him, like Peter did just before the crucifixion. 

If so, let me offer you some relief – there is nothing you can do that the blood of Christ cannot forgive.  So don’t let Satan continue to condemn you.  Confess your sin and your shortcomings.  If you do, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  

Let me offer you some strength:

Do you need to make things right with God today?  Perhaps you have never actually given him control of your life or perhaps you did long ago, but you have abandoned your faith. 

That’s why I want to give you a chance to accept salvation and/or rededicate your life to Christ right now.  It is simple.  The epistle of Romans tells us that if we confess Jesus with our mouth and believe in our heart that God has raised him from the dead, we can be saved (Romans 10:9).  If that is you, then go ahead and pray this simple prayer:

Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner.  I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me.  I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin.  I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior.  I commit myself to you right now.  Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life.  Amen.

If you prayed this prayer and sincerely meant it, then you have received the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ! 


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