We are now a little over half-way through John’s gospel, and we are coming to an end of John’s record of his public ministry. Jesus recognizes that “the hour has come”, and he gives a final exhortation to all who will hear him: “Walk in the light, lest the darkness overtake you.” A final exhortation to believe that he is God’s Messiah. John records this exhortation for us: respond to Jesus while we still have the opportunity.
Let’s review a little bit to get started today.
John’s intent in writing
I’ve said before than when we’re trying to understand the meaning of the scripture, the primary task is to understand what the author was trying to communicate to the audience. After we’ve understood its meaning we then have to figure out what bearing that has for us, in our context. Fortunately, John’s Gospel is pretty immediately evident on both counts.
It is sometimes hard for me to remember, when reading the Gospel, that I’m reading a carefully crafted message to a specific group of people, from one of the gospel-writers. It is easy for me to see this as merely a record of Jesus’s work and words. Which it is, but if thats all the gospels are, it raises difficult-to-answer questions about some subtle differences in the details the different gospel writers record. But if we recognize that there is a purpose the “gospeler” has in his particular account, it helps make sense of those differences.
John’s gospel is written to the church at large, shortly after the destruction of the temple, and it will help us to understand what is being written if we can put ourselves in the church’s shoes at the time.
Late first century AD. It has been a few decades since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. The generation that walked around with him is aging and starting to die off. You are experiencing persecution and derision from Jews and Pagans alike. Jesus never fulfilled the prevailing expectations they had of the Messiah in terms of political reform.
He has not set up his earthly kingdom, and your world is still dominated by Caesar and Rome. The Jewish temple is destroyed. You are starting to wonder whether maybe all this is real, and whether Jesus was who we thought he was. And into that, John writes his account of the Gospel, with this phrase toward the very end.
John 20:30–31 (CSB)
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John hand picked this very specific collection of conversations, encounters, miracles, and scenes from Jesus’ life, of which he was a first-hand eye-witness, in order to encourage us that Jesus is who he claimed to be: The son of God, the savior of the whole world.
“But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of natural descent, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” – John 1:12-13 CSB
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (CSB)
In order to get to this John recounts a sequence of encounters Jesus has with different people, and he records the words and the works of Jesus in those different scenarios. And so far in our study we have seen six very specifically recorded miracles or “signs” that Jesus performs, and around six statements Jesus makes about who he is.
John records these specific six “signs” so that we, the readers of his account, will have confidence, that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name.
Those signs and statements are:
- Turning water into wine (at a wedding) – John 2
- Healing a deadly illness (from a distance) – John 4
- Healing the invalid (on the Sabbath) – John 5
- Feeding 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish – John 6
- Giving sight to a man born blind – John 9
- Raising Lazarus from the dead – John 11
- Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst again, and it will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life – John 4:13-14
- I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never hunger. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. – John 6:35, 51
- I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. – John 8:12
- I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved. John 10:9
- I came that [the sheep] may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:10-11
- I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. John 11:25
And it from here that we come to today’s passage. Jesus’s “last call” to the public. He is ending his public ministry and will from here on out (for the next few days until his crucifixion) be only with his disciples.
The Hour Has Come
Several times throughout the book so far, Jesus alludes to an hour that is coming. John records that certain things could not yet happen because it was not the hour. Jesus escaped arrest and execution from the crowds several times because his hour had not yet come. And now he says it is here. He knows this, somehow, because some God-fearing gentiles seek to meet with him. Let’s read Jesus’s words.
READ: John 12:20–33 (ESV)
Who is this son of man?
READ: John 12:34-36 (ESV)
- Jesus has spent his earthly ministry proving that he is the long awaited Messiah through his words and his work.
- He has been showing them that their conception of the Messiah was inaccurate, it was based on traditions of men and misunderstanding of the scriptures, rather than on the truth that comes from God. This is why they ask “Who is this Son of Man?”
- They misunderstood the prophets who described the “Lord’s servant”, were referencing the Messiah. John gives us some commentary that tells us that what is finally happening here, the rejection of the Messiah by his own people, was actually prophesied by Isaiah.
Why do some reject him?
He’s answering the question for the early church, and possibly early Jewish seekers after the fall of the temple who were curious about this Jesus, why did many reject him? Answer: this was part of God’s plan, prophesied hundreds of years ago by Isaiah. Yet more evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be!
READ: John 12:37–43 (ESV)
- They could not see, that Jesus was the Messiah. By the way, the force of “could not” should not be softened here. It means “could not” not “would not.” Because God had blinded them.
- Why did he do that? Because they loved their power and their system more than they loved God. They wanted glory for themselves.
- In a sense, this was the same problem that Adam and Eve had: they wanted to be like God, retaining control of their life, and to the degree they could get it, control of other people’s lives.
- Maybe there was simply fear of being removed from the synagogue, from their family, etc.
Then, Jesus cries out to them, to the early church, and to us, one last time before the scene changes to the upper room in Chapter 13.
Jesus’s exhortation to all
READ: John 12:44–50 (ESV)
“I Know that his commandment is eternal life.”
- Find all your needs satisfied in me. (I am bread and water)
- See the world in light of me. (I am the light)
- Ask the question: “What is true because of Jesus?”
- Follow me. (I am the door)
- “Do not fear those who can only kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do to you. Fear the one who can kill both the body and soul in hell.”
- “…for fear of being kicked out of the synagogue…”
- “… they loved the glory that came from man rather than the glory that comes from God…”
- “Those who love their life will lose it. But whoever [by contrast] hates their life in this world, will gain it for eternity.”
- Trust me. I will protect you. (I am the good shepherd)
- Do not fear anyone or anything, even death. (I am resurrection and the life)
- The reaction of your family & friends?
- The reaction of bosses & coworkers, classmates, neighbors
- Who do you fear more God, or man?
- Don’t fear! God cares for his sheep, he will never let them go!
- What about doubting & stray sheep? – Thomas and Peter. Jesus leaves the 99 to find the 1.