Let us begin with a prayer. Lord, we thank You for this evening. We thank You for the goodness, the grace, the glory, the marvelous loving kindness that You have manifested to us in this world and for what You are promising for us in the next. I pray that we would be a people who celebrate that truth with a heart of gratitude. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Let’s continue our journey through the Gospel of John, and we are in chapter 12 this evening and as we look at this Gospel, we see that this is the last chapter in what is referred to as the ‘book of signs’. The ‘book of signs’, chapters one through twelve, focuses in a very clear structure around seven miracles and responses as well as narrative discourses. Usually the responses are afterwards, although in chapter 11 we noticed that John reversed the order and had the discourse before the raising of Lazarus. The important thing to note is that when Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” and then He follows that up with the resurrection of Lazarus, that is an important power. When He says, “I am the light of the world,” and gives sight to the man born blind, when he makes these claims He always verifies them and backs them up. These are not just claims that are empty. One of the things about Jesus’ life is that His words and His works were perfectly congruent. There was a complete integrity between the two.
So, His claims and His credentials actually reinforce one another. That is why I always say that belief in Christ, when we look at the real evidence, instead of the deconstructionism among many liberal theologians today, which is not warranted by history, by the manuscript evidence or by the early Church. All these are later and modern theories imposed on the text and you have to basically deconstruct the text and then rebuild it according to your own opinions. That leads to total subjectivity. My argument is actually a simple analysis of the Gospels as primary historical documents demonstrates that belief in Christ is not a leap in the dark, but a step into the light. A step it is, though, and it is not going to just be automatic.
A step is required, as we will see in this material. In John chapter 12, in fact, Jesus is going to have a discourse at the very end and it is His last public words. It is an exhortation, and appeal to the people to respond because after that, beginning in chapter 13, as you know, and through chapter 17, we have Jesus only with His disciples in the Upper Room and then after that the narrative completes the story with the Passion and the Resurrection and the post-resurrection appearances of our Lord. That is the general structure of John’s Gospel. It is highly selective material. Let’s look at chapter 12, then, and beginning there, remembering that it is important to know that these chapter divisions are generally good, but not always the best. There is an integrity between one verse and the next. They were not, originally, divided into either verses or chapters. In fact, they didn’t even have punctuation.
Now, “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary took a pound of very costly perfume 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 perfume.” Let me stop here for just a moment. I have just argued that there have been many correlative witnesses and truths throughout, but Mary is seen as the culmination of Jesus’ message. What is significant here is that this woman demonstrates greater understanding of the mission of Jesus than did His own disciples. His disciples did not really grasp or understand what He was really about. Jesus made it clear to them that only after the resurrection did they “Understand the things He had told them.” Then they understood how it all connected. The idea of what He was really intending to do was so radical that really no one on this earth could have made it up. That is why there is no other religion that has the idea that God suffers for us. That is because it is too radical for a person to make up. In particular, there is no religion that says there is grace through faith and not by any merit or attainment of our own but it is a gift of God. These are unique things because they are products of God and not human imagination. In fact, that uniqueness is, in my view, one of the evidences for the truth of Christianity. There is nothing like it in all the world. This is not something people would have made up. That is why His own disciples misunderstood His mission. It was more radical than anyone could have imagined at that point.
But, my view here is that Mary seemed to have a deeper understanding. To some degree it may have been a bit like Caiaphas, who, you recall, made a proclamation that it was necessary for one man to die for the sins of the people.
But, he did not know, as high priest, that God actually spoke to him and actually gave more truth than Caiaphas knew at the time. Similarly, there may be some degree to which Mary’s action of preparing Him for His burial was an action that was a little bit more than she fully understood, because what she was really doing was preparing Him in advance. Let me go back to a thought before I continue in the text. I want to stress that the John 14 image, that we are going to come across in a couple of weeks; the image of Jesus being ‘the way’ and ‘the truth’ and ‘the life’ is significant. As I see it, there seem to be three primary crises in the Gospel.
The first is that many disciples no longer walked with Him. The point here is that He is the way and He is the truth and He is the life. As to ‘the way’, many of His disciples would no longer walk with Him especially when He sharpened the edge of His teaching. In John chapter six, “He divided many people.” As ‘the truth’, “Many people refused to believe in Him,” as we see in chapter 12 verse 37. ‘Though He performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him,” although He was the truth. And though He is the life, they wanted to put Him to death. They sought to crucify Him. And so, we see in one witness and proof after another and the point is that He was rejected by His own, as John 1:11 tells us. Ultimately, beginning in the next chapter, we are going to see that He focuses on His own disciples.
But, the interesting thing with Mary anointing His feet, and we know from the parallel Gospels that she also anointed His head, is that it is an interesting moment for several reasons. One of them is that she fulfilled Jesus’ words, that we ought to wash the feet of one another, even before He uttered those words, in the next chapter. There is a clear and evident parallelism here that we are invited to see. Let me make a comment. The other Gospels mention they were at the home of Simon the leper. Chances are that might have been the home he owned but it doesn’t say he was actually there. It is also possible that might have been Martha’s home and that she was the hostess for this event. It is difficult to say, but we do know that Martha is fulfilling her customary role here where she is busy serving and Mary is worshiping. The three times we see Mary with Jesus she is at His feet.
That is a very significant thing. And so, we see again this image here and while Martha was serving Mary was worshiping, but we can not demean Martha in this regard. They are sisters and both work and worship go together. The active and the contemplative lives ought to be joined, so we can not demean that role of practicality. It is to be in word and deed. It is to be in truth but also in our lives. (Q)(A): That is a different account and in a different context. No, it is a different occurrence all together. It is a separate incident and it is in Luke 7:36-38. It is a different setting and a different woman. The thing I want you to keep in mind as we look at this material here is that the mounting opposition is such that the Sanhedrin, or the temple authorities, are going to be so opposed to Jesus that they are going to want Him to be killed. The deeper story behind all this is that the work of the Sanhedrin will actually propel Jesus to greater glory and not less.
So, He will use them, ironically, for the purposes of God and this is always how He works. Everything will fulfill and accomplish His purposes, even when people choose to reject Him. Going back to the text we have before us, there are parallels, especially between Mark 14 and John 12, but as I mentioned before, Mark 14 gives us some evidences that we don’t have here. One of them is that it mentions an alabaster jar and that she broke the jar. We don’t have that here. By breaking the jar, it really meant that the seal was broken on top of the jar. When it says, “Pure nard,” nard is a very important thing because it is a very rare and precious spice. It actually came from northern India and typically it was mixed with its own root to increase its own weight.
That kind of impure nard was about a 100 denari for a pound, but she bought the best available and spent 300 denari. This is somewhat extravagant and I will comment on that kind of extravagance in a moment. I define it as extravagance with abandon. Figure out the actual cost. She is blowing almost a year’s wages on this perfume. As you know, this offended Judas and then the other disciples caught on and also objected. The interesting thing is that in John’s commentary here, “Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for 300 denari and given to poor people’?” He said this, John tells us, “Not because He was concerned about the poor but because He was thief and as he kept the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.” I think part of the reason John is saying these things is that he knew Judas for three and half years and walked with him, but none of the disciples ever realized this fellow’s treachery.
If they had, they would have realized it at the Last Supper. Even when Judas got up and went out, they just figured he was going for provisions. They never caught and ht on and John is making an extra effort to understand that and to look back and give us reflection as to why all this happened. I might mention, by the way, that the blessing of Mary’s deeds spread around the world, as we see from Matthew and Mark. The whole world remembers this and even tonight we talk about an event that happened 2,000 years ago. There is a ripple effect of a good deed.
So, the contrast between Judas and Mary could not be greater. “The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot,” Proverbs 10:7 tells us. “A good name,” it says in Ecclesiastes 7:1, “is better than a good ointment.” Mary had both, a good name and great ointment. And the fact is, we don’t name too many of our sons after Judas. We name them after David and Paul and Matthew and Mark and so forth. The point is that kind of thing is a fulfillment of this very issue.
Now, Jesus said to Judas, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.” Again, I don’t think they grasped, not did she fully grasp, what was going on.
But, the fact is this extravagant work, where she at first anointed His head and then it flowed over His garments, filled the entire house with its pleasant odor. By the way, we it had a smell like gladiola, so it had a sweet scent and also a red color. My suspicion is that He smelled like this for the rest of the week.
So, the symbolism is that it was the last good smell He would have. The point here is that she is, in effect, showing her devotion to Jesus before it is too late. If you look at Mark 16:1, you will notice who went to prepare the body. “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of Salome and James, bought spices so that they might come and anoint Him.” The interesting thing here is that Mary of Bethany was not among them. Why is that? Because she had already anointed Him. You see the concept here? She showed her devotion to Jesus before it was too late and I must tell you that this is one of those things that grips me about our own lives and how we need to be people who show our devotion before it is too late. I watched the film, Waking Ned Devine, recently and there was a great moment. As you know there is the story of how Ned Devine wins this fabulous lottery. In fact, it is so great that he dies of a heart attack on the spot. His friends bury him, but they also know that the people from the lottery won’t give any money if he is dead.
So, they decide to set up a guy who will pretend to be Ned Devine when they come. The whole village had to be in on it and there was one woman who didn’t along with it and was going to tell on them. She was actually moving in that direction and she was in this phone booth when, of all things, a truck knocks the phone booth over a cliff and the opposition is, well, eliminated. The lottery man comes in to make sure things are legitimate and he is about to leave when he hears some music from the church. He goes to see it and it is the funeral for Ned Devine.
But, here is what happens. Just before they use the name ‘Ned Devine,’ every one turns around and sees him, and they change it right at that moment. Here is what he says to the fellow playing Ned Devine: “Michael O’Sullivan was my great friend, but I don’t remember ever telling him that. The words spoken at a funeral are spoken too late for the man that is dead. What a wonderful thing it would be to visit your own funeral and to sit at the front and hear what was said and maybe even say a few things yourself.”
Now, he is still looking at his friend, and he continues, “Michael and I grew old together. In the times that we laughed we grew younger.” Isn’t that a nice image? “If he were here now, if he could hear what I say, I’d congratulate him on being a great man and thank him for being a friend.” Isn’t that a great line? I think it is lovely because it is an illustration of what we ought to do, in a very real way. Why do we wait for a funeral to tell people we are thankful for them? We should tell them directly. You see the point? If we could do for our friends what Mary did for Jesus, we would speak our love, our gratitude, and make sure that all things were well between us. Because, really, who is so presumptuous that we think we will see a person another time? Many has been the time I have recalled the last time I was with somebody and it was actually the last time.
But, I didn’t know it was the last time. I knew it with my mother and father. I knew it for sure and I had my closure with them. I did not know it with many of my uncles and aunts. In a way, I would have liked to have been able to see them.
But, thankfully, I had already shared what they meant to me. I shared my gratitude and I shared my love, so I had no regrets, but I would have liked to have had more time. You see the idea? There is such a finality on this planet and it forces us to remember our last time with a person and what the relationship was like. To me there is a wonderful implication and there is wisdom to doing this in our relationships with other people. Continuing on, Mary would not give to Jesus what cost her nothing. If you looked up 2nd Samuel 24:24, that is exactly what David says. I will not receive this for free. I will pay for it because I am not going to give to God something that cost me nothing. I am not going to be cheap that way. And so, the blessing of her deed has, indeed, as Jesus predicted, spread throughout the whole world.
Now, Judas started the criticism, as I said, and the other disciples picked it up but I want to say that the Gospel sets affairs right. Jesus goes on to say, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” There is an interesting implication for this. Have you ever been in a situation where there was a great cathedral, or very nice church, and it was fairly ornate and they put in this magnificent pipe organ? The complaint often is that it is too extravagant and they think they should give the funds to the poor instead. I am not saying in every case that is a good thing, but I am saying there are some forms of extravagance that are pleasing to God. When they were extravagant, and they were, with those cathedrals, my view is that poor actually benefited from them. That is the glory of God that they saw that they never saw anywhere else in their lives. At that time the average person had nothing in the way of luxury at all.
So, when they saw these magnificent cathedrals, and they could see them from miles away, it was unique. The Ely Cathedral in Norfolk, as you drive toward it, you will see it from 20 miles away.
So, the people would come on a pilgrimage to these glorious places, and what would they see? They would see the story of the Gospel made evident in the stained glass windows. It goes from Creation to the Fall and to Redemption and finally the work of Christ and the Last Judgment. All this could be seen, and don’t forget, these were people who could not read.
So, that became their book. They saw the marvelous vaulting, the flying buttresses, and the heavenly- oriented vaults, and they marveled at that and they felt they were getting a hint, an intimation, of the city of God. Indeed, they were. It was the most glorious thing they had ever seen. In my view, we have never equaled the gothic cathedrals of Europe. I don’t know of any building made in that 200 years that can even touch them, in terms of esthetic beauty and quality and excellence. (Q)(A): Yes, David got all the equipment together, but Solomon built it. The point is that it was extravagant. You have to use a balance.
It doesn’t mean, though, that you can only build great things and ignore the poor. That goes to far the other way. If you look at the text here in John, in verse eight, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” That is very emphatic. He is saying they only have Him for a short time. In verse nine, “The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they also might see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead.” Remember, the Jews sought signs. The Greeks always looked for wisdom. They were always looking for something.
So, they were looking for Lazarus, who by this time had become something of a local celebrity. “The chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” There was a resurgence of belief. A combination of two things were going on here. In the last chapter He has just raised Lazarus from the dead and the word got out very rapidly. Secondly, you have to understand that the population of Jerusalem, which may have been 50,000, would burgeon to 100,000 during the Passover, because all male Jews were required to go up to Jerusalem for the Passover.
The point is that the whole place would be filled with Jewish believers, but also certain Gentiles, called ‘God fearers’. Remember Cornelius was called a ‘God fearer’ and the Centurion was a ‘God fearer’. We are going to see Jesus encounter some of these Greek 'God fearers' and it is a very important thing that we see as John concludes at this point. The point I am making here is that Jesus is now bringing things to a head and for the very first time He actually allows them to exalt Him, because it is a Messianic implication and claim. Of course, they also wanted to put Lazarus to death as well, because many of the Jews were moving away and believing in Jesus.
So, what they want to do is put him back in the tomb. They can’t accept the evidence, so they have to get rid if it. Lazarus, at this point, had a good deal of confidence about the tomb, knowing that it didn’t have the last word. In the text, now, we have a sudden shift from a quiet dinner to a public parade and in verse 12, “On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.” Now, my view is that this dinner took place on a Saturday, right after the Sabbath. This crowd “Took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him.” These date palms, by the way, had tremendous significance. They were used to illustrate Jewish nationalism in the Maccabean period. What they are trying to do is identify their national aspirations with this Jesus. They are hoping He is going to fulfill something that they want Him to accomplish.
So, the whole situation here is that they are awash in political fervor. But, I want to put it this way; the crowd was cheering a fantasy. They were not cheering the real Jesus. They were cheering an image, a fantasy. We often say, how could it possibly be that those crowds would turn on Him? I will tell you why, because when they saw what was going on later, they realized He was not the one they were looking for after all. In other words, it wasn’t that they were so much believing in Jesus as it was that they were believing He was a political liberator. Hence, the date palms and so forth.
So, you have all these tensions and all these themes working together simultaneously. “They began to shout, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel’.” So, they quote that Psalm, Psalm 118 verse 26.
But, then they add this extra phrase, “Even the King of Israel.” It is reminiscent of John chapter six, when they wanted to proclaim Him King. Then John makes sure that we don’t miss the illusion. “Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” This is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9. It was a specific prophecy. He would not come on a powerful steed, in glory and honor; He would come in humility, on a donkey.
But, Revelation 19 gives us another image. There, He does come in power and glory and you see Him on a white horse. So, there is a very different image here.
So, what we have is an open announcement that He is, in fact, the promised Messiah. I think, in effect, He is forcing the hand of the leaders, and how the Sanhedrin would act during the Passover. The Lamb of God had to give His life for the Passover lamb being slain. It is critically important that all the details must be graphically and literally fulfilled. And, so it was. When Jesus died it was on the Passover, when the temple lambs were being slain. It was not an accident. It is not an accident, either, that when the Holy Spirit came, He came on the day of Pentecost. (Q)(A): What you have there, in John’s parallelism, is he is showing the two responses once again, that of belief and that of unbelief. That is why, on the Cross, you have the two thieves flanking Him, symbolizing two responses. When one thief said, “Lord, remember me when you go into Your heavenly Kingdom,” Jesus responds, “This day you will be with Me in paradise.” But, the other thief continues to mock Him.
Now, in Mel Gibson’s film, he has a crow plucking out the eyes at the point when he is mocking Him. What that does is symbolize spiritual blindness, and the idea here is that he has reached the point of no return. He is now hardened in his heart. Let us continue.
So, it tells us then, “His disciples did not understand at first.” Now, it is very important for you to see this. These Spiritual truths must be spiritually revealed. You will not know Spiritual truth unless it is Spiritually communicated. The Spirit must make these things known. “They only understood it when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.”
So, at the moment it was happening, they were till fairly clueless. “So, the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him.”
So, John is explaining that for this reason, the people went and met Him, because they had heard He had performed this sign. As He is coming from Bethany, He has to go through the Kidron Valley, which would have been swollen with the tents of those who had come to Jerusalem for Passover. There were tens of thousands of people there and they see the parade and everyone wants to join a parade. Many of them, perhaps, didn’t know what they were doing, but many of them did. And so, there was a swell of anticipation. Word traveled fast about the sign He had performed.
So, the Pharisees were extraordinarily frustrated with it. Thus, again, it is another of the many emphases in this Gospel, that the time of His rejection, the time of His Passion has come.
Now, we go on to the next scene and we have here the Greeks who seek Jesus. In this scene there were some Greeks who were going up to worship at the feast. I might mention, Sepphoris was capital city of Galilee and it was a Gentile city of about 20,000. If you have ever been to Israel, it is well worth visiting to see the ruins of Sepphoris. There were many ‘God-fearers’ in that area and they were welcome to come to Jerusalem to celebrate that feast. However, they were only allowed to go to the Court of the Gentiles. They could not go through the dividing wall and into the Court of the Women or into the Court of the Jews.
So, it is significant, in Ephesians 2:14, where Jesus overcame the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile and it is referring to that barrier right there. In any case, these Jews “Then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’.” Now, I have been preaching from pulpits where they actually have that on a plate. It actually has engraved on it, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” Now, it tells us, “Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’.” Now, this is extremely important for us to see because the motif of the ‘hour’. Before, it was His ‘hour had not come’, His ‘hour had not come’. But, with the rejection of His own people it is now imminent.
Now, in this symbolic movement toward the ‘God-fearers’, who were wanting to see Jesus, it shows He is not a person just for the nation of Israel, but for persons of all the world. Christ came to save the whole world, and this message would be available to all who would receive.
So, that is why it tells us, “The hour has come.” He was there in the city where He knew He would be rejected because of the mounting opposition.
Now, it goes on to say, “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.” Many of you know that occasionally I do a great book where I synthesize that, and I was speaking at the Wilberforce Forum last weekend, and Chuck Colson has this ‘Centurion’ program, where they are training them in various worldviews. I was asked to do two workshops, on worldview and literature. I illustrated how The Brothers Karamazov, in my opinion the greatest novel ever written, could actually be leveraged and used to show a Christian motif. Among other things,
I argued that university courses invariably get it wrong and miss the whole point of the novel. What they do is focus on Ivan’s story of The Grand Inquisitor. Dostoyevsky, in his own notes said the rest of the novel is my refutation of that. He uses the three brothers, in a Paulathonic way, to actually end their suffering and to demonstrate, through their suffering, that each of them will come to faith. One brother, Dmitri, representing the body, another, Ivan, representing the mind, and the third brother, Alyosha, representing the soul. Those three parts of the personality are divided and the ‘Karamazov nature’ is a symbol of the Fall.
So, instead of having one hero, you have a composite hero, and in each composite suffering is involved and it is through suffering that redemption takes place. I mention this because this verse reminds me of the verse Dostoyevsky himself placed on the dedication page. When he dedicated the book to his wife, underneath the dedication it said this: “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.” Dostoyevsky’s own suffering is what brought him to faith, as you know. He was sent off to Siberia and was going to be executed. He was with a radical group of insurrectionists, but his sentence was commuted at the very last minute. You can only imagine, waking up in the morning absolutely convinced you are about to be executed.
Then, at the very last minute, if you learned your sentence was commuted, what would you think? You would realize that you are on borrowed time. It would change your whole view. He suffered four years of hard labor and another four years of exile, and that, combined with his reading of the New Testament, is what bought him back as a man of faith. Each of his books has a particular point that he wants to stress, vis a vis the idea of the Christian faith. Even in Notes From the Underground, he was furious with what he called ‘that swine of a censor’, who got rid of the Christian elements. My point is simply this; suffering is what God will often use to drive us to Himself. When a man or a woman has everything they need, or suppose they have, they are really not in a position to come to faith.
But, even if they seem to have an abundance in this world, are they really happy? Is there any trouble in their life? You have to pick up on those issues of suffering. God leverages and uses suffering.
But, Jesus goes on to say, “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”
So, He is using the idea of not only believing in Him, but also of following Him in terms, clearly, of discipleship.
So, my point is this; there is a contrast between loneliness and fruitfulness, between losing life and keeping life, between serving self and serving Christ, between pleasing self and receiving God’s honor in this text. In the life of God, the seed has to be buried, as you know, before it can fulfill its purpose. Unless it is buried it will not sprout. The life of God can not be fulfilled unless we yield ourselves to God and permit Him to plant us. You see the idea? There is a sort of death. We die of the self so that we can live to God. We see this in Romans six and in Galatians 2:20.
So, Jesus’ willingness was to be conformed to the Father’s will and we this struggle. We don’t have the retelling of the Gethsemane account, but we do have this struggle that is illustrated in the next verses, when Jesus says, “Now my soul has become troubled,” and that word, ‘tarasso’, we saw earlier with Lazarus, and we will see it again when Judas betrays Him. “What shall I say, ‘Father save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” So He says, “’Father, glorify your name’. Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again’. So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, ‘An angel has spoken to Him’. Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes’.” Now, I want to stress, then, that if we pursue our own comfort, we will never be planted.
But, if you understand that God’s desire is to cause us to bear lasting fruit, then we will be willing to submit our lives to Him rather than protecting them. My view here is that our idea of protecting our lives is actually moving us away from protection. The only thing that is safe is what you give to Him. In your quest to protect your life from God’s sovereign demands, actually those are the things you will never have. It is the things that we finally surrender to Him that ironically become our own. “Now judgment is upon the world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” The fact is that judgment, life and death, salvation, all of it has already begun. Waiting for the end times has already begun. The hour of judgment for the world, and for the adversary, “The ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from this earth, will draw all men to Myself.” He uses this euphemism of being lifted up, and He is speaking not only of the Cross, but beyond that to the ascension.
All of that is part of the glorification of Christ. His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension really form a seamless unit and all are related to the glorification God has. We now see, “But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.” As you know, the Jews would stone someone to death. The Romans are the ones who invented this particularly cruel form of punishment and torture and death. It was a very, very vicious thing, indeed. To be frank with you, the Gibson film pretty much had it right. I would have liked a few more flashbacks, but he certainly was not exaggerating what happened. It was gruesome and almost beyond belief. The point here is that He is indicating the kind of death, and it will be on the Cross.
So, “The crowd answered Him, ‘We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man’?” What is happening there is they are confusing the son of David, the coming king, with Messiah, the son of Joseph, the suffering servant. Naturally, they are going to hope for the former and not the latter. “So, Jesus said to them, ‘For a little while longer the Light is with you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he that walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.”
So, He is giving them this urgent appeal. “While you have the Light,” because you won’t have it much longer, “believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light. These things Jesus spoke and then He went away and hid Himself from them.” John’s commentary in verse 37 is very telling, “Thought He performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.” Remember Jesus’ words when He said, “If they don’t believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if someone rises from the dead.” So it so.
A person is responsible for the life they have and no one is in complete darkness. God is illuminated, even in the general revelation. Where ever we are, the reality from the heavens, and the study of human nature, from the study of the exquisite design in this world, it points beyond itself to God, and our human hearts can not eradicate it, try though we might. When people use the problem of evil to condemn God, the ironic part is that they are appealing to condemn an absolute. The only way you can logically condemn Him is to appeal to Him. They can not get away from their self-refuting worldviews. Their promises are self-defeating. They can not believed and they don’t make coherent and logical sense.
So, they did not believe in Him through His signs and it is now a matter of will. The signs were there and they saw them and still chose not to believe in Him. Going back to The Brothers Karamazov, because it is so fresh in my mind, at the very end of ‘The Grand Inquisitor’, you recall that the stranger had come to the city of Seville during the height of the Spanish Inquisition and when the Cardinal sees him raising the dead and healing people, he orders the man to brought in and arrested. He says, “Is it thou?” Then he says, “Don’t speak. Whether it is ‘thou’ or not, you will be burned tomorrow. You must see that the Church is built on miracle, mystery and authority. You have turned away from that. We have brought it back. That way we can give people what they want and have a sense of power. If you continue to do what you are doing, you will challenge our religious establishment.” What is interesting is that when he gives him an opportunity to speak for himself, the stranger does not say anything. We know it is Jesus. Instead, he comes to the Grand Inquisitor, kisses him on the mouth and the Grand Inquisitor is so stunned by this act that he says, “Get out of here,” and lets him go free.
At the end of the story, Ivan is asked, by Alyosha, “What happened to the priest?” He answered, “The warmth of the kiss remains in his heart, but he has clung to his ideas.” Isn’t that a powerful image? So, the warmth was there, but he refuses to change his heart. He had pretty well made his decision. There is frightening thought, where a person can reach a point of no return. They can harden their heart so many times that God begins to do it in addition. That is the reality and that is why He says you have you have the opportunity to believe. Continuing, “This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed’?” In other words, in Isaiah 53, “Who has believed our message? To whom has the arm of the Lord,” which is His miracles, his message and His miracles have been rejected by the people, as Isaiah predicted. For this reason, they couldn’t believe. Isaiah said again, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they would not see with their eyes and receive with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.” Ultimately they are held accountable for their actions. “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” The glory that he saw, of Messiah, when did he see that glory? It is in chapter six, when he saw the Lord lifted up in the holy temple.
So, “Nevertheless, many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” We do discover, though, that two of them do come out of the closet after the Crucifixion. Who were they, these two rulers, and members of the Sanhedrin? Joseph of Aramethia and Nicodemus.
So, they do come out, but this is an important point, “They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” You can’t play to both audiences. In verse 44, “Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me’.” Strong words are these. “I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.”
So, He concludes this theme, this motif, that goes throughout the Gospel, light and darkness; life and death; belief and disbelief; knowing the Father, rejecting the Father. All these motif are woven together. “If anyone 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.” This is an allusion to the commentary in John 3:17-18. “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.” You will be accountable for the word that was spoken to you. “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself ho sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”
So, as we conclude this chapter, then, Jesus makes this last appeal. I have spoken to you; I have manifested the Father, when you believe in Me you are actually believing in the Father. When you see Me you are seeing the Father. When you entrust yourself to Me, you are entrusting yourself to the Father. When you are obeying Me, you are obeying Him. These are radical claims. Because, ‘I’ and the ‘Father’ are One. Again, I have to stress the mystery of the Trinity that is so utterly unique. I will give you a classic chart, that was created in the 12th century by Richard of St. Victor, and remember that we know when we look at God we see the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is God. The Father is God. The Son is God.
But, we also see that the Father is not the Holy Spirit and that the Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. That is a wonderful portrayal of Trinitarian truth. They are not each other, but they are God. It is not like you take a pie and divide it into three parts and then say each one is the pie. It is that each one exhaustively fulfills what it means to be God and not each other. I can not understand that, nor can you.
So, don’t even try. The point is that this deep mystery of the Trinitarian truth is the ultimate foundation for unity and diversity, for the One and the many, for the lover and the beloved, and the love that flows between them, for other-centric service, for being co-equal and co-eternal. We have this deep and profound mystery, where He has revealed the Father, and what is going to happen after revealing the Father, in John 14 and 16, He will talk about how now the Holy Spirit will come and will speak and point to Him.
(Q)(A): Remember that most of His disciples didn’t fully understand what was going on. The real issue back then is the same issue now. We have more light, but we are accountable for the light we have. They had less light, but were still held accountable for the light they had; not for the light they didn’t have, but only for the light they did have. The issue is the same but the light is different. My view is that God knows the heart and He knows the light it has received. Clearly, God is not going to give us more illumination if we don’t respond to that we have already received.