Description / Transcription
Let’s pray as we come to God’s Word. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The rules of the Lord are true and righteous, altogether more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold, sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant is warned, in keeping them there is great reward. And so we ask, Lord, that the words of my mouth, the meditation of our hearts, would be acceptable in Your sight, and our ears would be open before You, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to John chapter 12, John 12, beginning at verse 44 through the end of the chapter, and then Lord willing next week we’ll begin a semester long series with various sections in the book of Acts and hope to pick up in the New Year with John 13, and the last week in Jesus’ life in the upper room, His arrest, betrayal, death, and resurrection. This morning we come to John chapter 12, beginning at verse 44.
“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And whoever sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness. 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. 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. 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. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told Me.'”
One of the challenges in preaching through John’s Gospel is that you end up encountering many of the same themes over and over. You hear some of the same words; light, darkness, Father, Son, Spirit, birth, death, sent, faith, unbelief, glory, one, Christ, love, sheep, shepherd, words, the Word, grace, truth. We are constantly encountering those words and those big themes. Hardly a sermon goes by where we aren’t seeing some of them.
The challenge then, is that we not tune out and think “haven’t we heard this sermon before?” Well, yes, you’ve heard verses like this before, but there’s a reason that the Spirit inspired the book in the way the He did, and so we need to hear these things again and again. So rather than seeing it as a challenge, perhaps you see it as an opportunity to learn again and again the most important lessons from John’s Gospel.
You think of that line from Paul in Philippians: “It is no trouble for us to tell you the same things again.”
We must always as Christians be those “same things again” sort of people, because we need to be reminded the Gospel that we receive also leaks.
And so we find here, in these closing paragraph to chapter 12, many of these same themes, and that’s quite intentional. I believe it’s deliberately placed here by John, who was of course inspired by the Holy Spirit, because this paragraph is meant to act as a kind of summary paragraph for Jesus’ public ministry. Now notice, look in your Bibles, notice very carefully the setting for this paragraph. You looking at it? Do you see the setting? Well, if you see it, you can tell me afterward, because I don’t know what the setting is. [laughter] There is no deliberate setting to this paragraph.
Now, yes, it comes after what we just read in chapter 12 and comes before chapter 13. We all can see that, and yet there is no particular setting which is why it is set off in your Bibles with “Jesus came to save the world,” just a generic title. And verse 44 begins “and Jesus cried out.” I think this is intentional, that this paragraph, certainly something Jesus said, perhaps a summary version of his teaching, is meant to act as a climatic, appropriate summary of His public ministry. Remember, His public ministry is largely coming to a close at the end of chapter 12, and believe it or not, even though we’re barely halfway through the book, judging by its chapters, once we get to chapter 13 we find that we are squarely in the last week of His life. Now we already have been there is chapter 12 with the triumphal entry, but there we are facing the feast of Passover, the disciples washing His feet, the new commandment, and this entire upper room discourse as He talks privately to His disciples before His betrayal.
So this, at the end of chapter 12, without a specific context, Jesus not replying to an immediate question, but rather the verb is “He cried out” is meant to tell us here in a paragraph is what Jesus has been teaching. From John’s point of view, this paragraph gives us a summary, tying together the major themes of Jesus’ public ministry.
And you’ll notice, now this you actually should notice, the repetition of three “whoever” statements. Actually, the third one’s a little different, but see verse 45 “and whoever”, or rather verse 44, “Whoever believes in Me,” then the second one, verse 45, “Whoever sees Me,” and then verse 47, similar construction but with an “if” instead of a “whoever,” “if anyone hears My words.” Very intentional, “Whoever,” “Whoever,” “If anyone,” which functions as another kind of “whoever.”
And you notice the language there, verse 44 “believing,” verse 45 “seeing,” and verse 47 “hearing.”
Now, yes, they have a lot of overlap. To believe in Jesus is to see Jesus, is to hear and to receive His words, believe, see, hear… They can be used with a lot of overlap, and yet they’re not exactly identical. To put it philosophically, we might say that we’re talking about the will, that is the believing; the mind, to be seeing with mental capacity; and then the activity of the will and the mind together, in verse 47, hearing and not just hearing but doing, because “hearing” in the Bible is not just listening. You know, words coming and hitting upon the receptive sensors in your ears.
Husbands are good at that sometimes. Yes, you are speaking words and they are hitting some things in here. Yes, audible noises are being made. I register that.
No, “hearing” in the Bible, to hear fully is to then receive and to act upon. Not to be a hearer only, but also a doer.
The will, the mind, and then the activity of the will and the mind. That’s somewhat philosophical. You could put it much more colloquially and label these three sections as “heart,” “head,” “hands.” The heart to believe, the head to see and understand, and then the hands, the feets, the activity of hearing and doing what Christ has spoken.
Let’s look at each of these in turn. Verse 44, then the first main heading, heart, or believe. Whoever believes. And Jesus says something that may sound strange at first. “Whoever believes in Me does not believe in Me.” Whoa, Jesus, that’s confusing. If you believe in Me, you don’t believe in Me.
Well, He’s not trying to say something Zen-like, but He’s simply stating what has been mentioned several other times, that in the act of believing in Jesus, it is not only to believe upon the One who is right in front of you, the One who has been sent, but even more so in an ultimate way to believe in the One who has sent Him. To be sure, the Son is an object of faith. We know that from the purpose statement at the end of John chapter 20, that these things are written that you may believe that He is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name. So we do put faith in Christ. This is rather some typical Hebrew contrast and hyperbole. It means there is such a close union between the sender and the one sent that to believe in the Son is really to believe in the Father.
Think of John 1. He is called the One at the Father’s side, the One who comes from the Father full of grace and truth, the One who makes the Father known. John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”
Now, it sounds all very spiritual and much of that language is familiar to us, and may even make sense to us, but you have to remember no one was really sure what to make of this Jesus person. As we’ve said all along, He had a name like theirs, He looked like theirs, He came from a little old town, people knew His family. He did not walk around with a big glow and a special sash that said “Messiah” and a halo… Just another person that looked like everybody else and yet He didn’t seem to be like another person.
So He’s stating something that would not have been obvious to those around Him. And would have been scandalous, and was. If you believe in Me, you believe in the One who sent Me.
A child might say to siblings who are having a hard time believing the message entrusted to the older brother, “Listen, brothers and sisters, if you believe in me, you believe in the parents who sent me. I come not on my own authority. You want to believe in them, well, then you have a decision to make.” Really? Do I really trust this, this yahoo here that really, believe in him is believing in the parents?
Or, if the President of the United States is to send someone on his behalf, he or she may say “if you believe me, you believe the President who authorized me to come on his behalf.” Well, that significantly increases the stakes.
And Jesus has increased them to an infinite level. If you believe in Me, you’re not really believing in Me, it’s not just Me, it’s the One who sent Me.
This has been a common theme. It will be radically reinforced when we come to John 14:6, when Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, and no one comes to the Father except by me.” No one. If you want to believe in the Father, you must believe in Me, and when you believe in Me, you’re not so much believing in Me as you are believing in the One who sent Me.
Second. Verse 45. Believing, a matter of the heart. Similar word here, but perhaps this is speaking more to the head. “Whoever sees Me, sees the One who sent Me.”
Calvin says to see is taken here for knowledge. Not simply to have again the visual representation, it’s not as if He’s saying that God the Father has a body, but He’s saying when you, when you see Me, that is when you mentally appropriate all that I am, you have a real understanding of Me, you have a real genuine understanding of the One who sent Me.
Do you see how this is even another step in this declaration of His unity, the Son with the Father? Not only in believing in the Son do you really believe in the Father. Say that’s possible, again to use the analogy, if a child comes and says “to believe in me you believe in the parents who sent me.” Or the ambassador, and “if you believe in me, you believe in the President who authorized me to come.”
Well, that’s one level of identification, but yet the ambassador does not likely say that “I and the President are one.” Perhaps “we’re of one mind” or “we speak one message.” But no, this sort of union goes beyond that because Jesus says “when you see Me, you’ve seen Him.”
Seeing the Son is actually seeing the Father.
We have here what later will be worked out in the Church, full-blown trinitarian theology, we see it here in miniature, because notice there is a distinction of persons. He does not say “when you see Me, you’re just seeing another version of the One who sent Me.” No, there are distinguishable persons, there is a Sender and a Sent One. So it’s not just sort of “I’m putting on a mask and now I’m a different person, I’m going to turn around and do a costume change, and ha ha, I’m the Father, and in just a second I’m the Son.” It’s not a different mode of being. There is a distinguishability between the Sender and the Sent One, and yet there is such a shared identity, such a fundamental unity, to use the later word in essence, what other word could we use, that to see one is to see the other.
Do you see, sometimes people say “well, the Church just made up the doctrine of the
Trinity.” The Church had to work out the doctrine of the Trinity. Yes, the Church used the language that was common to the day to understand and provide the philosophical language that we now use to describe the Trinity, but don’t think the church, but don’t think the Church made this up.
We see here what the Church was doing was trying to find the right words to be as careful as possible to describe this mystery that they’re already seeing unfolded in the pages of Scripture. Okay, what, what word can we use to describe, and we’ll bet this even more in the upper room discourse, that we have a Father and a Son, and the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father. They can be distinguished as person, the Sender is not the Sent One. So there’s, there’s a difference, there’s a distinction. What should we call that?
Well, the Church later said “how about persons?” Okay, but there’s, but it’s not enough to just say they’re different, because here they’re, they’re the same. You see one, you’ve seen the other. Well then, what should we call that? And the Church said “how about essence?” There are three persons, one essence.
Now, pay attention to what Jesus is preaching in this summary paragraph. Yes, just a moment, we’ll get to the ethical dimensions of His teaching. He’s going to talk about darkness and light, and then doing the words that He speaks, so most certainly there are moral ramifications, obedience ramifications for believing in Jesus and seeing Jesus. And yet, I want you to notice, and we’ll see this even more clearly when we get to the upper room discourse, that if this is a summary paragraph that John has put very intentionally, Jesus’ words here, this is sort of, this is what His teaching has been about.
You would think the Jesus that some people have in their mind would have said, as His concluding paragraph, “Love one another, and don’t hurt people.” Well, those are, I mean, that’s good advice. You should love people, try not to hurt people. Or maybe in a Jewish mindset, He would have simply said “Love your neighbor as yourself and obey the Torah.” There would have been nothing controversial about that. No one would have wanted to kill Jesus if He was just a dynamic teacher who said “Obey the Torah and love people.”
Just like some of us want to press Jesus into a 21st century western mold, as if Jesus just came and just toured around preaching and just said “I want you to make the world a better place, I want you to be nice to people, I want you to affirm people. If you can recycle, I’d do that, too.” As if that were Jesus, the heartbeat of His message.
No, do you see, when John says “I’m going to summarize, I’m going to pull Jesus’ speech, Jesus really said it, but an apt summary of His teaching. Jesus is talking about the Trinity.” The controversy, the reason they wanted to kill Him and will kill Him, was not because He was so lovey-dovey. That scandalized them, too, at times, but they wanted to kill Him because of His self-identification.
So don’t turn Jesus into just a preacher of good works, just an enlightened man who told people to be nice to one another and share their toys.
I just want you to see, because you’ve probably read through John, you’re familiar with it, to step back and say “well, this, this is different, this is not what I would expect.” You’ve got one last sermon, what are you going to talk about? Well, Jesus said, “I’m going to talk about how I am one with the Father.”
That’s the starting point. “When you see Me,” Jesus says, “you are seeing the One who sent Me.”
Now notice the second thing He says here, in the second heading, “Whoever sees Me sees Him who sent Me” and then verse 46, “I have come into the world as light so whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” So you see Jesus, you really understand, if you get Him, then you get the Father.
And then the other is if you see Him, if you get Him, if you understand Him, then you will not remain in darkness. A moral darkness. Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, John 3:19.
You will not remain in moral darkness, you will not remain in salvific darkness. No longer ignorant about the true identity of Jesus and the true character of God. Remember, this is the last bit of public light to shine before Jesus will turn inward to the disciples and the crowds will turn on Jesus to murder.
Back up in verse 35: “So Jesus said to them, ‘The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.” The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going, so when you believe in Jesus, when you see Jesus, you believe in the Father, you see the Father, and you leave darkness and you walk in the light.
It’s hard to leave darkness. If you’ve been converted, and I know many people here, you never know a time when you didn’t know Jesus, and that’s my testimony and we give thanks for that, and we had darkness, too, we just, it was a more socially acceptable kind of darkness perhaps. But some of you came out of darkness that everyone knew was darkness, and you may remember the pain when someone throws open the shades early in the morning and you’re trying to sleep in on Saturday, and because you’re a college student, you can do it until noon like a champ, and somebody opens it and it’s light and you squint and you want to go back to the darkness.
It’s hard to leave the darkness and walk in the light. But the message in John’s Gospel is that the light has shown in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
When you believe, when you see, you leave the darkness behind.
Which brings us to the third, final section. We’ve looked at heart, head, this section you can think of as “hands” because it has to do with acting upon what you believe and what you see.
The first two are put in the positive: Whoever does this, gets that. This one is put in the negative: Whoever, or if anyone, verse 47, “hears My words and does not keep them.”
So we had here’s what happens when you believe, you get the Father and the Son. Here’s what happens when you see, you no longer remain in darkness. Now this is put in the negative: If you hear and do not keep the words that Jesus has spoken, notice what Jesus says, again it may sound surprising at first, He says “I do not judge him.”
So many people want their Bibles to end right there. Yes, yes, that is the Jesus I want. Okay, hang on, this has been a theme throughout the gospel. Jesus’ preaching was very rigorous, but His mission, His aim, was salvation, not condemnation.
John 3:17: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
John 8:15: “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.”
So there is this understanding that the reason I’m here, the Father did not send Me to come and punish people. He sent Me to offer salvation.
But that’s not all He has to say: I do not judge him, for I did not come to judge the world but to save it. That’s my mission. Now lest you stop there and say “ah, praise the Lord, great, I love that Jesus. No judgment. Stop judging me. I judge you for judging me.” [laughter] Okay, before we do that, listen to what He says. Verse 48: “The one who rejects me and does not receive My words has a judge.”
This is one of the fundamental tenets that separates all forms of theological liberalism from true, authentic Christianity. It was said one, sort of tongue in cheek, that Protestant liberalism was a God without wrath, bringing a people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of Christ without a cross. That it not Christianity.
There’s a reason that, in his famous book, J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, the most important word in that title, of course, is “and.” It’s making a statement. Now you hear liberalism, I’m not talking, not saying anything political, we’re talking about theological liberalism. “And” is the most important word in that title because it says not liberalism as a type of Christianity, his argument was you have liberalism and you have Christianity, and they are not the same thing.
I’m not talking about people who disagree with Presbyterians on secondary and tertiary elements. I’m talking about fundamental tenets of the faith, and this is one of them. Jesus says “whoever rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has a judge.”
I want everyone in this room to hear this clearly, and it’s not from me, it’s from the Bible, it’s from Jesus Himself: There is a judgment to come. May it never be said someone who was a member at Christ Covenant Church, grew up at Christ Covenant Church, could say when they stand before God, “No one ever told me there was a judgment. I never knew.” Now you know.
Jesus said, in John chapter 5, “Truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out. Those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Jesus says over and over there is a judge and a judgment to come.
If you don’t want a God like that, you have to find a God outside of the Bible. If you don’t want a savior who speaks like that, you’ll have to find a savior besides Jesus. If you want a religion that does not have a judge and a judgment, and that’s very popular, just be consistent and don’t call it Christianity. It is clear, here and on almost every page in this book.
And look at what Jesus goes on to say: “There is a judge and,” end of verse 48, “the Word that I have spoken will judge him.”
These three sections, head, heart, hands, if we call them that, don’t think of them as three different kinds of faith. Well, some people believe in their hearts, some people really believe in their head, and some people really show with their hands. No, don’t see them as three different kinds of faith; they are three essential elements to true saving faith. That is, you must believe in your heart, you must understand with your head, confess with your lips, and you’re not saved by your good works, but you must show yourself to have truly been changed. Without doing, what good is the hearing? The faith is only superficial, spurious.
We know Jesus through His words. We have fellowship with Him in His Word. The commandment, in verse 49 and 50, what is this commandment? Well, it may be in part Jesus is speaking of the commandment He received from the Father. That is, this is what you ought to say, that’s certainly part of it. Verse 50, “I know that this commandment is eternal life. What I say is what the Father has told Me.”
It is at least as much the commandment that brings eternal life. Now you may that doesn’t sound right. Don’t we believe in justification by faith alone? Why do you say a commandment brings eternal life? I can’t keep a commandment. Well, think of some of the commandments Jesus makes. Think of what I read at the beginning of this service from 1 John, the commandment is to believe, or Jesus says in John chapter 3, the command is to be born again.
So when it says the commandment is eternal life, don’t hear “I keep the 10 commandments good enough and then I’m a Christian and I get eternal life.” Hear, instead, the commandment to be born again and to believe, and God must grant you even those gifts that you might have eternal life.
But here’s what I want you to focus on as we close and as we turn our attention to the table. It’s that language in verse 48 again, “The Word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” The same message that proclaims life and forgiveness to the believer warns of condemnation and wrath to the unbeliever. Do not hold Jesus responsible for judgment, for your judgment. How can you reject an invitation so kind and gracious as His?
Imagine if you were living in a house that was structurally unsafe, and it’s going to eventually be torn down, and someone comes and knocks on your door and says, “The house you’re living in needs to be torn down, it has asbestos and the bricks are crumbling and the beams and joists are falling apart, you’re not safe here. I am giving you the opportunity now to relocate, free of charge, to a new house in a great part of town. Everything new. It’s ready for you. Please don’t delay. Please, take advantage of this limited time opportunity.”
Now if you said “No, thanks. I’ll stay in this house. It looks nice to me. I don’t really think it’s in bad shape. How do I know that you have a better house for me?”
On the day when that house finally came crashing down, could we not say that your words, the words of that gracious invitation, sat in judgment upon you? Because you did not listen, you did not take heed to the offer that was made.
Jesus said, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
But some of you have not come to Him.
Jesus said, “Whoever believes in Me will have eternal life.”
Some of you have not had faith in Him.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd and I came that you may have life and have it abundantly.”
And some of you aren’t interested.
I said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet he shall live.”
And Jesus will say, “But you never gave any thought to life after death.”
Jesus said, “You could know the truth, and the truth would set you free,” but you were content with lies.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” but you kept groping around in the darkness.
Jesus said, “I would give you bread of life and rivers of living water so you would never go hungry and never be thirsty again,” but you wanted your own food, and your own drink.
Jesus said, “When I will be lifted up and everyone looks upon Me, they will be saved,” but you were only interested in looking at yourself.
Jesus is only speaking what the Father has Him say. Yes, the Son has come, not for judgment, but for salvation. He has come that you may have life. He has come to reveal the Father. He has come to lead you from darkness to light. His purpose was not to judge.
But make no mistake. Jesus tells us there is a judge and all who reject the Son, all who ignore His words, will be judged by those very words, those gracious words of mercy and invitation. Jesus will say, “Did I not offer you life? And you chose death.”
Whoever believes in the Son, believes in the Father. Whoever sees the Son, sees the Father. Whoever hears these words, and does not keep them, will be rejected by the very words they have spurned.
Elsewhere Jesus said, “Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out.”
And so He says to us today, “Do not be content to stay where you are.”
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, how like Jesus to give us a word of such gracious invitation and such amazing promises, and at that same time, a word of such cataclysmic warning. Forgive us, Lord, we have often not believed. Help our unbelief. Forgive us, Lord, we have often refused to see what You have put before us so plainly and clearly. Give us sight. And forgive us for we are too often hearers and not doers of the Word. Forgive us, Lord, for all those times we have been tempted or we have given in to the temptation to ignore You, to turn from You, to hear Your words of grace and mercy and look the other way. Forgive us. Hear these words from Deuteronomy, as we reflect upon our sin: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers. It is to him you shall listen, just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more lest I die.’ And the Lord said, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I commanded him. And whoever will not listen to My words that he shall speak in My name, I myself will require it of him.'” Gracious heavenly Father, as we turn our attention from the Word spoken to the Word made visible that we might touch and taste it at Your table, we pray that You would forgive us for all these sins, both known and unknown, all of our unrighteousness, all of our wandering, all of our wavering, and have mercy on us for Jesus’ sake. “To him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.