Description / Transcription
Let’s pray. O Lord, we have just sung these powerful words that You will hold us fast, and so we say once again we believe, help our unbelief. We know You well, and yet some of us very poignantly this morning feel as if we are falling, or those we know are wandering away, and we wonder how we will endure for another week, and so we pray that You would hold us fast. We thank You, Lord, for your promises, all of which are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. We praise You for creating the heavens and the earth by Your Word, for speaking new life by Your Word, and we pray now that into the heart of every longtime Christian here and into the heart of every new believer and into the heart of everyone far from You, whether they know it or not, into the heart of the stubbornly disbelieving, You would speak, and we might see the glory of Jesus. We pray in His name. Amen.
We come this morning in John’s Gospel to chapter 12, verse 37. Actually you see the break there, the section break, the second half of verse 36 through verse 43. The plan is to do this week and then one more week in John, finishing up John 12, which will be a good stopping point, and then to spend the morning for the fall with studies in the books of Acts, which will be, I think, illustrative and instructive for us as we seek to understand the Lord’s mission and vision for us here at Christ Covenant.
But this morning, John chapter 12.
“When Jesus had said these things, He departed and hid Himself from them. Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him, 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?’ 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.’ Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in 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.”
John’s Gospel can be divided into two halves. You have sometimes called a Book of Signs, in chapters 1 through 12, and then in chapters 13 through 21, the Book of Glory. The Book of Signs where Jesus does these enumerated signs, miracles, and then the Book of Glory which focuses mainly on His passion week. Sometimes the book is divided into His public ministry, prologue, chapter 1, public ministry 2 through 12, and then turning in 13 and following His private ministry, taken up with the upper room discourse and the high priestly prayer. However you divide the two halves, Book of Signs, Book of Glory, public ministry, private ministry, in either case, chapter 12 is a turning point. The signs are done, the ministry is turning now privately to the disciples. We have entered into the last week of Jesus’ life, and He will turn His attention to final instructions for His followers and then ultimately setting His face like a flint to Jerusalem and to the cross.
This last section of chapter 12 deals with the question that has popped up throughout Jesus’ public ministry, namely why such unbelief. You can see it in verse 37: “Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him.”
Remember, John’s Gospel was written for either those seeking Christianity or perhaps very new Christians or an apologetic for Christianity, and they would have been familiar with many, many, many who had rejected Christ and the church was just very small, struggling to hang on in those first centuries, and first decades in particular. And so the question uppermost in their mind was “Why don’t people get it?”
And in particular, Jews would have asked the question “Why, if this is the Jewish messiah, have so many of the Jews not believed in Him?”
Now to be sure, some are believing in Him. We read verse 42, “many of the authorities believed in Him”, though that seems to be a very temperamental fickle faith, perhaps not saving faith. It may turn into that, but right now it’s a sort of private assurance among themselves that I think He is the real deal, but they won’t dare say it to anyone else, so it’s hardly a robust faith.
Yes, there are people who are believing, but so far it has been the outsiders. The royal official gets it, a bunch of Samaritans were getting it, but not the Jews, and in particular not the Jewish leaders. Remember, many of them thought Jesus had a devil, they wanted to kill Him, and they will kill Him in a week’s time.
We are so used to the Church being almost entirely, especially in this country, Gentiles. There’s a few people of Jewish background in this church, but most all of us are non-Jews, Gentiles. That seems very ordinary.
But for the early church, the Jewish rejection of their own messiah was one of the biggest obstacles to faith. If Jesus really was the fulfillment of these promises and He was their prophet, their priest, and their king and He was the One that they had been looking for, why did so few seem to believe in Him? Especially among the leaders.
It would be like some new religious movement coming to the South and the majority, and those who had traditionally been very religious, let’s say white conservative southerners, some of us may fit that description, not believing. Say now, wait a second, I thought these, I thought these were the people of all people, these people were going to get it. And they don’t get it. And their leaders, in fact, seem to be the very people who are most adamantly opposed to this man.
John 1:11: “He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him. The light was shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
This word, verse 37, “signs,” is a particular, unique, special word in John’s Gospel. The word is “semeion.” “Dunamis” is often used in the other Gospels. You’ve, maybe you’ve come across that word that the Gospel is the power, unto God for salvation, the dunamis, the power. Semeion is a special word in John. So dunamis is often the word used for a demonstration of Christ’s power, His miracles, His wonders. Semeion refers to the signs.
John 20: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
These signs, yes, they were demonstrations of divine power, but they were signs, they were pointing to something. More importantly, to someone. Remember, there were seven of them: Chapter 2, turning water into wine; chapter 4, healing a royal official’s son; chapter 5, healing a lame man; chapter 6, feeding the 5000; later in chapter 6, walking on water; chapter 9, healing the man born blind; and chapter 11, raising Lazarus from the dead. Those are the seven signs in John’s Gospel, why the first half of the book is sometimes called the Book of Signs.
I think you could argue that each sign points to the lordship of Christ over different struggle in life. Now, that may not be specifically why John organizes them, but I think we’re fair to see them that way; water into wine, Jesus is Lord over life’s hassles, problems, distractions; healing of the official’s son, Jesus is Lord over our children, our worries, and what do we worry about more than children; He heals the lame man because Jesus is Lord over disease; He feeds the 5000 because He is Lord over hunger had deprivation; He walks on water demonstrating He is Lord over nature; He heals the man born blind, showing He is Lord over innate disability and specifically as a sign for spiritual disability and blindness; and finally He heals Lazarus, showing in that ultimate sign that He is Lord over death itself.
We are meant to meet and re-meet this Jesus over and over again through John’s Gospel to see He’s Lord, He’s Lord, He’s Lord.
All of these signs pointing to the lordship of Christ, showing forth His deity, and yet they do not believe. Though He had done so many signs.
Sometimes you can reason flawlessly with people. You can give proofs for the resurrection. You can download your best apologetics course on them. You can talk about all the manuscript evidence and reason to trust the New Testament, and you give them More than a Carpenter and More than More than a Carpenter and Still More than a Carpenter, and you give them Mere Christianity and you give them Tim Keller and Ravi Zacharias, and then you give to some of them Van Til, and they don’t believe, and they don’t believe.
Some of you are thinking of people very close to you, family members, friends, and you think they, they’ve heard it, they were there when we prayed, they saw God answer prayer, they went to the camp, they went to Sunday School, they sat in the sermons, I thought they made a profession, now they’re so far from Him, and I keep speaking and speaking and praying and praying and it’s right there, all the truth is right in front of them, and they won’t believe.
And you argue with passion and you pray until your knees are raw and you plead and it seems to make no difference. And if you’re a pastor, you think you’ve preached the greatest sermon of your life, or maybe you’ve passed on what seems to be the greatest sermon you’ve ever heard from some other church, and you buy them the best book, and you say “look at how much life has changed, look at how her life,” and still they do not believe.
We marvel at faith. The Gospels marvel at unbelief. They had Jesus in front of them. They saw 5000 people fed with a couple of fish burgers. They saw a man dead and he is alive. Lazarus! And you know how they responded? Let’s kill Him.
And we’re kidding ourselves if we think that we would have been the enlightened ones and if we would have been there. We would have been going along with the crowd, just like the rest of them, too blinded by their own hearts, blinded by their cultural assumptions, blinded by the mentality of the mob.
No, the Gospels are surprised that people do not believe.
I think to at least ask the question right here is is that why some people marvel at your life? Now you’re here at church on Sunday, maybe somebody made you come, or maybe you’re, you’re here and you know in your heart that you checked out of this whole Christianity thing a long time ago, but you’re still just sort of hanging around for the networking or the friends or the sticky buns, or whatever you can get.
And people are sitting there marveling at your unbelief. All the privileges you’ve been given, all that you’ve been taught, all that you know, all that you’ve seen, and still nothing, no spiritual pulse. You can go to church for a long time without a spiritual pulse.
Lord, you pray for your loved one, show Yourself with great power and many will put their faith in You, and yet did not Jesus show forth His great power, many signs, and yet many did not believe. How then do we explain unbelief?
The first thing to notice is that unbelief is not unprecedented. It’s not unprecedented. Verse 38: “So that,” okay, here’s the reason, here’s the reason they do not believe them, “So that what was 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?
Most were not going to get Isaiah’s message, and most did not get Jesus’ message. You recognize those are the opening lines from one of the most famous chapters in the Old Testament, Isaiah 53, and they sound so familiar to us we don’t stop to think of what they’re communicating. Lord, who is going to believe this? All of the sayings about Jesus, all of the teachings about Jesus… Who’s going to believe it? Even though they hear our report, some will not believe.
To whom has the arm of the Lord, that means His strength, His power, His might. Even in Isaiah’s day they are saying they will see the strength and the might of the Lord and some of them will not believe.
We are not so much rational people we like to think that we are as much as we are rationalizing people. And we find reasons to believe and we find reasons to disbelieve. We find reasons to justify whatever sort of life we’ve already decided we want to live.
The fact of the matter is to really believe, I don’t mean just say “okay, fine, statement of faith, all right, I’ll agree to it, get off my back,” I mean really believe takes a new heart. A miracle of the Holy Spirit.
John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
No one here in this room will truly believe in Jesus Christ unless the Holy Spirit works a miracle in your life.
Now I can’t make it happen, no matter how much I preach, can’t make it happen. Parents can’t make it happen. No book can make it happen. God can use all those things, but it’s the Spirit working through His Word to work a miracle of new birth.
He came to His own and His own did not receive Him, but to those that He called as children of God, to those that He gave the gift of new life, He gave the right to be called and sons and daughters of God.
It takes a miracle.
And there are churches, in our town, churches in this country, churches all over the world, built on “What can we accomplish without requiring people to have a new heart?” Now, nobody sits down and says that, but that’s the sort of ministry that they come up with. Because you could draw a crowd, you can build a building, you can get a lot of money. You can do a lot of impressive things that do not require people to be born again.
But the work that Jesus is doing requires a miracle of the Holy Spirit in your life, not simply to acquiesce to a cultural accommodation, not simply to say “well, church seems to be a good thing, keep my kids out of trouble.” No, a miracle in your heart. Yes, I believe it. Yes, I will follow him.
A revival is when suddenly more people get it quickly, but it’s not the norm. It’s usually slow, it’s usually organic, sometimes imperceptible. It takes a new heart.
So unbelief, Jesus is saying, is not unprecedented. Jesus understood that, John writing the Gospel understood that. That’s why he draws from Isaiah 53.
Why else? So that’s just sort of setting the stage. Look, unbelief is not unprecedented. But that still doesn’t explain unbelief. Why such unbelief when you come face-to-face with Jesus, you’re taught the truth.. Why unbelief?
Let me give you three reasons.
First, people do not believe in Jesus Christ because God has hardened their hearts. This is not always the case, but it is the case here. So follow along. At least one of the reasons people may not believe is that God may harden their hearts.
You see verse 39: “Therefore they could not believe.”
Now this does not mean that they came to God and said “we want to be Christians” and God said “nope, you can’t be Christians.” It doesn’t mean they said “we repent of our sins and we want to believe in Jesus,” and God said “nope, it’s too late, I’m not going to let you.” That’s not what hardened, it doesn’t mean “I closed the door, no soup for you.” No, it, it means here a judicial hardening such that they would have no softness to the Gospel. They still get what they want. Remember, Jesus says after He says in John 6 or the same passage there, that “you can’t come to Me unless the Father draws,” also says “and anyone who comes to Me will never be cast out.” So no one comes to Jesus says “I want to, I want to believe” and He said “no, no, no, you’re not one of My people.”
No, this is a judicial hardening. Immediately in this context it is for the Jewish leaders.
It’s possible that it can happen to any of us. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh hardened his own heart, his heart was also hardened. All three constructions are used in Exodus.
This passage quoted in verse 40 is from Isaiah 6. This was the go-to passage in the early church to explain why are so many people not believing Jesus. He’s right there, He has all these signs, He has this brilliant teaching, they don’t believe, why not, they went to this text.
Just look real quickly so you can see this, don’t just take my word for it. Turn to Matthew chapter 13. Jesus talks about the purpose of the parables. You see there in verse 14: “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled. You will indeed hear but never understand, you will indeed see but never perceive,” and it goes on to give the rest of Isaiah chapter 6. So there in Matthew it’s used. That’s why they don’t get it.
Go over to Mark’s Gospel, Mark chapter 4, verse 12, again talking about the parables. “So that,” he’s speaking about the many who do not believe and do not understand the parables, “so that they may indeed see but not perceive, may indeed hear but not understand lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
Go over to the next Gospel, to Luke chapter 8, verse 10. You see the same thing. Speaking of the parables, “he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that,” here it is, “‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'”
One more passage, past John, go to Acts. This is also the reason given in Acts. The very last chapter, 28. We get to the end where Paul has finally made it to Rome and he’s preaching the Gospel. We read in 28:24 “Some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.” Verse 25: “Disagreeing among themselves, they departed. The Holy Spirit,” Paul said, “was right in saying to you ‘go to this people and say you will indeed hear but never understand, you will indeed see but never perceive,” and he goes to quote the rest of Isaiah 6.
So we’ve seen it from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, here in Acts with the Apostle Paul, this was the answer for Jesus and the early church. Why are so many people not believing? they said. It’s exactly what Isaiah predicted. God said this would happen. Their hearts are hard and God has given them over to their hard hearts.
Turning back to John, “He has blinded their eyes, hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, understand with their hearts.”
In other words, God is sovereign even over unbelief. It does not negate human responsibility; it was still their unbelief, verse 42 and 43 is going to give one of the reasons why, they love the praise of men. In the scope of redemptive history, it serves His ultimate purposes because the Gospel was largely rejected by the Jews, would then go the Gentiles.
Now this passage is not an election and reprobation passage, what God has decreed from eternity past. That’s a Romans 9 passage. This is in this moment a judicial hardening. In other words, God’s judgment on the wicked who have chosen to reject Him.
Now, yes, that, too, is in keeping with God’s predetermined decree, but that’s not what is spoken of here most immediately in John chapter 12. It’s talking about God handing people over to their unbelieving hearts.
Here’s what Calvin says: “In this passage, we ought to consider not so much the foreknowledge of God as His justice and vengeance, for God declares not what He beholds from heaven that men will do,” eternal decree, “but what He Himself will do, and that is that He will strike men with stupidity, and thus will take vengeance on their obstinate wickedness. In this passage He points out the nearer and inferior cause why God intends that His Word, which is in its own nature salutary and quickening, shall be destructive and deadly to the Jews. It is because they deserved it by their obstinate wickedness.”
Again, let’s be clear. This is not God putting up a wall so that people run to Him and say “I want to be a Christian, I want to come to You,” “No, I put up a wall, you can’t get to Me.” Rather, He is exercising judgment in this life on the wicked by blinding their eyes so that they do not see and hardening their hearts so they do not understand.
This is exactly the point I was trying to make at the end of last week’s sermon when I said that to be in church, a gospel-preaching church on Sunday morning, is the place of greatest privilege to hear the truth of Jesus, and it is a place of great danger. Because we have a promise also from Isaiah that the Word of God does not return empty. The Word of God is doing something this morning. The Word is working. It’s running through your life. The Word is doing something in your life, and I pray that it’s giving you new life. I pray that it’s bringing healing. I pray that it’s bringing maturity and life.
But as the Puritans would say, the same sun that melts the lump of butter also hardens the clay.
And it’s a dangerous place to be here, that you might become inoculated against the truth of God’s Word.
This is why you must never think, “Well, I’ll get to Jesus later.” You don’t know what later you have.
This is why your period of just “I’m just gonna, I need to have fun, you know, I’m a teenager, I have fun in college,” or “I’m just gonna do this, this thing and cheat on my spouse or get a divorce that I know is not biblical, I’m just gonna do this thing, I bet later I’ll just repent.”
Whenever you choose to go against God’s way, whenever you knowingly see the light, walk into the darkness, who knows but that God says “You want darkness? I’ll give you darkness. You want nothing to do with Me? I’ll give you nothing to do with Me. You want a heart hardened towards Me? I will harden your heart.” Is there anything worse that God could do in just judgment upon us than to harden the hearts of those who know so much, who see so much, who have experienced so much, and then say “I don’t want anything to do with You,” and God would be just, as He was here in this passage, to say “seeing you will no longer see, hearing you will no longer understand.”
It’s a dangerous place. Do not persist in your unbelief lest God give you over to your desires. Do not close your eyes to God and His grace lest He say “Fine, you want to close your eyes? You will never open them again.”
We must walk in the light as we are given to see the light. This is a hard teaching. But it’s right here, and it’s not only right here, we saw it in Matthew and Mark and Luke and Acts… This is the reason, they looked back. Why aren’t people getting it? Because God is sovereign. They didn’t want to get it. And God sovereignly hardened their hearts so they wouldn’t get it. It was His judgment upon their unbelief.
Do not think that unbelief is a light thing before God. Or that the judgment for unbelief always comes later. It does come later, but sometimes it comes right now.
That’s the first reason for their unbelief.
Here’s the second reason: People don’t believe in Jesus because they love the praise of man.
We see this at the end. Verse 42: Many of the authorities believed in Him, but what kind of belief was it? Well, they didn’t confess it, because they feared the Pharisees, they didn’t want to be put out of the synagogue, and here is a damning statement to go across someone’s tombstone: They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
Confession is critical. Public confession. Private friendship means very little without public identification.
If you’ve ever had a friend who feels betrayed or is attacked or is, you know, getting bad press in the media, it’s, it’s nice to privately say to him or her, “Hey, I’m with you, I love you, I’m praying for you.” That’s one thing. But it means a whole lot more, not just private reassurance, but public identification. “I know that person, I like that person, I’m with that person.”
That’s the scandal of Christ and the cross. To privately say “Jesus, I love you, Jesus, I’m with you,” but to publicly say it, so that others know, your school, your workplace, your family.
I mean, I wish I were godlier than I am. Sometimes I’m on a plane and I might be working on a sermon or something and I have my Bible open, and I think “aaaahhh, do I, maybe I can look at my iPad, nobody will know what I’m doing if I look at my iPad. I’m sort of lazy. If I leave this open, I might have a conversation. I should probably do that so I can use it in a sermon illustration and I should love people, but I kinda don’t want to talk to anyone right now, and do I really want to have a, do I really want people to know this?”
We find all sorts of ways to hide. There’s a, there are socially acceptable ways. “You go to church?” Okay. Fine. “Tell me about your church.” You can say “I’m a Christian.” But to be a real, on fire, Jesus kind of person, you’re talking about Him, you’re singing about Him, you orient your whole life about Him, you like your Bible, you can’t help but mention Him, that’s a little crazy.
Matthew 10: “Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”
Isn’t that a scary verse from Jesus?
When we stand before the judgment seat, Jesus is going to say “that person, she was not afraid to stand by me, and so I will gladly stand by her.” And there will be others. “Well, they privately said one thing, but publicly they never did it. They were too embarrassed to be seen with Me in life, why should they think they would be seen with Me in eternity?”
In order to be saved, what does Romans say? You must believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord. Make public your allegiance, your submission to the lordship of Christ, demonstrate your love for Him more than physical comfort or social status.
Before we are too hard on these people in John 12, think of their situation. Many even of the authorities, these are important people, these are religious elite or the governing rulers, and they were kind of quietly saying “I think He’s got a point, this might be the guy.” Privately, to themselves, they’d say “Do you believe?” “Well, yeah, I think I do.” But publicly, no, because they feared the Pharisees, they had power, they had the people behind them, and they thought they’d be kicked out of the synagogues, they wouldn’t be able to worship there. They’d be persona non grata in the community. They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that come from God.
Let’s not be too hard on them. We sell out Jesus for a lot less. Some of us love the glory that comes from Twitter, or Facebook, more than the glory that comes from God. We will sell out what we have been taught our whole life to be true, what we know from the Bible to be right, but some celebrity on social media somewhere says something, we cower in fear.
Or, let’s put it more poignantly, where you feel it, some of you, in your workplaces, the sort of initiatives that come through, the sort of “will you bow the knee” to the secular gods that we have, be they of sexuality or whatever they might be.
Now, there’s a way to be smart. Come back tonight and we’ll talk about Daniel. How do you live as exiles? How do you live as a person of influence like Daniel was, and not yet accommodate and cave?
Well, it starts right here. Do I love the glory that comes from God more than the glory that comes from man? What matters to you more, teenagers? That God says I agree with you, or that your Instagram says I agree with you. What matters more? That the world that you’re entering into says “I like you, I affirm you, you are on the same page with all of us,” or that God will say to you “well done, good and faithful servant.”
These leaders loved praise from people more than praise from God.
We understand. We don’t say anything in the meeting at work. We don’t speak up in school. We don’t share our faith. Or we speak in just vague terms: “I’m a spiritual person,” or “my faith is important,” or “I belong to a church.” We would not say “I love Christ with all my heart, soul, strength, and might. He’s my Lord, my Savior, my all in all.”
Again, Calvin says it well: “Can anything be more foolish, or rather, can anything be more beastly, than to prefer the silly applauses of men to the judgment of God?”
The silly applauses of men. Little golf claps [clapping sound effect] “Well done, good job” when you have angel choirs in heaven would sing. No, I’ll take the golf clap.
We are trying to impress the wrong people. It’s like sleeping out in the garage with your cat instead of in bed with your wife. Okay? You need to be impressing the right people. [laughter]
Many of us are particularly prone to this temptation. And the higher you rise, the more the temptation does as well. To be thought acceptable, palatable, influential.
If everybody already thinks you’re good for nothing nobody, then all right, give me Jesus. You already think I’m nothing. That’s why the Gospels in the New Testament are always saying that it’s harder for the rich, it’s harder for the wise, so called, it’s harder for the influential people, because you see all that you have to lose.
Will you be found faithful in the sight of God?
Proverbs 29:25: “Fear of man will prove a snare.”
Or remember 1 Samuel 15. There’s Saul, he’s king, he’s a head taller than everybody else. He’s impressive. He’s their ruler, their king, and he’s cast out of his own office, and he says “I was afraid of the people and I gave in to them. I was afraid of the people and I gave in to them. They wanted the stuff, and I gave it to them. Or they wanted the sheep and here it is. I took it.”
And then just to reinforce that Saul does not learn his lesson when he’s talking there with Samuel and he is sort of regretting the mistake that he made, but it’s not real repentance because then he says “uh, you know, Samuel, can I, can I please, can I please get this back?” and “I blew it,” yet “now honor me before the elders of my people.” Even after the moment of his failure, he’s still thinking about saving face. “Samuel, a lot of people like you, would you come back with me and help me to… Would you honor me in front of the elders?” He’s still thinking about the same thing that got him into trouble in the first place. He loved the praise of men.
If you are one of the people here this morning and you “matter in life,” people would look at you and say “that’s an important person,” maybe ’cause you make money, maybe you have an honorable position, maybe you have an office that’s high above the ground, maybe you’re an influencer… It is harder to stand for Christ the higher up you go. It doesn’t mean you can’t go up, you just need to know it’s harder.
One more quote from Calvin: “We must also notice that rulers have less courage and constancy because ambition almost always reigns in them and there is nothing more servile than that. To put it in a word, earthly honors may be called golden shackles, binding a man so he cannot freely do his duty.”
Some of us have those golden shackles. They have come by way of earthly honors, and now when you’re at the moment and you think all that you could lose to be counted for Christ, all that you could lose to stand up for what you know is true in God’s Word, all that you could lose, all those earthly honors that you have been afforded, or I have been afforded, are golden shackles chaining you. Not to Christ, but keeping you from doing the right thing, saying the thing, being public about the right thing.
People do not believe because they love the praise that comes from man more than the praise that comes from God.
Finally, people don’t believe in Jesus because they do not see what Isaiah saw. They do not see what Isaiah saw.
Verse 41: “Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him.”
I confess, that, that verse, I don’t know how many times I, I read through John or heard it as a kid and I read through it in college, and I read through the Bible a bunch of times, I don’t know how many times. It wasn’t until I was in seminary, I heard a sermon on that, and I had never noticed verse 41: “Isaiah said these things because he saw His,” now whose? Well, he’s speaking of Christ. He saw Christ’s glory and spoke of Him. I don’t think it means Isaiah saw a pre-incarnate Christ, but rather he saw the glory of Yahweh, the Lord his God, and in beholding that glory, he was beholding the glory of His Son.
He can equate the two. That when I Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he was seeing there the glory of Christ. Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory.
Do you see what Isaiah saw? Most of you are familiar with that passage from Isaiah, chapter 6, and that’s the immediate context for verse 40. “I saw Him high and lifted up.” There’s a throne befitting a king. It’s no earthly throne on the ground; it’s high, it’s lifted up. And the train of the robe filled the temple.
You’ve seen the queen’s coronation, or you’ve seen a royal wedding and they have that, that train, that garment, that goes down a football field, the length of Westminster Abbey somewhere. No, no, this, this ain’t got nothing on the train that Isaiah saw.
And there are two seraphs with six wings; two for flying, two to cover their feet because they’re in the presence of the Holy One, and two to cover their faces because they cannot dare to look upon God and all of the fullness of His glory and they cry out “holy, holy, holy.”
And in Isaiah’s vision, they doorposts and the threshold shake and the temple is filled with smoke and Isaiah is undone. He cries out “woe is me,” meaning “curse me.” When he sees God and His holiness, he says “I should not receive blessing, woe to me. May the Lord not bless me, may He not keep me, may His face not shine upon me. I am a man of unclean lips. I live among a people of unclean lips, and I have seen the King and I do not deserve His grace.”
That’s what Isaiah saw. And in seeing the glory of the Holy One, he saw the One who was to come.
And if you know the rest of Isaiah, you know that almost more than any other prophet, he beheld the glory of the Messiah who was to come, and he spoke of Him just as it says in verse 41. From Isaiah we know that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, that He would be a prince of peace, a mighty counselor. That He would come from the stump of Jesse. That He would be the Lord coming to comfort His people. That He would be the suffering servant. That He would be the one proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, that He would be the One with heaven for His throne and the earth for His footstool. All of that is from Isaiah. He saw His glory and he spoke of Him.
In other words, Isaiah’s heart was not going to get hard. Isaiah was not going to trade the thunderous applause of heaven for a little golf clap, because he saw Him in His glory.
Maybe, maybe the most deficient thing in our evangelism is we do not present to people God in all of His majestic glory. The Gospel is not just a math problem. You have debts, you need someone to pay for those, so you can be righteous. God is the Gospel.
Do you see this Christ? No one who truly sees what Isaiah saw will walk away unchanged, will harden their hearts, will think more highly of what the Pharisees or Facebook says about them than what this God high and lifted up has to say about them.
You need to see Him. You need to really meet Him.
You know, if you’re trying to set up friend on a, on a date, you can say a lot things. “Well, he’s, he’s tall and, you know, he’s got a good job, and he can, he can tie his shoes, and um,” you know, all sorts of nice things about him. “He has a car.” You can give a long list. “Well, I don’t know, you’re just giving a list of things.” What you really need, would you just, would you just meet him? Would you see him? Would you just go out one time? Would you try? Because there’s something when you can actually behold.
How much more with Christ Himself. It isn’t enough just to hear and to have a list, but have you seen what Isaiah saw? Have you met Him in the pages of Scripture? Has the Spirit impressed these things upon you? Because only when you truly behold will you truly believe.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for all that Isaiah saw and all that we can see. We know whom we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we’ve committed unto Him against that day, so we believe, help our unbelief. Give us a firm confidence to walk with You, forsaking all others, seeking Your praise, for we know that You are worthy. In Jesus’ we pray. Amen.