Blinded and Hardened by the Lowliness of Jesus Christ
John 12:35-50 Blinded and Hardened by the Lowliness of Jesus Christ Introduction: Let’s say someone you loved deeply was moving far away, or one of you had a terminal disease, whatever it was, you knew that this might possibly be the last time you were going to see your friend and be able to speak with them. What would you say to that person? Of course that would vary greatly depending on the persona and the circumstance. But here’s one thing we know, whatever it was it would be extremely passionate and extremely important; something you wanted that person to know for certain and to remember for a long time. This is what we find in the closing verses of this chapter. This is Jesus’ last public message to the world, his final appeal. And it’s very important. It is a matter of Eternal life and Judgment (death). 1. The Context 1. You’ll remember from last week, Jesus had just entered into Jerusalem and the people were hailing, celebrating him as their Messiah, their deliverer. We mentioned how in one move Jesus defined himself by grabbing a donkey and riding it into Jerusalem, signaling that he was indeed the messiah but he was the lowly king of Zechariah, the one who brings salvation.. 2. Even though all of Jerusalem is celebrating and people are wanting to exalt Jesus as messiah, from this point on Jesus is going to be the proverbial wet blanket at this party. He speaks of death, and dying to one’s own desires and life aspirations, he speaks of his own deep depression and his impending death. At this the people question him, what do you mean? Doesn’t the Christ live forever? Jesus doesn’t answer their question, he says this instead, “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. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” Then suddenly John says, “When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” 2. The Unbelief and Rejection of Israel 1. Since John’s focus is going to change from this point on (focusing on Jesus last night and conversation with the disciples, and the impending death of the cross), he summarizes Jesus ministry. “Though he (Jesus) had done so many (great) signs before them, they still did not believe in him.” 2. John thinks back upon the amazing signs that Jesus had performed (The water turned to wine; healing the Official’s son; healing of the lame man; feeding the five thousand; healing of the blind man; raising of Lazarus, and many more not recorded by John) And yet for all this the people did not receive him, they did not believe that he was who he said he was…. to the reader, the mission of Jesus seems to be an utter failure. The Jews, God’s own special people, have rejected Jesus in spite of the great signs that he had done. 3. This might come as quite a shock to the new reader. You mean God’s own people didn’t recognize him when he showed up in their midst?? Yep. 4. But this is no surprise to God and no surprise to John either. It is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” What John is saying and what Isaiah says is, this has always been the case with the Jews. From their first rescue in Egypt even to this day, they had continually rejected what they heard and saw from the Lord.. Therefore this should not come as a surprise. 5. What John says next is the hard part - He says, this rejection came because of two reasons: 1. “God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts..lest they see.” 1. Again the prophet Isaiah had foreseen this - “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.” 2. “For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” 1. This isn’t just an issue with the Jews, it is a human issue (Talk about this). We have a disposition toward immediate self glory, praise and affirmation. We crave it, we love it. We love physical beauty and fame. 2. How did God do this? How did he harden their hearts and blind their eyes? It sounds harsh doesn’t it? It sounds like God doesn’t want people to see and to know Jesus. But we know that can’t be true because the scripture affirms again and again God’s unfailing love for the world. God hardens their hearts and blinds their eyes by giving them a messiah they don’t think is glorious. They loved praise and glory and God gave them the man of sorrows, who was acquainted with grief, the one men hide their faces from. -He sent them a humble Christ. 3. They were blinded and hardened by the lowliness and humility of the incarnate Lord. 4. This is one of the hardest things for a Jew to grapple with -Jesus is the Messiah - though he’s not doing the things that they anticipate him doing -military conquest, political uprising,etc. Instead he’s grabbing donkeys and talking about humility, and dying, and everyone who follows him dying with him… 1. Jewish belief concerning Messiah...The messiah will be a great political leader descended from King David (Jeremiah 23:5). The messiah is often referred to as "mashiach ben David" (Messiah, son of David). He will be well-versed in Jewish law, and observant of its commandments (Isaiah 11:2-5). He will be a charismatic leader, inspiring others to follow his example. He will be a great military leader, who will win battles for Israel. He will be a great judge, who makes righteous decisions (Jeremiah 33:15). But above all, he will be a human being, not a god, demi-god or other supernatural being…This article goes on to say explicitly, Jesus is not messiah, because he didn’t do these things.) 2. He’s also bringing in an idea that was almost totally absent from their thinking. That the eternal God, the mighty one, the one who shares his glory with no one, the eternal, the all wise one, the ever present one is here in the person of this Jewish ex-carpenter from Nazareth (the hick sticks), who’s homeless, who’s penniless, who’s hated by the elite Jews, and religious leaders…. this is the glory of God? 3. Again this is how Israel is blinded…because God gave them a King they did not want and a Messiah they did not expect…..so they rejected him, and this rejection led to his crucifixion.. but all of this was the plan of God…All of this would turn for a glorious ending. A victorious resurrected Christ and a resurrected people and salvation being offered to the ends of the earth 4. Do you ever think, what would have happened if the Jews would have accepted Jesus as the Christ? How could he die for the sins of the world? How could the nations be saved? How could the resurrection take place? It had to be this way…. 3. Jesus’ Shouty Appeal 1. Jesus knows that he for the most part is being rejected by the Jews, and even still at this time misunderstood by those who are following him. But this doesn’t keep Jesus from making one last appeal to the World. So, “Jesus cried out”, This is the same verb that is used when Jesus shouts for Lazarus to come out of the tomb. Jesus knows that this is it, the final appeal to believe in him, and I love the fact that he shouts it, he proclaims it 2. “No one has ever seen God before; but God the only son, who is at the very heart of the Father, he has explained God.” Jesus is God’s Autobiography, and to hear Jesus is to hear God in word, and to see God in action. The whole Gospel of John from beginning to end and almost everywhere in-between, drills this one message home. So Jesus closing sermon is, in a sense, his summary sermon - or really the “Cry” of the Gospel of John. -Bruner 1. Jesus truly has been sent by the Father; to see him is to see God. He isn’t here to Judge, he’s here to save…His commandment from the Father is Eternal Life! 2. “He hasn’t come to judge the world. He has come to save it. he has come because God loved the world so much that he didn’t send a lowly subordinate; he didn’t send a long distance message; he didn’t leave a note in the hope that someone would find it. He loved the world so much that he came in person, in the person of his own son, the Word made flesh, so that he could save the world in person. That was and is what Jesus is all about.” -N.T. Wright 3. Jesus last message to the world, during his earthly ministry is Eternal life… Jesus shouts to all people everywhere - Choose Life! 1. At the judgment, people will be reminded of the opportunities they had to hear Jesus’ words and to be changed by them. Then Jesus’ words will be words of judgment, but now they are words of loving warning: Please don’t have to hear me only on the last day, hear me today, Jesus is crying. Your life depends on what you choose to hear.. Today is a gracious word of warning….(What should this teach us about our efforts at evangelism?) 2. What do you believe in, what are you trusting in? And do you realize that what you believe is a matter of life-and-death? What you believe, whatever it is, is either killing you or enlivening you. You might be a skeptic or a nihilist. But by believing it, you do not have life in its name…….John writes that we might have life by trusting/believing in Jesus. 3. I’m thinking at this moment of those of us who might have preconceived ideas, wrong ideas about Jesus and about Christianity, Maybe for good reason. We’ve hardened our hearts. God is asking you, (shouting even) hear a fresh, anew, he wants life for you. - Do you know what Jesus is all about? He’s all about Life, life from God, life in God, life in all it’s fullness.