John 12:44-50 Believing in Jesus moves us into the light
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Believing in Jesus moves us into the light
46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.
John 12:46 NIV
When you open your Bibles to the New Testament, you find that the first four books are stories of the life of Jesus as He lived here on this earth. We call these books the Gospels, the Good News stories of Jesus. The first three Gospels are further referred to as the Synoptics because they share so much in common as a summary of the life of Jesus. The fourth Gospel is John’s Gospel and His approach to telling the story of Jesus focuses on why believing in Jesus is an absolute necessity if we want to find eternal life. His compilation of the stories of Jesus highlight His intimate relationship with His Father and how He represents His Father as the only means of our being able to share in a similar relationship with the Father.
Now, in case you didn’t catch that, I just said a mouthful. I said that of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the Gospel of John, rather than being a precise chronology of the life of Jesus, is organized more around how we can believe in Jesus as the Son of God and how that believing in His name brings us into a life-giving relationship with God the Father for eternity.
That means that sometimes we will find stories of Jesus that seem out of place when we lay on it the template of the chronology of Jesus’ life that we find in the first three Gospels. Thus, the Apostle John does not appear to feel obligated to adhere to a strict timeline of Jesus’ life story as he seeks to convince us that Jesus is indeed God’s Son who has come as the Passover Lamb to take away the sin of the world.
In short, you will find the story of Jesus as told by John to read quite differently than the way Matthew, Mark and Luke tell His story.
In the text we look at this morning we have a classic example of how John does not feel it to be a necessity to follow a strict chronological outline in telling his story. Let’s get into the actual text of John’s Gospel. Turn with me to chapter 12. Nearing the end of the chapter, stop at verse 35. Here Jesus is telling the crowd that had gathered around Him as He was approaching Jerusalem on Palm Sunday that . . .
John 12:35-36 (NIV)
35 . . . , “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When He had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid Himself from them.
Now, if John were following a strict chronology, you wouldn’t expect to have Jesus seemingly continue with His preaching to the crowd. Yet, 8 verses later, John has Jesus crying out, raising His voice, making a strong statement about His mission and His relationship to His Father.
But, if we understand that John is compiling stories about Jesus to help us believe in Him as God’s Son, chronology is not the litmus test of authenticity, rather it is the consistency of John staying true to his objective in writing.
As we have already observed, chapter 12 functions as a bridge chapter between all that has happened in chapters 2-11 and all that will happen in the remainder of the book. Chapter 12 connects the two halves of the book. If we can get a good handle this 12th chapter, it may well help us understand the entire book.
In serving as the bridge chapter, we saw how it (chapter 12) functions as the turning point in the Gospel of John. More specifically, in verses 23-26, Jesus announces Himself as the turning point in history. What John is making clear in this chapter is that Jesus came to this world to be the turning point in our lives and in every life on this earth.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.
In these centerpiece verses, Jesus declares that He is the fork in the road for every human being. Not only has His hour come when He will lay down His life for all of us, but in doing so, Jesus stations Himself right in the middle of our path and creates a crises for each of us. What we do with Jesus will determine our eternal destiny. If our love for our own life overrides our love for Christ, we will lose our life. But, if we chose Christ over our love for our own life, we will keep our life for an eternity with Christ.
In our text for today from verses 44-50, I am quite convinced that what we have here as part of this bridge chapter for the entire book is a statement of the life of Christ that both summarizes His life up to this point and launches us into the death story of Jesus in the context of the Passover feast taking place in Jerusalem. Gerald Borchert says, Clarity in the gospel message is undoubtedly the purpose of this closing section of the centerpiece of the Gospel, which is the reader’s preparation for the forthcoming Passover of the Lamb.
Thus, when we read the words in verse 44, “Then Jesus cried out,” it should be read as a summary statement of all that has happened up to this point. Eugene Peterson takes the liberty to have verse 44 say just that in his paraphrase The Message: “Jesus summed it all up when He cried out, . . .”
And what exactly is this summary statement of Jesus? The title of my sermon abbreviates the summary statement this way: Believing in Jesus moves us into the Light.
I have outlined this summary statement in three parts. God’s Desire, God’s Provision and God’s Command.
I. First, God’s Desire.
44 Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in Me, he does not believe in Me only, but in the One who sent Me.
45 When he looks at Me, he sees the One who sent Me.
Clearly here, God has entrusted to His Son a most significant role. In the assignment that God has given to His Son, we see the desire of God.
God’s desire is that we believe in His Son. But, it goes further. God’s desire is that we become intimately related to the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Up to this point in the Gospel of John, we have seen that believing is always in a verb form. It is an action, strongly implies that believing is not simply an acquisition of a piece of information or knowledge. Rather, it is an active expression of faith and trust.
It is not accidental that Jesus speaks of believing IN Him. It truly is about entrusting our lives into His care.
Our political campaigns are attempts to convince us that we can believe that our candidates will fulfill their promises. They would like us to entrust our future to their leadership and believe that they will maintain our confidence in them for the duration of their term in office. But, we have come to understand that political campaigns are so often overflowing with empty promises that there probably isn’t a one of us who would freely entrust our checking accounts to any candidate for political office.
One of the most tangible demonstrations of trust is to turn the control of our financial assets over to someone else. That’s why the giving of the tithe is such an act of faith in God. Jesus said it well when He said, Luke 12:34 (NIV) 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Even when we give our treasure to another, we stay attached to that treasure.
That’s why Jesus is asking us to give Him our money. He knows that if we give Him that, we will give Him our very lives. That is an act of faith and trust. That is what believing in Jesus is all about. Entrusting our lives to Jesus and letting Him be in control. The payoff for this faith is that we become attached to God the Father and receive His life.
So, the first part of Jesus’ summary of His mission is that God’s desire is that we believe in His Son and become intimately related to the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This statement highlights the relationship of the Father and the Son. It speaks of a unity between them. It speaks of Jesus as God’s representative. He was sent on a mission to make known to the world God’s desires.
God was entrusting to His Son such an extremely important role that were a person to reject the Son he would be rejecting the Father. Thus, Jesus’ mission wasn’t merely to be seen with physical eyes, but to be welcomed as Lord by the whole body, physically and spiritually. The most obvious testimony of belief is trust and obedience.
So, first, God’s desire is that we believe in His Son.
II. The second part of Jesus’ summary statement is God’s Provision.
46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.
47 “As for the person who hears My words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.
48 There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not accept My words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.
God is providing us with something we can find nowhere else. Apart from God’s provision we remain in darkness. Out of God’s merciful love for us, He (GOD) provided Light in the person of His Son so we can get out of the dark permanently. Because of Jesus, there is no good reason for us to remain captive to the darkness of sin. He came as light and He has invited us to welcome the Light. The question is before us: will we? Will we come to the light while we still have the opportunity?
Again in these summarizing verses we are made aware of the representative nature of Jesus’s mission to the world. He says, “I have come into the world as a light.” Why has He come? Because His Father sent Him.
Thus, not only do we see God’s desire that we believe in His Son, we see God’s provision of light through His Son that will get us out of darkness if we believe in Him.
III. The third part of Jesus’ summary statement is God’s Command.
49 For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it.
50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”
The recurring theme of each part of Jesus’ summary statement is the Father’s initiative. The Father sent Jesus. The Father commanded Jesus what to say. The Father commanded Jesus how to say what He said.
Jesus understood that the message He was to speak, were it to be believed in would lead to eternal life. What is terribly significant in all of this is this: Jesus illustrates a life-giving relationship with the Father, expressed in obedience to God’s command, even to the point of being the Passover Lamb.
Jesus is more than the messenger. He is the message. Our eternal life is possible only through believing in Jesus. Jesus is God’s only perfect and adequate representative. Jesus is God’s sent one. Jesus is God’s agent. He is the new Moses.
So, here in this summary statement of Jesus we see God’s Desire, God’s Provision and God’s Command. In each part we see unity in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. Those three statements are further summarized to say that Believing in Jesus moves us into the Light where we see and embrace our heavenly Father.
So, I asked myself, is this really a summary of what Jesus has said throughout the Gospel of John? So, I scanned the first 11 chapters. Here is what I found.
What is the relationship between Jesus and God the Father?
Starting with chapter 1, John speaks of Jesus as the Word and as the One and Only.
John 1:1-3, 14, 18 (NIV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. -- 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. -- 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.
Springing out of this relationship of the Triune God, notice how they accomplish God’s mission to the world:
John 3:17 (NIV) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
John 4:34 (NIV) 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.
John 5:24 (NIV) 24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
John 6:29 (NIV) 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”
John 6:57 (NIV) 57 Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
John 7:28-29 (NIV) 28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know Me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on My own, but He who sent Me is true. You do not know Him, 29 but I know Him because I am from Him and He sent Me.”
John 8:16 (NIV) 16 But if I do judge, My decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent Me.
John 8:29 (NIV) 29 The one who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”
John 8:42 (NIV) 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own; but He sent Me.
John 9:4 (NIV) 4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent Me. Night is coming, when no one can work.
John 10:36 (NIV) 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?
John 11:42 (NIV) 42 I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
Clearly, Jesus understood Himself as the Sent One, sent by His Father. Jesus illustrates for us what our relationship with God the Father should look like. It is summarized in one word: obedience. Jesus did only what His Father commanded Him to do. Jesus obeyed the Father.
I only highlighted about half of the statements in John 3-11 where we read that God the Father sent His Son on a mission. If everything that Jesus did up to chapter 12 was because He was sent by His Father, what then can we expect will be the reason for what He does in the rest of the Gospel? Will He not complete the mission that He was sent to accomplish? Certainly, in obedience to His Father, He will finish what He started and give Himself freely as the Passover Lamb, because of His intimate relationship with His Father.
So, all of us need to ponder this question: What makes us think that our relationship with the Triune God should be anything less? What makes us think that we are in a position to negotiate what our relationship with God should look like? “I think I’ll be a 35% follower of Christ. That works for me. God should be pretty happy with me for that kind of commitment, don’t you think?”
How does Jesus approach His Father? As one to be obeyed. As one to be honored. As one to be worshiped. As one to be completely honest with. As one united in purpose.
Folks, Jesus invites us to believe in Him, to put our full trust in Him, to be united with Him in His Father’s purpose.
Are we saying “yes” to Jesus? Are we willing to follow the example of Jesus who said, “I do not speak on My own accord, but I say what the Father who sent Me commands Me to say?” Can we adopt as ours the understanding that by our words, attitudes and behaviors we are testifying who our Lord really is? In other words, by claiming to believe in Jesus do we understand ourselves to be His representatives in this world?
Jesus said, 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.
Father, may our lives testify to the truth that Believing in Jesus moves us into the light. Amen.
Borchert, G. L. (2002). Vol. 25B: John 12-21. The new American commentary, New International Version (67). Nashville: Broadman & Holman.