Jesus and Abundant Life
A Bible Study of the Gospel of John
Jesus’ Personally: – Through Triumph and Trouble, Still Truth - John 12
In John 1 we saw a prologue to John’s gospel that introduced the gospel by answering the questions: Who is Jesus? In this opening chapter this question was answered by stating Jesus is God, the Word made flesh.
In John 2-11 we saw John’s inspired account of seven miraculous “signs” that identify Jesus as the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God. These sign miracles are:
Changing water into wine – John 2:1-11
Healing an official’s son in Capernaum – John 4:46-54
Healing a lame man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem – John 5:1-18
Feeding 5,000 near the Sea of Galilee – John 6:5-14
Walking on water on the Sea of Galilee – John 6:12-21
Healing a blind man in Jerusalem – John 9:1-7
Raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany – John 11:1-45
Truly Jesus is the Word made flesh. We also saw in John 2-11, 5 of 7 “I am” statements of Jesus. These are significant because they directly link and identify Jesus with God’s most holy name, “I am” as given by God to Moses in the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 3:14). The “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s gospel that we have seen are:
“I am the Bread of life” – John 6:35
“I am the Light of the world” – John 8:12
“I am the Gate of the sheep” – John 10:7, 9
“I am the Good Shepherd” – John 10:11, 14
“I am the Resurrection and the Life” – John 11:25
The other two “I am” sayings are:
“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” – John 14:6
“I am the True Vine” – John 15:1, 5
The next section of John’s gospel is chapters 12-17. These chapters will focus on the personality of Jesus; The Person of Jesus. These are chapters that will really help us to get to know Jesus personally. After this section is The Passion and Resurrection of Jesus in chapters 18-20. Lastly we look at Jesus and Peter in the final chapter of the gospel (John 21). We have a wonderful journey with Jesus ahead of us. It’s a journey that will help us understand and hopefully experience the abundant life Jesus spoke about.
In chapter 12 of John’s Gospel we will see signs of triumph such as the anointing of Jesus’ feet by Mary and the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (John 12:1-19). Then we will see Jesus troubled by the prospect of His death (John 12:20-36). But whether in triumph or trouble, Jesus is not deterred to abide in God’s truth (John 12:37-50). This is an example for us to follow. And it sheds light on the even keeled balance of Jesus personality. Jesus was not one to be shaken by circumstances. He lived in a way that transcended circumstances. It was the certainty of His calling and His mission purpose that steadied Him throughout the ups and downs of life. We can only hope for the same.
John 12 (NKJV)
Then, six days before the Passover,
We are now entering the final week of Jesus ministry leading up to the cross and resurrection. Notice that John spends the bulk of his gospel on this final week. That is because it is central and foundational to the gospel message.
Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
What a wonderful spirit of fellowship and closeness there must have been between Jesus, Lazarus, Martha and Mary. Martha is serving a house full of people. Jesus, the 12 apostles, Mary, and Lazarus (and Simon mentioned in Luke’s account) makes about 17 people. Martha was probably in her glory cooking and serving all these people.
Lazarus is witnessing just by being there alive. Jesus said we would “be witnesses” (Acts 1:8). A witness is not only someone who talks about Jesus. A witness is someone who is being a witness with their life. A witness is someone that has the fingerprint of God on them. What had happened to Lazarus was only possible because God did it. The Bible speaks of the “seal of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13). Just as something incredible and undeniably of god had happened in Lazarus, so too, those who have been born again and indwelled by the spirit have God’s mark on them. And just like Lazarus, what has been done in us by God should draw unbelievers to us for more information on what the Lord has done in us. We can go out into the street and take the initiative in evangelism as the Spirit leads. But we should also have the seal of the Spirit, the fingerprint of God on us in such a way that attracts God-seekers to us. We go out and sometimes the Spirit directs people to us. Either way be ready to be used by the Lord.
Martha serving, Lazarus witnessing and Mary worshipping, that’s what fellowship truly should consist of. Mary is getting ready to worship Jesus in a memorable way. That’s what fellowship is all about; serving; witnessing; worshipping.
There is a special closeness that those who have been healed by Jesus can have with Him. Sometimes, those healed don’t even thank Jesus as with the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). But there is a closeness that can come through Jesus’ healing. When your faith in Jesus has been tested in the storm, it results in closeness to Him. There’s closeness and comfort that comes from knowing Jesus is faithful; no matter what.
3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Mary is an example of a true worshiper. When we worship the Lord the fragrance of our worship should fill the house.
4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”
But notice that Mary’s worship was met with criticism. When we worship like Mary it may cost us a relationship. A Judas may criticize our impracticality of worship.
Also notice, the first utterance of Judas is “Why?” There’s nothing wrong with questions, as long as they are sincere. Questions can also be forms of excuses. Make sure your questions are sincere.
6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
Those who criticize worship usually have selfish motives like Judas. Judas turned out to be a deceiver. He would eventually be filled with Satan the master deceiver (cf. John 13:27). Even here we see evidence of his leanings in that direction.
7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
There’s something interesting here. That Mary of Bethany had such valuable spikenard (which was usually used in anointing the dead for burial) is evidence that she hadn’t used it in the burial of her brother Lazarus. She didn’t use the precious oil to anoint Jesus body at His death either; that was Mary Magdalene. And later Mary of Bethany is not found at the cross of Jesus, Mary the mother of Jesus is there. Why wasn’t Mary of Bethany at the cross or involved with anointing Jesus body in His death? It may be that she was one of the few who understood what Jesus told His disciples, that He would die and three days later rise from the dead. As a worshiper constantly sitting, receiving offering worship to Jesus, in His presence, led to her understanding Jesus all the better. That’s a great model for us to follow. Worship the Lord. Come and stay in His presence, and you will be more perceptive about the things of God and His plans.
Nothing given to Jesus, no matter how costly, is ever a waste in any way.
Jesus was in Bethany located a few miles east of Jerusalem. In a few short days He would be brutalized and crucified for the redemption of humanity. John’s gospel account tells us it was Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus who “came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard” and “broke the flask and poured it on His head” (John 12:3; Mark 14:3). It was Lazarus who had been raised from the dead by Jesus (John 11). What memories; what incredible miraculous blessings from God. And all of it was percolating in Mary. And what was happening inside her led to a lavish act by Mary. The oil was worth 300 denarii or a year’s wages (Mark 14:5; John 12:6). A year’s wages! A year’s salary poured out on Jesus’ feet! Would you do that?
The disciples, led by Judas, felt the oil could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor (Mark 14:5; John 13:29). Logical. Reasonable. Pragmatic. Someone who is a good steward, or thrifty, would think like that. They were indignant, angry. Of course we know Judas was really concerned with pilfering the proceeds. But the other disciples may very well have had a legitimate concern (cf. John 12:6). What would you have thought? What did Jesus think?
Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (John 12:7-8). In Mark’s account he writes that Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you. Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Mark 14:6-9).
There’s a lot to learn in this passage. There’s something vital to take away from this account. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” That means that she did something worth taking note of, worth repeating; worth copying and doing ourselves. What she did left us an example. What was her memorial? What is it we should remember and also do?
“She has done a good work for Me.” What is the nature of this good work she did? Let’s look into this outpouring of devotion to Jesus because there is beautiful truth contained here.
It was costly. This perfume was valuable. It cost her a year’s wages. It was total. It was impractical, unreasonable, and not to logical as far as the male disciples were concerned. Maybe they were thinking, Just like a woman (to run up the credit cards). But look deeper.
It is likely this oil was something that was very precious to her. Precious oil was often purchased as a kind of investment for the future; it was a valued commodity; a precious currency. It may have been her dowry; something to be given her husband upon their marriage. If she were to die before marrying it may have been poured out on her own body in burial. By pouring it out on Jesus it was as though she was saying, “I give my future, my family, my happiness, my hopes and dreams, my life; I pour it all out to You Jesus.” Pouring out this costly oil was an act of supreme, deep and total devotion to Jesus. Have you poured yourself out to Jesus like that? Who holds your future? Or are you like the disciples, too practical and reserved for something like that?
This good work was exorbitant. When was the last time you did something lavish, exorbitant for Jesus? When was the last time you went all the way for Jesus? When was the last time your worship of Jesus took priority over your future plans? When was the last time you gave something to Jesus or for His glory that actually cost you something? Some say “I can’t afford to give.” Looking at Mary and her good work seems to tell us, “You can’t afford not to give.” At some point she came to realize, “I must give.” Jesus said, “She has done what she could.” She could not have done anything less. How about you?
But what about the poor? Don’t mistake what Jesus was saying. He isn’t minimizing ministry to the poor. He was maximizing our worship and commitment to Him. The poor and caring for them is extremely important. But it pales in comparison to how we spend our time with Jesus. In fact, if you don’t lavish worship on Jesus you probably won’t have too much to offer the poor or anyone else. Are you a Mary or a disciple?
There’s a gospel message here. Notice how Jesus attached the good work of Mary to the preaching of the gospel. How are they connected? They are connected at the heart. What Mary did is an example of how everyone should come to Jesus. She symbolized in a very worshipful and real way that she was giving her all to Jesus. That’s really what God is looking for when the gospel is preached. I received Jesus as my Savior over 35 years ago with the words that can be summed up as “Jesus, I’m Yours.” My wife likes to say of people who struggle with their relationship with Jesus, “They just have to fall in love with Jesus.” That’s what Mary’s lavish act of worship communicated. She was totally in love with her Lord Jesus. She was wholly holy to Him. Are you?
What does your life speak to Jesus? Are you more like the disciples who scorned and looked down on lavish expressions of love to Jesus? Are you very practical; so practical that you’d never think of condoning such a lavish expenditure of funds, not even on Jesus? Remember, “You are not your own . . . For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Remember, “you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your sinless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Maybe as Mary and the disciples ate the Passover meal together that fateful night, it all came together for her. Maybe she realized what Jesus said of her act – “She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial” (Mark 14:8).
When you consider the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, let it and the Person of Jesus inspire you to worship Him extravagantly. Seek Him in prayer. Ask Him, “LORD Jesus, how could I bless You?” Then pour a blessing onto your Savior Jesus. Ask the Lord how you could show your love for Him in a costly lavish way like Mary did. Ask Him how you can follow in her steps and do a similar good work. Ask Him.
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
There are people who a drawn to the work of Jesus like to a sideshow at the circus. They are curious to see the extraordinary but not willing to let it change them for the glory of God. Some people push Jesus aside to see the miracles. They run to and fro looking for another “work” or “miracle” of God. All the while they miss the Miracle Worker Jesus! People, run to Jesus. Don’t get caught up only in what He does. Get caught up in the One who works the extraordinary.
10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.
Then there are some who are so enslaved by their religious affiliation that they would rather kill off the sign of God’s power and deny it, than to acknowledge it and the One Jesus who worked it. Beware religious or denominational, club, or other group affiliations. No group affiliation should ever be allowed to compete with Jesus and his work. Cling to Jesus. Be loyal to Him above all else.
Throughout history beginning in Acts and to the present there have been numerous efforts to exterminate Christians. The early church father Tertullian said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” He said this because no matter how hard the enemy tries to extinguish the light of Christ by killing Jesus’ followers, they continue on. In fact, persecution usually leads to purification of hearts and empowered witness historically. It’s not a good strategy to try to kill of the followers of Jesus. More effective is a strategy that lures them into worldly preoccupations.
12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”
“Hosanna” (Hebrew hosanna – hoshia-na) means Oh Save! It is an exclamation as in be propitious.
The tradition of waving palm branches arose two hundred years earlier as the people welcomed the triumphant Judas Maccabee who had led a victorious guerilla war against Antiochus Epiphanes. Perhaps the people, oppressed by Roman rule in Jesus’ day, waved palm branches to welcome an long hoped for deliverer. People are still looking for a political answer to life’s problems today. But the way to victory is not political it is the cross.
14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
Rabbinical tradition stated when Messiah comes if the people were ready to receive him he would ride in on a white horse, but if they were not ready; he would ride in on a donkey. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey not to fulfill tradition, but to fulfill the prophetic word of God. In Zechariah 9:9 it is prophesied that Messiah would ride into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is found in all four gospels (cf. also Matt. 21:1–9; Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:29–38). This is an incredible fulfillment of prophecy.
In Daniel 9:24-27 the prophet Daniel prophesied to the day when Messiah would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It states in Daniel:
Daniel 9:25 - “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.”
This is an incredible prophecy! What it means is that from the time that the people are permitted to return to the Holy Land to rebuild Jerusalem, there will be “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” or 69 weeks of seven years each, or 483 years (69x7 = 483). We need to keep in mind too that the Hebrew year consisted of 360 days, not 365 like our calendar.
In the book of Nehemiah we are told of the “command” made by King Artexerxes to allow the Jews to return to their land from captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem, (not just the Temple but the city of Jerusalem):
- Nehemiah 2:1,5,8 – “And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.5 . . .And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” . . . 8 “and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”
It is well documented in history that the first day of Nisan “in the twentieth year of King Artexerxes” is equivalent to March 14, 445 B.C. That is the starting point for this prophecy. You might think, “Wait a minute teacher, how do you know what day of the month in Nisan it was?” In his great book entitled, The Search For Messiah, Mark Eastman explains the following:
“By Hebrew tradition, when the day of the month is not specifically stated, it is given to be the first day of that month. So, the day of the decree by Artexerxes was the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan 445 B.C.E. The first day of Nisan 445 B.C.E. corresponds to the 14th day of March. This was verified by the astronomical calculations at the British Royal Observatory and reported by Sir Robert Anderson.” 
Now if we multiply 69 x 7 year units (360 day years) the result is 173,880 days. When we mark off 173,880 days from March 14, 445 B.C. it brings us to April 6th, 32 A.D. In Luke 3:1 it states that Jesus’ ministry began “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” The date at which Tiberius’ reign began is calculated with certainty to be 14 A.D. If we add 15 years starting from 14 A.D. it brings us to 29 A.D. We then need to add an additional 3 years due to the three years of ministry depicted chronologically in the gospels. That therefore brings us to 32 A.D. In his pamphlet Jesus Historical Facts, Ralph O Muncaster notes that:
“The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England confirms the Sunday [Palm Sunday – Triumphal Entry] before Passover [in 32 A.D.] to be APRIL 6TH, 32 A.D.’
Therefore, what we have in Daniel 9 is an exact calculation to the day when Messiah Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This not only attests to the supernatural Divine authorship of this prophecy, but it also identifies and bears testimony that Jesus is the Messiah!
The prophecy of Daniel goes on to predict what would happen to Messiah at the end of that week that began with the triumphal entry:
Daniel 9:26a - “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
Here we have a direct reference to the crucifixion of Jesus one week after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” is referring to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as the Scripture attests:
- Isaiah 53:4-6 – “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
In the New Testament it speaks of the substitutionary work of Jesus in the following way:
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
- 1 Peter 2:24 – “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”
- 1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”
The Jews had been looking for a political Messiah who would free them from the oppression of the Romans. But had they checked the word of God more closely and not relied so heavily on the tradition of men, they would have understood that Messiah would first give His life as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all humankind.
After the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the church age began. The final week of 7-year units in Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy is yet future. God has chosen to take that final 7-year period and separate it from the first 69 weeks. What follows in Daniel’s prophecy tells us when the events of that final 7-year period will begin.
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.
There are many times in life that we don’t understand at first what God is doing. But as we walk by faith and follow the Lord He has a way of working in us and helping us to understand more and more about His will and plan. These disciples didn’t understand all that was happening at first. But later all the pieces would come together as the Spirit opened their eyes (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-14). If at first you don’t understand, keep pressing on, one day you will.
17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”
Signs get our attention. But the focus should always be on Jesus. Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932), a Methodist evangelist once said, “If God is at work week by week raising men from the dead, there will always be people coming to see how it is done. You cannot find an empty church that has conversion for its leading feature. Do you want to know how to fill empty chapel? Here is the answer: Get your Lazarus.” Who would like to be a Lazarus? They came to see Lazarus, but then were introduced to the God of Lazarus; Jesus.
Who will come to Jesus for new life, eternal life and then through the transformation of the Spirit become an attraction to bring others to Christ? Lift up Jesus. Be saved and transformed. Come to Jesus!
20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
This is evangelism; people coming to Jesus by word of mouth. Philip had a habit of bringing people to Jesus (John 1:41; 6:8, and 9). This really is the primary way that people come to Jesus. The Spirit perks their interest and then puts believers in their path to whom they can ask further directions on how to come to Jesus.
23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
We are in the final week leading up to the cross. Jesus is announcing the time of culmination for His redemptive mission.
24 Most assuredly, I say to you, . . .
Jesus addresses these Greeks with a reference to grain and farming illustration. He addressed them in a way they would be able to relate to. To the Jews He referred to Old Testament scripture. To Greeks here He refers to what they could relate to. Jesus speaks a language that people can understand. There is a place for relevance in evangelism. The problem today is that we have used the idea of relevance to edit God’s Holy Scripture and that should never happen. God’s truth, God’s Word, is holy. Our job is to communicate the truth He has revealed in His Word in an understandable way while never diluting or diminishing the truth contained in it. That’s what Jesus did. So should we. But remember, the message is the same: death, burial, resurrection, to eternal life.
. . . unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
With these words Jesus provides the spiritual principle that death precedes life. There is life in Christ, but we enter into it by dying to self. We come to know this only by God’s grace. It is not something we think up or implement in our own strength. It is a work of God’s grace in and through us. Salvation is a work of God and then offered as a gift of God to be received by faith (e.g. Ephesians 2:1-9; Titus 3:4-7).
Dying to self begins with repentance. Repentance means having a change of mind. It means turning from. Repentance is a course correction. It involves turning from our sinful lives. It means we admit and confess our sinfulness to God. Repentance involves turning from the idea that we can offset and self-atone for our own sins by doing good works. The Bible is very clear that is not possible (Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10). We have to die to relying on ourselves for salvation.
Repentance is a turning from something but it is also turning to someone. We turn from self-reliance and sin to God through faith in Jesus Christ. We trust that Jesus atoned for our sins (or paid the just penalty incurred by our sins) and He did that on the cross (cf. Isaiah 53). It is only through faith in the Person Jesus as Savior and Lord that a person can receive new life in Christ. Jesus referred to this as being “born again” (cf. John 3). The Holy Spirit enters us and gives us spiritual life when we turn from our sins in faith and turn to Jesus as Savior in faith.
This spiritual principle of death precedes life is seen here in the agricultural illustration used by Jesus. A plant grows when a seed is buried in the ground, dies, but then gives birth to the plant. We could look at this scientifically and come up with detailed explanations for all that takes place in the birthing of a plant. But spiritually speaking the death precedes life principle involves a certain amount of mystery. That is because it involves the heart.
The rudimentary foundational parable Jesus used to communicate His message is the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). In this parable Jesus speaks of sowing the seed of the word of God. The sown word hits four kinds of hearts. First it hits the rock hard heart of the person who rejects God’s word and won’t let it penetrate at all. This is the hardened atheist. Next it hits the shallow hearted person who responds to the word in a way that appears that they are saved but because of their superficial minimal concern for the word it is never allowed to take root and grow. When a trial hits them, they forsake the Lord and His word. The third soiled heart represents the person who also receives the word but not as something of priority or specialness. They just accept God’s word into their crowded lives and because of the cares of the world the word of God never grows. But the fourth heart soil is the good one. This good hearted person receives the word and it takes root and grows. Only the heart that takes the word and lets it grow in them is the person who is genuinely saved. If there is no growth from the implanted word, there is no life. It’s as simple as that.
In the context of Jesus giving the Parable of the Sower He also speaks of the need for light. Generally speaking a plant will not grow without light. God’s word is our spiritual light (Psalm 119:105; cf. also Psalm 19:8l 43:3; Proverbs 6:23; 2 Peter 1:19). If we cover God’s light up, there is no spiritual growth. That is why Jesus said, “Take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:21-25). The seed sown is the word of God. Spiritual growth comes as we take in the light of God’s word.
Spiritual growth involves mystery too. Spiritual growth is something that takes place in the hidden recesses of the heart. The only way we know it is happening is by the outward changes that we can see. Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God in terms of planting too. He said:
Mark 4:26–29 - 26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
The church has sought growth in many different ways. The church has sought to grow through entertainment, Madison Avenue types of marketing, and by using a lot of bells and whistles to attract people. Too often the church has watered down the word of God for fear of offending sinners. The idea is that we draw people in with entertainment or a soft message and then coax them along into deeper truth. The only problem is that they don’t bring the people deeper. All they have succeeded in doing is providing a compromised word and misrepresenting “church.” This is all an attempt to grow God’s church by human wisdom. It’s foolishness. God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9).
Jesus speaks of spiritual growth in terms of scattering the seed of God’s word on the ground of people’s hearts. Then it speaks of resting in the Lord. Sow the seed of God’s word and then as the farmer goes to sleep knowing the seed will grow, we then go to sleep and rest in the faithfulness of God that His word will not return void. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
Sown seed of the word of God will yield a crop. It may be gradual; “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” But it will yield a harvest. We may not know how this happens. Just as we can’t see what happens when a seed is planted, so too we can’t see the workings of God’s word in the heart of a person until it is born. Our responsibility is to sow the seed of God’s word and trust Him to grow new believers. “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7). We are “God’s fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 3:9). All of this is a product of God’s grace (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Death precedes life is the way God works.
The bottom line is that spiritual growth whether it is individual internal qualitative growth or group external quantitative numerical growth, is all a product of God using His word. It is the Spirit of God using the word of God to birth and build people of God. If we want spiritual growth we have to study, meditate on, pray over, preach, teach and counsel the word of God. Spiritual growth comes via the word of God. Without the word there is not spiritual growth.
Have you been sowing seed for a long time? Praying for a lost loved one who remains lost. Trying to train up a child in the word of God and they are resistant? Sharing the word with a friend, neighbor, family member and they just aren’t receptive? I want to encourage you to keep sowing the word of God. Sometimes a seed sprouts growth overnight like a Chia Pet. But sometimes, like palm trees, the seeds can take years to germinate and grow. Our responsibility is to sow the seed and trust God for the growth. So rather than staying up worrying all night, sow God’s word, and then entrust the situation to the Lord. Go to sleep. Maybe when you wake up there will be a magnificent new plant to harvest.
25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Later in the New Testament the apostle Paul will write to the Galatians and say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). That perfectly encapsulates the meaning of Jesus’ words.
Dietrich Bonheoffer, a Lutheran pastor who was executed by Nazis in World War 2, was willing to give his life for Christ’s purposes. He stated:
“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.” 
“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” When we come to Jesus we will learn death to self. To come to Jesus means we die to self. And as we walk with Him we will learn to die to self and live to Him. Come and die!
26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
Jesus is introducing the idea of the cross. He is introducing the idea of the cross-life. In other portions of the gospels He speaks of picking up your cross (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23-27; 14:27). The cross is a symbol of death. Picking it up means to live a life of death to self. This is not some morbid way of living. It is a way of life. That is because as we die to self we live to Christ. Abundant life comes by dying to self and living to Jesus. Paul said, “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). When he said this he was speaking of literally being executed for his faith in Christ and dying. But this verse can also be applied to life now. Living for and with Jesus now is the path of great gain.
The cross of Christ is always relevant. The cross of Christ is the heart of the Gospel. There is no Gospel without the cross of Jesus. John 12 records Jesus last public teaching before He goes to the cross. From here on out He will be speaking to His inner core of disciples. What is His message? Death precedes life. One commentator states, “Mortification brings multiplication. Death brings life.”  When you come to Jesus it is like going to your own funeral. You die to relying on yourself ; your own “good” works. And if you would grow deeper in your walk with Jesus you must die to self; selfishness; self-centeredness; self-reliance; self-promotion; and self-support. When you come to Jesus and if you really want to progress in your walk with Jesus, you have to come to the same place He did and say, “I don’t live for me, I live for Thee.”
We have to die like Lazarus. We need to be raised like Lazarus. Then people will come to see the work of Christ in us. And they too will find eternal life in Jesus. Who will be a Lazarus?
27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say?
Some people think that fear, anxiety and being troubled in spirit is the scarlet letter of spiritual weakness. But really, to be troubled in our spirit is a natural response to life circumstances that promise difficulty or uncertainty. Even Jesus was “troubled” (Greek terasso). This word “troubled” means to be stirred or agitated, a disturbance to calmness, disquieted, restless, stirred up, troubled. Ever felt like that? Jesus did too. Being troubled is not a sin. What you do in response to the sense of trouble is what is important. If you let your sense of trouble cause you to drift from God, turn away from Him or step outside the parameters of His word, then that is.
What did Jesus do when His soul was troubled?
‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
The first thing Jesus did when He was troubled in soul was He went to the Father! That is exactly what we should do too. Jesus was troubled, so He called out to His Father in heaven. And when He called, the Father answered. That’s such a blessing.
Sometimes when we are troubled instead of turning to the Lord we panic and turn away from Him. When we’re troubled we sometimes act impulsively without prayer. The antidote for such reactions is to remember that God cares for us and invites us to bring Him all our anxieties (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). It’s always better, no matter what the circumstances, to respond in faith rather than react in fear. The Bible states, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:3-4). When you’re troubled, just turn to the LORD.
The apostle Paul wrote to the anxious Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Troubled? Take it to the Lord in prayer.
The next thing Jesus did was remember His calling and purpose in life. He knew he couldn’t ask the Father to “save Me from this hour.” That was because “for this purpose I came to this hour.” Jesus responded to His troubles by remembering the purpose and bigger picture for which He was called. Later in the New Testament book of Hebrews it states that Jesus approached the cross with joy (Hebrews 12:1-2). Joy isn’t necessarily happiness. Joy is the calming, settling assurance that God is in control and you are where you need to be in His plans. When you are troubled and fear, just remember your calling from God to represent Him and follow in the steps of Jesus.
28 Father, glorify Your name.”
Finally, Jesus recommitted Himself to glorifying the Father. Jesus didn’t say, “Glorify My name,” He said, “glorify Your name.” When we face difficulty, troubling times that shake us, we need to recommit ourselves in full surrender to glorify God’s name, no matter what. Our prayer should be, “Not my will but Your will be done – to Your glory.” That’s what Jesus prayed.
Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
Now notice the Father’s response. The Father says, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” The Father offers affirming words to His Son. It’s as though the Father was saying, “I have glorified My Name in the past through You, and I will continue to glorify My Name through You.” The Father is speaking confidence to His Son. Those words from the Father must have been so reassuring, so comforting. The Father’s words serve to steady and reassure Jesus that he was on track; that He was going in the right direction. And those words reassured Jesus that the Father was in control. His plan was going to be fulfilled.
When we are troubled, it’s always good to go to God’s word in prayer and wait to receive a reassuring confirmation from scripture. Personally, if I’m troubled, I go to the Psalms. In the Psalms there is a wealth of comfort for the troubled soul. The psalmist is inspired to write, “From the ends of the earth I will cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2). The psalmist states, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23). The psalmist writes, “You have turned for me my mourning in to dancing” (Psalm 30:11). And the psalmist was inspired to write, “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; my eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! . . . . But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me” (Psalm 30:9, 14-15). There are so many good encouraging words in the Psalms. One last one, “This poor man cried out, the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. . . . Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:6, 8). My suggestion when you are troubled, go to the Psalms!
29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”
This verse gives us a sense of the spiritual condition of the people around Jesus at this time. Those in the vicinity of Jesus attributed the voice of the Father with thunder (a natural event) or an angel. People are often mistaking the voice of God. Some hear thunder and say God is bowling. Others hear a jingle bell on a Christmas tree and say “an angel just got his wings.”
The Father gave an affirming word to His Son Jesus. God knows our heart and will send an affirming word to us when we need it too; especially when we are troubled. And when that word of the Lord comes, it will resound like thunder in our being. The Lord knows just what we need when we need it. He loves us and cares for us. If you’re troubled bring your concerns to Him. He will comfort and assure you. He is in control.
30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.
Jesus didn’t need to verbally hear His Father’s voice affirming Him. Jesus walked closely with His Father and knew the assurance of God. The voice of the Father was so those around Jesus could hear the Father’s approval of His Son.
31 Now is the judgment of this world;
The term “judgment” (Greek krisis) means a place where a decision is determined either for or against; accusation, condemnation, damnation, or judgment. We get the English word “crisis” from this word because a crisis is a point of decision; it is a point where falsehood is exposed and truth comes to light. What is the truth about where you stand with Jesus? Are you living a lie or are you living His truth?
The judgment Jesus is referring to here is the judgment that God sent His only Son Jesus as Savior of the world. He sent Jesus to die for our sins that we would not have to die for them ourselves. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The judgment is that “light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:5). The judgment, according to Jesus own earlier words, is that, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:17-21). The basis of this judgment was fast approaching as Jesus was speaking in the final week leading up to the cross. The world was not going to receive Him.
The Bible states, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). All of life is an opportunity to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. But once one dies there is no more opportunity for salvation. Upon death there is an initial judgment. Those who know Jesus as Savior go immediately to be with Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:8). Those who die in their sins without Jesus as their personal Savior go immediately into a place of torment (cf. Luke 16:19-31). Truly today, now, this moment is the day of your salvation. We get expect no other opportunity than the one being given in the present. If we put off receiving Jesus as Savior, it may have eternal consequences.
now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
Jesus refers to Satan as “the ruler of this world.” “Ruler” (Greek archon ) means a prince, ruler, magistrate. When it comes to Satan we might translate “ruler” as boss. Satan is a bossy boss. He seeks to rule be enslavement. He is like the drug dealer who entices a person to take his drugs and then manipulates and extorts them as a price of them getting more drugs. Satan’s drug of choice are the lusts of the flesh, hedonism, and the things of this world used in a way those crowds out Jesus. Satan enslaves against a person’s will. A bondservant of Jesus is one who willfully chooses to lovingly serve Jesus. It’s totally different (compare Romans 6).
Satan was originally an angel who may have been in charge of the worship in heaven (cf. Isaiah 14:12-14). His rebellion included a third of the angels of heaven (Revelation 12:4, 7-10). Satan was cast to earth where he tempted Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and obeyed the serpent’s tempting offer, the authority delegated to Adam and Eve was transferred to Satan. Jesus referred to Satan as elsewhere Satan is referred to as “the god of this world” who blinds the minds of those who do not know and have Jesus as Savior and Lord (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). The person who has been born again (John 3) has the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). The Spirit within a person illumines the scriptures and helps them understand and discern truth in life (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13).
Satan will ultimately be thrown into the Lake of Fire along with Antichrist, the False Prophet (Isaiah 14:15; Revelation 20:7-10). Those who refuse to receive Jesus as Savior are under the influence of Satan whether they realize it or not (Ephesians 2:1-3). It is only by the rich mercy and grace of God that a person can escape their enslavement to Satan (Ephesians 2:4-9). But those who persist in their self-centered , self-reliant rebellion against God, those who die in their sins without Jesus as Savior, will be cast into the Lake of fire too where they will spend eternity tormented with the devil and all who followed him. This is the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). This is all finalized at the Great White Thrown Judgment (Revelation 20).
32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
Satan viewed the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the crucifixion as a victory for him. But nothing could be further from the truth. For when Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” on the cross, He “will draw all peoples to Myself.” Jesus is the central focus of salvation. Apart from his atoning death and resurrection there is no salvation (cf. 1 Corinthians 2 and 15).
If we want to reach people, we need only lift up Jesus before them. Paul preached the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). We should too! The Gospel that saves consists of Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and His resurrection to life three days later. This is the crux of salvation.
34 The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”
The people were still in the dark about the gospel of Jesus. Many still did not know who Jesus was.
35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in 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.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.
Jesus points out that opportunity to receive Him as Savior is not without limit. “A little while longer the light is with you.” Jesus uses the contrast between light and darkness to communicate the idea that if you choose to walk in darkness you will not know where you are going; you will grope for truth and meaning but never find it. It is only when a person receives by faith the light of the truth of God in Jesus that they can see the light of God. Unfortunately, many people persisted in unbelief. And so the truth of the gospel of Jesus, “was hidden from them.”
37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,
The Bible doesn’t teach that signs or miracles produce faith. They may be used by God to get our attention. But signs do not produce faith. This verse is evidence of that. The Bible says that faith is produced by hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). Faith is fed by God’s word. There are no shortcuts to building faith; it must involve the word of God.
38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:
“Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
These words of Isaiah quoted here by John are from the opening inspired lines of one of the greatest salvation passages in the Bible. In Biblical times, before the advent of the printing press, mass production of books, and then in modern times IPhones, IPads, computers and other media tools, scripture was only available in scrolls of hand written forms. The individual didn’t have access to scriptures like we do today. People had to memorize scripture if they wanted to take it with them. People memorized large portions of scripture. And in order to refer to a portion of scripture a person would quote the first line of a passage. We see that here by John who quotes the first line of Isaiah 53.
Another example of quoting a first line of a passage is found in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus on the cross quotes the first line of Psalm 22 when He says, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). By quoting this first line Jesus expresses the separation caused by sin that He tasted on our behalf. But if you go to Psalm 22 you find that ultimately it is a psalm of great deliverance and victory. Toward the end of the psalm the psalmist states, “You have answered Me” (Psalm 22:21b). The ultimate victorious end of this psalm is expressed with the words, “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You” as a result of the work of Messiah on the cross (Psalm 22:27). It pays to know scripture and look at it in context. If you never look a the context of a line quoted you could miss out on a tremendous blessing.
The book of Isaiah is referred to as the Gospel of the Old Testament. And Isaiah 53, which opens with these words quoted by John, is the pinnacle of the gospel presentation in the book of Isaiah. Let’s take a look at this great gospel chapter and as we do you will see Jesus foretold nearly eight centuries before the fulfillment of His final week mission to the cross and resurrection.
Isaiah 53 (NKJV)
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.
As Isaiah is inspired by the LORD he speaks of Messiah Jesus the Christ and what He would encounter when He came to the people. The opening words consist of a rhetorical question that implies the “report” or message of Messiah would not be received (53:1). The chapter goes on to describe Messiah Jesus. Messiah would not be a dashing hansom movie star like personality. “He has no form or comeliness. . . no beauty that we should desire Him” (53:2). On the contrary God predicts through Isaiah that Messiah would be “despised and rejected by men.” He would be a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” He would be “despised” and the people would not “esteem Him” (53:3). But that would not deter Him from His redemptive mission.
Isaiah’s prophetic description of Messiah (Jesus) states His mission was to be a sin bearer. Messiah would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. He would be stricken, smitten, and afflicted (53:4). He would be wounded, bruised, and given stripes. All of this would be “for our transgressions . . . for out iniquities . . . for our peace . . . by Hi stripes we are healed” (53:5).
The reason all of this was necessary is because Israel and all humanity “has gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). Messiah Jesus would be oppressed and afflicted, but He would not open His mouth to defend Himself. He would be “like a lamb to the slaughter . . . silent” (53:7). He would be “cut off from the land of the living” (53:8a). All of this, “for the transgressions of my people He was stricken” (53:8b).
Though Messiah Jesus was without sin – “He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth” He died with the wicked (on the cross) but was buried with the rich at death (53:9; in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea – John 19:38-42).
All of this “pleased the LORD” because it fulfilled His just requirement for the penalty for sin. Messiah Jesus was to be “His soul an offering for sin” (53:10a). And the Father would accept the substitutionary sacrifice of Messiah Jesus His Son – “He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand” (53:10b). The Father, “shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. The redemptive work of Jesus “shall justify many” (53:11).
And because of all this Messiah will be “great . . . strong.” He would be great and strong, “Because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:12). Remember, this was inspired by God through Isaiah nearly 800 years before the incarnation of Jesus. Incredible; our salvation is incredible and it would be undeniably foolish for anyone to reject this incredible gracious costly redemptive plan of God. And yet some did and some still do. He would encounter
39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
These last words are incredibly important. It is possible for a person to resist God’s offer of salvation so persistently that they get to a point where they cannot believe. This is because whenever a person rejects or does not receive Jesus as Savior they don’t tread water, they don’t stay the same or in the same place, they are hardened and less likely to be able to hear and respond to the gospel. That is why the Bible says today is the day of salvation (Hebrews 3).
The context tells us that it wasn’t because they could not believe that they didn’t believe. It isn’t as though God ordained or predetermined that they would not be able to believe. God is, “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In His word God states He, “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4).
God will use miracles to get our attention even today. He gets our attention through the power of the gospel to change lives for the better (cf. Romans 1:16). He has given us a time tested transcendent revelation of eternal life-giving truth in the Bible. He has revealed His presence and providence through prophecy. There are the orderly wonders of the universe from the minutest details of matter to the most remote details of outer space. He still miraculously heals people. God has revealed Himself in creation generally and through Jesus, the Gospel and His word, and His people particularly. It is clear, when one objectively seeks truth
At the incarnation of Jesus the LORD got people’s attention through miracles and signs which served as identifying flags of evidence that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus had preformed many signs to prove who He was. But they still did not believe (John 12:37). No, they willfully refused to believe.
There is an eternal principle at work here. It is the principle of reaping and sowing. The principle is spelled out in the New Testament. There it states, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh [i.e. sinful nature] will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8). This means that there is a principle that when a person rejects God and His will in any way, they become hardened and less sensitive, less receptive to subsequent responses to God.
We see this principle at work in the Exodus. Pharaoh refused to bow and obey God’s command through Moses to let God’s people go (Exodus 7:22-23; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7). Pharaoh’s decision to reject God is described as a sin. A sin is a willful decision to reject God and His word (Exodus 9:34-35). And God hardened the heart or firmed up the decision of Pharaoh based on his willful choice to refuse God’s command (Exodus 9:12; 10:27; 14:4, 8, 17-18). The Lord foreknew the decision Pharaoh would make to reject Him (Exodus 4:21). But that does not mean god removed Pharaoh’s capacity to choose one way or the other. The more you reject God, the more inclined will are to continue to reject Him. Don’t put your decision to receive Jesus as Savior off. You may not want another chance.
This is a serious truth that all should take care to consider. Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He performed many signs to clearly identify Him as Messiah. Yet people persisted in refusing to believe in Jesus. This fulfilled Isaiah’s word that people who reject God’s Messiah become hardened. Persistent unbelief results in permanent hardening. “Therefore they could not believe,” are some of the scariest words in the Bible. It is possible to reach a condition through persistent rejection of God’s light in Christ, that one can become so hardened that they can’t believe. At what point that happens we do not know. That it happens is what God tells us in His word.
Today the gospel and opportunities to repent and believe in Jesus as Savior are proliferating like never before. Technology has created a network of communication that is worldwide. The Bible has been translated and been made available to a myriad of people groups in their own language. There is no excuse for not receiving and believing in Jesus as Savior today. That is especially the case in modern nations. The Bible is available in countless medias as well as good old fashion leather bound paper. The gospel has been preached, taught, and communicated over and over again.
No one deserves to hear the gospel more than once. Once a person hears the gospel they are responsible to respond to it. Indecision is decision. You are either for Jesus or against Jesus. There is no middle ground. There is no treading water. There is no straddling the fence. You must decide to follow Jesus. And each time you refuse to do so, you are not the same, you are a little more hardened in heart, a little more deaf to hear, a little less sensitive to the voice of God. Don’t waste time! Don’t put off accepting Jesus as your personal Savior. Admit your sins. Turn from your sins. Turn to Jesus and put your faith in Him as Savior. Receive forgiveness of sins through faith in Him. Don’t depend on your works. Just receive God’s gift of grace and forgiveness. Do it now! You may not have another chance. You may not ever again be able to hear God’s voice as you do know.
40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”
41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
Here John refers to the calling and vision of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. The account of Isaiah’s calling states:
Isaiah 6 (NKJV) –
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”
4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered: “Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate,
12 The Lord has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump.”
Isaiah received this vision during a time in Israel’s history when beloved and powerful king Uzziah had died (6:1). It was at this time of national grief that the LORD spoke to Isaiah by way of a holy vision. The LORD lifted Isaiah up and gave him a glimpse of Him sitting on the throne being attended to by angels (6:2-4). The Holy presence of God struck Isaiah with a sense of his own sinfulness and the sinfulness of the people of God (6:5).
An angel of God then touches Isaiah’s lips with a piece of coal from the altar. Touched by God’s holiness Isaiah’s iniquity was removed (6:6-7). When God convicts us of our sin He always provides opportunity for us to be purified from it. He points out sin in order to purify us from it.
Once purified Isaiah hears the call of God; “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” (6:8a). This is always the way. God gets hold of our heart and prepares us to hear His calling. And Isaiah, purified from unclean lips, is ready to receive. “Here am I! Send me” (6:8b).
God didn’t call Isaiah to build a mega church. In fact, from the start God’s calling on Isaiah was a calling that involved people rejecting his message from God. It is in the times of rejection that a person’s calling is truly revealed. Success is not in numbers. Success is in faithfulness to God’s call even when or even though people reject the message (6:9-10). God is not saying the people who would reject His message would be unable to receive it. He was foretelling that they would not receive it. Isaiah’s mission involved preaching to the people and their rejection would be the nail in their coffin. And this would be all the more evident during the time of Jesus. “But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him” (John 12:37). Isaiah’s ministry and the ministry later of Messiah Jesus was to prove beyond doubt the justice and righteousness of God’s judgment. They would do this by showing the repeated opportunity to repent and believe and turn to God provided by God throughout history. That even though they had repeatedly rejected God and His saving message God continues in love and grace to provide them with an opportunity to repent. The people’s repeated rejection of the message establishes beyond doubt that they were justly sentenced by God and inexcusable in their rejection of God. God proves Himself longsuffering and gracious beyond degree. The people show by their rejection of God’s repeated overtures that they are thoroughly sinful. Have you repented and trusted and received Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord? If not, why not? On judgment day you will be without excuse.
Isaiah responds in a very human way. “Lord, how long?” (6:11a). How long would Isaiah have to minister to people who would reject the Lord’s message? God’s answer was “Until the cities are laid waste . . . the land utterly desolate” (6:11b). While most would reject God’s message, “yet a tenth will be in it” or a remnant of faithful believers, “the holy seed,” would receive God’s message (6:12-13).
This is the passage John mentions as being fulfilled by Jesus and the repeated rejection of His Gospel by the people.
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
How sad it is when people know Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, they know the gospel message is right and true and real, and still don’t follow Him. Here people have “believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” The synagogue was the center of Jewish life. So this was a cost those who believed in Jesus would have to count. But the synagogue is not greater than Jesus. The synagogue’s purpose was to teach about God and Jesus is God!
Is your faith in Christ or in a church? The church is the Bride of Christ and we should do everything we can to support it and keep it a place of holiness. But we are not saved by faith in a church. We are saved by faith in Christ. The church is only the church as long as it is in alignment with and in submission to God’s word. If you look at the seven churches of Revelation to which Jesus wrote letters of commendation as well as correction you find that 5 of the 7 churches had some serious problems. That is, by the end of the first century, less than 100 years after the birth and ministry of Jesus, the church had problems and had strayed.
Peter spoke of the “aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers” (1 Peter 1:18). Jesus confronted the manmade traditions that actually contradicted and undermined God’s Holy Word (Matthew 15:1-20). Jesus told the religious leaders that the reason they erred was that they didn’t understand the scripture (Matthew 22:29). Scripture points us to Jesus. Tradition points us to the church. Not all tradition is wrong or bad. But good and acceptable tradition is rooted in and based on scripture (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:2). All traditions and every church needs to be appraised and seen through the lens of scripture. Tradition and churches are acceptable only in as much as they comply and conform to God’s Holy Word. Tradition that contradicts scripture ceases to be acceptable tradition. The church that contradicts scripture ceases to be the church acceptable to Christ. This is why we must give priority and allegiance primarily to Jesus and His Word over and above human tradition and the church.
It is faith in Christ alone that saves. If our loyalties to a church exceed our loyalty to Jesus we are in great danger. Jesus endorses His word as the supreme authority for the church. The church is only the church in as much as it is in alignment with and submission to the word of God. The true church points people to the church. The true church serves and submits to Jesus Christ. The church steps aside and never gets in the way of people coming to Jesus Christ. So again, I ask you, is your faith in Christ or the church? Hopefully your faith in the Person Jesus Christ through the faithful teaching of scripture by a church faithful and fully surrendered to Her Groom Jesus Christ.
There is another reason they did not follow Jesus; peer pressure. “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” That is about the saddest reason for not following Jesus that can be. It was because of pride that they “loved the praise of men.” And really this is the same temptation the serpent used with Eve in the Garden (Genesis 3). The serpent tempted Eve to disobey God by insinuating God didn’t want Eve to eat the fruit because when and if she did she would be “like God.” In other words Satan the serpent was saying, “Eat the fruit and you won’t have to take any orders from God anymore. You’ll be just like Him. You’ll be your own master.” And as your own master others look up to you. And that is pride. Pride goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Lucifer rebelled against God Almighty in pride (Isaiah 14:12-15). In the middle of “sin” is “I.” And “I” is in “pride” too. Remember that.
44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.
Jesus is not discounting belief in Himself. He is saying more or less, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me [only] but in Him ho sent Me.” Because then He equates seeing Him with seeing the Father who sent Him.
46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
There is a tangible effect of believing in Jesus. When you believe in Jesus as Savior and are genuinely saved you will walk in the light of His word (e.g. Psalm 119:105) as well as distance yourself from the darkness of sin and secular hedonism of this world. The one who believes in Jesus does “not abide in darkness.” There is a tangible measureable change in the person who believes in Jesus. The one genuinely saved from sin will no longer live in sin. They may sin on occasion but they will not live lives of sin. They are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
Jesus did not go around pointing His finger at people. He came to draw people to the Lord not put them off from the Lord.
48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
Every person will be held accountable to whether or not they rejected or received Jesus’ words. God’s word is the measure of genuine salvation. God’s word is the standard of judgment.
49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.
Jesus and the Father are in perfect harmony concerning the message of the gospel and the word of God. It is incorrect to pit the Father versus the Son Jesus. Some say the Father is angry and judgmental in the Old Testament and that Jesus is loving and accepting in the New Testament. This is very shallow and shortsighted. Jesus appeared in the Old Testament through Theophanies; pre-incarnate manifestations of Jesus. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The God portrayed in the Old Testament is the same as the God in the New Testament. Jesus and the Father are not at odds but in perfect harmony.
50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
Jesus and the Father have one message. Believe in Jesus as Savior and receive forgiveness for your sins and eternal life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the abundant life Jesus taught.
Jesus said he didn’t come to judge or condemn the sinner. He doesn’t have to. God’s word is the standard to which every person will be held accountable. Jesus came to show the way. Jesus came to proclaim the truth. Jesus came to provide life. If a person refuses what Jesus is offering, they throw themselves on the cutting block of the Word of God.
 Mark Eastman, The Search For Messiah, Costa Mesa, CA: The Word For Today, 1993) p. 80.
 John O Muncaster, Jesus Historical Facts – Investigation of the Evidence, (Mission Viejo, CA 92691:Strong Basis To Believe, 1996) p. 14-15.
 A good book to consult concerning what the Rabbis were expecting Messiah to be is Mark Eastman’s book The Search For Messiah. Mark Eastman, The Search For Messiah, (Box 8000 Costa Mesa, CA 92628. Phone 714-979-0706).
 Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 545). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.