The Barriers & Blessings to Jesus (John 12:36b-50)

The Barriers & Blessings to Jesus (John 12:36b-50)


MPS: The barriers to belief in Jesus as Savior prevent the blessings of truth and eternal life that are only found in Christ.

Blindness, hardness of heart, and fear all stand as barriers to belief in Christ. (36b-43)

To begin this passage we see that Jesus had moved on from His previous interaction with the Greeks. The author now records the response of the Jews as a whole. That response was unbelief despite the mountain of evidence that attests to Jesus’ deity. The signs performed by Jesus were intended to reveal His nature, glory, and identity so that the world would believe in Him and have life. (John 20:30-31)

There should be no amazement at the unbelief of Israel when it had already been prophesied by Isaiah. Israel has a history of rejecting God and His messengers. There were times that Israel rejected Moses and most of the Prophets. The Word of God has an effect that can really push people away. His message is always intended to bring people to Himself through faith and repentance yet people reject this so that they themselves can remain their own god.

God also uses the unbelief and evil actions of people to carry forward His purposes. What if Israel would have come to belief in Jesus? What would have happened had Jesus been embraced by the nation rather than rejected? First, they wouldn’t have persecuted Him. Second, they wouldn’t have crucified Him. Lastly, the Gospel wouldn’t have gone out to all people. We wouldn’t have seen Israel go from God’s chosen people based on ethnicity to the Church becoming God’s people based on the promise despite race and ethnicity. God used the unbelief of Israel to accomplish His own glory, which is found in the redeeming work of His Son, Jesus.

God supernaturally hardened the hearts and blinded the eyes of unfaithful Israel by the proclamation of His Word through His messengers. (Isa. 6:9) This was a judgement based on Israel having already been unfaithful and God sending Isaiah to call the nation to repentance. God prepares Isaiah by telling him his mission will result in fruitlessness. Isaiah in calling Israel to repentance by the Word of God will undoubtedly harden their hearts. This is incidental in that whenever the Word of God is preached people will be brought under conviction. Some under that conviction will have their eyes opened and eyes softened while others will be even more blind, deaf, and hardened. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rm. 10:17). So hearing through the word of Christ results in either belief or unbelief. 

Some might look at the hardening of hearts by God to mean that each person is but a robot. However, we must look at Scripture and see that the sovereignty of God is never pitted against human responsibility in the Word of God. Pitting God’s sovereignty and man’s sovereignty over his own decision is an invention of man. We must remember to be like the reformer Martin Luther who sought to get as close to the text as possible. Let the text speak and don’t let our own human reasoning truncate the supernatural work of God, which is found in the text of Scripture.

We often rely on the sovereignty of God as our hope. We pray that God would work in our midst to bring about His purposes. We pray that He bring healing to the sick, strength to the weak, and comfort to those in mourning. This is impossible if God is not sovereign. But He is sovereign and He declares this uniqueness by His Word in Isaiah 46: 9-10, “for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

We see that God the Father indeed hands people over to Jesus and draws people, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”( Jn. 10:29) “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (Jn. 6:44)

So if God is sovereign and has the power to harden and soften hearts then where is human responsibility in salvation? Well as stated earlier man either responds to the Gospel with belief or unbelief. But the only life giving response is faith and belief. Paul writes that even this faith is, “the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). However, when John the Baptist calls his early followers to repent and believe there is a sincere sense that they are responsible for their own belief. Later on in today’s passage we even see that those who don’t believe stand condemned by the Word because the Word was given to them so that they might believe.

Each of us is responsible for our own actions and our own belief. We see this in some Jewish leaders who believed in the claims of Christ, but their faith was so meager that they remained silent because they were afraid. Our fear, emotions, and actions are all a result of our own prerogative. We choose to believe or not to believe. We choose to share Christ or keep Him to ourselves. We choose to serve or not. However, it is God who gives us His Word so that we can believe. It is God who gives us the faith to believe, the opportunities and power to share Christ, and the ability to minister in His name.

To further demonstrate the nuance that comes with assigning responsibility for our salvation, we might ask when redemption was accomplished. “When did God secure that spiritual blessing? “We may answer: (1) before the foundation of the world, (2) on the cross of Calvary, and (3) when we came to believe in Christ.” (John Frame, 935)

God blesses the world with Jesus and eternal life. (44-50)

God sent His Son in the flesh to reveal His glory. To believe in the Son is the believe in the Father. In fact the Son is the full revelation of God’s glory. The Son is God in the flesh. He has been sent by the Father, acting and speaking on His authority. Although all three persons of the Trinity are co-equal in nature they each have a role. Jesus’ role is to be sent by the Father to redeem the world. The Spirit is sent by both the Father and Son. His role is to be our great comforter, teacher, and applicator of the work of Christ.

Again we see the theme of light in this passage. Light refers to Jesus as the Word and source of all truth. And the light of the world opens eyes and hearts so that we may believe and also condemns those who do not believe. We see in this text that the words spoken by Jesus will measure the faithfulness of man; Jesus came to speak those words so that many would believe and be saved

Of course Jesus will stand as judge at His Second Coming. We learn this in Matthew 25 as Jesus sits on the throne and separates the faithful and unfaithful. What does Jesus mean by saying that He does not judge the world, but the word that He has spoken does? He is revealing to us that He has provided everything that is needed for salvation and life. Now that He has spoken and revealed Himself, He has revealed the measure to which all the world will be judged. His role at His second coming is seperate those who have believed and followed from those who have rejected Him.

As if Jesus Himself weren’t blessing enough we also receive the gift of eternal life. Eternal life begins when we believe in Christ. It’s a quality of life that can only be experienced when Christ is your greatest treasure and it has no end. We experience eternal life on this side of Christ’s first and second coming, however, eternal life won’t be fully realized until the Second Coming.

God says this about the New Heavens and New Earth, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) “I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” (Isa. 65:18-19) 

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