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John 12:37-41, NIV37 Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them."41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.
November 15, 2011It didn't matter what Jesus did, some people refused to believe in him. It didn't matter how many "good works" he did, some still would not believe he was sent from God. Jesus could not win them all; we don't even know if he convinced half the people. Today there would be opinion polls to see what percentage of people esteemed Jesus favorably.
John justified Jesus' lack of success by using some words recorded in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. The first quote is from Isaiah's "Suffering Servant" chapter, which contains a description of someone who only appears beautiful to those who love and understand him.
The second quote is from the 6th chapter, when the prophet was commissioned and these words are spoken by the Lord as a warningto Isaiah that people would not believe nor take his preaching seriously. Still he was to go and take the Lord's message to those disinterested rascals anyway. This always struck me as a bit peculiar. Why waste your effort if you know ahead of time that people as a whole will not receive your words! Maybe because a few people, or maybe just oneperson, might believe and receive.
Verse 39 states these unbelievers could not believe because "He [the Lord] has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts." So whose fault was it that those opponents of Jesus refused to believe in him? If the intent of Jesus was to draw all people to himself, why did God prevent some people from understanding and seeing clearly who Jesus was?
Perhaps I'm reading the words too literally, and they do not mean exactly what they say. Again it's just an acknowledgement that many people will not see and believe, hear and understand. God told Isaiah the bad news up front. Jesus knew the sad outcome too, even before he began. So too, the disciples of Jesus knew they had a hard road to travel. Being sent on a mission by God is no bed or roses.
On the bright side of the spectrum for those sent with a message from God, Isaiah had "seen the Lord" high and lifted up and his train filled the Temple. What is an experience like that worth? At his baptism, Jesus had seen a descending dove and heard words from heaven, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased." Again how can such an experience of joy and affirmation be measured?
The twelve disciples had walked and talked with Jesus for three years--with memories like that, how could they fail to be faithful? But even one among them, was not loyal. One of Jesus' own disciples had eyes that did not see, ears that did not hear, and a heart that did not reciprocate.
Isaiah made the connection between turning and healing. Repent means to turn around. Instead of having one's back toward God, to turn our face toward our loving heavenly Father. Turn and believe. Turn and be healed. Turn and find hope for tomorrow.
Did Isaiah have the glory of Jesus in mind when he recorded these words. Probably not. But he had already seen the glory of God. And to the gospel writer, God and Jesus were one.
Isaiah said understanding comes from the heart! Not the mind or the intellect. Understanding has different meanings. Sometimes it has the connotation of being sympathetic and accepting of another person. Then it has less to do with the cold, hard facts, and more to do with reflecting the love and grace God.
John 12:42-43, NIV42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
November 16, 2011After John has led us to believe that his contemporaries didn't trust Jesus to be who he claimed to be, and after he has explained disbeliefas a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, then John changed his tune and acknowledged that many people did believe, even some in leadership positions. But they lacked the courage to express their convictions because of the Pharisees and fear of being excommunicated from the synagogue.
John had an explanation for this, too. He said they valued the approval of man more than they valued the praise of God. Well, that's not hard to understand. Our fellow men and women seem more real to us than God does. We have earth on our minds right now, not heaven.
John 12:44-46, NIV44 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. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."
November 17, 2011Jesus explained what it means to believe in him. It means believing in God and accepting the truth that God sent Jesus to be the world's light. "When you see me, you see my Father." Looking at Jesus is the same as looking at God.
Sounds like two for one. Which is a problem for people who think Biblically. The Lord our God is one--that's what we learned way back, in the books of Moses. Elsewhere in John's gospel Jesus states clearly that he and the Father are one. Somehow blended together, merged to the point that one can not be differentiated from the other. Religious thought has a word for things that can't be explained rationally. That word is mystery. As in waiting for further light, additional revelation, or greater love that produces even greater faith.
In addition, John claims that believing means you walk in the daylight and live as though you are a child of God. Faith is not only seeing, hearing and receiving. It is also an action word. We can leave the mystery on the back burner and get busy doing what needs to be done.
John 12:47-48, NIV47 "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."
November 18, 2011
Judgment and condemnation--two words we do not like. Judgment is a common theme in John. Jesus said he is not the judge; God is--on the last day. Jesus' words will judge a person because Jesus spoke what God commanded. Words mean eternal life because they come from God.
Judgment is reserved for those who hear but do not do, and for those of us who do not act upon what we know. Those who hear are people like me who attend worship services most every Sunday, and then live the rest of the week like everybody else, like those who did not hear.
Judgment is also reserved for those who reject Jesus and don't accept his teaching. Judgment is for those within the sanctuary and those who remain outside it's doors. Actually the more I read these two verses, the more I see Jesus does not distinguish between those inside and those on the outside. Neither one acts upon the teachings of Jesus. The only difference is that one says/thinks they do while the other makes no such claim. The words we do not obey are the words that condemn us all.
Jesus wants no part of judgment. He came to save, not to condemn. He is our only hope.
John 12:49-50, NIV49 "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."
November 19, 2011
Jesus, the Word, who was present with God at the beginning, conveys and reveals the heart and mind of God. Jesus, the Word, personifies the servant role. Just as a servant is sent, so the Word is sent. Sent into the world, into every nook and cranny. The Word is a light searching for the likes of you and me. The Word is a bearer of good news--God loves me! God loves every last one of us! This is the eternal life which is given to all who accept the Word, to all who believe and bind the teachings of Jesus in their heart and keep them in their daily living.
The quote earlier from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, said that understanding comes from the heart. He's speaking from a vantage point of being steeped in religious faith. Faith, by its very nature, is about the unseen. The apostle Paul captured that idea when he said, "We walk by faith, not by sight." Faith is also about possibilities, about hope and love, about aspirations and longings. Faith thrives within another unseen, the spirit of a person, where some of us dare to believe that God created us in God's own image!
John began this chapter with the experience of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with a whole pint of very expensive nard. Mary's faith was extravagant and bordered on being foolhardy. Her spirit was full to overflowing with loving devotion. Mary's beliefs and her understanding came from her heart.
The heart of a person--that's where God resides. And if that is true, then we need not fear to rely on understanding that comes from the heart.