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Light In Troubled Times

John 12:27-50

27“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ£ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38This 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?ӣ

39For 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.”£

41Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42Yet 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; 43for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

44Then Jesus cried out, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There 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. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

The Inner Christ

One of the reasons John’s Gospel is so beloved of Christians is for the very intimate, personal view that John gives us of Jesus. His “heart is troubled.” Why? He is, after all, the Son of God, God in the flesh.

True enough – but he is also Son of Man, completely human. Ordinary human beings fear death, and they fear dying – especially in a painful manner. He knows what is coming, and he is not indifferent to the pain and suffering. It is most certainly the case: for him to be the Mediator between us and God, he must know what suffering is; he must know what death is. He therefore must suffer and die like the rest of us. The bridge between man and God has two pillars, one on each side. The pillar of humanity includes suffering and death.

The choice

He has, of course, a choice that we don’t have. He can decide that he’s had enough of this and “abort the mission.” It is in his humanity that he must decide whether or not to use the options open to God alone. But see his attitude! He shows us the attitude of one monk, whose prayer during sickness went something like this:

Oh Lord, if it brings glory to your name to heal me quickly, heal me quickly.

If it brings yet more glory to your name to heal me slowly, heal me slowly.

Should it bring even more glory to your name that I should die quickly, let me die quickly.

Should it bring even greater glory to your name that I should die slowly, let me die slowly.

You can see the parallel for us. Often in our prayers we will ask for the cup to pass from us. We are but human, a mist, a vapor. But if we will raise ourselves up to press for the glory of God, what greater things can be done! Courage is not the absence of fear; it is not the denial of fear; it is the overcoming of fear.

The Voice

One thing is characteristic of the Good Shepherd – even as he approaches his death he is concerned for his sheep. The voice is not to strengthen him – that will come later, in the garden – but to benefit those around. Christ cares for his own.

It also is the voice of warning. Even for those who do not believe, there is the warning voice. The time is coming when the world will discover judgment – based upon what they have heard.

On Judgment

Christ now brings to us to the concept of judgment. His death will bring judgment to the world. How?

  • By his death he completes the Old Testament Law, ushering in the new covenant (New Testament). Upon its completion, its followers are liable to a final accounting.
  • His death now prepares the way for the Day of Wrath – the Day of Judgment. For he must be sacrificed before the law can be completed; but once the law is complete, judgment can begin at any time.
  • His death also opens the door of God’s mercy. His death provides the means by which we can escape the wrath of God. God no longer offers the law, but now he offers grace. To escape his grace is to volunteer for hell. It is now true: God sends no one to hell – they’re all volunteers.
Satan is to be driven out

As Christ taught us in parables, the strong man must be bound if you are to rob his house. Satan is bound indeed at the Cross. Why?

  • First, as prince of this world, he has killed an innocent man. All others that he has put to death were sinners, short of the glory of God. But this man is innocent, yet – knowing that – Satan (in the form of “the system”) put him to death with due process. For this the judgment will come to him.
  • But even now his power is limited. For the Cross brings in Pentecost – and the Holy Spirit. What is evil is to be driven out by what is holy.
  • Indeed, as Christ saw at the return of the Seventy, Satan is fallen. No longer able to deceive us in the presence of Christ, his doom is sure. But not without some interesting events leading up to that.
Draw all men

It is not sufficient that he be driven out; that would leave a spiritual vacuum. As our Lord taught, this is to invite worse treatment. So it is our Lord draws all men to himself by the Cross:

  • First, the Cross is the sign of his mercy and love. You may attract men for a short while with greed; for a long while with pride – but mercy and love do not lose their attraction even in eternity.
  • The Cross leads to Pentecost – and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s task is to convict the world of sin and judgment, thus pointing the way for all who will to receive salvation.
  • The Cross is the inspiration of the church – and by the way we love each other do all men know that we are Christians. By our good works men are drawn to Christ.
  • Finally, and most powerfully, by the Resurrection itself does Christ draw all men. He alone has conquered both sin and death; he alone has what all men need.

Walk in the Light

Once again we are taught to walk in the light, for in a little while we won’t have it. There is a parallel for us. Which of us is guaranteed tomorrow? We often see people die after long illness; but we also know that there are those who seemed in good health when God calls them home. The warning is for us, too.

What does it mean, to “walk in the light,” as Jesus teaches here?

  • First, and most obvious, it means that we are to walk. This is not a matter of observation, of going to church and listening alone, but of doing. It is a matter of works.
  • But there is no thought of neglecting faith to do so, for we are taught to “put your trust in the light.” It is a matter of faith. So that our works may not be empty, we need faith.
  • Faith without works is indeed dead – but let your works be inspired and led by the God your faith reveals. Do not perform “random acts of kindness.” Rather, let your kindness and love be purposeful. It is easy to be kind to the stranger who has never insulted you. Kindness to those who have is much more difficult.
  • Indeed, we are to practice this so well that we become “sons of the light.” If you practice something long enough, you tend to get rather good at it. You may indeed become so good you are identified with it – we call Babe Ruth a baseball player, Thomas Edison an inventor. The test of those who call themselves Christians is this: are they persecuted in this world as their Lord was? It’s a sign that you no longer care what people think of you – only what God thinks of you.

The Scripture now tells us that Jesus hid himself from them. This is not because they were about to stone him – but because he knew what was in their hearts. It is a sad thing to know that something is going to happen like this – and know that hardness of heart prevents any cure. Isaiah’s words were written in sadness.

You see, of course, that Isaiah did not “make” them hard of heart; he simply foresaw it. The mystery of prophecy is great – but the decisions are still ours.

When a Man Believes in Me

There is a chain of belief stated here which is important to us. Let us examine its links:

  • If you believe in Jesus, you believe in God. That seems simple enough – but it requires us to know that God is three – and yet one. But Jesus walked around the planet; people saw him – it makes it easier for us.
  • If you see Jesus, you see God. Jesus is the “exact representation” of God. As God the Father cannot be seen (physically) we understand this to be the spiritual sense. But how does one see God? Only the pure in heart know that.
  • In this we see a great mystery revealed. No one sees God; he is mysterious, beyond our comprehension. We are the clay; he is the potter; how can we understand him? Only if he sends messengers to us. Indeed, in Christ, the messenger is the message, for God has walked among us. Our minds cannot wrap around God the Father – but we can know God the Son, for he is also Son of Man.
The Last Judgment

The coming of the Son of God carries with it a somber implication: judgment. The judge is light with the offender who is truly ignorant – but throws the book at those who are learned in the law. Here Christ lays out the principles of the Day of Judgment.

  • Judgment is by the word you have. If you have heard the word of Christ, and rejected it, then you will be judged for that.
  • Indeed, this is fair – because what Christ teaches is what God commands. They are one. Therefore, to reject Christ is to reject God, and rebel against him.

God sends no one to hell – they’re all volunteers.

Glory to God

We began this lesson with glory to God; it seems fitting that we should end it that way. How is it that Christ overcomes his fears? Is it not for the love he has for God the Father – and his desire to glorify God’s name? And are we not the imitators of Christ? Therefore, should we not conduct ourselves to glorify God’s name?

But how? What can I do which is so high and holy?

  • First, there are the works of charity done in his name. Let the world see the difference in the actions of Christian and non-Christian. This is one reason we need to encourage each other to such good works.
  • Next, there is personal purity – for only the pure in heart shall see God. Is your character a glory to God?
  • Your mouth should follow your life; let there be praise flowing from it.
  • There is also the matter of sacrifice; if the Old Testament teaches nothing else, it teaches that. Sacrifice – not just giving to Goodwill that which you were going to throw away, but denying yourself something so that others may be blessed.
  • Finally, call on him in the time of trouble – so that the world might know (and you might confirm to yourself) that he is worthy of the glory you give Him.

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