This is the sermon for Wednesday, September 2nd 2009.

JOHN PART 57

Unbelief and belief.

John 12:37-50.

John 12:37-50 TNIV – 37 Even after Jesus had performed so many 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 hardened 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. 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory of God. 44 Then Jesus cried out, “Those who believe in me do not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When they look at me, they see 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. 47 “As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

INTRODUCTION

When it comes to Jesus Christ, it really boils down to two things:  Do you believe Him or not.  There is no third option, although some people try to create a third option.  They will try to believe certain things, but not believe other things: this my friends is nothing more than unbelief in disguise.

Here in this narrative that ends chapter 12 we are going to see some believe, and some don’t; just that simple really.  But we are also going to look at a very uncomfortable truth.  And in this case a cause of the unbelief mentioned here.

Let’s begin.

Many continued in unbelief in spite of the signs concerning Jesus.

John 12:37 TNIV – Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.

Jesus performed many a miracle while He walked this earth.  All those miracles were signs that pointed to His Messiah-ship and Deity.  Yet many refused to believe in Him, although they couldn’t honestly deny the validity of the signs He was performing. “Would not believe,” is imperfect in Greek Tense.  That means continued or repeated action.  So this unbelief was a continued response to Jesus and his teachings and miracles.  I would dare say that it had probably become for them, “old hat,” or a habit to refuse to believe.

Their unbelief was part of God’s Scriptural plan.

John 12:38-41 TNIV – 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 hardened 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.

God’s prophetic, scriptural plan is found in two places in Isaiah that their unbelief fulfilled.

Let’s look at the first quote from Isaiah.

Isaiah 53:1 TNIV – Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

Here Isaiah prophecies concerning Jesus Christ as the Suffering Servant.  What is important here is the expression, “to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed.” You see, it took revelation from God to know Jesus as the “arm of the LORD.” This is a Hebraic expression basically saying that God’s power would be displayed through His Suffering Servant – Jesus Christ.

So the truth we see here is in order to believe in Christ, you must first have revelation from the LORD. That revelation primarily comes through the preaching of the Gospel, which Paul calls the message of Christ.

Romans 10:14-17 TNIV – 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Let’s look at the next quote from Isaiah.

Isaiah 6:9-10 TNIV – 9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ” ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

This quote concerns the other reason for their unbelief:  God hardened their hearts.

John 12:39-40  TNIV – 39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”

This might seem unfair, but the fact is that these people were wicked by nature, and truthfully they could not believe in Christ on their own, because they refused too, so God hardened their hearts.

Are there other places within Scripture where God hardened people’s hearts?  At least 10 places in Exodus God says He either hardened the heart of Pharaoh or the hearts of the Egyptians (Exodus 4:21, also Romans 9:18).  And Paul goes on to give an answer we all need to heed if we think this hardening of hearts is unfair.

Romans 9:19-21 TNIV – 19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for disposal of refuse?

You see, the unbelief of the Jews here would bring about the Sovereign plan of God; which was the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

Yet in the midst of unbelief, belief was present.

John 12:42-43 TNIV – 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory of God.

This passage states that many among the leadership believed in Him.  Was this a superficial belief?  I don’t personally think so, because the English word, “believe” is the same Greek word which describes saving faith (pisteuo). The leaders were probably members of the Sanhedrin who were afraid of being discovered and put out of the Synagogue.  We know of at least two of these people from Scripture: Nicodemus (John 3:12), and Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-39).

Facts concerning belief and unbelief.

John 12:44-46 TNIV – 44 Then Jesus cried out, “Those who believe in me do not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 When they look at me, they see 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.

Belief:

  • To believe in Jesus is also to believe in the one who sent Him.
  • To believe in Jesus means to be exposed to His light and to come out of darkness.

John 12:47-48 TNIV – 47 “As for those who hear my words but do not keep them, I do not judge them. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for those who reject me and do not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.

Unbelief:

  • Unbelief is more than a refusal to hear the words of Christ, but it is also the refusal to keep them or obey them.
  • Ultimately those who refuse to believe will be judged by the very words of Christ.

Jesus has spoken what the Father commanded Him to speak.

    John 12:49-50 TNIV – 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

    CONCLUSION

    As we conclude, don’t get frustrated and upset with the lack of belief of the ones you are sharing Christ with.  Continue, just like Jesus, to be a faithful witness and leave the drawing and saving in the Father’s hands.

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