“Why Don’t People Believe?” (John 12:35–50)
Cameron Jungels/Eastside Baptist/Sunday AM/November 16, 2014
John 12:35–50 (NIV)
35 Then 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. Whoever walks in the dark
does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light
while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he
had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
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
“Lord, who has
believed our message
and to whom has
the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
has blinded their eyes
so they can
neither see with their eyes,
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 praise more than praise
44 Then Jesus
cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one
who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing 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 “If anyone
hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did
not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is
a judge for the one who rejects me and does 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.”
The response of unbelief to the words and
works of Jesus is complex and defies simple explanation.
Unbelief is the natural response of those
Sin has affected us all, and so we all stand in
need of new birth and the drawing power of God (John 3:3–5; John 6:37, 44).
3 Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no
one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 "How can someone be born
when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a
second time into their mother's womb to be born!" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly
I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water
and the Spirit. (John 3:3-5, NIV)
37 All those the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. (John 6:37, NIV) 44
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I
will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:44, NIV)
Because Satan has blinded unbelievers’ eyes (2
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of
unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the
glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Co. 4:4, NIV)
Because of their love for their own pleasure.
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the
world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were
evil. 20 Everyone who does
evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their
deeds will be exposed. 21
But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen
plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. (John 3:19-21,
Because of their love for the praise of men –
the praise of man kept many from believing, kept some who believed in silence,
and bound others up in false/superficial belief.
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 praise
more than praise from God. (John
Unbelief does not contradict the purpose
of God; rather, it fulfills it.
The unbelieving response of the Jews to Jesus
was in keeping with their long history of rejecting God and his prophets. The
rejection of the Jews in Jesus’ day was another historical manifestation of
their abiding stubbornness as a people.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was
coming into the world. 10 He
was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not
recognize him. 11 He came to
that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:9-11, NIV)
The unbelieving response of the Jews to Jesus, though
predicted by the prophets and purposed by God, was fully in keeping with the
willing rejection of the people, for which they will be held accountable. (In
other words, God’s hardening of them did not occur apart from their own desires
to love themselves and reject God).
The unbelieving response of the Jews to Jesus
was a temporal judgment of God on them for their past sins and unbelief. They
had perpetually rejected God’s prophets, and so now God hardens them in that
response in order to bring judgment on them.
God’s judicial hardening is often partial and
temporary – in other words, God’s sovereignty in the human heart holds out hope
that the God who hardens is also the God who can soften. This is why we pray
and why the prophet Isaiah pleaded with God to show compassion on a hardened
people (Is 63:15–19).
The unbelieving response of the Jews to Jesus
was a part of God’s impeccable and inscrutable wisdom to bring salvation to the
Gentiles. God purposed the rejection of Israel, so that the gospel might go to
all the nations.
24 Some were convinced by what he said, but
others would not believe. 25
They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this
final statement: "The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when
he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26
"'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never
understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." 27 For this people's heart has
become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their
eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' 28 "Therefore I want you to
know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will
listen!" (Acts 28:24-28, NIV)
7 What the people of Israel sought so earnestly
they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, 8
as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not
see and ears that could not hear, to this very day." (Romans 11:7-8, NIV) 11
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!
Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to
make Israel envious. (Romans 11:11, NIV)
In a dramatic reversal, God will then use
believing Gentiles to bring the Jewish people to repentance and they too will
be saved through faith in the Messiah.
12 But if their transgression means riches for
the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater
riches will their full inclusion bring! (Romans 11:12, NIV)
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this
mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has
experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come
in, 26 and in this way all
Israel will be saved. As it is written: "The deliverer will come from
Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
(Romans 11:25-26, NIV)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing
out! 34 "Who has known
the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Who has ever given to
God, that God should repay them?" 36
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory
forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36, NIV)
Jesus is the perfect and ultimate
revelation of God; He is the only way, to reject him is to bring condemnation
Jesus is the exact manifestation of the
glory of God (v. 41)
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and
exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each
with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered
their feet, and with two they were flying.
3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy,
holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 At the sound of their voices the
doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 "Woe to me!" I cried.
"I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of
unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." (Isa.
3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the
exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of
the Majesty in heaven. (Heb. 1:3, NIV)
Jesus’ testimony and works are in perfect
harmony with the Father’s words and works.
Jesus is the only way – to believe in
Jesus is to believe in God.
Jesus’ words bring eternal life – to
reject them is to bring your own judgment upon yourself.
Unbelief is deceptive and destructive. Do not harden
your own heart. Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus, or else these words
that I have spoken to you today from God’s Word will condemn you on the last
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if
you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the
rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, (Heb. 3:7-8, NIV)
This message will either quicken you or it will deaden
you. The gospel of Jesus Christ is never neutral.
Main Idea: Unbelief
fulfills the purposes of God in salvation history; but everyone who rejects
Jesus and his words will be condemned on the last day.