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Gems in the Gospel of John

Part 53 – John 12: 37

End of course exam

Now welcome to the end of term, or rather for all except the 12 disciples, the end of the course and it is time for the report on progress. Those first 12 chapters comprise the course often called the Book of Signs. Starting immediately in the next chapter we move into the Book of Glory. Signs are now finished – except for the last and greatest sign of all, the Cross.

John passes 3 different comments on what has happened. There doesn’t seem to be any unifying idea or theme behind his 3 things that I can see, which annoys me somewhat because I like such things to have a unifying theme. See if you can see one as we work through them.

First: John is not surprised that there has not been a greater reaction, with more people following Jesus. He looks back to the call of Isaiah to ministry and the word from God warning him that he would have a tough time of it because there would be no great positive response to what he would have to say. In fact both Jeremiah and Ezekiel got similar warnings when they received their calls to be prophets. John reckons the same principle applies to the ministry of Jesus even although he has performed many sign-miracles, not all of which have been recorded, of course. The only encouragement John can see in what happened is that many of the senior leaders, by which he presumably means members of the Sanhedrin, Sadducees and Pharisees, have believed even if they have not been prepared to say so openly for fear of exclusion from the synagogue and therefore from all the social life of the Jewish community and their positions of power. John will have been interested in this because many of his own people as he wrote will have been facing the same risk of exclusion.

Second: John is as keen as ever to emphasize the status of Jesus as the God-man. Also he wants to tie this whole book of 12 chapters together in the way that they did in those days by mentioning the theme of light which had so prominent a place in the first few verses of chapter one. There John promised that Jesus would be the light of all mankind. Here, by quoting something Jesus said, he argues that what has happened has fulfilled that promise.

Third: again quoting Jesus, John argues that all that Jesus has said and done is positive. Jesus has not judged people; he has given them a wonderful opportunity to move into the realm of eternal life. Only in rejecting that opportunity have they lost that glorious life possibility. So the judgement has been carried out by the people themselves by their reaction to his message.

Can you see an over-riding theme in those 3 things?

The best I can do is to say the result has not been good. Many people in Galilee and Jerusalem have heard his teaching and seen the sign-miracles he has done but not many have accepted that he is indeed the long awaited Messiah, to be followed and obeyed because he spoke the very words of God.

We have not seen Jesus. We may have witnessed miracles, though they constitute a shaky basis for faith. Much more important is to remember what Jesus is recorded by John as saying in 20: 29, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

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