John 12:37-50

Henry Mahan

(Vs. 37) The response of the people to Christ was UNBELIEF! Though He openly performed the most convincing miracles before them (such as feeding thousands miraculously, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead), the great majority did not believe Him to be the Messiah. This clearly indicates the nature of man's sin; it is so complete and deeply rooted that the most convincing arguments and miracles will not bring a person to believe in Christ without the regenerating and efficacious work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (Luke 16:27-31).

(Vs. 38) Israel's rejection of Christ did not defeat God's purpose (Rom. 3: 1:3). Their unbelief FULFILLED what was written of them in Isaiah 53. While the guilt and responsibility for their unbelief lay entirely upon them, their rejection of Christ led to the cross and the fulfillment of God's eternal purpose (Acts 2:22-23; Acts 4:26-28). Isaiah's complaint was delivered against the people of his time; but he chiefly wrote concerning the people of the days of the Messiah, for the whole chapter is a prophecy of the Messiah. The "arm of the Lord" is the Lord Jesus Christ Who is the gospel and the power of God unto salvation (I Cor. 2:8-14).

(Vs. 39-41) This quotation is from Isaiah 6:9-10 and is quoted five other times in the New Testament (Matt. 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Acts 28:26-27; Rom. 11:8). Any effort to change the clear meaning of this text in order to bring it into harmony with one's own theology is inexcusable. God determined to leave them to the blindness and hardness of their hearts and to deny them His grace, which alone can bring men to repentance and faith (Rom. 9:11-18). Whether one says, "They WOULD not believe,"or,"They COULD not believe," makes no difference; for men by nature WILL NOT come to Christ (John 5:40); and they CANNOT come to Christ unless God is pleased in grace to call them, teach them, and reveal to them His redemptive glory in Christ (John 6:44-45). In withholding light, truth, and heart illumination, it is said that "He hath blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts" (Isa. 45:5-7). Isaiah's sight of God's glory is described in Isa. 6:1. It was Jehovah Whom Isaiah saw, Who is Christ Jesus. He recorded faithfully what he saw.

(Vs. 42-43) When it is said that these men believed on Him, we must not understand that they believed with true saving faith; for had they truly believed in heart that Jesus was the Christ, they would have confessed Him, followed Him, and been willing to suffer with Him (I Thess. 1:4-10; Rom. 10:9-10). Evidently, like Nicodemus, they were impressed by the miracles, which He did and by the words which He spoke; for many of these men were well versed in the Scriptures. But they feared excommunication from the religious community; and they loved the respect, honor, and praise which their offices brought to them. They were not concerned for the glory, honor, and praise of God.

(Vs. 44) "He who believes in me," Christ said, "does not exclusively believe in me, but believes also in the Father who sent me." Receiving Christ means receiving the Father (John 13:20). Knowing Christ means knowing the Father (John 17:3; Matt. 11:27). Loving Christ and coming to Christ means loving and coming to the Father (John 14:6). Christ and the Father are one (John 10:30).

(Vs. 45) Many saw Christ who never saw the Father, for they saw Christ as a mere man. But whoever sees Christ with an eye of faith as surety of the covenant, as the righteousness of God in obedience, and as the perfect sacrifice and sin offering (which enables God to be both just and justifier of them that believe, Rom. 3:24-26) sees the Father. He sees the glory of God, the wisdom and power of God, and he sees the redemptive will of God –all in Christ (Heb. 10:9-17).

(Vs. 46) The elect of God, while in a state of unbelief, are in darkness even as others (Eph. 2:1-3). When God is pleased to reveal Christ to them, they are enlightened (II Cor. 4:3-6); they are no longer in darkness, for Christ is the light. In Christ and by Christ they see the glory, the grace, and the invisible realities of redemption.

(Vs. 47) Men may hear the gospel of Christ and understand what is being said, yet not believe it. Though faith comes by hearing, it does not come to all who hear with the natural ear. Some receive no profit by hearing, but rather reject and deny truth. "I do not judge the unbeliever NOW" (He will later), for Christ came not to condemn the world (it was already condemned, John 3:17-18); but He came at this time to save sinners. Christ will leave them to another day when righteous judgment will take place (John 5:22).

(Vs. 48) Those who reject Christ as the Messiah and who refuse the truth of the gospel of His grace will be judged. Though Christ does not judge him now, let none think that he will escape; for the words of Christ declared by the prophets, by Christ Himself, and by the apostles and other faithful ministers shall rise up in the judgment against all who did not believe (Mark 16:15-16).

(Vs. 49) He spoke not as a man separate from the Father. His gospel was not human, but Divine. He came from the Father and spoke the words of the Father (John 14:10). Therefore, a rejection of His words is a rejection of God.

(Vs. 50) His commandment here is not the law, which cannot give life, but the GOSPEL, which is the power of God unto salvation. The way to life is to hear and believe His gospel. Therefore, "as the Father said to me I have spoken." You will do well to hear the gospel, believe, and live (John 5:24).

Henry Mahan
Ashland, Ky.