John 12:37-43| A Pathology of Unbelief | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 12:37–12:43
We’re back this morning in John chapter 12, so please open there. Two more weeks in John 12, and then John 13. John 13. Really, since the time we started John, I’ve been excited about obviously every single passage, every single verse, every single word of John; but my sights have been set on chapter 13. Chapter 13 is where we begin the upper room discourse where Jesus is speaking to his disciples.
We’ve heard a lot about Jesus talking to enemies, people who will not believe. We’ve seen some come to faith in him, respond to him, in the gospel of John. We’ve seen his seven signs. But really in a couple weeks we’ll start to be in the upper room together with Jesus. That room is only for a privileged few, and we are in that privileged few. So it’s gonna be a wonderful time together in those chapters before we get to the specific accounts of his death.
But here in John 12 we’ve still got some more work to do. Some glorious things about Jesus are taught in these final two sections of John 12. Our text this morning will be in verses 36 to 43, and as you know we’re picking back up in this series, in this section that we’re calling “Jesus, Israel, and the World.” This is the time in John’s gospel where it’s most clearly shown that Israel is rejecting the Messiah that has been made available to them, and he has then set his sights on saving the world. We see that very clearly in this section.
So let me kind of get a running head start into our text for the morning. Let me pick back up in verse 31 of chapter 12. Some of this will be familiar to you as we just kind of set the context. John 12:31. Jesus speaking:
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
This section this morning is all about unbelief. We’re told why these people don’t believe, a few reasons why they don’t believe, and so this morning we’ll look at the pathology of unbelief. What does it look like? Why does it happen? Why will they not believe, trust, submit to, go after Jesus Christ? After all he’s shown them, after all he’s taught, after all he’s done, why will they not believe?
Now, one of the distinctives of Canyon Bible Church of Prescott—one of the distinctives that I would literally die for—is verse by verse preaching through the Bible. I try to make it a point not to promise a lot of things because I know how weak I am. But I promise you, as long as the four elders that you have currently serving on the elder board are concerned, we will never stop doing this form of Bible teaching.
Why? Because when you go verse by verse through the Scriptures, you see everything that God has revealed. When you decide to take just simply certain topics and just to always just do certain topics, you’re going to miss part of who God is. People don’t normally teach on the fact that God hardens and blinds people who reject him.
But we come to the next verse. And Isaiah saw that truth that God hardens and blinds as a reason why God was glorious. You can see why it’s probably not being preached all too often, even around the world. But this is who God is. This is how he acts. This is how he reveals himself to us, and we do well when God speaks to listen. We may want to make a God in our own image, but it’s best to serve the living and true God who is who he is and is unlike us.
I grew up in a number of environments I think that had some well-meaning people in them, a number of Christian environments, but I was not taught the Scriptures faithfully. I was not taught about the character of God. I was taught about the love of God. I was taught about the mercy of God. I was taught about the patience of God. I wasn’t taught about the justice of God. I wasn’t taught about the anger of God.
In a sense, I think that the environments that I grew up in demonstrated that some people are embarrassed about who part of God is. And isn’t that a concern? That there would be part of God’s character that we would be embarrassed by? He’s the creator of the world. He’s the creator of everything. He is good. He is sovereign. He is just. He is patient. He is love. He has wrath. He avenges wrath on his enemies. He is patient with men and women.
The character of God must be put on display if we are gonna worship the right God. If we start setting aside, putting behind a curtain, parts that aren’t so popular, then we’re worshiping an idol every Sunday morning. An idol. One that we make.
As a new believer, I came across a book—now with the Holy Spirit in me—I came across a book called Made in Our Image by Steve Lawson. And he writes to warn the church of doing this kind of thing, shielding, hiding some of who God is to make God really look more like us.
The front cover is really staggering. It’s of a throne, a gold throne. And on the throne is a Santa Claus hat. Because in many ways that’s who we’ve made God to be. Santa. He knows whether you’ve been naughty or nice. He only comes to the nice people, but in actuality we don’t ever talk about the fact that he rejects the naughty people. Maybe naughty little Timmy will actually get a gift after all. We make God like Santa. He’s not. He’s the sovereign Lord of all the earth.
The book actually warns against a user-friendly type of God, and there’s a quote from the book that says this: The term “user-friendly” is used because “many present-day thoughts about God have been so trivialized that he appears human with finite limitations. Instead of seeing man created in God’s image, we are now configuring God into our image.”
I really think that if the golden calf incident happened today—the golden calf incident of Exodus where Aaron gives into the people’s demands and melts gold together and creates a calf, an idol for them to worship—I really think that today Aaron and the people would start crafting an image, and it wouldn’t look like a golden calf. It’d look like a person. It’d look like us. And we’d say, this is God.
Well, the Scriptures tell us clearly God is not like us. What’s he like? Why is this passage a little difficult to swallow? Well, let me start giving you the intro, and let’s get into it. Let’s get into this passage. Why is this so difficult to understand?
Because it shows God is a judge. God is presently, and will be one day, a judge. Let’s look at the pathology of unbelief and see who God is as we go through this. I want to show you an understanding of unbelief and what this means.
1. Unbelief after witnessing power
First, we see a crowd of people who are unbelievers, and we see unbelief after witnessing his power. We see people who disbelieve God after being witnesses to his power. So let’s look at what’s happening here.
Remember the context. Jesus has talked about his death. He keeps saying to people that he’s gonna die. Crowds are following Jesus. They’re following him into the city, into Jerusalem; people are clamoring about him; people want to follow him; people want to see this religious celebrity. And Jesus, when people come to him, says, I’m gonna die.
That’s not how you keep a crowd. That’s not how you keep followers. You tell them, I’m gonna live forever. Follow me; nothing ever will go wrong. But as they follow him, he warns them, I’m gonna die. But he also shows them why he’s gonna die. Because then the true followers will stay with him and endure because he’s going to be raised up and draw all men to himself, and he’s gonna rise from the dead. His true followers stuck. But those who were just in it for the trivial, just in it for what they could get out of it—when they heard he’s gonna die, they thought, then I’m gone.
Jesus has prophesied about his death. He’s warned the people to believe now. Remember how our passage last time ended. He said, believe while you have the light. The light’s not always gonna be here. While you have the light, believe.
And what does he do in the very next moment? “When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” Because they would not believe. He just told them, believe. You don’t know when you won’t have the opportunity to believe any more. They don’t believe, and immediately he’s gone. He warns them of his judgment, and he gives the judgment in just a matter of moments. Waiting to respond to God is not something to fool around with.
We see these people, failing to believe after witnessing his power. Verse 36: “When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.” He had warned that a time was coming when they would no longer be able to believe, and then they look up and he’s gone. The judgment of Christ is that he is no longer available to them. He’s no longer available to them.
You’ve maybe heard it said or you’ve driven places where you drive by a sign that says, “Jesus didn’t reject people, and neither do we.” Maybe you’ve seen a sign like that. The Bible teaches that Jesus does reject people who reject him. That’s what it teaches.
But listen: I don’t want you to miss the grace of God here. Isn’t warning someone of danger gracious? What’s the worst thing you could to someone who’s in danger? Keep your mouth shut. Jesus appealed to them, arms open wide, come to me, all you who are heavy laden. I will give you rest. He promised forgiveness of sin. He promised a new birth, a new life. He promised reward from his Father in heaven. He’s been promising gracious promises all through these years of his public ministry. That’s gracious.
And then he says, but you only have a limited time. That’s gracious! Because they do only have a limited time. If he said, don’t worry about it; you’re thirty-three years old right now, and you don’t want to follow me. Don’t worry about it; you can change that when you’re eighty. That’s not true! We don’t know how long we have. He warns people of that. “While you have the light, believe in the light.” He’s offered wonderful blessing—that’s gracious. He’s warned of a limited time—that’s gracious.
The grace of God coincides with his judgment. You see this best at the cross. You see the judgment of God as he unloads his wrath on his own Son who is a substitute. You see the holiness, the justice of God, and in that exact moment you see the love and the grace of God, because that happened for us so that we wouldn’t have to experience the wrath of God.
God’s love and justice aren’t opposite realities. They are wedded realities. And you see that here. Jesus has been so gracious with this group, and they reject, so he rejects.
Verse 37: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,” and this in the original language is emphatic. Though he had done so. many. signs. before them! They still did not believe! Do you see who the Holy Spirit shows to be guilty here? It’s not God. God, how could you judge people? God’s not the guilty party here. He’s done so. many. signs. before them. And they still did not believe.
He’s turned water into wine. He healed a royal official’s son, and he wasn’t even present with the royal official’s son. He healed the paralytic. He fed the five thousand plus. That’s just counting the men. He fed five thousand plus with just a few loaves and fish. He walked on water. He healed the man that was blind from birth. He raised someone from the dead. He’s done all these signs, and still…not enough for them. Still they would not believe.
Verse 38: (This isn’t shocking to God.) “[S]o that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’” This unbelief was prophesied 750 years earlier. Isaiah knew—God knew—in 750 years, you’re going to see people with signs, knowing the arm of the Lord, the strength of the Lord, the power of the Lord. They’re gonna see it, and they’re still not going to believe.
This is how the famous Isaiah 53 starts. Isaiah 53 is all about Israel’s rejection, even though God was offering a substitutionary sacrifice. This is not shocking news to God.
Isaiah likes to speak of the arm of the Lord. Fourteen times in the book of Isaiah, in those sixty-six chapters, he talks about the arm of the Lord. When you hear talk of the arm of the Lord, think two things: strength and justice—strength and justice on enemies—but also welcoming of his own. You see both pictures used in Isaiah.
The arm of the Lord is strong; it defeats enemies, and it welcomes in those whom he loves. That’s the arm of the Lord. Here, it’s speaking about the arm of the Lord that is strong, powerful, mighty. They’ve seen his arm, and they still reject him. His arm executes justice on his enemies, and it rescues his people.
You picture maybe an army attacking a weaker army. An army attacking a weaker army. And this weaker army is being threatened; their land is being taken. This stronger army is taking this weaker army, and then a warrior shows up on behalf of the weaker army—a warrior who is stronger than any of the other enemies, stronger than the whole armies of opposition combined. You see him roll up his sleeves, and you see his arms, and you know he can defeat all of the enemies on behalf of the weak.
And what do the weak do in response to that strong warrior showing up to attack their enemies? Instead of the weak trusting in him, they reject him and turn and trust the people fighting them.
That’s exactly what was happening in Isaiah’s time, exactly why the nation of Israel was being rebuked. Because they were not turning to God, the strong and mighty warrior with the outstretched arm to save. They were turning to other people. Other people who could make them secure. Other people who maybe they could make peace with. But they failed to turn back to their God. It’s the same thing happening in Israel, and it’s the same thing that happens today.
God can literally change the life of someone addicted to pornography. God can literally change the life of someone addicted to drugs. God can literally change the life of someone addicted to power and wealth and might. God can change the life of someone addicted to anything—even if it’s addicted to their own love of self. God alone can change those hearts. He’s been offered to people with those struggles, all of us, and people still will not turn to him. They’ll go and find other ways to try to fix their problems. And it continues to not work.
The arm of the Lord has been revealed, and people still reject. All around us, Christ’s power has been shown, and yet unbelief still exists. Unbelief after witnessing his power.
2. Unbelief after being blinded and hardened
There’s another example of unbelief, and we see that in verses 39 through 41. Unbelief after being blinded and hardened. I think that says after being hardened. Add blinded as well. Unbelief after being blinded and hardened.
Verse 39. Notice, earlier in verses 37 and 38, they didn’t believe even though they saw powerful signs. Now, they could not believe. “Therefore they could not believe.” Because they would not believe, they could not believe any longer. You see the judgment of God here. He’s given them opportunity, time; he’s shown them signs; and they say, no, we won’t; and he says, okay, and no, you can’t anymore.
Verse 40: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Again, John often quotes Isaiah. He quotes Isaiah again. Isaiah 6:10. It’s that wonderful passage of Isaiah, seeing the glory of God, being overwhelmed by the glory of God, seeing himself as a sinner in light of the glory of God. And then God says, who will go for me? And he says, here am I; send me. And the Lord sends, and he’s gonna give Isaiah a message of salvation, and the Lord tells him—one of those encouraging statements of Scripture—you’re gonna preach, and they’re not gonna listen. Uh…okay.
This is what John is quoting. God has blinded the eyes of the people and hardened their heart. Why? Because he’s mean? No. Because they rejected him first. Blinded. You can’t see. What this points to spiritually is they can’t reason.
Have you ever talked to someone about Christ, and you’ve shown them his greatness, his glory, his power, his grace—all of these things—and they need him; he will be faithful to them if they would respond to him; they need him; and you’ve laid it out so clearly for them you think, how could they not run to this Lord? And they walk away from him. Blindness. It doesn’t make sense to them. Blindness.
But notice, it’s not just that their eyes are blinded, but their hearts are hardened. They not only can’t see the greatness of Christ, they can’t feel why he would be great. It doesn’t make sense logically to them, and it doesn’t make sense from their heart why he’s so great.
That’s why—you saw the video we showed. You saw those men singing. Those men know truths, black and white facts about Jesus Christ. They know them. They’ve had them revealed. And, they don’t just sit down and go, oh, we believe all this stuff. They’re singing! They’re smiling. They’ve been affected. They love Jesus Christ. That’s the way you feel.
Right, we believe these things, we believe that he is who he said he is, we believe who the prophets said he is; and not only do we just believe it and kind of walk around grouchy, we believe it and we love him! Our eyes have been opened! Our hearts have been opened, and it affects all of us! Anybody experience that? All right, just making sure you’re still awake.
But to those who reject him, they can’t see it and they can’t feel it. Notice what they should do. They should hear and turn. They should hear about how great he is, how sinful they are, and turn to him. If they did that, he would heal them. But they decided not to turn to him. They were supposed to hear and see and to turn, to repent, to commit to change, to commit to him as Lord.
When Christ is spoken of, when Christ’s salvation is offered, it is a call to embrace Christ as Lord—not what your girlfriend says as Lord, not what your boss says as Lord, not what your family says as Lord, not what the pop culture tells you to do—but to embrace Jesus Christ as the one who gives you the orders, and you follow, because he is a good shepherd. That’s what the call of Christ is. To see him as Lord.
But they would not turn. Why can’t they hear? They’re unable to hear. Romans 8:7 also uses this language. They cannot hear. They cannot believe. They cannot turn. And that’s an act of judgment because before that, they would not hear; they would not believe; they would not turn.
Augustine says this: “If I be asked why they could not believe, I answer in a word, because they would not.” The blame is not with God here. The blame is with man.
Listen to J. C. Ryle: “It seems at first sight to make God the author of man’s destruction. But surely a moment’s reflection will show us that God is a Sovereign in punishing, and may punish in any way he pleases. Some He cuts off suddenly the moment they sin. Others He gives over to judicial blindness and ceases to strive with their consciences. ‘The Judge of all the earth will certainly do right.’” That’s in the Bible, not J. C. Ryle.
Ryle continues: “Those whom He is said to ‘harden and blind’ will always be found to be persons whom He had previously warned, exhorted, and constantly summoned to repent. And never is He said to harden and blind, and give men up to judicial hardness and blindness, till after a long course of warnings.”
Listen, God is a just judge. But God does not will the death of any sinner. God has been gracious to make an offer, and men and women are blinded because they’ve rejected.
Isaiah saw this in Isaiah 6. He saw this is a reason that God is glorious. Verse 41: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” So now we know in John 12 that that prophecy 750 years earlier in Isaiah, when Isaiah looked up—you know the passage, right? Isaiah 6? The angels are saying, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory! That trembling, quaking moment, Isaiah gets this vision; and we know now from John 12 that as he saw God on his throne, he was seeing pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Isaiah sees the glory of Jesus Christ, and sees, in that moment, that Christ makes an offer of salvation, but that Christ also judges those who won’t come to him. And Isaiah sees all of this and sees him as glorious.
When Isaiah sees God, sees Jesus, it’s not just that his eyes are informed. It’s not just, oh, it’s shiny! It’s more than just what he sees. When you see God in the Bible, you know who he is. When you meet someone on the street—Hi, I’m Frank—you meet Frank, all you know is Frank has black hair, he’s got a yellow shirt, and black shoes. You know very little about Frank. When you see God, you know him.
John talks about that later in his epistle. When we see him, we will know him and be like him. When we see physically with our eyes in the future Jesus Christ, immediately all the things that we missed in Bible study that we read over and forgot in our Bible—we’ll know them instantly.
And so that’s what Isaiah saw when he saw Jesus. It wasn’t just about the earthquake and the smoke. It wasn’t just about that. When he saw that, he knew God, in all of his perfections. He knew he offers salvation, and he knows that he punishes those who refuse. He knew God in that moment. “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”
If you had someone over to your house, and you said, I’m so proud of my new house! The Lord gave me a new house, and I want to show it off to you, and I am so proud of this house. This house is everything I’ve dreamed of! And you start them on the tour, and you go through the hallway—look at this room! I got this decoration from China! And you’re so proud of your house. You’re going through it all, and then you get to a room and you say, we’re not going in there. Well, why? I don’t want you to see the stuff that’s in there. It’s kind of embarrassing. Would it be accurate to say you’re truly proud of your entire house? No. You’re proud of most of it.
That’s how people treat God today. Believers are embarrassed about the justice of God. Believers are embarrassed about the wrath of God. But Christian, never be embarrassed about the character of God.
We want a just God. We want a just God. If we don’t have a just God, it shows that the world is out of his control. Molestation, rape, theft, violence—some of that might go unpunished because God is not just. We want a just God.
The ultimate show of God’s justice, by the way, coincided with his love. He punished his son for us. What a gift. We deserve to have our hearts blinded and hardened. We deserve that. We won’t get that. Because while he’s just, he’s also merciful. He’s merciful, and he punished his son as if he lived our life, and he gave us grace and brought us into a relationship with him.
Never apologize for the character of God. As a matter of fact, the character of God should be a reason that we praise him and sing to him.
What did they do here in Jesus’ time? They witnessed his power, but they still rejected, so God blinded and hardened—blinded their eyes, hardened their hearts. What did they do? They had the revelation of God—in human flesh; we have it written. They had the revelation of God, they thought little of it, and he hardened them.
So as believers, what do we do? As we approach the revelation of God and it reveals who he is and who we are, it’s always good for us to humble ourselves before the word of God. Because it’s the revelation of God. At one time, he revealed himself in a man on this earth. Now that man has gone to heaven, and he’s given us his word which is the revelation of God. So let’s not do what the people back then did—see the revelation of God, be confronted with the revelation of God and not respond.
When the Bible teaches, we listen. We humble ourselves. We believe. We trust. That’s the place for the Christian to be.
I would encourage you, know more of the characteristics of God than just the popular ones today. You’re gonna hear a lot about the love of God as if that were his chief attribute. His holiness governs all his attributes, but you don’t hear as much about that, because the love of God is the one that is easily digestible to people and doesn’t offend.
Canyon Bible Church, know about all of God’s attributes and praise him for every single one. Because he is a good God, and there is none like him. I would encourage you, get Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy. Read it on your lunch break with someone. Talk about it. Praise him for all of his attributes, his love, his justice, his mercy, his wrath, his grace, his providence over all things, his way of salvation. Praise him for all of it. Praise the Lord for all of who he is, because then we’re praising the one true God, not just the one that we’ve created that we like better. That’s called idolatry.
Knowledge of the Holy by Tozer, read your Bible, write in the margins what this says about God and praise him for it, sing a song to him, pray to him after your Bible time. Don’t read it and think, oh, I wish God wasn’t like that. And if you say that or think that, say it again out loud to someone and realize how foolish that is to say. But love exactly who God is. He is worthy to be praised, he is worthy to be worshiped, and he is worthy to be trusted because he is good and all-knowing.
Let me say it this way: When we get to heaven and understand all of the attributes of God perfectly, we will praise him perfectly and say, it all makes sense. I should have known that more. To know him is to praise him. To know him accurately is to praise him.
3. Unbelief after receiving threats
Finally, we see another kind of unbelief here in these final two verses. This is an unbelief that looks like belief initially. But it’s not, at least not at this point in time. Unbelief after receiving threats. Unbelief that comes after receiving threats.
And I want to walk you through this because you might read it and think, well these people believed; they’re fine. Perhaps they will be. But at this point yet, they’re not. This is not commendable belief spoken of here. John does say in a couple of times earlier that we’ve studied in John, he does talk about a certain belief that’s not the right kind of belief. And this is one of those examples. It’s not the belief that Jesus is looking for. It’s unbelief actually after receiving threats.
These people, here in verses 42 and 43, may be in the process of being drawn to Christ. They may end up believers, but currently right now, this is not the belief Jesus is looking for. Verse 42: “Nevertheless, [while many others have rejected him, even rejecting his power and being hardened] many even of the authorities believed in him,” and if we stopped right there, we’d think, well that’s great! Wonderful! Some of the Pharisees started to believe. But that’s when we’ve got to read the rest of our Bible.
“[B]ut for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” This is secret belief. Secretive belief. And secretive belief is not commended in the New Testament. Jesus did not commend secret belief.
Hey Jesus, my brother wants to believe, but our parents are really giving him a hard time. Can we just kind of do some sort of, like, little baptism thing quietly and never tell anyone? Oh, of course. That’s wonderful. Jesus doesn’t commend this type of thing.
“[M]any even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it.” That word confess is crucial in the New Testament in the life of the church. You know what Jesus told people to do after they repented of their sins? To publicly say, I’ve repented of my sins; Jesus Christ is my Lord. And then to get dunked under water to say, I’ve died to my old way of doing things, and I now live in Christ. And when they did that, they typically didn’t go to a party afterwards. Typically they’d fear for their lives.
Confession of following Christ is what Christ commends—commands, even. An honest confession. That’s what baptism is. This is who I am; I want everyone to know it. That’s why baptism is public. They did not confess it because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue.
Now, I’m gonna give you two reasons why this is not true saving faith. One is inside this text, and one is outside the text. First let me give you the one outside the text. Why is this not true saving faith? Well, a couple reasons. Luke 9:23-26. Listen to these words: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’”
You know what taking up your cross means, right? You’re willing to die. Daily. So if they’re not willing to be put out of the synagogue, isn’t death worse than that? So if he’s saying, you’ve got to be willing to die for me, then being put out of the synagogue is a lesser threat. And if they’re saying, I believe but I’m not gonna follow him completely, confess it, because of this lesser threat, do you think Jesus says, okay, you’ve got to be willing to die for me, but if you’re just afraid of being put out of the synagogue, no big deal? No.
“For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” What does it profit a man if he gains the synagogue and loses his soul? “For whoever [listen—here it is] is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
Jesus all throughout his ministry taught, you’ve got to come to me, no matter what it costs. Matthew 10. Remember the passage about God knowing the hairs on your head? For some of you, that’s easier than others. Sorry. A little jab at you.
Jesus knows the hair of our heads. Do you know the context of that passage? Do you know why he sought to encourage people with that? Here it is: Matthew 10 is the place where Jesus has been doing miracles and teaching on the kingdom of God, and now he tells the disciples, listen guys, you’re gonna go and do this, and I’m not gonna be with you. And most of Matthew 10 is warnings. They’re not gonna like it; you’re gonna be persecuted; it’s gonna be hard; it’s gonna be terrible. It’s gonna be hard. That’s the context of Matthew 10.
Listen to verse 26: “So,” Jesus says, as they’re about to go on their short-term mission trip. He doesn’t say, hey, you’re gonna go on this STM; you’re gonna feel really good about yourself, and it’s gonna be like a Christian vacation, and you’re gonna bring home presents, and you’re gonna drink these wonderful drinks. No, he’s like, you’re gonna go on this STM, and it’s not gonna be easy. “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:26-27).
Jesus is teaching them, guys, we’ve sat in houses together; I’ve taught you. Now, go say it in public. Loudly. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
He says this: Guys, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:29-33).
Jesus’ teaching in places other than John 12 show that he calls people to follow him even if it costs them popularity or their own life. Because they’re protected by him. He’s eternal life. They don’t need to fear what man can do to them.
So when this says, these people believed, it means they saw the signs that Jesus did, and they thought, this is the Son of Man. This is the Messiah. Their minds were there, but they were not willing to follow him because where they came from mattered more than Jesus. The environments that they were in mattered more than a new environment they were offered. The people who were lords over their life, the synagogue leaders, were more of lords than Jesus Christ was a lord. They didn’t commit to Christ.
Those are some reasons that I would say this is not saving faith. Now, I believe that some of these people came to saving faith later on. But in this moment, don’t take from this passage, see, you can believe in Jesus and not tell anyone and keep it secret. Don’t do that. The New Testament will stop you from doing that page after page after page. That’s not what you take out of here.
But why, according to our passage, is it clear that this isn’t a belief that Jesus commends? Because of verse 43. They wouldn’t confess it so they wouldn’t be put out of the synagogue, “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” That’s not a good thing. That’s a sinful thing. That’s a wrong view of the glory of God.
This is not a commended reality. Lord, I believe, but I love the glory that comes from men more than I love the glory that comes from you. Oh, no problem; come on in. No. This isn’t good. They would rather be approved by men than approved by God.
About fifteen years ago, I worked with a man who grew up in Judaism. His family grew up in Judaism; he grew up in Judaism. He was not a believer. And one day we were in the office with about three or four other people, and he said kind of to me, privately, I’ve become a Christian. And, I mean, we’ve been praying for this guy, and I was like, that’s great! And he immediately—shh, shh, shh—told me to be quiet. Because, his mom was still Jewish, and he didn’t want to announce that he was a Christian until after she died.
So, we learn some things from a moment like that. One: He feared his mom’s opinion more than Christ’s. Two: He was willing to go to heaven but would not tell her about it. And three: Where Colossians 1 talks about Christ as supreme over all things, he might have said that, but what he actually believed was that his mother was supreme over all things.
This is not a belief that is to be commended. But Lord willing, maybe some of those people with this shaky, wavering countenance would be led to Christ so that one day they would say, no matter what happens or what anybody thinks, I follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
And listen, Canyon Bible, with the world the way it is today and religious freedom maybe only being around for a little bit, we don’t need men and women who say, I’ll believe when it’s popular, and when threats come I’ll cower. We need people who will say, let goods and kindreds go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still. That’s what we need.
But these here would not believe after receiving the threats. Listen, belief in the Bible is said to be a gift from God. But your English word “believe” and “faith” in your English Bible—it’s the same word, pisteuo. I believe; I have faith. It’s the same word in the Greek. Believe, faith—same thing in that sense.
Ephesians 2 says that faith, belief, is a gift from God. If God gives a gift of belief, do you think he gives a gift of belief that says, [whispering] I believe, but don’t tell them because I’m embarrassed. That’s not the kind of gift that God gives. God gives the miracle of belief that says, I believe! Put this microphone up louder, Jeff. I believe! I believe! Mom, Dad, I believe! Boss, I believe! I believe! That’s the gift of belief that God gives.
From the very beginning, Christians have stood up and said, I believe in Jesus Christ. And that confession has changed the world.
By the way, if you’ve never been baptized as a believer, please come talk to one of the elders. We’d love to baptize you. We’d love to do this publicly after a service one Sunday morning, dunk you in the water; you can stand up and say, I believe, Prescott. I believe, family. I believe in Jesus Christ. I follow Christ. So, just a little side note there. Come, talk to us if you’d like to be baptized as a believer.
This is one of the tough parts of Scripture. Seeing people’s unbelief when Jesus Christ is standing there in all his glory. It’s the hard part about being in a family, isn’t it? And seeing those who we love. We’ve told them all about the glory of Jesus Christ, the greatness of Jesus Christ. There’s no other mediator between man and God except the man Christ Jesus. He will take your sins, and he will relieve you from legalistic Pharisee-ism. He will be your shield, your shelter. He will be the one who cares for your soul and watches you with his eye and guides you, as Psalm 32 says. He’ll be that one. And in light of all of that—we’ve seen his power—those who we love still will not believe. This is hard. This is hard.
But the Lord Jesus Christ is still building his church. If you are here and you love someone who will not believe, someone who believes in the sovereignty of God in salvation never gives up on a sinner. Because we believe that he can save to the uttermost. And while someone might look far gone to you, do not ever believe that they are out of the reach of God’s outstretched arm.
We believe in the power of God. The power of God is greater than your family’s unbelief and your friends’ unbelief. How do we know that? Because at one point I was an unbeliever taking for granted the grace of God, and he came in and saved me when I didn’t deserve it. The power of God is greater than unbelief.
Today we’ve seen unbelief after witnessing the power of God. And if you’re in here and you’re not a follower of Christ, let me just ask you to talk to a Christian around you. Ask them for their testimony. Ask them how the Lord changed their life. Ask them how the Lord gave them a new heart. Ask them how the Lord ended an addiction and gave them a love for Christ. Ask them how the Lord changed a marriage. Ask them how the Lord has changed their life. The power of God is still on display.
We’ve seen unbelief after people are being blinded and hardened. And if you’re not a follower of Christ and you’re in here and you think, maybe I’ve been blinded and hardened. Maybe I’m unable to believe. Let me point out this one fact to you: You’re here today, hearing about the grace of God. That’s no small matter. That is no small matter.
People that tend to be too far gone oftentimes never hear the gospel presented again, and that’s one of God’s judgments. I’ve presented it; I’ve presented it; you rejected; no more gospel presentations. Today you’re in a place that tells you, all men have sinned against God, but God because he is rich in mercy has made a way back to him through his Son Jesus Christ—not your own efforts, not your own church attendance—but by his Son’s righteousness who he will give to you if you will simply trust him above all things. Not be perfect. Trust his gift. Embrace him. So if you wonder if you’ve been too blinded and too hardened, here’s what you do today: Trust in Jesus Christ.
Finally, we ‘ve heard about unbelief after people have received threats, kicked out of the synagogue, in the case of John 12. Unbelief after receiving threats. I want to say today in light of that, consider these words of Jesus. He warns his followers of trouble—threats—and he says this: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The threats are always small, if our Lord has overcome the world.
Today, the arm of the Lord has been revealed in his word. The question is, are the arms of the Lord going to be what bring you in, or execute judgment? That’s the question. It’s the question these people faced. It’s the question that is still true today. What will you do with the arms of the Lord? Let’s pray.
Father, we worship you for all that you are. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who is his counselor? None of us can teach you what you should be like. None of us can counsel you to be different, more politically correct. You are who you are, and we as a body worship you for who you are. We trust you. We love you. Thank you for teaching us this morning about your wonderful grace. And thank you for graciously warning us about presuming on that grace.
Father, may today be a day of salvation in the life of someone here. And may today be a day where all of us who have been saved continually rejoice in a fresh way about who you are now that you’ve revealed yourself to us. We pray all this in your Son’s name. Amen.
More in Jesus, Israel, and the World
March 12, 2017John 12:44-50 | The Final Appeal | Andrew Gutierrez
February 19, 2017John 12:27-36 | The Victorious Death of Christ | Andrew Gutierrez
February 12, 2017John 12:20-26 | Jesus Addresses the Intrigued | Andrew Gutierrez