John 12:44-50 | The Final Appeal | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 12:44–12:50
Please open your Bibles for the final sermon in John 12. Our text is verses 44 through 50. John 12:44-50. We are finishing up this section of John’s gospel, this series called “Jesus, Israel, and the World.” The series, as I’ve told you before, but if you’re new here, this series where Jesus, in these last couple chapters, has been moving his ministry, in a sense, away from the Jewish people that have been rejecting him and sending his message to the rest of the world. We see that in a number of places in the things that we studied recently. But today we see Jesus give one final appeal. One final appeal. So, follow along as I read John 12:44-50:
And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
I entitled this message this morning “The Final Appeal.” There is a sense of this is the last opportunity to respond to Christ. Bible teachers divide up the gospel of John into two parts: Jesus’ public ministry where he’s preaching and teaching publicly, and then his private ministry where he spends specific time with his disciples. And this is the turning point. Here is the vision in our approximately two years’ study of John. This point right here. This is Jesus’ last public call for people to believe in him.
Next week we’ll see him start to commune with his disciples on a personal, private, intimate level. So there’s a sense of last opportunity to this text when you understand where we’ve come from in John and where we’re going to in John. There are a lot of famous final appeals. You think of coaches in a locker room making one final plea with their team—“win one for the Gipper” or something like that. Or, in election season, you see final appeals on Facebook. Please don’t vote for them; vote for this person. Final appeals have a sense of urgency to them. It’s where the person expressing the appeal believes so deeply about something and believes that you yourself should also believe and be impacted deeply by this truth. They make a final, last-ditch, heartfelt effort.
You see final appeals of people who are awaiting execution. You see all sorts of final appeals—some trivial; some important. Jesus here, in the gospel of John, makes a final public appeal. And it’s interesting, he goes through this little section, this little paragraph, he goes through and he really rehearses things that he’s really been saying all along. So this final appeal could have the idea of “I’ve been teaching you a number of things all along and I’m finally calling you one last time. Please believe all of these things that I have been telling you.”
What are those things? There are four summary statements in this final appeal. Four summary statements. I call them summary statements because he’s been teaching these things in other places in the gospel of John, and he’s summarizing them, finally saying them one last time for people to come away believing in him.
1. Believe in the One Sent by God
The first summary statement in the final appeal of Jesus is, Jesus calling us to believe in the one sent by God. Believe—and you hear a pleading in all of these points. Please believe in the one sent by God. Please believe. Verses 44-45: “And Jesus cried out and said, ‘Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.’” Jesus is showing himself again to be credible, the one sent from heaven by God the Father. God had a plan of salvation and he put it in place by sending his Son to earth. Not a bunch of different saviors. One savior to the earth. Jesus is credible because he comes directly from God. He’s there by the will of God the Father in heaven.
Notice what Jesus does. Verse 44: “And Jesus cried out.” Does that sound like some quiet words from Jesus or loud words from Jesus? He cried out. He’s making his final announcement. He wants people to hear. He cried out. A loud appeal to believe, to trust in him. He wanted people to turn from corrupt Judaism, turn from their own worship of other idols, if they were Gentiles. He wanted people to turn from whatever was keeping them from believing in him, trusting in him. It’s this loud cry to put their faith in him alone.
And notice that he talks about again his unity with the Father. He only does what God the Father tells him to do. He’s here because God the Father has told him to be here. He willingly does it. There are not two desires, like God has a desire for the Son; the Son really doesn’t want to leave heaven and come to earth, but he’ll do it. No, no, they’re united. They’re united in their essence. They’re also united in their mission. They want the same things. He is the only source of salvation sent from God the Father to earth and he calls people to believe that he’s the one sent by God.
You think of an ambassador at a time like this. An ambassador is there to tell people in another nation something that their sovereign has told them to say. A faithful ambassador only communicates exactly what their sovereign back home wants them to say. An ambassador who is unfaithful kind of makes up his own truth. Maybe gives his own message—adds, takes away, changes the message.
Jesus Christ says the exact same thing the Father would have him to say. Jesus Christ is the only person who speaks directly from the Father here on earth that can bring people back to the Father. So Jesus Christ, in that sense, is the faithful ambassador. He has to be credible and he is. For someone to say you can be saved, you can be reconciled to God, they better be right about how to be reconciled back to God. Jesus is right because he’s the only one sent by God.
Listen to 1 John. John, Jesus’ close friend, the one whom Jesus loved, writes this gospel that we’re going through, but later on he writes a letter to Christians. Notice what he says in 1 John 5:20:
And we know that the Son of God [Who’s that talking about? Jesus.] has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true [That’s not talking about Jesus; that’s talking about God the Father. Jesus Christ has come to give us understanding so that we may know God the Father who is true.]; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
You see this unity between the Son and the Father. We’re in the Son; therefore, we’re in the Father. We know the Son; therefore, we know the Father. The Son brings us to the Father.
So Jesus makes one final public appeal: Be reconciled to God, not because you’ve earned favor with God. Be seen right in God’s eyes, not because you’ve worshiped some other god. Be right in God’s eyes because you have embraced as Lord, as Savior, as your future, as your hope, Jesus Christ. He’s the only hope. It’s the last time Jesus would say this publicly. The opportunity doesn’t exist forever. Today’s the day of salvation.
2. Believe in the Light of the World
Secondly, believe—please believe—in the light of the world. Believe in the light of the world. Verse 46: Jesus says, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” We see the grace of Jesus. He’s come to a dark world, the world that hated God, a world that hates God, a world that is enemies of God. He’s come into this dark world as light, as a source of salvation, as a source of guidance, as a source of counsel, wisdom, understanding. Jesus gives a final appeal to being the only true spiritual light. Everything else is darkness. He came to rescue people out of that darkness.
Now, the benefit of the light of the world doesn’t help everybody. The benefit only helps—notice, in verse 46—whoever believes, whoever trusts in that light. If you question the light, criticize the light, you’ll remain in darkness. If you embrace the light, embrace what he teaches, embrace who he is, there is eternal life for you. There’s understanding. There’s illumination.
I don’t know if any of you have ever been to the famous prison, no longer a prison, Alcatraz, in the bay of San Francisco. Alcatraz was a scary place, an isolated place. Well, in Alcatraz, there was a place scarier than most of the rest of Alcatraz. It was Cell Block D where solitary confinement was. Solitary confinement. Maybe you’ve seen this in other prisons or been on tours of some place like this. It’s a wretched, miserable existence.
A larger door opens up, then you walk in and there’s a cell door, but there’s no light in the cell. When they close the larger door, complete absence of light. People remain in that place of solitary confinement for months, even years. The only light happening when a little door was opened up and food was slid under it.
That’s what Jesus, that’s what God, that’s what the Scriptures tell us is how we live apart from Christ. No hope, miserable, gloomy, if we’re all honest, painful. But Christ is saying, as the one who is the light of the world, it’s as if Jesus Christ came into that cell of solitary confinement, opened up the doors, shone light into that cell, unlocked the door inside, and there was freedom to walk out and to follow the light.
But these people in this passage, we know that the Jewish nation by and large, not everyone, rejected. The door was open. The light was there, and they chose to stay in the cell because they didn’t want to put their faith and trust in Christ. It’s the same way it is today. Maybe people have grown up in a Christian home, Christian grandparents, gone to a Christian school, whatever it may be, heard the word of God taught, maybe had to memorize verses when they were younger but have rejected Christ all the while the light has been available. The light has been available. This is the final plea. Believe in the light of the world.
In Isaiah 42:6-7 there’s this great passage where now we know in the New Testament context God the Father is speaking to God the Son. God the Father is speaking to his anointed one. And notice the conversation between God the Father and God the Son.
I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you. [The Father speaking to the Son.] I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
Christ came to take us out of our dark spiritual life that is apart from him. That’s why Christ came, to show us light, to teach us. When you come to Christ, you all of a sudden love your Bible because you’ve been shown light and you read things and you want to obey the commands. You want to love the one it reveals. You want to do what he says. You want to honor him. You can’t get enough. There’s life; there’s counsel; there’s guidance; and you’re ready. That’s why so many of you are in Bible study, because the Light of the World has come into your heart. “I want to study the Bible.” That’s why Christ has come.
God the Father—notice the Trinity here—God the Father calling God the Son in righteousness to rescue sinners held captive in darkness. It’s God the Father’s plan. God the Son willingly coming as Light of the World. He didn’t come in and say, I’m the Light of the World—don’t really want to be here. No, I am the Light of the World. You know what the Holy Spirit does—one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit? Illuminates the mind, shows light into our hearts. The Trinity is involved in bringing light to this world. The question is, will you embrace the only Light of the World, or will you deny it?
There’s a reason people deny Christ. There’s a reason people see the Light of the World, shake their head and walk away and keep continuing into darkness. We learned about the reason earlier in John 3. Remember the reason? John 3:19: “[T]he light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” The reason people don’t come to Christ is because they don’t want to let go of their sin. They’ll remain in darkness and continue there because they don’t want to give up what they love. I pray, by the power of the Spirit, that someone this morning would say, enough of my sin; I want the Light; I need the Light; I love the Light. And the Light will give mercy.
Believers are commanded to continue walking in the light, so we, as believers, don’t just say, well, I’ve been shown light; I’ll just kind of sit back and coast. No, we continue studying, learning, growing, repenting, loving, adoring, worshiping. We continue walking in the light.
3. Believe in the Judgment to Come
There’s a third summary statement in Jesus’ final appeal. Again, hear pleading in this: Believe in the Judgment to come. Verse 47: “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” In his final public statement, Jesus wants people to know that judgment is coming. He wants people to know that there’s a time for grace now. He’s not judging right now, but judgment is coming.
See, Jesus when he came to the earth did not judge. He still hasn’t judged now. But read Revelation 19. He comes back as a judge. So he wants people to know there’s opportunity now. This is a time of grace, but don’t presume on that grace because judgment is coming, and I’m not going to judge; the word I’ve spoken will judge you. So he’s not saying that if you disobey him, you won’t be judged. He’s highlighting that his words will be your judge on the last day.
Notice that hearing his word and keeping his word go hand in hand. If you just hear his word and don’t keep it, you haven’t heard it. You ever talk to your little kids or grandkids? Are you listening to me? Yes. No, are you listening to me? That’s Jesus here. When you hear rightly, you respond. “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them,” that’s the one who the word will judge in the final day.
Hearing the gospel, going to church Sunday after Sunday does not mean you hear the gospel. Hearing the gospel and being in a religious environment or having religious friends or having a religious mother doesn’t mean you hear and have responded to the gospel, you’ve responded to the words of Christ. Hearing doesn’t necessarily lead to obeying. The true obedience that Christ calls for is required.
Jesus came to offer this salvation. This is an era—we live in an era of grace. We live in an era where judgment has not happened yet, but it is coming. And Jesus says this. And notice who it’s coming to. It’s coming to those who reject the word. That’s the word in verse 48. The word “reject” there in verse 48 means to declare invalid. Nope, I don’t think that message, the gospel message that Christ came to die for sinners in their place, he gave them righteousness, not based on their own works—I don’t believe that message. I declare it invalid. Rejection.
Another synonym for that word “rejection” is to nullify or to set aside, and that’s more of an indifference type of attitude. There are some that say, I reject that message. I don’t believe it’s true. And there are some that kind of are just indifferent to it. That’s a form of rejection, because Christ came to be Lord, and you can’t just be casual about that idea. If you’re going to submit to a lord, that’s an all-in statement. I’m all in. You’re Lord; I’m slave; whatever you say. Christ came as Lord. You can’t just set that truth aside without consequences. To fail to receive his words is to reject Christ.
Jesus talks about judgment; he talks about the word that he’s spoken—judging. It’s as if there’s a courtroom on the final day and every man, woman is the defendant; and the prosecution calls their expert witness. And the prosecution doesn’t call Christ; it calls the words of Christ. And it’s as if a Bible is placed on the witness stand and simply is read aloud. It’s read and the defendant: guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. It’s just measuring up a person’s life to what the Bible calls them to be. And it’s guilty because they never embraced the grace that Christ offered. There is a moment of time, there was a time for mercy, there was a time for grace, there was a time that was available, but no longer. The word has judged him.
2 Peter 3:4 says this: “They will say,” This is talking about in the final days and people say this now, “Where is the promise of his coming?” It’s been 2,000 years. He’s not coming. You Christians believe something fanciful. Why hasn’t Christ returned yet? It’s been way too long. “Where is the promise of his coming?” Peter says. “For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” I haven’t seen God. Everything’s the same as it always has been.
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness.” So then why hasn’t he come? He’s not slow. He might be slow in the world’s eyes—yeah, he’s not coming; it’s been so long. He’s not constrained by time. Why hasn’t he come yet? “[B]ut [the Lord] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9).
Praise God in a sense that Christ hasn’t come yet, but we also want him to come. The reason he hasn’t come yet is because this is the time for grace so that people would repent and turn to him. So he’s waiting, but that runs out. And Christians want him to come soon and want people to be saved in the meantime, so we kind of live with this dual desire. Come now, but we got people that we want to repent in the meantime.
But notice about the character of God—he is a judge, but he’s also a patient judge. But he’s not patient forever. That’s the whole thrust of this passage. Don’t go on presuming on his grace. Christ is coming. He’s not slow, but he is patient. But he’s not patient forever.
I want to exhort the believers in this room, Canyon Bible Church, do not leave warnings out of your gospel presentation. Do not leave urgency out of your gospel presentation. The gospel isn’t just, come to Christ; he’ll fulfill all your hopes and dreams; go think about it for 30 years. Once the gospel is articulated, the full gospel message is articulated, then the message is, friend, believe now. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. Have you ever known anybody to die suddenly? Of course, you have. Happens all the time. There’s a moment of time where his patience endures, but then there’s a moment where his patience ends. God has been so gracious to give us time, but it does not go on forever in that sense.
4. Believe in the Message of Eternal Life
The final summary statement our Lord gives in this final public appeal is, believe in the message of eternal life. Again, hear pleading: Please believe in the message of eternal life. Verse 49: “For I have not spoken on my own authority [again, he’s uniting himself to the Father], but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
The Son has been sent by the Father to speak a particular message. The Father has given the Son a command—speak this message. And the Son has obeyed that command. In light of the coming judgment Jesus again shows us that he is united with the Father in purpose, in essence, in mission. He’s one and the same. He says the same things. And the Father has given him a commandment. The Son is obedient to the Father’s command.
Interesting to note, it’s not just a command from the Father to the Son; the command is from the Son to the world. So the Father gives the Son a commandment—speak this message—and the Son gives the world a commandment—obey this message. Take heed to this message. Believe this message. The eternal Son of God telling us to obey this one command in order to obtain heaven by grace alone through faith alone.
This command, by the way, is not harsh. The world thinks commands are harsh. People don’t want preachers anymore. They want teachers who share. Preachers give commandments from God. These are not my commandments. I have zero authority over you, okay, in and of myself. The only authority I have is when I speak it from the word of God, as with the other elders in our church. We have no authority, but there is authority that we are to proclaim, and the beautiful thing is, it’s not a commandment that’s harsh. This is a commandment, notice, for eternal life. Jesus says, and I know his commandment is eternal life. That’s a good commandment. That’s a good demand. That’s a good order.
Now, it’s important to know the difference between an invitation (an opportunity) and a command. Right? You get an invitation in the mail; typically, they’re not commands to show up somewhere. If you’re able, we’d like you to come. It’s important to know if something’s an invitation or a command. Honey, would you like to change the baby’s diaper? No. Sounds like an invitation—men, don’t be fooled; it’s not an invitation. That is a request bordering on command, okay? It’s important to know when someone’s talking to you, is this a request or a command?
I went to the UPS store a couple weeks ago, and I had to ship something out. It was a cable box I had to ship out because we changed cable carriers, and the lady said, would you like to donate a dollar to such and such? And I was like, no. And she goes, well, when you ship the cable box back, you have to donate a dollar. And I was like, okay, you fooled me because you made it sound like an opportunity and I said no, but then you told me, no, it’s a command. So you need to know if it’s an invitation or command.
Listen to this about the gospel message. The gospel message is an invitation, but it is also a command. Acts 17:30: “[N]ow he [God] commands all people everywhere to repent.” So, yes, the gospel is an invitation, and the invitation is more popular today because it’s less threatening. But the gospel is still a command: Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It’s both.
Our Father through Jesus Christ has given us a commandment that results in eternal life. Our Father is a good father. Our God is a merciful God. Our God is a gracious God to offer any salvation in the first place, but to offer it twice when people have rejected it, and to offer it throughout the decades even though people reject it, he’s so gracious, so patient, so kind. And the commandment is, you can have eternal life.
I hope that our church will always desire eternal life. Eternal life is something prized in the Scriptures. I think oftentimes people are a little skeptical of eternal life. We were riding in the car a couple weeks ago, and one of my sons chimed in from the back seat and said, Daddy, I don’t want to go to heaven. And I said, why? And he said because it’s forever and that seems a little scary. I remember thinking about that as a young man. I remember that.
The reason people think that oftentimes is because we can’t appreciate what the future feels like. We know what we like now: air conditioning, a beautiful sunset, food, relationships. We know that, so we want this to endure forever. But we don’t know about the future, so we’re a little skeptical. Can that really be that good and will we want to be in that environment forever?
So I asked him, I said, would you rather live on this earth forever? And he said yes. And I said, well, that’s what heaven is. Heaven is this earth only perfect. Heaven is real food, eating, relationships. All the things you like here without sin, that’s what heaven is. So, want eternal life because eternal life is real. There’s a huge lie that Satan has propagated for a long time that heaven is somewhat mystical and people are like, yeah, I don’t play the harp; I don’t want to sit on a cloud, so I don’t know if I want eternal life.
Heaven—the new heavens and new earth are on a recreated earth without a curse. So how about this with no conflict in the church? How about this with no cancer? How about this with no allergies? How about this with no gluten? Actually, there’ll be gluten but bring on the gluten. Heaven is real, physical, to be enjoyed; and God the Father commands—obey my commandment and get heaven forever. And people say, nah. What more can he do? What more can he do? He sent his Son. He sent his Son to give the command. And he sent his Son to draw us to himself to bring us to God the Father. There’s nothing more God could have done. He has done everything for us.
Salvation is at the fingertips of these people, and Jesus makes one final plea, and people still reject. This is Jesus’ final appeal before he retreats to a private audience with his disciples. What if this was the final time you heard the gospel of Jesus Christ? What if it was the final morning you heard the gospel? Final time you heard the grace of God and the opportunity to repent and trust in Christ? Eternity is on the line this morning. Eternity’s on the line.
I don’t think the people in John 12 understood that this was the last public message Jesus would make. I bet many still rejected, but if they would have known it was the final opportunity, they may have thought more about it. You never know when it’s the final time you’re hearing a gospel call. And by the way, the more someone rejects the gospel call, the heart becomes more hardened. So, every time the gospel’s offered and there’s rejection, there is risk.
This could be the final time this morning to come to Christ. What would Christ have you do? Please believe in the one sent by God. Please believe in the Light of the World. Please believe in the judgment to come. Please believe in the message of eternal life.
One of my spiritual heroes, Jonathan Edwards, was kicked out of his church. The greatest theologian America’s ever known sent packing. He was removed from his church in Northampton in 1750. His final message—he preached a message from 2 Corinthians about people’s pastors (shepherds on earth) and them meeting together before the judgment seat of Christ in the future. It’s a powerful message. I would encourage you to read it. It’s his farewell sermon. In it he says this, and he sounds a lot like Christ in John 12. There is a final opportunity. Think about what you are doing if you are going to reject. He says this: “How often we have met together in the house of God in this relation.”
You hear echoes of Christ, don’t you? How often did you read your Old Testament scroll? How often did you have people teach you about God? Today, how often did you go to Sunday school as a young kid? How often did your grandmother try to show you Christ, did your father try to teach you the gospel? How often did you come to Canyon Bible Church of Prescott? You heard the gospel of John from John 1 to John 12, and all of his salvation calls, all seven of his signs.
“How often,” Edwards goes on, “have I spoke to you, instructed, counseled, warned, directed, and fed you and administered the ordinances among you as the people which were committed to my care, and of those whose precious souls I had the charge? But in all probability, this will never happen again.”
There is a time where people who have been around the things of Christ but who have failed to embrace him will hear a last gospel appeal. I don’t know where everybody is in this auditorium today, but may we all meditate on Christ’s words to us today. It’s been said that hell is truth realized too late, and the opportunity for eternal life is here before us today. Today! Let’s pray.
Father, open ears this morning to a final plea to embrace Christ and to receive eternal life and joy. Father, show sin to be as horrendous as it is. Give us a revulsion, even a physical revulsion, to our own sin; and therefore, give us an attraction to Jesus Christ, who frees us from the penalty of it and the power of it. Father, work in hearts who may not be reconciled to you yet.
And for those of us who have been reconciled to you, keep us walking in the light. Keep us hating sin, loving truth. Keep us adoring our God and Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, our blessed Holy Spirit. Keep us enamored with the fact that he enabled us to respond to his gospel call. Lord, we thank you for eternal life. We thank you. We bless your holy name. Amen.
More in Jesus, Israel, and the World
March 5, 2017John 12:37-43| A Pathology of Unbelief | 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