John Chapter 12

The-Gospel-of-JohnFOLLOW THE LIGHT

Even a small light can guide a person down a dark path or through a darkened room. There only needs to be enough light to see the way. Although we may not see everything clearly in life, we must act on the light we have. We can’t wait until everything is clear.

Hear the urgency in Jesus’ words, “Walk while you have the light, before the darkness overtakes you.” Conditions may not be perfect, problems may be unsolved, and questions may be unanswered, but if Christ calls you, follow his light.

Read on for more *Life Applications like this one from John Chapter 12.

 A Woman Anoints Jesus with Perfume / 12:1-11

The chapter opens with a portrayal of Mary anointing Jesus, accompanied by a wide range of reactions. This anointing concurs with the one described in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9; but it is different from the one depicted in Luke 7:36-50, which occurred much earlier in Jesus’ ministry. The tender attention given to Jesus by his three friends in Bethany contrasts with the treachery Judas planned to commit by the week’s end.

12:1-2 Another Passover was coming, and Jesus arrived in Bethany six days beforehand. John last placed him in Ephraim, where he had gone to be alone with his disciples (11:54). From there, they returned to Galilee for a while. This was Jesus’ final visit with his friends at Bethany because he was on his way to Jerusalem where, as he had already told his disciples he would die. Only a few weeks had gone by since Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. He was back in the home of Lazarus. According to parallel accounts of this story (see Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9), this meal was held at the home of Simon the leper, who also lived in Bethany and was very likely healed of his leprosy by Jesus. A dinner had been prepared in Jesus’ honor.

12:3 This perfume was made from an aromatic herb (nard) from the mountains of India, and it was imported in alabaster bottles. This expensive imported item carried such value that people used it for investment purposes, as gold is often used today. When supper was finished, Mary took this pure, expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet. Nard was used to anoint kings; Mary may have been anointing Jesus as her kingly Messiah. Many centuries later we are still humbled by the extravagance and the appropriateness of Mary’s gift. She poured out the very best she could find. Price is not the central issue, but the sincere expression of faith and love.


Many centuries later we are still humbled by the extravagance and the appropriateness of Mary’s gift. She poured out the very best she could find. The price is important, but so is the sincere expression of faith and love. What we give to the Lord can be costly. Often others might think the effort or money is wasted, for it seems to make no large or permanent change in the world. But what others may call insignificant or wasteful, God deems to be like the fragrant aroma that filled the house when Mary poured the nard on Jesus’ feet.

12:4-6 According to Matthew and Mark, all the disciples were offended that Mary had “wasted” this expensive ointment (Matthew 26:8; Mark 14:4). But in John’s Gospel, Judas Iscariot verbalized the offense. “The perfume was worth a small fortune. It should have been sold and the money given to the poor.” Judas’s motive was not to care for the poor. Judas was a thief who had been entrusted with the disciples’ funds (see 13:29). Judas often dipped into the money for his own use. Undoubtedly, Jesus knew what Judas was doing (2:24-25; 6:64), but he never did or said anything about it.


In spite of his sharp rebuke, there is no evidence that Judas ever gave to the poor. His objection was actually a smoke screen to cover his own selfishness and greed.

It is common in church life to discover that those most apt to criticize are those who are doing nothing themselves. Those who never go to church criticize the church; those who don’t read the Bible are ready to criticize what they have heard are inconsistencies and difficulties; those unwilling to help are ready to criticize when plans fail. Beware of finding fault with others in areas where you are deficient.


Judas was given the position of trustee of the money bag most likely because he had some capability or expressed some interest in doing so. Sometimes the abilities we have enable us to function so effortlessly that we let down our moral or spiritual guard as we carry out those duties. Has God allowed you to assume responsibilities that match your strengths? Whether we are preaching, teaching, or managing money, remember that strengths can become weaknesses if we settle for poor preparation, shortcuts, and acting as if we “own” what truly belongs to another. If Christ is truly Lord of all you do, you will be on guard against greed, self-service, and taking moral shortcuts.

12:7-8 Jesus pointed out that Mary was not wasting this perfume on him. Certainly, the money could have been given to the poor; there would always be opportunities to care for the poor. But they would not always have Jesus. Mary understood how special Jesus was. Her anointing was like an ointment put on his body in preparation for burial (Matthew 26:12; Mark 14:8). (Later Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea would actually wrap Jesus’ body with linen and spices, 19:39.)

This act and Jesus’ response to it do not give us permission to ignore the poor. Rather, Jesus explained that his followers would have many opportunities to help the poor, but only a short time to love and honor the Messiah. Mary’s loving act was for a specific occasion—an anointing that anticipated Jesus’ burial and a public declaration of her faith in him as the Messiah. Jesus’ words should have taught Judas a valuable lesson about the worth of money. Unfortunately, Judas did not learn it. In contrast to Mary’s sacrificial gift to Jesus, Judas sold his master’s life for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16), the price one paid a slave owner if one’s ox killed one of his slaves (see Exodus 21:32).


Mary’s gift was criticized by others, but appreciated by the Lord. When you give your best to God, you can be sure he appreciates your gift. Do not allow misunderstanding or criticism to deter you. Mary did not bring the gift because she thought she would receive praise from the others; she brought it because she loved Jesus and wanted to show him.

12:9-11 Jews were arriving from all over the world for the Passover celebration. Many had heard of the miracle of Lazarus’s resurrection. When they discovered that Jesus had returned to Bethany to be with Lazarus, they came to see both of them.

However, the leading priests decided to kill Lazarus too, for it was because of him that many of the people had deserted them and believed in Jesus. The chief priests’ blindness and hardness of heart caused them to sink ever deeper into sin. One sin led them to another. From the Jewish leaders’ point of view, they could accuse Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed equality with God. But Lazarus had done nothing of the kind. They wanted Lazarus dead simply because he was a living witness to Jesus’ power.


We all like to believe we are above petty jealousy and small retaliations. Unfortunately our behavior often proves the opposite. The chief priests, the guardians of God’s royal law, were so driven by jealousy, paranoia, and hate that they enlarged their plan to kill Jesus to include Lazarus.

Most likely you have never been involved in planning someone else’s murder; but, have you ever wished someone would disappear, or found yourself hoping they would make some kind of humiliating mistake that would ruin their career or reputation? Have you secretly desired to have their power or position and justified the wish by claiming “I could do a better job”? If our motivation is to do our best at serving God wherever we are, we won’t need to compare ourselves to others.

Jesus Rides into Jerusalem on a Young Donkey / 12:12-19

John’s description of the Triumphal Entry, mentioned in all four Gospels, is the most brief of the accounts. John’s objective seemed to be to sketch the events, relating them to Old Testament prophecies and explaining that those present did not fully understand all that was going on. He pointed out that these events intensified the animosity of the leaders toward Jesus. In the other Gospels, we are left with the impression that the crowd’s reaction to Jesus was largely spontaneous. John, however, helpfully explained that those who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus had been busily telling others. The news created great anticipation in Jerusalem of Jesus’ arrival.

12:12-13 The day after the feast in Bethany, Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Given the importance of the approaching Passover, the road into the holy city would have been clogged with pilgrims. Among them would have been many people from Galilee, familiar with Jesus from his years of ministry there.

Not only was Jesus part of the large crowd moving toward Jerusalem, others came out to meet him from the city itself. Expectations that something marvelous was soon to happen must have been at fever pitch! The crowd began to shout. As they shouted “Praise God,” they thought that their conquering King had finally come to liberate them from Roman rule. They believed that the one who comes in the name of the Lord was the King of Israel (see Psalm 118:25-26; Zephaniah 3:15; John 1:49). Therefore, the Jews thought they were hailing the arrival of their King! But these people who were praising God for giving them a king had the wrong idea about Jesus. They were sure he would be a national leader who would restore their nation to its former glory; thus they were deaf to the words of their prophets and blind to Jesus’ real mission. When it became apparent that Jesus was not going to fulfill their hopes, many people turned against him.

12:14-15 Indeed, their King came to them—but not the kind of king they had expected. He did not arrive as a political ruler might, on a mighty horse or in a chariot. Rather, Jesus came to them in the way prophesied by Zechariah: “Don’t be afraid, people of Israel. Look, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.” The Old Testament prophet Zechariah had prophesied the arrival of a great king, possibly Alexander the Great, in Zechariah 9:1-8. Then contrasting that, he had prophesied the arrival to Jerusalem’s people of their King (see Zechariah 9:9). In this coming, Israel’s King would be a humble servant, not a conqueror. He would not be exalted to a throne, but lifted up on a cross.

12:16 The same kind of statement was made in 2:22. After Christ’s resurrection and subsequent glorification, the disciples remembered these events and understood what they signified. Prior to Jesus’ resurrection, his followers did not understand the significance of his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit would open their eyes to the meaning of the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy, and remind them of this and other messianic predictions (14:26; see also Luke 24:25-35, 44-48).


After Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples understood for the first time many of the prophecies that they had missed along the way. Jesus’ words and actions took on new meaning and made more sense. In retrospect, the disciples saw how Jesus had led them into a deeper and better understanding of his truth. Stop and think about the events in your life that God has used to lead you to this point. As you grow older, you will look back and see God’s involvement more clearly than you do now.

12:17-19 The crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus back to life continued to spread the word. That was the main reason so many went out to meet him. This statement emphasizes the superficial enthusiasm that possessed most of the cheering throng. They flocked to Jesus because they had heard about his great miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead. Their adoration was short-lived and their commitment shallow, for in a few days they would do nothing to stop his crucifixion.

The Pharisees were exasperated by such exultation. They were hoping to find some sly way to get hold of Jesus and get rid of him while they knew his whereabouts, but it was impossible with the huge adoring crowds surrounding him. Their statement, “the whole world has gone after him!” is ironic—for most of those people did not really believe in Jesus.


The religious leaders were becoming desperate men. Desperation leads to exaggeration. Jesus’ popularity seemed to be growing to insurmountable heights. The more they tried to stop Jesus, the more his influence increased.

Those who oppose Christ make a hopeless effort. People who have set out to discredit him have ended up bowing before him in worship. The Pharisees were right when they said “This is getting us nowhere.” They were only succeeding as far as their plan coincided with God’s plan. People can spend a lifetime resisting and rejecting Christ, only to discover that they have accomplished nothing but their own destruction.

Jesus Explains Why He Must Die / 12:20-36

As if to confirm the fears expressed in verse 19, this section begins with a group of Gentiles trying to approach Jesus. We are not told if their request for an audience with Christ was ever granted, but Jesus replied to their interest with some instruction on the necessity of his own death.

This passage also includes the third instance of God speaking audibly during the ministry of Jesus. The first was at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22); the second at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). God the Father broke the silence of heaven to encourage his Son in the final days of his mission on earth. Jesus himself emphasized again the brief time that remained during which the light would still be present.

12:20-22 Indeed, it seemed as if the “whole world” had gone after Jesus, as illustrated by these Greeks who came to the Passover and sought a meeting with him. These people were either visitors from Greece or Greek-speaking Jews. They may have been Jewish proselytes or simply God-fearing Gentiles. These Greeks probably selected Philip as their emissary to Jesus because, though Philip was a Jew, he had a Greek name. And Philip was from Bethsaida, a town in Galilee near the Greek territory on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee called Decapolis. The city of Bethsaida itself had a large Greek population, and Philip may have been able to speak Greek.

For a moment, Philip hesitated to approach Jesus with the Greeks’ request. So first, Philip told Andrew (with whom Philip is often associated—1:40-44; 6:7-8; Mark 3:18). Then, they went together to ask Jesus. The very inclusion of Greeks in the events of the final week has great significance. John continued his pattern of including Gentiles (the world) all along the way (1:12; 3:16). His readers, who may have been Gentiles struggling with their acceptability to God, would have gained encouragement from this incident and Jesus’ response. We Gentiles also ought to be grateful that Christ includes us in his offer of salvation.

12:23-24 Jesus’ words to Philip and Andrew and perhaps to the other disciples as well were not addressed to the crowd. The crowd (probably including the Greeks) is not mentioned again until verse 29. Jesus explained, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory” through death and resurrection. The “whole world” had gone after Jesus (12:19); even the Greeks wanted to see him (12:20ff). Yet it is exactly at this point, when by human standards Jesus was in a perfect position to consolidate his forces and overwhelm the opposition, that he faced the heart-troubling time that was upon him. Until this moment, the “time” had always been a future event. But here Jesus declared that it had arrived.

The picture of a kernel of wheat reveals the necessary sacrifice of Jesus. When a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, it actually dies before becoming a mature blade producing many new kernels. In the same way, Jesus, by his death, produced more fruit than could have been gained had he become the king of Israel on an earthly throne. Indeed, by being lifted up on the cross, Jesus would draw all people to himself. In his picture of the dying grain, Jesus spoke directly about his own life. He does not necessarily require us to literally give up our lives in sacrificial death as the only way to be fruitful. God does call some believers to die for him. But he calls many more to stay alive for fruitful service (see Romans 12:1-2).


What does Jesus mean when he tells us to “hate” our life in this world? Jesus wants us to be so committed to living for Christ that we “hate” our life by comparison. Loving our life means that we guard our life so jealously that we squander it on our own pleasures and purposes. In contrast, hating our life means consistently using our resources to follow Christ. It does not mean that we long to die or that we are careless or destructive with the life God has given, but that we are free from self-centeredness and are willing to die if doing so will glorify Christ. We must disown the tyrannical rule of our own self-centeredness. By laying aside our striving for advantage, security, and pleasure, we can serve God lovingly and freely. Releasing control of our life and transferring control to Christ brings eternal life and genuine joy.

12:25-27 True followers of Jesus must have their priorities in order; if they choose to love their life more than their Master, they will lose the very life they seek to maintain. True disciples must be willing to suffer and experience rejection, even unto death if need be. To serve and follow Jesus means making radical lifestyle changes. To follow Jesus means going the way he went—not the way of earthly power and honor—but the way of humility and death. Everything Jesus did was for God’s glory. When we choose to follow him, we must live for God’s glory alone. This does not mean we have no fun, no joy, no security. Rather, it simply means we live to honor God and then the Father will honor us.

The honor from God that Jesus promises may, in fact, be partly experienced in this life, but never entirely. And for many believers, what God has planned by way of honor we can only guess. Meanwhile we can derive real comfort and security from knowing that God observes and remembers each and every act of service we do in his name. None will be forgotten.

Unlike the synoptic Gospels, John does not record Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). The record of Jesus being deeply troubled is the only indication in John that Jesus was troubled by that approaching hour. His agony proves the genuineness of his humanity. Jesus refused to ask the Father to save him from the cross (see Romans 8:32) because he knew he had been sent for the very purpose of dying on the cross. Jesus knew his crucifixion lay ahead, and because he was human, he dreaded it.


Jesus expressed his desire to be delivered from a horrible death, but he knew that God had sent him into the world to die for our sins in our place. In this Gospel, Jesus speaks of “this very hour” with reference to his crucifixion. This is equivalent to what Jesus said in the other Gospels: “not my will, but yours.” Jesus said no to his human desires in order to obey his Father and glorify him. Although we will never have to face such a difficult and awesome task, we are still called to obedience. Whatever the Father asks, we should do his will and bring glory to his name. Let us not fail to say, “your will be done” or “for this very purpose I have come to this hour.”

Are you ready for when God may call you “for this very hour” in the lives of others? Are you aware of a friend in trouble, tensions between yourself and other believers requiring resolution, or the daily challenges of a difficult job and fellow workers? Are you avoiding some specific problems that won’t go away? Remember it is human to avoid difficulty and pain, but it is Christlike to obey the Father and endure even those tasks which otherwise we would just as soon decline.

12:28-30 Jesus now turns his thoughts back to the Father and back to the purpose for which he had come to earth: to bring glory to him. Thus, the Father responded in a voice from heaven, “I have already brought it glory, and I will do it again.” God would glorify his name through the obedience of his Son (13:31-32) and then would glorify his name again when he would be reunited (17:5) with his Son after his resurrection.

The Father’s voice was audible but not correctly perceived by the multitude standing around. Some in the crowd said that it was thunder. Others thought it was an angel. Whatever their interpretation of the sound, it could not be denied that the phenomenon was supernatural. Jesus made it clear that he did not need this “voice” (he knew that the Father would glorify him); the voice had come for the benefit of the people. However, only a few (such as John who recorded this event) understood what was said and who said it. To the others it was merely thunderous noise.


Glorify is one of those biblical terms we often use without understanding its true meaning. The Greek root word is doxa, which refers to brightness, beauty, and even fame. One helpful way to think of the word is to substitute the word spotlight. Jesus was consciously giving God, the Father, permission to spotlight himself through what would happen to Christ, God’s Son. The Father responded by affirming that he had already spotlighted his name in Jesus and would continue to do so.

When faced with a difficult task or decision, we can turn our thoughts back to why we are on this earth—to glorify God. Our life can spotlight God’s beauty and spread his fame. We can pray that God will guide us and work through us to glorify his name.

12:31-33 Anticipating his glorification through death and resurrection, Jesus proclaimed: “The time of judgment for the world has come, when the prince of this world will be cast out.” From our perspective we see how Christ’s death brought judgment on those who had the upper hand in the world’s system: Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and the Jewish religious leaders. But the Son had ultimately come to destroy the works of Satan, who controlled the minds of people, producing unbelief. Therefore, the world would be judged in the sense that Satan, the ruler of the world (see 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12; Revelation 12:9), would be cast out—his final and ultimate weapon, death, was about to be overcome (see 1 Corinthians 15:26; Hebrews 2:14).

As he did earlier, Jesus spoke about his death in terms of being lifted up (see 3:14; 8:28). John’s explanation makes it clear that this expression signified how he was going to die—the cross onto which Jesus would be nailed. Jesus knew that he would not die by stoning, something the Jews had already tried to do (8:59), but by crucifixion.

That Jesus will draw everyone to himself does not mean that everyone will ultimately be saved. Jesus has already made it clear that some will not be saved (5:28-29). Rather Jesus was saying that his offer of salvation extends to all people, not just to the Jews. Jesus’ incredible love, expressed in his death for all people, will draw and unify those who believe, so that sin, evil, and death (the weapons of the prince of this world) will be powerless.

12:34 The people had understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever (see Psalm 72:17; Isaiah 9:6-7; Ezekiel 37:26-28). They had believed that Jesus had been making a claim to be the Messiah, and here they were waving palm branches for a victorious Messiah who they thought would set up a political, earthly kingdom that would never end. So it was difficult for them to believe that Jesus was the Messiah when he spoke of his imminent death—and that on a cross. Therefore, they wanted clarification about what Jesus meant when he used the term  Son of Man. Was this Son of Man someone different than the Messiah?


Jesus said he would be with them in person for only a short time, and they should take advantage of his presence while they had it. Like a light shining in a dark place, he would point out the way they should walk. If they walked in his light, they would become “children of light,” revealing the truth and pointing people to God. As believers, we are to be Christ’s light bearers, letting his light shine through us. How brightly is your light shining? Can others see Christ in your actions?

12:35-36 Jesus did not attempt to clear up the people’s confusion about the Messiah. Rather, he admonished them to walk in the light while he was still with them (see also 1:5-9; 3:18-21; 8:12; 9:4-5). The ones enlightened by God would recognize their Messiah. The light of Jesus’ physical presence on earth was about to be extinguished, and the darkness of Satan’s evil influence and sin would overtake those who would refuse to accept Jesus’ light. To walk in Satan’s darkness is to stumble through life with no guidance, no help, no protection, no understanding, no ultimate goal or meaning. So Jesus urged the people to believe in him, who is the light, and become his children. The opportunity was available to all, but Jesus was about to depart this world.


Do we really believe that people we see every day are walking in darkness? We know people who have no purpose, plan, or personal meaning in their lives. They sense no mission in their career, their family lacks unity, and their personal lives are uneasy and empty. They may not accept the directions we offer them in Christ. But what does it say about us if we know they are lost but never offer to help?


Even a small light can guide a person down a dark path or through a darkened room. There only needs to be enough light to see the way. Although we may not see everything clearly in life, we must act on the light we have. We can’t wait until everything is clear.

Hear the urgency in Jesus’ words, “Walk while you have the light, before the darkness overtakes you.” Conditions may not be perfect, problems may be unsolved, and questions may be unanswered, but if Christ calls you, follow his light.


In this section, Jesus mentioned three ways that we can use the light:

  • Walk in the light—put into action those lessons and commands that God allows you to see.
  • Put your trust in the light—confidently depend on Christ for your present and future.
  • Become children of light—allow Christ to shine his light through you so that others might see the light.

Most of the People Do Not Believe in Jesus / 12:37-43

As he does persistently, John never allows his readers to avoid the decision about what to do with Jesus Christ. For those ready to respond, no obstacle will keep them from belief. For those whose hearts are hardened, even the most compelling reasons for faith become obstacles. John soberly reminds us that many of those who believe in Jesus still allow the pressures and fears of people to hinder their faith. Hidden faith may avoid a confrontation with others, but it seldom pleases God.

12:37-41 Jesus had performed enough miraculous signs to cause people to believe in him. The greatest of all signs—raising Lazarus from the dead—should have been enough to elicit faith from all those who saw it and even heard about it. Yet most of the people still did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

This unbelief had been predicted by Isaiah. In the opening of his chapter on the suffering Savior, Isaiah asked, “Who has believed our message? To whom will the Lord reveal his saving power?” (Isaiah 53:1). It took revelation from God to know that Jesus was the one through whom God demonstrated his saving power. Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he made this prediction, because he was given a vision of the Messiah’s glory. But the Jews lacked this understanding. Why? Because it was prophesied. Isaiah wrote: “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts.” The entire quotation (taken from Isaiah 6:9-10) appears quite often in the New Testament because it provides a prophetic explanation for why the Jews did not perceive Jesus’ message nor receive him as their Messiah (see also Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Acts 28:26). And because they would not believe, they eventually could not believe. As a result, the Jews remained unenlightened and hardened.


People in Jesus’ time, like those in the time of Isaiah, would not believe despite the evidence (12:37). As a result, God hardened their hearts. Does that mean God intentionally prevented these people from believing in him? No, he simply confirmed their own choices. After a lifetime of resisting God, they had become so set in their ways that they wouldn’t even try to understand Jesus’ message. Other instances of hardened hearts because of constant stubbornness are recorded in Exodus 9:12; Romans 1:24-28; and 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.


Jesus had performed many miracles, but most people still didn’t believe in him. Likewise, many today won’t believe despite all God does. Don’t be discouraged if your witness for Christ doesn’t turn as many to him as you’d like. Your job is to continue as a faithful witness. You are responsible to reach out to others, but they are responsible for their own decisions.


Along with those who refused to believe, many believed but refused to admit it. This is just as bad, and Jesus had strong words for such people (see Matthew 10:32-33). Many people will not take a stand for Jesus because they fear rejection or ridicule. Many Jewish leaders wouldn’t admit to faith in Jesus because they feared excommunication from the synagogue (which was their livelihood) and loss of their prestigious place in the community. But the praise of people is fickle and short-lived. We should be much more concerned about God’s eternal acceptance than about the temporary approval of other people.

12:42-43 At these words, some of the Jewish leaders believed in Jesus, but they wouldn’t admit it, afraid the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. John made the point that their faith was weak, and he described the reason: They were still subject to the lure of human praise (see 5:44). But John primarily warned his readers that secret faith does not ultimately please God. Secrecy may be prudent at times (witness the presence of secret believers and churches in repressive societies like China and the former Romanian state), but that usually comes from a courageous strategy. All too often we remain silent at the very times we ought to be confessing our faith in Christ.

 Jesus Summarizes His Message / 12:44-50

John closes this section in his Gospel about Jesus’ public ministry with a summary of Jesus’ entire testimony. The shared Passover meal will take up the next several chapters. But John leaves his readers with the cry of Jesus’ final public speech ringing in their ears. It is an ultimatum set before the crowds: Believe in Jesus, the Light of the World, or live in darkness under God’s judgment.

12:44-45 Jesus left the crowds temporarily (12:36-37), but in one final public appearance he appealed to his hearers to believe in him (see also 5:17-44; 6:27-65; 7:16-18; 8:14-58; 10:14-18) and thereby walk in his light. In this appeal, he affirmed his union with the Father: “If you trust me, you are really trusting God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me.” Because the Son sent by the Father is the visible expression of the Father to all people (see 14:9-11), those who believe in the Son also believe in the Father. Jesus is God. If you want to know what God is like, study the person and words of Jesus Christ.

12:46 Those who believe in Jesus have left Satan’s dark kingdom and influence in the world, and they have entered the light of God’s Kingdom. Some people in the church act as though they still remain in the darkness. Jesus died so that we might be transformed. If our life is not changing, we may not have begun to really follow the light.

12:47-48 Jesus repeated the important truth that he came not to judge the world but to save it (see also 3:17; 8:15-16); but his rejected words would condemn all unbelievers in the judgment at the last day (see 3:31-36; 5:22-23, 26-30; 9:39).

The purpose of Jesus’ first mission on earth was not to judge people, but to show them the way to find salvation and eternal life. On the day of judgment, those who have accepted Jesus and lived his way will be raised to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Revelation 21:1-8), but all who reject Jesus and his message will be judged at the day of judgment by the truth Jesus had spoken (Revelation 20:11-15). Decide now your future fate, for the consequences of your decision will last forever.

12:49 Jesus’ mission was to faithfully convey the words of God to all who would truly listen. He knew that those who rejected those words would be rejecting life. God himself gave Jesus instructions as to what he should say. Jesus did not change that message. Some, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have used verses like this to say that Jesus was not God because he was subordinate to the Father. But Jesus’ essential, divine being was not subordinate to the Father—in all things he was equal with God (Philippians 2:5-6); rather, Jesus coordinated his will to fully comply with the Father’s will. Thus, to respond to Jesus is to respond to God. To believe in Jesus is to believe in God. To reject Jesus is to reject God. To hear Jesus’ words makes each person responsible before God for what he or she does with them.

12:50 Jesus closed his message with one final appeal to accept the words he had spoken as having come from the Father. To accept those words is to receive eternal life (3:16-17, 35-36; 5:24-29, 39-40).

— Life Application Bible Commentary
— Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary


About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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