As we come to John 12:44-50 this morning we not only come to the end of John 12 we come to the end of the first half of John’s gospel. In chapters 1-12 John gives us a carefully organized picture of the public ministry of Jesus. The beloved disciple has showed us who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what Jesus can do. Anyone with eyes to see and with ears to hear will conclude that this Jesus is unlike any other. To those who believe He had very gracious and soothing words to say, but to those who refused to believe He had very sharp and condemning words to say. But His last public word isn’t one of condemnation, no. It’s one of tender appeal to believe and be saved.
We’re not quite sure who Jesus is speaking to here in v44-50. Earlier in v36 we read about Jesus departing and hiding Himself from the public, but here in v44-50 we find Jesus saying more. Did He come back into the city and speak more to the people? Was He speaking to the disciples in private? Or were these words Jesus spoke earlier on some occasion that John uses here to bring part 1 of his gospel to a close? It’s hard to know which one of these options is correct, I believe it doesn’t really matter which one we’re persuaded to entertain, because what matters is whether or not we embrace the words of Jesus here. In this summary before us we find much of what Jesus has told us before. We find the importance of faith, the unity between the Father and the Son, the contrast between light and darkness, redemption in the present day extended in Christ, judgment executed on the last day by the Word of Christ, and eternal life enjoyed by all those who truly come to Christ. All of this is present in this summary of the gospel message.
And so this morning we’ll be reminded, not of everything we believe as Christians, but of those things that are of first importance for Christians. Such first importance that anyone who denies such things can in no way be a Christian. What are these things? Specifically in this text John places before us the nature of the Father and the Son, the nature of light and darkness, and the nature of redemption and judgment.
Father and Son (v44-45)
Five times in the gospels we read of Jesus crying out.Two of them are on the cross (Matt. 27:50, Mark 15:34). One was when Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Living Water greater than the water flowing out of the rock in the wilderness (John 7:37). Another is when Jesus stands before and cries out into the foul smelling tomb to raise the dead Lazarus to new life (John 11:43). The fifth instance of Jesus crying out is here in v44 where He begins the summary of our faith by pleading with His hearers to believe. But it’s not only a plea to believe, He desires them to know that when they believe in Him they enter into a union with He and the Father. This means the union between God the Son and God the Father is so close that the person who believes in and banks on Christ also believes in and banks on the Father. The union consists not so much in the Father’s sending of the Son, as important as that is, but in the very nature of the Godhead. Though truly distinct in their own right and Personhood (such that the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father) the Father is God and the Son is God. Unity amid diversity isn’t found in the depravity of humanity but only among the community of the Holy Trinity. And this isn’t new at all. In John 1:18 John remarked “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known.” In John 5:24 Jesus said, “Whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.” In John 8:19, “If you knew Me, you would know My Father as well.” Again in John 10:38 Jesus comments and says those who see His works should “…know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.”
Therefore, you cannot have the Son and reject the Father. And you cannot have the Father and reject the Son. These options aren’t left open to us. To believe in Christ is to believe in the Father. To trust in Christ is to trust in the Father. To know Christ is to know the Father. To love Christ is to love the Father. To receive Christ is to receive the Father. “If Jesus isn’t your Savior, God is not your Father.” Christ and the Father are one.This reminds us that Jesus’ coming into the world wasn’t on His own initiative.To believe in Jesus is to believe the Father sent Jesus to save His people. Too many people separate the two and wrongly believe Jesus to be a loving Son who saved us from an angry Father. Wrong. That the Father sent the Son to save means there is a harmony of wills present in both Father and Son.
And more so v45 here in our text we see that to see Jesus is to see the Father. The Greek word here in v45 ‘to see’ is the word theoreowhich is where we get our English words theory and theorize. In this context ‘seeing’ means far more than just ‘seeing.’ By looking at Jesus, by observing Jesus, and by studying Jesus we can see, we can learn, and we can discern what the Father is truly like. Just think of the cross. In seeing Jesus willingly embrace the death we deserve on the cross we see the great love of the Father, that He sent Him for this very purpose. In seeing Jesus forsaken by the Father on the cross we see the great holiness of the Father, that nothing unholy can be in His presence. And in seeing Jesus suffer so excruciatingly on the cross we see the terrible wrath of God against sin. To answer the question: what is God like? We need look no further than Jesus Christ.
Light and Darkness (v46)
The summary of our faith continues in v46, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” Implied in this statement is an indictment of all mankind…that our natural state isn’t one of light but one of darkness. Explicit in this statement is the purpose why Jesus, who is light, came…that we should not continue in darkness. This also isn’t new. Didn’t we learn in 1:4-5 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” We learned in the very next passage, 1:6-8, that John the Baptist wasn’t the light but came to bear witness about the light, for “…the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (1:9). We heard in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Then again in John 9:5, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” And just a bit ago we heard Jesus say in John 12:35-36, “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.” All of this put together is why there is so much light conversation around the Christmas announcements of Christ’s birth. A people in…darkness saw…a great light. When the magi saw the…star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. That is the reality of Christ’s birth, and that reality of joyful light entering the soul and expelling the darkness is experienced in the heart when one believes in Christ as well when God does in us what He did in Genesis 1. And more so by believing in Christ the Scriptures speak of a positional change we experience. We are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Or simply, to believe in Jesus is to come to the light.
Therefore, you cannot come to the Son (who is light) and remain in darkness. Or, all those who have truly come to Christ (who is light) will not remain in darkness. The light of Christ does two things: exposes and reveals. It exposes darkness and reveals what’s hidden from us by the darkness.So too Christ, coming into the world as light, exposes the darkness of our sinful hearts and reveals who God is in truth because in our darkness sinfulness we can’t draw near a God who is Himself Holy Light. Paul will later tell us how this changes the way we live in Ephesians 5:8-11, “…at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” See here what kind of lives we’re called to live. Believing in Christ (who is light) calls us to live in the light, to walk as children of light, to center our minds, hearts, and hands around the thing of light, and flee anything that would bring darkness to His light. This means right believing ought to lead to right behaving. Or, if you find yourself unwilling to live for Christ and walk in the light of Christ, it’s highly likely you haven’t come to Christ yet. Church how dangerous a condition it is to be in, to profess Christ and not possess Him by a true and living faith. Hear in v46 the call to live as we ought to. Too many hear these kinds of things and fear that we’ve turned back on justification by faith alone because we’re speaking of the works we must do in life. But may we ever remember that it is the grace of God revealed in Christ that leads us to devote ourselves to good works. Works that were prepared beforehand that we should walk in (Eph. 2:10), works that we’re to do publically, letting our light so shine before men that they may see those good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
Redemption and Judgment (v47-48)
This summary of our faith continues onward in v47-48, “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 v47-48 we read of the same truth in v46 but from another angle.Whoever refuses to believe in Christ and whoever rejects the word of Christ, isn’t judged by Christ (for He came to save not to condemn), but will be judged on the last day by the word of Christ. As clear as this is some have still sought to teach that Jesus was just a normal man who never claimed to be God with a message of love and peace. Surely such passages as this fit into the Bible like a square peg fits into a round hole. See here that Jesus Himself believes it is His Word that will judge all men at the last day. For someone to say this, for someone to believe this, they would be a fool if it weren’t true. Judgment belongs to God and that Jesus believes His Words will judge all men at the last day reminds us that Jesus believed Himself to be God. Again, careful readers of John’s gospel won’t be surprised at this. Back in John 3:17-18 we read, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Then again in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Then once more in John 8:15-16, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, My judgment is true (why?), for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent Me.”
This points us to the purposes of His first and second advents. A.W. Pink comments on this saying, “In a lowly place with a patient grace Jesus broke into this fallen world to save sinners. At the end of all things He shall return in robes of white and judge sinners with His powerful might. Once He came as a lowly servant, one day He shall return as the exalted Sovereign. He came to woo and win men, He shall come again to rule over men with a rod of iron.”Be reminded of three things in v47-48. First, there will be a last day. The great theater of this grand world is in it’s final act, and one day the curtain will fall, the author of the play will walk on stage to receive glory and honor, and the show will be over. This day, this final day will come like a thief in the night, therefore we must live in light of the end and warn all of what’s to come. Second, the last day will be a day of judgment. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD as the hearts of all are exposed for all to see. The ungodly apart from Christ will be judged and found wicked and will be cast into an eternal punishment in hell while the godly in Christ will be judge and be found righteous and will be welcomed into the joy of their Master. Third, this last day of judgment will be a judgment centered on Christ’s Word. The gospel and commands of Christ shirked and mocked by the unbelieving will be the very Word that pronounces guilt on them when the books are opened. When the accounts are settled the judgment will be so thorough that the wicked would rather mountains fall on them than face the wrath of the Lamb of God.
Church, the word of judgment on the last day is no different than the word of life that sounds forth each week in this pulpit. The message of salvation to sinners who repent is also the message of condemnation to sinners who don’t. Does this not make you want to amend your ways this morning as you hear of what’s to come? May you do so, and run to this Savior of sinners.
Father and Son (v49-50)
Finally, as the summary of our faith is wrapped up we find out why the Word of Christ is so strong to save and to condemn. In v49-50 we read, “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.”
We come full circle now and end our passage where we began, on the nature of the Father and the Son. Jesus’ Word is not just His Word, it’s the Word commanded and given from Father to Son. Or, all God the Son told us is all God the Father told Him. So to believe and obey the Son’s message is to believe and obey the Father’s message. Also, to reject the Son’s message is to reject the Father’s message. Therefore it is because Jesus’ message is of divine origin that it is fitting to judge all men on the last day.The message of the gospel is often put in the frame of an invitation to believe. This is in one sense fitting, for all men should be invited to believe. But one of the problems of framing the gospel as an invitation is that many will hear it and believe the gospel is something they can accept or deny. What is put forward to us in v49-50 is that the gospel isn’t an invitation to respond to according to our pleasure, but a command from God that is only disobeyed to our peril.
This is where I’d like to leave you today. We’ve trekked with John throughout the entirety of part 1 of his gospel. We’ve heard the truth of who Jesus is, what Jesus taught, and what He came to do. We’ve also seen the majority response to these things wasn’t one of belief but of unbelief. Nothing said today is new and because of that I’m reminded of what Paul told Timothy, that it was no trouble to remind him of the things he has already taught him. Church, where are you? Today we’ve seen a summary of our faith, and while we haven’t covered everything we believe we have covered things that are of first importance. But do you recognize them as important? More so, do you believe in them? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to bank your entire life on them? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to obey the commands of Christ and change the ways you behave? Do you believe in them so much that you’re willing to risk everything to spread this message to the end of the earth? I pray these things are true of all of you. I pray that you would truly know these things, deeply love these things, and be so moved by the Spirit of God to boldly serve one another because of these things.