Yahweh’s instructions to His prophet Isaiah in the 8thcentury BC that his preaching will be met by incomprehension by an audience affected by the sin lodged in their unrepentant hearts. It is sin which prevents people from hearing and seeing God’s message of truth: Go, and say to this people, ‘Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive!’ Make this people’s heart coarse, make their ears dull, shut their eyes tight, or they will use their eyes to see, use their ears to hear, use their heart to understand, and change their ways and be healed.’
Last week’s study of chapter 12 part I opened with the announcement that there were six days until the Passover Sacrifice. The events in chapter 12 begin the countdown of the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In chapter 12 part II, Jesus will announce that His “hour” has come’the hour of His death and glorification.
Please read John 12:20-36: Jesus prophesizes His death and glorification –
20Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.21These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’22Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.23Jesus replied to them: ‘Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.’24In all truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.25Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.26Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am. If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.27‘Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour.28Father, glorify your name!’ A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will again glorify it.’29The crowd standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’30Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.’31‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be drive out.32And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.’33By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.34The crowd answered, ‘The Law has taught us that the Christ will remain for ever. So how can you say, “The Son of man must be lifted up”? Who is this Son of man?’35Jesus then said, ‘The light will be with you only a little longer now. Go on your way while you have the light, or darkness will overtake you, and nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going.36While you still have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.’ Having said this, Jesus left them and was hidden from their sight.
John 12:20-23: 20Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.21These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’22Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.23Jesus replied to them: ‘Now the hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.’
Answer: St. Luke provides the information: He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, in company with the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they could not find a way to carry this out because the whole people hung on his words.
Question: Why so the Greek Gentiles want to have an audience with Jesus? Is there anything significant about their request “to see” Jesus?
Answer: The request “to see” Jesus may only mean that they want a private audience but in John’s symbolic and spiritual Gospel “to see” may also mean “to believe in” Jesus. That these Gentiles have come seeking the Messiah shows that Jesus’ Gospel of salvation has spread beyond the Jews.
These Greek Gentiles, who were probably praying in the Court of the Gentiles at the Temple, approach Philip, an Apostle with a Greek name. Most scholars assume these Gentiles assumed that the Apostle with the Greek name could take their request to Jesus and act as their interpreter. Philip seeks out his hometown friend Andrew to assist him in dealing with the request of the Gentiles. You may recall that both Andrew and his brother Simon-Peter come from Bethsaida [John 1:44], a town in Northern Galilee with a large Greek culture population [see Matthew 4:15 which quotes Isaiah 9:1]. Andrew’s name is also Greek with no Hebrew equivalent. Most scholars assume these Greeks are “God-fearers”: Gentiles who believe in Yahweh and try to follow His Law but who have not undergone the rite of circumcision and therefore are not part of the covenant family. In fact, that is really the only possible explanation that makes sense when you consider Jesus’ response. If these people had been Gentile converts to Judaism they would not have been, in Jesus’ eyes, any different that the other covenant people of Israel’the ethic Jews and Israelites to whom He was obliged to bring the message of salvation before any others. But this is a new event; it is a definite turning point in His ministry.
In fact this event is so significant that it prompts Jesus to declare that His “hour” has come!
Question: What makes this event significant? What does Jesus mean when He says that His “hour has come”?
Answer: For the first time people outside the Sinai Covenant have come in search of Christ which would make them the “firstfruits” of the spread of the Gospel among Gentiles in the Gentile world outside of the Holy Land! In this verse Jesus is referring to His “hour” of glorification in terms of His death and resurrection. At times Jesus has used the term to refer to the “hour of judgment” as in Matthew 13:32 and John 5:25, but in this case as inMark 14:41 and the passages in John 2:4; 4:23; 7:30; 8:20; 12:27; 13:1; and17:1, Jesus is speaking of the hour of His Redemption through His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. This request of the Gentile Greeks has now set the “countdown” to His glorification in motion. It is His sacrificial death that will secure eternal blessings not only for God’s covenant people Israel but for all mankind who will become partakers in the gift of eternal life; see John 1:29; 4:42; & 1 John 2:2: He is the sacrifice to expiate our sins, and not only ours, but also those of the whole world [1 John 2:2].
John 12:24-26: In all truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me, must follow me, and my servant will be with me wherever I am. If anyone serves me, my Father will honor him.
This is the little parable of the seed that dies.
Question: In the parable what does the seed represent?
Answer: Jesus’ body.
Question: What comparison is Jesus making between a seed and His body?
Answer: He is speaking of His sacrifice being a condition of His glorification, and of death as the means of gaining life. Just as a seed must be covered in the earth before it sprouts new life so too must Jesus endure physical death to bring us new life that lasts eternally.
St. Augustine addressed this apparent paradox between Christ’s humiliation in death and His glorification: it was appropriate that the loftiness of his glorification should be preceded by the lowliness of his passion [The Gospel of John 51.8]. St Paul expressed this same paradox when he wrote to the church at Philippi: But he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. And for this God raised him high, and gave him the name which is above all other names… [Philippians 2:7-9].
Question: How is this same principle true for each of us who follow Christ? What does Jesus mean in verses 25-26? To help you with your answer break down the opposites presented in these verses:
- Anyone who loves his life [more than me] destroys it
- Anyone who hates his life in this world preserves it to live eternally.
- Anyone who serves me must follow me
- Anyone who follows me will be rewarded
Answer: This same principle holds true for the disciples and each of us who “follow Christ” [the command given in John 12:25]. We must die to ourselves and to this world and we must live for Christ to receive the fullness of life from God and to become channels of life to others. Through the Sacrament of Baptism we die to sin and to this world. After our spiritual rebirth in the “water and the word” we must go forward in our faith journey in which we must daily take up our cross and die to sin to live for Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
- CCC# 1213: Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and the word.”
- CCC# 1214: This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”; into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature.” [See 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12]
- CCC# 1215: This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.” [Quoting Titus 3:5; and John 3:5].
- CCC# 1816: The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it:” All however must be prepared to confess Christ before men and to follow him along the way of the Cross, amidst the persecutions which the Church never lacks.” Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation: “So every one 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.” [Quoting from Matthew 10:32-33].
St. Paul wrote of the necessity of dying to sin and living in Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:11-12: Indeed while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh….We will also, like Jesus, face physical death at the end of our faith journeys but with the promise of “new life.” St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:35-38: Someone may ask: How are dead people raised and what sort of body do they have when they come? How foolish! What you sow must die before it is given new life; and what you sow is not the body that is to be, but only a bare grain, of wheat I dare say, or some other kind; it is God who gives it the sort of body that he has chosen for it, and for each kind of seed its own kind of body.
In Mark 8:34 Jesus made a similar statement: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. A living, and dying reminder of faithfulness to this teaching is found in the life and death of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who went to a martyr’s death in 107AD. In his last letters written before his martyrdom he expressed the willingness to hate his life in this world in order to live eternally with Christ. In his death he gave us an example of how a faithful servant should follow Christ. He ended his last letter to the Church in Rome with the words “I am God’s grain!” [St. Ignatius of Antioch, Romans 4:1]
John 12:27-30: Jesus said: 27‘Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it is for this very reason that I have come to this hour.28Father, glorify your name!’ A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will again glorify it.’29The crowd standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’30Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours.’
Question: What emotion does Jesus feel at this moment with the realization that His “hour has come”? What does He do?
Answer: Jesus feels deep emotion at the thought of what awaits him and so He turns to the Father in prayer seeking refuge, strength and love. This very human feeling of anxiety and fear will be intensified at the Garden of Gethsemane [see Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; and Luke 22:42] and serves as a reminder that Jesus was both fully divine and fully human. It is the same human anxiety and fear that the sinless and immortal Adam must have felt when confronted by the Serpent at the time of our original parent’s fall from grace, but in Jesus’ case, as the second Adam, He will triumph over death and Satan in His willingness to die for the salvation of humanity for as Jesus says in John 12:27d: It is for this very reason that I have come to this hour.
Question: What does Jesus mean when He says “Father, glorify your name!” in John 12:28?
Answer: In ancient cultures one’s name signifies the entire person. Jesus worked for the Father’s glory and His sacrificial death, now freely offered, is the fulfillment of that work because it shows the Son’s love for the Father as the Father will show His love for the Son.
Question: What message is there for us in this passage concerning Jesus desire to pray?
Answer: If Jesus, in a moment of trial and sadness turns to the Father in prayer, shouldn’t we follow His example when we are burdened with the struggles of life? We also have King David’s example. He continually turned to Yahweh in prayer when he was surrounded by his enemies or when he needed the comfort and reassurance of God’s love. In Psalm 31 a beleaguered David cries out: In you, Yahweh, I have taken refuge, let me never be put to shame, in your saving justice deliver me, rescue me, turn your ear to me, make haste. […] Draw me out of the net they have spread for me, for you are my refuge; to your hands I commit my spirit, by you have I been redeemed. [..]. Be brave, take heart, all who put your hope in Yahweh [Psalm 31:1, 4, 34].
A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will again glorify it.’ In John 12:28b God speaks from heaven, divinely and publicly sanctioning Jesus’ coming death. The crowd hears thunder just as the Israelites heard thunder when Yahweh spoke to them from Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19:19.
Question: Can you identify the 3 times when God the Father spoke from heaven to the Son during His ministry?
Answer: On the 3 occasions when the Father bears witness to the divinity of the Son:
- At Jesus baptism [Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22].
- On the Mt. of Transfiguration [Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35].
- Here in John 12:28b, sanctioning Jesus’ self-sacrifice.
Please read John 12:31-36: Sentence is Passed on This World and the Passing of the Light
31‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be drive out.32And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.’33By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.34The crowd answered, ‘The Law has taught us that the Christ will remain for ever. So how can you say, “The Son of man must be lifted up”? Who is this Son of man?’35Jesus then said, ‘The light will be with you only a little longer now. Go on your way while you have the light, or darkness will overtake you, and nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going.36While you still have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.’ Having said this, Jesus left them and was hidden from their sight.
John 12:31-34: “Now sentence is being passed” the word in Greek for ‘sentence’ is krisis from which we get our word ‘crisis. This passage can also be translated “Now judgment is being passed on this world.”
Answer: Satan is the lord of this world.
Jesus will refer to Satan as the “prince of this world” 3 times in the Gospel of John:
Question: How will Satan be “driven out”?
Answer: Jesus’ sacrificial death breaks Satan’s dominion over humanity which began with Adam’s fall in Genesis 3:1-19. Jesus will defeat Satan on the cross and will destroy him when He comes again in glory in His Second Advent [see Revelation 20:10 and CCC# 550, 2853]
John 12:32: And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.
This is Jesus’ third reference to His “lifting up.” The other 2 references are found in:
- John 3:14 “as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
- John 8:28 “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am [He] and that I do nothing of my own accord.”
Question: What is missing from this third reference that is included in the other two?
Answer: Unlike the other references, Jesus’ statement in verse 32does not mention the “Son of Man”.
It is interesting that it is the crowd who mentions Jesus’ favorite Messianic title for Himself, “Son of man,” twice in verse 34. In verse 34 the crowd also mentions the “Messiah.” The Greek translation uses the Greek word Christos for the Jewish title “Messiah”: The crowd answered, ‘The Law has taught us that the Christwill remain for ever. So how can you say, “The Son of man must be lifted up”? Who is this Son of man?’ This is an indication that the crowd has understood Jesus’ other references to the “Son of man” to be identifying Himself as the Messiah of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14 as well as another indication that the acclamation of Jesus with the crowd waving the palms upon His entry into Jerusalem was a nationalistic messianic gesture. John 12:32and 34 establishes the relationship between the Messiah and the Son of Man. There is a similar juxtaposition of the titles Messiah and “Son of Man” in the Synoptic Gospels in the scene of Jesus’ trial before the high priest Caiaphas [Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 23:67-69] when Caiaphas asks Jesus if He is the Messiah and Jesus answers in terms of the “Son of Man” in Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14: “The high priest put a second question to him saying, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus, ‘and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.'” Mark 14:61-62
Returning to Jesus’ statement that He will be “lifted up”?
Question: When will He be “lifted up”?
Answer: In the sense that He will be “lifted up” on the cross in His crucifixion as well as to His “lifting up” in His resurrection and later to heaven in His ascension. The cross and the resurrection/ ascension are both aspects of the same mystery, and when Christ ascends to the Father’s right hand in glory He will send God the Holy Spirit through whom all mankind will be called to Him and His kingdom will spread across the earth.
But Jesus may also be alluding to the prophecy of the 8th century prophet Isaiah in the fourth Servant Song which is found in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The fourth Servant Song is a prophetic vision of the suffering of Jesus the Messiah. Both quotations are from the New American translation:
- Isaiah 52:13-24: See, my servant will prosper, he shall be raised high [lifted up] and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him’so marred was his look beyond that of man, and his appearance beyond that of mortals…
- Isaiah 53:3-6: He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while e thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the LORD [Yahweh] laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Question: How is Jesus’ statement in John 12:32 an answer to the request of the Gentiles in 12:21?
Answer: This passage is the answer to the Greeks request to “see” Jesus. The crucified Christ will be set before the eyes of the world, Jews and Gentiles, as its Savior and Lord when He is “lifted up”. CCC# 662: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself”. The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him.” As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.
The crowd challenges Jesus inJohn 12:34: The Law has taught us that the Christ will remain for ever.
Question: What problem does the crowd have with Jesus’ statement in 12:31-32?
Answer: The crowd understands that Jesus was referring to His death in His statement. Their reference to “the Law” refers to Sacred Scripture [Old Testament] as a whole not just to the Law of Moses in the Torah. Many Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah promise the Messiah who will come as prophet, priest and king will reign forever. The passage the crowd probably has in mind that speaks of the Son of Man as a divine and eternal king isDaniel 7:13-14 which Jesus has already frequently alluded to in His discourses: I was gazing into the visions of the night, when I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, as it were a son of man. He came to the One most venerable and was led into his presence. On him was conferred rule, honor, kingship, and all peoples, nations and languages became his servants. His rule is an everlasting rule which will never pass away, and his kingship will never come to an end.” [Also see Psalms 110:4; Ezekiel 37:25; etc.]
Question: Why does the crowd demand: “Who is this Son of Man?” in 12:34c? Why doesn’t Jesus give an answer?
Answer: Of course, that IS the question everyone must answer! What the crowd wants to know is if Jesus is indeed the “Son of Man/eternal Davidic King” of Daniel 7:13-14, why would He be “lifted up from the earth” [verse 32]? Shouldn’t they expect that He would rule forever over His people’as the prophet Daniel promised in Daniel 2:44: In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last forever…; after all, Jesus has already identified Himself as the “son of Man” from Daniel 7:13-14? It is the mystery of the Messiah and Jesus does not provide a direct explanation to the crowd. That answer will only be fully realized after His resurrection and His ascension when He returns to heaven to sit at the right hand of God to rule His kingdom of heaven-on-earth’the Church, the eternal 5th kingdom promised by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 2:31-45.
John 12:35-36: Jesus then said, ‘The light will be with you only a little longer now. Go on your way while you have the light, or darkness will overtake you, and nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going. While you still have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.’ Having said this, Jesus left them and was hidden from their sight.
These are Jesus’ last words to the crowd and this is the end of His public ministry. He ends His ministry to the Jews by using the light and dark metaphor St. John has repeatedly returned to in his Gospel and by issuing a challenge.
Question: What is the challenge?
Answer: The challenge is to listen and believe in Him so that they may become “children of light.”
Question: What passage in John chapter 11 is related to Jesus’ comments about “light” in verses 35-36?
Answer: The John 12:35-36 passage is related to John 11:9-10. In John 11:9 Jesus speaks of the ability to “see” in the light: having the light of this world to see by…. This is not just a reference to the sun but to Christ as the “light of the world” from John 8:12. The John 12:35-36passage is also linked to John 11:10: …anyone who walks around at night stumbles, having no light as a guide…, which is echoed in John 12:35c & d: …or darkness will overtake you, and nobody who walks in the dark knows where he is going. Both John 11:9-10 and 12:35-36 are parables of “crisis” [Jesus’ word in 12:30, krisis] which are comparable to the parables of watchfulness in Matthew 24:42-51. But these discourses use John’s favorite metaphor of light versus darkness to encourage His listeners to follow Him while they still have time’while they can still see Christ who is the Word: The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone… [John 1:9].
Question: What is Jesus’ message to the people?
Answer: The message is clear: Since the “hour” has come this means that it is time for the “Light” to pass from this world.
Satan, the power of darkness, is preparing for the final struggle. The time of judgment/crisis has come. Now is the time for the people to follow Jesus, the “Light of the world” in order to receive His light and become “children of light” [verse 36a]. St. Paul echoes this passage in his teachings in Ephesians 5:8 and 1 Thessalonians 5:5 in the contrast between those who are in darkness and those who are “sons of light”, as Paul called his converts. The use of this expression in the first century of the Church became the regular word for the grace of baptism as expressed in Hebrews 10:32 and in 6:4: As for those people who were once brought into the light, and tasted the gift from heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of God’s message…
The title “children of light” is very similar to the frequent use of the title “sons of light” to distinguish the members of the Qumran community, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, versus the “sons of darkness” which identified the follows of the corrupt Temple authorities in Jerusalem. If members of that community were present during Jesus’ discourse, this language certainly would have resonated with them! [See Dead Sea Scroll documents 1QS 1:9; 2:16; 3:13, 20-21, 25; 4:11; 1QM 1:1].
Question: Jesus has not directly answered the question of the crowd in verse 34 but has told them that His presence among them is “light” sufficient enough for them to “see” and understand the mystery of the Son of Man and to believe in Him. How do be receive His “light” and understand? How do we avoid walking in “darkness”?
Answer: St. Josemaria Escrive in his wonderful book Christ is Passing By wrote: To deserve this light from God, we must love. We must be humble enough to realize we need to be saved, and we must say with Peter: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life everlasting, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Christ, the Son of God’. If we really do this, if we allow God’s word to enter our hearts, we can truly say that we do not walk in darkness, for the light of God will shine out over our weakness and our personal defects, as the sun shines above the storm.
John 36d: …having said this Jesus left them and was hidden from their sight. As a dramatic illustration of His theme of “the passing of the light” in verse 35, Jesus now withdraws from the public arena and departs across the Kidron Valley to the Mt. of Olives. The “Light” has departed from the people of Jerusalem. This is the climax of the Jerusalem ministry; the rejection of Jesus by the majority of the Jews of Jerusalem [verse 37]. This event signals a conclusion to John’s account of Jesus’ public ministry and signals the “hour” of the final struggle and the approaching “darkness”.
Please read John 12:37-43: The Continuing Unbelief of the Jews
37Though they had been present when he gave so many signs, they did not believe in him;38this was to fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has given credence to what they have heard from us, and who has seen in it a revelation of the Lord’s arm?’39Indeed, they were unable to believe because, as Isaiah says again:40‘He has blinded their eyes, he has hardened their heart, to prevent them from using their eyes to see, using their heart to understand, changing their ways and being healed by me.’41Isaiah said this because he saw his glory, and his words referred to Jesus.42And yet there were many who did believe in him, even among the leading men, but they did not admit it, because of the Pharisees and for fear of being banned from the synagogue:43they put human glory before God’s glory.
In quoting verbatim from the Greek Septuagint Old Testament both Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10, John is summarizing the poor response of many of the Jews and Israelites to Jesus’ teaching despite his miraculous “signs”. The writings of the prophet Isaiah are quoted in the Gospels more than any other Old Testament prophet. Over 25 different verses from Isaiah are quoted by the writers of the Gospels to include 14 verses as direct quotes of Jesus. The quoted passages come from all sections of Isaiah as these two passages illustrate [The Anchor Bible Commentary: The Gospel According to John, page 485].
Question: Why do you suppose Jesus and the inspired writers of the Gospels identified Jesus’ mission and ministry with the 8th century BC prophet Isaiah? Why did John choose these particular passages? What is significant about the reference to “blinding their eyes” in the second Isaiah passage?
Answer: John chose these passages from Isaiah because this prophet’s mission in the 8th century BC parallels Jesus’ mission to God’s Covenant people in the 1st century AD. Isaiah, like Jesus, confronted a rebellious generation whose persistent unbelief called down upon them the Covenant Judgment of Yahweh which resulted in the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC. Judea’s rejection of Jesus the Messiah will also result in Yahweh’s Covenant Judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD. In both cases Yahweh responds to unbelief by blinding the eyes and hardening the hearts of the rebels. This passage is also related to Jesus’ discourse to the Pharisees inJohn 9:39-41 after He healed the man born blind when Jesus rebuked them with the words: It is for judgment that I have come into this world, so that those without sight may see and those with sight may become blind.
In each of the Gospels Jesus cites the Isaiah passages to explain the lack of belief in His ministry by many Jews and Israelites. The Isaiah passage 6:10 quoted in verse 40 is repeated 5 times in the New Testament as the description of the Jewish people in the latest stage of their stubborn rebellion against Christ in Matthew 13:13-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; and here in John 12:40. This citation will also be St. Paul’s last words in Acts 28:26-27 as his explanation of why the Jews have not come to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ that he has preached.
Question: John’s summary of Jesus’ ministry in verses 37-43 and his citation of Isaiah 53:1, taken from Isaiah’s book of the Suffering Servant, may also be meant to remind the reader of the words of what other great Old Testament prophet who chastised the Children of Israel for their unbelief despite the “signs” Yahweh had worked in their sight? Hint: seeDeuteronomy 29:2-4.
Answer: In Moses’ last public address, recommitting the Children of Israel to the Sinai Covenant, he charges the people as a whole with unbelief despite the signs God had worked for them in their journey out of Egypt to the Promised Land: Moses called all Israel together and said to them: ‘You have seen everything that Yahweh did before your eyes in Egypt, to Pharaoh, to his servants and to his whole country’the great ordeals which you yourselves witnessed, those signs and the great wonders. But until today Yahweh has not given you a heart to understand, eyes to see, or ears to hear [Deuteronomy 29:2-4]. It is interesting that Moses called the people who had rejected Yahweh a “perverse generation” [Deuteronomy 32:5& 20] just as St Peter will use the same words to condemn his generation of Old Covenant people who reject Jesus the Messiah in Acts 2:40.
Question: John ends his summary in John 12:41 with a claim about the prophet Isaiah. What is that claim and in what in passage in John’s Gospel does Jesus make a similar claim about an Old Testament patriarch? Hint: seeJohn 8:56
Answer: John claims that Isaiah “saw his glory, and his words referred to Jesus.” It is similar to the claim that Jesus made of Moses in 5:45-47 when He said “it was about me that he was writing..,”and of Abraham in 8:56 when Jesus said that Father Abraham “rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; he saw it and was glad.”
Question: When would Isaiah have seen Christ’s glory? Hint: seeIsaiah 6:1-4
Answer: Perhaps during Isaiah’s vision in the heavenly Temple. Isaiah prophesized Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection in the Servant Song passages found in Isaiah 42 ff. In 52:13 Isaiah prophesizes that Yahweh’s humble servant will be “lifted up” [New Jerusalem translates “raised to great heights”] which is a reference Jesus has made repeatedly in John’s Gospel [John 12:22; etc]
John 12:42-43: And yet there were many who did believe in him, even among the leading men, but they did not admit it, because of the Pharisees and for fear of being banned from the synagogue: they put human glory before God’s glory.
Question: Can you name two men of power and influence who may have been in this category of believers who put human glory before God’s glory but later took their stand for Christ?
Answer: Nicodemus, the Pharisee [see John chapter 3] and perhaps Joseph of Arimathea; both men are Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin.
Please read John 12:44 -13:1: Jesus’ Final Public Discourse and the Conclusion of His Public Ministry:
44Jesus declared publicly, ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in the one who sent me,45and whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me.46I have come into the world as light, to prevent anyone who believes in me from staying in the dark any more.47If anyone hears my words and does not keep them faithfully, it is not I who shall judge such a person, since I have come not to judge the world, but to save the world:48anyone who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already: the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.49For I have not spoken of my own accord; but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and what to speak, and I know that his commands mean eternal life. And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak.13:1Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.
John now summarizes Jesus’ message to the Covenant people. This is the 3rdtime Jesus has identified Himself as “The Light” [see John 8:12 and 9:5] but the 23rd time John as referred to “light” and the 15thtime as a metaphor for Jesus.
Question: What does it mean to “believe in Him [verse 44]?”b
Answer: Those who accept and believe all that Jesus and His Church taught and live in His “light”/teaching will be resurrected to eternal life [see 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Revelation 21:1-8]. For those who believe this belief will lead to the second resurrection [the first was their re-birth in baptism]. The blessings of the Old Covenant were temporal but the blessings of the New Covenant are eternal! Just as the blessings of the Covenant in Christ are eternal so are the punishments/ judgments eternal! Jesus’ words/ teachings that are affirmed and taught by the Church and if we do not accept and obey, our unbelief will condemn us. Those who rejected Christ and the Church and live according to their own understanding will face eternal punishment [Revelation 20:11-15]. To believe in Jesus is to believe everything He said and everything He taught. The decision to follow Him will be the most important decision we will ever make because the consequences are eternal!
John 12:45: …and whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me.
Question: Have you ever pondered the question “What does God look like?” How can we know God the Creator when He doesn’t make Himself physically visible to us?
Answer: Jesus plainly said that those who see Him see God because He is God. If you want to know what God is like you must study the person, the words, and the works of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus of Nazareth was an historical person who lived and died and rose again in fulfillment of the Sacred Scriptures.
John 12:48: …anyone who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already: the word itself that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.
Question: What was the purpose of Jesus’ first mission on earth as compared to His second mission when He returns?
Answer: The purpose of Jesus first mission was to fulfill the promises and prophecies of the Old Covenant and to show men and women the way to salvation and eternal life. When He comes again, His mission will be to judge the people of the nations according to how they lived on earth. See CCC# 679: Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son.” Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of Love. [See John 3:8; 5:22, 27; 12:48;Matthew 12:42; 25:31;Acts 10:42; 17:31;1 Corinthians 3:12-15;2 Timothy 4:1;Hebrews 6:4-6; and 10:26-31]
John 12:49-50: For I have not spoken of my own accord; but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and what to speak, and I know that his commands mean eternal life. And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak.
Verses 49-50 stress the commandment that Jesus has received from the Father: that these unfolding events were not imposed on Jesus but that He and the Father have the same will [John 5:30 and 6:38] and that this commandment that the Son has received from the Father affects the salvation of men because the words and deeds of Jesus the Messiah that the commandment directs are the source of eternal life for mankind [see John 3:16, 36; 5:40;6:33, 35, 48, 51; 7:37-3910:10; 14:6; 20:31]. Here there may also be another reference to Moses and the Law in the words of the Old Covenant. The commandments given by God at Sinai through Moses became a principle of life for God’s Covenant people: Deuteronomy 8:3c …human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of Yahweh. But in the New Covenant the command of God that insures eternal life is more than the Sinai commandments. It is the Word of God Himself who now imparts the covenant obligations to the believer. It is Jesus Christ, the greater than Moses, who will speak the commands of eternal life. And so in this short discourse of Jesus that John has used as a summary at the end of His public ministry is found the New Covenant form of God’s Old Covenant prophet Moses’ last words to his people in Deuteronomy 32:45-47 at the end of his public ministry: When Moses had finished reciting these words to all Israel, he said to them, ‘Take all these words to heart; I intend them today to be evidence against you*. Your must order your children to keep and observe all the words of this Law. Your must not think of this as empty words, for the Law is your life, and by its means you will live long in the country which you are crossing the Jordan to possess’ [*see John 5:45].
Question: Why does Jesus say that His word is final and absolute?
Answer: His word is final and absolute because it is not only His word but His words based on the authority of God. It is God who sent Him and it is God’s words He speaks. It is on the authority of God’s Word that men will be judged.
Question: What themes, introduced in the Prologue and repeated through John’s Gospel, do you recognize in these final verses in John 12:44-50?
- Faith: The need for faith /belief in Jesus the Messiah [verse 44].
- Jesus’ relationship to God the Father: Christ the Incarnate Word is One with the Father. Yet even though the Father and the Son are united as One they are also distinct from one another: the Father commands and sends the Son and the Son is sent and obeys [verse 45]
- The Light: Jesus is the Light and the Life of the world [verse 46, 50].
- Judgment: Judgment will fall on all men in accordance with whether they accept or reject the Son of God [verse 47-49].
John 13:1: Before the festival of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father, having loved those who were his in the world, loved them to the end.
Keep in mind that the original text had no chapter or verse divisions. Our chapter and verse divisions are attributed to the great Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton. It was apparently his decision to place this last verse in chapter 13 instead of at the end of chapter 12, but his decision causes difficulties in interpretation to the modern reader [discussed in the next chapter]. From chapter 12:37 to 13:1 St. John is providing a summary of Jesus’ teaching and His ministry. 13:1 provides a fitting conclusion as well as a transition between the end of Jesus’ public ministry and the next scene’the beginning of His walk to the Cross.