Sermon – March 1, 2020
In the two millennia since Christ died and rose again, we see the promise of Jesus to build his church has been largely fulfilled, even if there is much more to go. Yet, at the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus’ mission does not seem to have been fulfilled. The leaders hated him and the crowds were not fully swayed by him. Indeed, in a short time, so many would turn against him that he would die an agonizing death as a traitor and a heretic. John, knowing these things, steps in today to help us rightly understand the success of Jesus’ ministry, as it is tied to God’s glory, and the after-glow of that glory in our own lives.
1. God’s glory denies human authority
John tries to make sense of the lack of faith in Jesus, given the great number of clear miracles that he has performed. Here, he finds help in Isaiah, who prophesied that such things must be the case. No one has believed the report, of a servant from God, high and lifted up, bringing salvation, but who is made to look marred and inhuman. The persistent unbelief of the leaders fulfills this very Scripture; for while seeing the strong arm of the Lord in Jesus, they will crucify him, lifting him up, marring him and treating him as if he is inhuman. Why will they do this? God has blinded their eyes – they can do no other. Our salvation, and their unbelief, will not stand in the way of God’s glory. God cares nothing of human authority, even over what we think of as our most basic freedoms. To show off his full glory, and bring salvation to us, he must have little regard for what many think of as the freedom of human choice.
2. God’s glory desires human confession
Yet, this doesn’t clear us from our responsibility. Many of the leaders think that they believe in Jesus, yet they are simply scared to speak of this belief. John does not pull any punches here: their fear is simply because they want praise from men more than they want to glorify God. Friends, we cannot be like these leaders! Our beliefs cannot be private, nor can we think that generally praising God is what Christianity is all about. We have the Father when we confess the Son. Let us always speak well of Jesus, and have no fear in the confessing of his glory.
3. God’s glory is displayed in the human Christ
We can do these things because God’s glory is ultimately displayed in Christ. The last verses of chapter are a succinct summary of John’s Gospel to this point. The middle of these verses are summaries of much of the material presented in chapters 1, 3, and 8. Jesus is the light of the world, come to bring salvation to all. Yet, while not here for condemnation, to reject his word is to accept condemnation. These ideas are bracketed by the major theme of John’s Gospel: Jesus is God incarnate; the very essence and nature of God rest in him. Therefore, to believe in him is to believe in the Father; and to reject him and his words is to reject the Father and his words. In fact, this is precisely what John says, subtly, in the enigmatic verse 12:41. John says that Isaiah saw “his” glory. Given that he links John 6, where he saw the Lord high and lifted up, to Isaiah 53 logically (they were unable to believe [Isa 53] because they were blinded [Isa 6]), but he says that Isaiah said these (plural!) things because he saw his glory. The glory he saw was Jesus himself. Both in his natural exultation as the God of glory and in his exultation on the cross. Equally displayed in both, Jesus is the full display of the glory of God.