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The readings for Tuesday of Holy Week are here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine below):

John 12:20-36

12:20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks.

12:21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

12:22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

12:23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

12:24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

12:25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

12:26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

12:27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say–‘ Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

12:29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

12:30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.

12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

12:33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

12:34 The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”

12:35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.

12:36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

If much of this Gospel passage looks familiar, it was read two Sundays ago on the Fifth Sunday in Lent — Year B. My post for that day offers an exegesis for John 12:20-33.

Commentary for verses 34-36 comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

After the excitement of Palm Sunday, on the occasion of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the crowd was becoming disenchanted. They asked what Son of Man would be ‘lifted up’ (verse 34), words which, in that era, meant crucified.

John MacArthur explains that they were not remembering all of the relevant prophesies in Scripture:

Ah, this is a turning folks.  On Monday, they were hailing Him as the Messiah.  That begins to go downhill on Tuesday when He attacks the temple.  It’s really going downhill now because they all know He is saying, “I will be crucified,” and they are saying, “Wait a minute.  The Son of Man?” that Old Testament term from Daniel chapter 7, the Son of Man, the Messianic term“The Son of Man is to remain forever.”  And they were right about that.  He is the everlasting Father in Isaiah 9.  He has an everlasting kingdom in Daniel 7.  So who is this Son of Man who will be crucified?

Because they don’t understand Isaiah 53, they don’t believe Isaiah 52They don’t understand Daniel 9, that He would be cut off, Zechariah 12:10, that He would be pierced.  They only see a Messiah who sets up an everlasting kingdom, and so the cross, Paul says 1 Corinthians 1 is to the Jews a what?  Stumbling block, stumbling block.  “What Son of Man is this?”  So we’re starting down from Monday to Friday pretty fast, aren’t we?  This is Wednesday, maybe even ThursdayBy Friday, they’re convinced this man needs to diePerhaps, they didn’t even think about the fact that in His crucifixion, He was fulfilling exactly what He saidThis is the scope of the death of Christ in His own simple words before the crossStaggering.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that, on occasion, we have selective retention when it comes to Scripture:

Note, We often run into great mistakes, and then defend them with scripture arguments, by putting those things asunder which God in his word has put together, and opposing one truth under pretence of supporting another.

Jesus then made a bold, definitive statement, exhorting them to walk with the light while the light was still among them, so that the darkness might not dominate them (verse 35).

That might sound gentle enough to us, but it was His closing invitation to them, which was also a warning.

MacArthur elaborates:

It’s the final warning God has run out of time He’s run out of patience This is the day the light went out It’s Passion Week It’s toward the end of the week Friday, He will be crucified At some point in the end of the week, Jesus speaks in verse 35, “‘For a little while longer, the Light is among you.  Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.  While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.’

That is the first point in this text: the final call, the final call.  This is a call to unbelievers It is the last one This is it.  They’ve had generations and generations – hundreds and hundreds of years since they were recovered from their captivity and brought back to their land to rebuild it – to demonstrate their love for God, their obedience to God They have not been obedient Though they have not been idolatrous, they have continued to kill the prophets.  They have continued all the way up until their only hours from killing the Messiah, the Son of God.  There is one final appeal, one final appeal, and this is it. 

The people have given their verdict Back to verse 34.  You remember what was going on in verse 34?  Jesus had announced that He was going to die back in verse 24 in the metaphor of a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying so that it could produce fruit.  He would not be able to bear spiritual fruit if He didn’t die.  He had to die.  He had come to die.  His death would be by crucifixion.  There was a metaphor for crucifixion; being lifted up.  In verse 32, He said, “I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to Myself.”

There He declares His coming crucifixion in terms that they all understood His crucifixion because, He says in verse 33 that this is the kind of death which He was to die.  The crowd understood it.  Verse 34, they rendered their verdict.  “‘We have heard out of the law – ” the Old Testament, “ – that the Messiah is to remain forever.”  He is to set up an eternal, everlasting kingdom.  “‘How can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?  Who is this Son of Man?’” they say cynically.

So, on Monday they were saying He was the Son of David, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”  They were hailing Him as the Messiah because, of course, He had done miracles for three years.  They all knew about it and capped it off with the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead.  There was a euphoria This is Him.  This is the Messiah.  As He came into the city, hundreds of thousands of people acclaimed Him “Messiah.”  Tuesday, He attacks the temple He attacks their religious system, not the Romans, and creates doubt in their mind Then He says He’s going to die, and that’s the final straw.  They shift from seeing Him as the Messiah to seeing Him as an imposter “Who is this Son of Man who is going to be crucified?”  Within hours, they will scream, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” 

The day of grace had come to its end This is the final call.  But again it shows the mercy, the grace, the compassion, the longsuffering, the patience and the kindness of the Savior He had preached among them for three years Everything He did was public Only a few hours remain now. 

Jesus repeated His message to believe in the light while the light was still present so that they might be the children of light (verse 36). Afterwards, He vanished from their sight.

MacArthur says:

Verse 36, “While you have the Light, believe.”  Walk equals believe “Believe in the Light so that you may become sons of Light.”  This is His final invitation, final invitation.  Make the journey of faith, believe, and once the light of the world is no longer present, the unbelieving world will be dark, and you will be like a traveler completely lost in a moonless night who wanders to his own danger and destruction Back in chapter 8 and verse 21, Jesus said, “I go away and you will seek Me and will die in your sin.  Where I am going, you cannot come.”  In verse 24, therefore, I said to you, you will die in your sins for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.  You will seek Me.  You will die in your sins if you do not believe.”

He said in that same chapter earlier, verse 12, “I am the Light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness.”  Come to Christ, you come to light.  Come to Christ, you become a child of light, a son of light.  Magnificent pictures, but you don’t have much time.  Receive Him while you are able He is the Light.  We know that metaphor through the gospel of John.  He is the Light of God’s life.  He is the Light of God’s wisdom, and the Light of God’s truth, the Light of God’s holiness, the Light of God’s righteousness.  He is the Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness can’t put it out He has come to be the Light of the world.  But the opportunity is coming to its end The Light is hereNow is the time to believe.

Henry explains our Lord’s departure and surmises He might have returned to Bethany:

this he did, 1. For their conviction and awakening. If they will not regard what he hath said, he will have nothing more to say to them. They are joined to their infidelity, as Ephraim to idols let them alone. Note, Christ justly removes the means of grace from those that quarrel with him, and hides his face from a froward generation, Deuteronomy 32:20. 2. For his own preservation. He hid himself from their rage and fury, retreating, it is probable, to Bethany, where he lodged. By this it appears that what he said irritated and exasperated them, and they were made worse by that which should have made them better.

MacArthur says that was the end of our Lord’s public ministry:

These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.  Didn’t make another public appearance that week It was over.  It was over.  Luke 21:38 tells us that in the morning the people gathered to the temple expecting Him, but He wasn’t there He had come unto His own, and His own received Him not It wasn’t just a cloud veiling the sun.  The sun had set, and the darkness was complete.  His words were fulfilled.  “You will seek Me and will not find Me, and where I go, you can never come.”  That’s a judgment.  That is a judgment. 

His physical hiding was acting out the judgment It was a dramatic act portraying the judgment So the verdict is in on Israel.  They saw all the evidence.  They heard all the teaching.  They saw the miracles.  They were all done openly.  They were all done publicly, but it was over.  It was completely over.  In John 15:24, our Lord said, and He said this Thursday night with His disciples in the Upper Room, “If I hadn’t done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sinned, but now they have both seen and hated Me and my Father as well.”  They hated Me.  They hated my Father, and they saw everything I did.  That’s His final call, and He disappears.  What a sad day, the day the Light went out, the day the sun went down.  Three years, and He was there every day, and then He was gone.

His public ministry is over The rest of the chapter John summarizes his insights inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he helps us to make some sense out of this incredibly dark day So we have in verses 35 and 36, the final call to unbelief. 

Some will say that perhaps Jesus did not do enough, but John counters that in verse 37:

John wants to make sure that nobody gets away with that argument.  So in verse 37 he says this,“But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.”  You say, “Well, that’s just John’s word.  That’s just John’s word.”  No, it’s not.  Go back to chapter 11, verse 47.  Let’s go to the supreme court of Israel, the highest court in the land, the Sanhedrin.  The chief priests and the Pharisees convene in this council called the Sanhedrin, and what do they say when they come together in the council?  They were saying, “What are we doing?  For this man is performing many signs.”  No one ever denied the miracles of Jesus His enemies never denied one of His miracles, never tried to deny it.  In fact, at the end of the gospel of John, the final verse in chapter 21 says, “There were many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

Massive evidence, massive testimony confessed to not only by John, but by the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of Israel They didn’t even attempt to disprove what He did He healed the sick, expelled demons, controlled the winds and the sea, walked on water, turned water into wine, revealed to men their secret thoughts, raised the dead, and nobody ever denied any of it.  They were open miracles They were public miracles for everybody to see Many of them done in the most public place of all, in and around the temple, and still they refused to believe That’s what I read you in John 15:24.  They wouldn’t have the level of sin they have if they had not seen what they saw and heard what they heard.  “They have hated Me without cause.”  They refused to believe. 

Here’s the danger When they would not believe, the judgment came, and they could not believe.  You don’t want to pass into that category When they would not believe, the judgment came, and they could not believe.  Follow the text.  They were not believing in Him, verse 37 says.  They were not believing in Him, “To fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which He spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’  For this reason, they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.’”

A state of unbelief, especially when it is a wilful refusal, is certainly not the place one wants to be.

We wonder how many believers there were during the ministry of Jesus. MacArthur says there would have been 500 believers in Galilee and 120 in Jerusalem at that time. That does not sound like many to us, but God had His remnant of believers. However, MacArthur says that for the nation of Israel, it was too late.

Paul tells us in Romans 11:25-28 that God’s judgement on Israel will not last forever, but, as we can see through over two millenia, it has certainly been a long one so far.

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