Summary: Exposition of John 12
Text: John 12:37-50, Title: Anatomy of Unbelief, Date/Place: NRBC, 3/10/13, AM
A. Opening illustration: Dangerous Theology, “We must never forget that it is by God’s appointment that if His
word does not quicken, it must deaden.”
B. Background to passage: the scandal of the unbelief of God’s chosen people was a thorn in the flesh for the
followers of Jesus. And what we see here was not the beginning of their unbelief, but a continuation of the
pattern established in the first part of the gospels, and the first parts of the bible. And John notes that they
“kept on disbelieving” with the imperfect tense. One little precursory note—John notes that Isaiah said what
he said “when he saw the glory of God.” That is interesting on a couple of fronts. First is that the context of
what Jesus has just been speaking about is the glorification of the Son of Man. Secondly, this truth we are
about to speak of is close to the core of who God truly is—in this instance, One who is absolutely free to open
the eyes of the blind or restrain the eyes of those who might see, revealing Himself to only those He chooses
and when He chooses. Absolute freedom is very close to the core of who God really is. Another place this
link is found is in Ex 33:18-19. God’s name, His being, His core is proclaimed in the description: “I will be
gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy.”
C. Main thought: in this text we see people who see but don’t see, on purpose. This morning I want to look at
some characteristics of unbelief.
In spite of evidence (v. 37)
1. In this instance, and often unbelief is held in the face of a good body of proof. John notes here that Jesus
did many signs (indicators of deity) in their presence. And yet, they still chose not to believe.
4. Unbelief for good reason or for no reason is blameworthy. There is not enough proof for some people.
Some people have already made up their minds, they just want your agreement, not your opinion. Some
just have to be against it. Some people would argue with a fencepost. And according to Jesus their
condemnation will be worse.
B. So that prophesy may be fulfilled (v. 38)
1. John also notes that their unbelief was
also due to Isaiah’s prophesy. God foretold through Isaiah that
people would reject the messiah. He would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; despised,
rejected, slandered, and mocked.
2. 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 Yet the LORD has not
given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. –Deut 29:3-4
3. Illustration: Although the Greek conjunction hina sometimes has resultative force (the meaning here
would then be that the unbelief of the people resulted in the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, not
that it occurred in order that Old Testament prophecy might be fulfilled), no such weakening can be
legitimate here: v. 39 insists that it was for this reason that the people could not believe. On the other hand,
such unambiguous predestinarianism is never set over against human responsibility: v. 37 presumes there
is human culpability, and v. 43 articulates an utterly reprehensible human motive for the unbelief. 1
4. Every prophecy in scripture is guaranteed to come to pass. It is good to know that God is trustworthy,
isn’t it? He has the ability to accomplish anything He desires.
Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary (447). Leicester,
England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
C. Restricted by God (v. 39-40)
1. Now, here is where the theology
gets dangerous. Neither Isaiah, nor John are ambiguous about who
in part is responsible for this unbelief—God is! John says that they are not able to believe. In earlier
chapters, he has gone to great lengths to say that people are only saved if God draws them. Isaiah says
that God blinded eyes, and God hardened hearts SO THAT they couldn’t see, couldn’t understand, and
couldn’t be saved. This is kinda implied from the previous point. If a prophesy is made, we know that we
have a God would will ensure that it will come to pass.
3. Illustration: the crucifixion is one of the biggest events that would have never taken place w/o unbelief.
“What he is now saying is that the hand of God is in the consequences of their choice…The ultimate cause
of all there is, in a genuinely theistic universe, must be found in the will of God.” “God thus blinds and