Summary: Christ prepares His other disciples for His death by announcing that His first coming is only for salvation; judgment on unbelievers is delayed until His second coming.
We’re in our study of John and we’re in chapter twelve. The main point in the whole book is that Jesus is the Son of God and that those who believe in Him have eternal life. I want to remind you of the importance of chapter twelve and of the fact that John doesn’t waste words in his gospel. He’s still working towards His main goal and what we read today should convince us even further that Jesus is the Christ.
Now, the context is that Jesus is preparing His disciples for His death. They don’t see it coming but all this will make sense to them when they look back at it in hindsight. But we need to be careful limiting our definition of “disciples” to just the twelve (eleven really) men who are following Him. He had many other disciples and some of those were high-powered rulers (Jn. 19:39). They would also need convincing that Jesus is worth following and that He didn’t fail in His mission.
It’s important that we come into this text with this in mind because there are a lot of sermons that are too hard on these other disciples. We just shake our heads and cluck our tongues that these men loved the praises of men more than of God, and we use them as example of what not to be. But they’re only people and to make this passage all about their failure misses the point. They were naturally full of doubt and fear and every other emotion that every disciple ever since has felt. Christ’s goal is not to bring shame onto them or scare them into confessing His name, but to convince them as their King that He is worthy of honor. He wants to convince them that He didn’t fail so He’s giving them something to think about after they hear of His resurrection.
When we left off last time we saw that the crowd didn’t believe despite His miracles and He hid Himself from them:
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
So here’s our point of tension and the reason for what Christ says next. These men did believe but they had to weigh their options; they had to count the cost. Picture them sitting in their thinking chairs late at night. “Yes, I believe, but if I tell people that they’ll throw me out. I’ll lose everything I’ve got, and my family will be shamed by the whole community. I won’t be able to go to God’s house anymore. What if I’m wrong? Can so many of my colleagues and mentors be wrong?”
And so the question is whether following Jesus is worth the cost. But then He dies, and doesn’t that change everything? Doesn’t that answer the question? I can almost see them sighing in relief: “I’m so glad I didn’t come out and say anything! I was so close to identifying with Him, but now we know He’s not the Messiah!”
And so Jesus preempts those thoughts and prepares these fearful disciples for what’s coming:
44Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.
“If you follow me, then you also follow God. If you see me, then you also see God.” The leaders aren’t denying just one man. When they say Jesus is a liar, they are calling God a liar! This is an important foundation for these other disciples because they’re faced with the question of allegiance. When it comes right down to it will they put their friends and associates before their God?
It’s not a question of works or self-effort. Jesus gives the answer in His next statement:
46I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
If these rulers believe on Christ then they can’t continue to live in darkness. If they believe that He’s more than a rabble-rouser or that He’s not lying then they can’t stay comfortably in that place of non-confession. What fellowship does light have with darkness (II Cor. 6:14)? When Christ comes He shines into the darkness and those who believe come to the light that their deeds might be exposed because they are done by God. Those who don’t believe hate the light and will not come to it (Jn. 3:20-21). There is no fellowship.
And so it’s necessary that these men’s lives will change. What they fear must come true. They must be cast out of the system of legalism and self-righteousness. And for this to happen to them is for their good. They will not dwell in darkness!