The Greatest Mission
John 12:44-50 is an interesting passage for many reasons.
Jesus makes this speech immediately after seeing men cower in fear from the
Pharisees, so as not to be thrown out of the temple. Law-making was not one of
their abilities, as the only One that could realistically install ordinances and
rules was God. Nevertheless, they had assumed this power and now were one of the
forces to reckon with as far as any Jew was concerned. What makes this passage
interesting, however, is that Jesus brings back to mind who He is, and
establishes Himself higher than any man-made traditions or laws. Jesus does
three things especially notable in these brief seven verses.
Jesus tells of the REASON He came into the world. "I have come as light into the world, that those who believe in Me would not remain in darkness" (v. 46). Sin had entered the world through Adam (Romans 5:12), and subsequently man was separated from God. Although the doctrine of original or “inherited” sin is decidedly false (Ezekiel 18:1-4), man follows suit whenever we sin as well, distancing ourselves from God in the same manner. Jesus’ express purpose, according to John 5:31-39, is to redeem those who are separated, as many as are willing to come to the truth. We read in Acts 26:18, that Paul was sent to open the eyes of Jews and Gentiles to this truth, the brightest light in a dark world. This is the Light that we read about, that we should turn from the darkness of sin, to the light of righteousness.
Jesus tells of the AUTHORITY AND SOURCE of the things He says. Every message needs credibility, or else the message is risky at best. The Gospel was no different, and several of those who listened to Jesus wondered where this Man had come from (Mark 3:2-3). This was a question that the Pharisees had posed another time to Jesus, in Matthew 21, when they asked Him where His authority came from. When we find out that they were too stubborn to make a firm decision, Jesus gives us His answer in John 12:49:"For I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” Jesus authority came from God, and the Word that He spoke came from God as well. If we had to choose to follow the Pharisees or Jesus, who would you pick?
Jesus tells the RESULT of the things He says. "I know that His commandment is eternal life…" (v.50). Enforcing strict disciplines that were near impossible was just another day at the office for the Pharisees (Luke 11:46), but what they could not offer was eternal life, merely the illusion of righteousness. While thousands and possibly even millions had followed this doctrine, Jesus condemns them for the misleading of what they had done (ref. Matthew 23:15). Even Solomon, in his great quest for physical and meaningful satisfaction found in the things of this world, chronicled in the book of Ecclesiastes, came to the conclusion that the end thereof is death! What Jesus said is the gateway to eternal life, and those that come to Him and drink of His water will never thirst again (John 4:13-14).
Jesus' commands that he spoke came from God, therefore we would be wise to heed them, Jesus being God himself. What He says we must do, and this goes along with every doctrine that we have: baptism (Matt. 28:19), obeying Government (Luke 20:25), repentance (Luke 13:3), serving others (Mark 10:42-45), etc. When we take a closer look at John 12:44-50, coupled with other texts to gather more perspective, we find an ironic and heartbreaking reality: the same God the Pharisees claimed to follow was the very same God they hunted and killed.
By Brady Cook
From Expository Files 15.9; September 2008