Read John 12:37-50
37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
"Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
39For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40"He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn — and I would heal them."
41Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.
42Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
44Then Jesus cried out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. 46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." (NIV)
This passage begins with one of those passages that people who believe in predestination point to – that it is God who allows some to believe and others not to believe. In the Wesley tradition of Methodism, we do not believe in predestination. We believe in freewill. We believe that each of us makes one’s own choice to believe or not.
In the first quote of Isaiah, one can see the anguish and pain of Isaiah. It is the pain of many a preacher who has spoken and people respond with unbelief. The passage of Isaiah John quotes in verse 40 comes from Isaiah 6:10. This is the passage of Isaiah describing his call. In this passage, Isaiah says he was called to preach, but God was not going to allow the people to hear because he was intent on punishing them and sending them into exile. God says, if they heard, he would heal them and relent. But for their good, he needed to allow them to be punished.
This passage also has in it the Jewish tradition that nothing, good or bad, happens without God being involved in it. To the Jews, if someone didn’t believe, it was because God was against them and the reason was usually sin in one’s life. The Jews truly connected a good life with a sin free life and a miserable life with a sinful life.
The bigger problem is verses 42-43. It is here that we see the people who believe, but are afraid to voice it for fear of losing what they have. This is something we still see today. People do not stand up for Christ for fear of losing something whether it be a job or simply having people ridicule them. We seek a so-called earthly peace over a heavenly faith. These are the people that Jesus referred to in the parable of the seeds. These are the people signified by the seed that fell on the road and on the rocky soil. They first believed, but when the cares of the world came, they fell away.
But John brings it all home in the end. Jesus tells the people that he is not hear to judge them, but for salvation. The church is not hear for judgement, but salvation. Judgement comes at the end. And when Jesus says he is not the judge, what he is pointing to in this passage is that what judges us will be our own words and actions. There will be no need for a judge accuse, our own lives will be the accuser. Jesus will actually be the advocate to those who have put their trust in him and believed in him.
We can get caught up in worrying and wondering about people’s faith. But we are called to share the Gospel so that people can come into God’s presence. We are introducers, not judges. We share, not take away. Even if no one listens like Isaiah was confronted with, we are still called to speak and act. Do not let your fears stop you.
Have you ever held back speaking about your faith because of what others might think or do? I think we all have at one time or another in our lives. The key is to not dwell on those times but to grow in faith and strength to speak and act in the future. To have faith in Christ is to seek God’s will and be obedient to it.
Blessings and Peace