The Paradox of Faith and Life – John 12:20-50

There are many paradoxical elements of faith, not the least of which is that God should choose to love the sinners who rebelled against him, and that Christ would die for the very ones who put him on the cross.

The Scriptures are filled with paradoxical statements and counter-intuitive realities. A list of a few that come immediately to mind:  He who would be great among you must become the servant of all; the first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first; whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me; enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.

In the verses immediately following the presentation and coming of the King to Israel, rather than a mass of Jews seeking out the Lord, we see a group of Gentiles coming to meet Jesus. They apparently pick out the most Gentile sounding of the disciples – Philip – with hopes that he can get them an audience with Christ. He goes to Andrew, and together they go to Jesus.

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus speaks in paradoxical terms that, as in the plant world, life and abundant fruit and growth come only after the death of the seed. And so it would be that the Savior would give life through his sacrificial death, while even his followers must also understand that death to this world is the price of discipleship.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

As the climatic moments of Christ’s life and ministry are approaching, the confusion of the crowds mounts as they misunderstand the message and illustrations that Jesus gives …

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

Though certainly the clarity we see about who Jesus is and what he meant by the teachings he gave was not as easily understood at this time before the cross, enough had been done and said that the people should have connected it with the messianic prophecies, particularly of Isaiah. But even the rejection was prophesied, as God was working a master plan of redemption to extend to the whole human race …

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.38 This 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?”

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

Even with the general mass rejection that was officially rendered by the Jewish leadership, John records here that there were many others, even among the leaders, who did believe in Jesus and recognized the signs as Scripturally true. Yet out of fear to publicly acknowledge their faith and suffer humiliation, they kept it secret – ultimately preferring the comfort of man more than the pleasure of God.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Life is difficult in a sin-saturated world. But in Christ, there is light in the darkness, life that is eternal, and peace in the bigger picture of the great work of God that transcends this world.

This entry was posted in God Up Close and tagged by Randy Buchman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed multiple hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and have been a sportswriter for various publications and online venues. My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with the Antietam Battlefield Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

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