Life To The Dead Prophecy [John 12:37-50]
by Pastor Mike Fortune
October 18, 2008
Introduction: BlueFish Video: Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Life Comes From...
- Believing the miraculous and prophetic [John 12:37-41; Isaiah 53:1; Daniel 9:24-27]
- Pleasing God not man [John 12:42-46; Mark 15:31-32; 1 John 3:23]
- A sealed heart [John 12:47-50; John 5:45-47; 1 John 4:17]
Robert Robinson was only 8 years old when his dad died. Neither the churches nor the government in 18th century England did much to support him and his widowed mother. So at 14 years of age, when a boy needs his father most, Robert was sent off to London to apprentice as a barber. There, without a father to guide and steady him, he made some bad friends. One day his gang of rowdies harassed a drunken gypsy by pouring liquor into her while demanding she tell them their fortunes for free. Pointing her finger right at Robert she told him he would live to see his children and grandchildren. Which struck a tender spot in his heart. "If I'm going to live to see my children and grandchildren," he thought, "I'll have to change my way of living." So he decided to go hear the Methodist preacher George Whitefield. To cover up his anxiety, he suggested to his friends that they go with him and heckle the gathering. Which they did. But while he was there, Robinson was converted. And three years later, at the age of twenty, he made his peace with God and immediately set out to become a Methodist preacher himself. Though uneducated, he learned French and Latin, wrote four books on theology, and became an eloquent speaker often writing hymns to conclude his sermons. In 1757, he wrote a hymn we still sing today which expressed his joy in his new found faith: Come, Thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy, never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me ever to adore Thee; May I still Thy goodness prove. While the hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love.
In the last stanza of the same hymn, Robinson added these prophetic words: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above. And prone to wander Robert was. He left the Methodists and became a Baptist. Then he left the Baptists and some believe became a Unitarian denying the full divinity of Jesus. Robert died on June 9, 1790. But before he did, a widely told, but unverifiable story illustrated the spiritual struggle he faced even after he became a pastor. One day as he was riding in a stagecoach a lady asked him what he thought of the hymn she was humming. He responded, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”
Do pastors have their ups and downs? Can they have unresolved questions and sometimes even doubts? Can pastors wonder and yes sometimes even wander far from God? We know God loves us the masses like crazy. But does he feel the same way about religious leaders? Does He feel the same way about you? We’ve seen from John 12 that Jesus can resurrect the physically dead. But can Jesus resurrect the spiritually lukewarm? Especially if their theology is incorrect? I believe He can and does all the time. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. So open your Bibles with me and follow along as I 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.”
Our passage today concludes what scholars identify as the end of part one of John’s Gospel. Which some say was mostly about creation with part two being mostly about redemption. They say that because John 1 begins with Jesus the logos and Creator who comes down to earth and through twelve chapters of John covering 3 ½ years years of his ministry interacts with the people He created. As in the original creation, God labored for six days, declared his work finished, and rested on the seventh day.
Life comes from the miraculous and prophetic
Now, in the summary of part one preparing the reader for rest of part two, Jesus labors six more days on earth according to John 12:1 before declaring His work finished in John 19:30 and eventually resting in the tomb on the Sabbath day according to John 19:31 and 42. The Gospel of John some say is all about Creation and Redemption. And obviously, our heart response to Jesus especially as Redeemer is important for the reader of John to understand. Eternally significant even. Which we’ll get to in point number three today, but before we do, let’s not miss point number one jumping right out at us in verse 37: Life comes from believing the miraculous and prophetic.
John 12:37 says, “37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” Now the still here isn’t everyone. We just finished reading after the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:45 which says, “45Many of the Jews who had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” And then we read after the Triumphal Entry in John 12:19 how the Pharisees complained, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” And if you skip down to verse 42 of our passage today, it becomes obvious to all the readers of John that even some of the chief priests and religious leaders believed Jesus too as John 19:38-39 confirms.
But for the most part, even after the Creator interacts with His creatures for 3 ½ years doing all kinds of miracles and signs in their presence, still the Bible says many did not believe in Him. Part of it had to do with their understanding of Messianic theology. Which we’ve talked about already so we won’t go into it again. But the point I want to make here today is that some did believe. Many did not, but some did! So just because miracles and prophecies didn’t convince everyone, that doesn’t mean they don’t convince anyone!
Prophecy is frosting on the cake
And that’s just as true today to be honest. That’s why I compare prophecy as frosting on the side of the cake. Jesus is the cake. Prophecy is merely the frosting. Jesus used prophecy with his disciples primarily as a tool for them to look back upon history to increase their faith not establish it. And when we use prophecy the right way, we can do that too. So let’s try to do so today with one Scripture from Daniel 9:24-27 which reads, “24Seventy 'sevens' [or weeks] are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. [God is basically putting the Jewish nation in time out for 490 years. Already in Babylonian captivity in the time of Daniel, God is saying when you get back to Israel you’ll have 490 years to become the light to the nations I need you to be. If you don’t, I’ll ask the Gentiles instead] So, back to Daniel 9:25, “25 Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One/Messiah, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
The 70 week prophecy of Daniel applies to Jesus
For hundreds of years, long before Adventists showed up in 1863, Christians have identified this passage of prophecy as applying to Jesus. Shockingly today, much of Christianity applies Daniel 9 to the antichrist not Jesus Christ so be careful what you’re watching and reading out there about the rapture. It’s not what the Protestant Reformers taught. See me for a handout after church if you want more info on that.
But long story short: Without leaving the book of Daniel, a bunch of Christians long before Adventists concluded from the book of Daniel that all these weeks were consecutive periods of time with each day in the week symbolizing a year. So beginning with the autumn of 457 BC, when extra biblical evidence from archaeologists have confirmed the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem went into effect, they multiplied 69 prophetic weeks by 7 days in a week and concluded that the Jewish nation time out would end when the Messiah arrives to start his ministry 483 years later in 26 AD or 27 when not counting zero going from BC to AD. Astronomers count the zero; historians don’t. Which is weird I know, but true.
Anyway, well, what happened in 27 AD? According to Luke 3:1, it was the 15 th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea that John the Baptist started baptizing and one of the people he baptized was Jesus. Luke 3:23 says Jesus was about 30 years old when he got baptized and began his ministry.
Sixty nine of the seventy weeks had elapsed. Four hundred and eighty three years passed all the way down through history from 457 BC to 26 AD 27 not counting the zero. Jesus then ministers for three and half years. Which is exactly half of the seven literal left from Daniel 9's 70 weeks. And then what happens? Daniel 9:27 said, “He [the Messiah/Jesus] will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.”
And that’s exactly what Jesus does in part 2 of the Gospel of John. After Jesus gets baptized at 30. Ministers for three and half years. He then dies on the cross. For 3 ½ years the authorities in Jerusalem tolerate the preaching of the disciples about Jesus, but eventually in 34 AD they stone Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and widespread persecution breaks out. Until this time, Acts 1:8 and 8:1 indicate that the disciples stayed in Jerusalem. But after they stoned Stephen, they were really forced to expand their evangelistic efforts resulting in the Gospel going to much more of the Gentile world. Long story short...
Prophecy of Daniel 9 confirmed disciples' faith
Looking back at history through prophecy, as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 and with his disciples in the Acts 1:3, we can see how Daniel 9 confirmed their faith in Jesus. Miracles and prophecies didn’t convince everyone then. And they don’t convince everyone now either as Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10 said. But verse 42 of our passage today indicates they do convince some. They can bring life to the wondering and wandering and spiritually dead. Point number one is: Life comes from believing the miraculous and prophetic.
Moving on, let’s skip down to verses 42 and 43. “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.” I could get on any soap box here and hammer on any number of things. I choose not to. I think you know where you’re making compromises in your life. I think the Holy Spirit is a much better teacher than me. And personally convicts us all of sin. If he’s not convicting you, it’s probably because you’re not spending any time with Him! Because when we do, that’s what He does! And He does it through this book! The problem is when He does, like the religious rulers who believed Jesus according to verse 42, we have to respond to it. And decide if we are willing to submit to its authority over our lives. And instead of doing so, all too often like the crowd that crucified Jesus, we ask Jesus for another sign instead!
Mark 15:31-32 says this is what some of those believing religious leaders did too. They “Mocked Jesus among themselves. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! 32Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe."
And could Jesus have done so? Of course! He who walked on water and raised the dead could have easily come down off that cross. But Jesus wanted to please the Heavenly Father not man. He knew the miraculous and prophetic would convince some of them, He also knew it would not convince everyone. And if He had come down off that cross, He could save none of them. So He stayed where He was. Nailed to a cross. Paying the price of our sins that put Him there.
Life comes from pleasing God not man
Life comes to the dead from believing the miraculous and prophetic. Point number one. But life also comes frm pleasing God not man. Which is point number two. But how does that look today? Does Jesus want us to crawl up on a cross? No! 1 John 3:23 describes our job well I believe. It says, “23And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.”
When we do this, as sincerely as we can, to the best of our understanding and conviction, good things happen to us. Miraculous things even. When a fatherless child with no education ends up preaching at Cambridge writing lyrics to one of the most powerful songs we still sing today, that’s miraculous! And that’s what happened to Robert Robinson. CS Lewis said the same thing about John Bunyan and Pilgrim’s Progress. In Mere Christianity on page 78, Lewis writes, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian I warn you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you brains and all. But fortunately it works the other way around. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: One of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that astonished the world.” Mere Christianity page 78.
...and offering Christ our hearts
Life comes from believing the miraculous and prophetic. Point number one. From pleasing God not man. Point number two. And from offering Christ our hearts. Which is point number three. When we do that, Jesus seals the decision we make to follow Him every day we do so. That’s what I think Jesus meant when he said in John 12:47, “ For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” If that sounds contradictory to John 5:27 where it says the Father has given him authority to execute judgment, it really isn’t because that other passage is talking about the result of His mission not His purpose. Jesus coming to save and redeem His creation was the purpose of His mission. Judgment and condemnation is the result we bring on ourselves if we reject its purpose. If we choose to please ourselves rather than God. If we fail to offer our heart sincerely to Christ, He can’t seal it. That’s why Jesus said in John 5:45-47, “Do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.” Without offering your sincere heart to Jesus, without a sealed relationship with Jesus, all you’ve got to offer Him one day is your obedience or in actual fact your disobedience. Neither of which is any good compared to the perfect life of Christ.
But here in John 12:48, Jesus reminds us that not only does Moses and the law judge us, but our response to Christ’s own words judge us as well. “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him.” In other words, our failure to offer Jesus our sincere hearts to seal by default means we are choosing to reject Jesus. Why? Because not believing Jesus is the same as rejecting Jesus. Why? Because Jesus came to save the world not judge the world. Does this make sense yes or no? So the law and our rejection of Jesus condemn us. And to make sure we understand this, He basically says in verse 49: “I’m not making this up!” “The Father who sent me commanded me to say that because my words lead to eternal life.”
The question is: Do we believe Him? Or will we like the religious rulers prefer the praise of men? Some saw the miraculous and the prophetic. And came back from a life of wondering and wandering to a life of pleasing God not man. Some of them were even religious leaders full of questions and doubts. Many others did not. Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence.
Today, my church family and friends, what will you decide? Can you see the ordinary miracles all around you? Do you believe in the prophetic? Is it your desire to choose Christ? And to sincerely serve Him with all your heart? If we do that, 1 John 4:17 says we can confident on the day of judgment because, “17In this way, love is made complete.” Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Take my heart, O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above. May the lyrics to this song be the prayer you pray every day until we see Jesus face to face. Amen. So let it be.