Consumed With Glory – John 12:37-43

Consumed With Glory

Nick Esch, 12/31/2017 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

Here we are on the eve of the New Year. It’s a time of new beginnings and fresh starts… No doubt many of you have been thinking about resolutions… You’ve been thinking about ways to improve yourself or your life in the upcoming year… And that can be a great thing, if we are doing it for the right reason… But the trends of resolutions tend to point to things being done for the wrong reasons. We want to get into shape, not because we want to be in good health, but because we want to look awesome… Or we want to get into better health so that we can do the things we want to do, not the things God wants us to do… Or we want to improve our financial situation, not to be better stewards and to glorify God with our money, but so that we have security in ourselves, or so that we can get more stuff… But we were not created to accumulate, and we were not created for ourselves… We were created for God and His glory… And glory is the key issue in our thinking… You see, when we are consumed with our own glory, we forget about God’s… All we worry about is ourselves, and how we can get things the way we want them… But, on the flip side, when we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own, and we find that there is more joy in living for Him, than living for ourselves… And that’s what I want us to see in our text today… And that’s what I want us to take with us into this New Year. So let’s look at John 12:37-43 together.

John 12:37-43

Our passage picks up right after the Triumphal Entry, or what we usually refer to as Palms Sunday. Jesus—though He had a death warrant out for Him—rode publically into Jerusalem, in such a manner that He was clearly fulfilling prophecy and claiming to be, not only the King of the Jews, but the King of the world. And all of this happened right after He raised Lazarus from the dead… And of course before that He had done miracle after miracle, He had given sign after sign, along with His public teaching that clearly claimed and displayed that He was indeed the Messiah, that He was indeed the Savior, that He was indeed the Lord…

Now, with all of that in mind, look at how our passage begins in verse thirty-seven, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…” This is meant to be an incriminating statement. While the Jewish leaders have been seeking to find Jesus guilty of something, so that they could arrest and kill Him, here John is showing that it is actually the Jews who are guilty; they carry the guilt of unbelief, of rejecting Jesus… And that after He has done so much… I mean people say all of the time that if God would just give them a sign, or if He would just somehow show Himself to them, then they would believe… Well, these people have received sign after sign, and God Himself is standing before them, yet they still do not believe…

Church, let that be a lesson to us; we are never going to be able to argue someone into Christianity, we are never going to be able to provide enough evidence for someone to recognize that Jesus really is Lord. Now don’t misunderstand me, the gospel must be shared with someone in order for them to come to faith—it is the power of God for salvation, so evangelism is totally necessary… And it’s important that we seek to answer as many questions about the gospel as we can, and seek to show people with our arguments the truthfulness of Christianity. And along with that, our lives—our words and our deeds—should testify to the truthfulness of Christianity; but that in an of itself will never be enough to make someone a Christian… Now I don’t mean to say that Christianity isn’t logical, because it is; the problem isn’t Christianity, the problem is the sinfulness of humanity… And this is where our passage takes us next…

In verse thirty-seven we’re told that even tough all of these Jews saw Jesus and saw His many miraculous signs, they still did not believe in Him, and then in verse thirty-eight through forty we’re told that this was, “38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.’

Now this first quote comes from Isaiah 53:1, which is a part of the Suffering Servant prophecy; that Jesus would be despised and rejected by men, and that rejection would lead to His crucifixion, and His crucifixion would lead to our salvation… Most of the Jews were expecting a majestic King, a conquering hero, not a Suffering Servant… So, they don’t believe because Jesus isn’t who they imaged Him to be… Their version of Jesus didn’t match up with the Jesus of the Bible, but instead of rejecting their version of Jesus, they reject the biblical Jesus… And is this not all too common still today? There may be sign after sing, there may be much proof of the truthfulness of Christianity around someone, but if the Jesus of the Bible doesn’t agree with whatever they have in their mind already, then they reject Him… Sure, they may embrace their version of Jesus, but they reject the Jesus of the Bible… And understand, that is the reality: if you reject part of Jesus, you reject all of Jesus… If you reject part of the gospel, you reject all of the gospel… If you just embrace your own ideas about Jesus and ignore the Bible, than Jesus isn’t your God, you are… It’s like what Augustine once said, “If you believe what you like in the gospel and reject what you don’t like, it’s not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

Now, John also quotes Isaiah 6 here, where after Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord and surrenders his life wholly to the Lord, he’s told that basically no one will respond to his preaching. They won’t have eyes to see or ears to hear; their hearts will be hard to the truth of God’s Word… This was true of Isaiah’s ministry, but it’s likewise true of Jesus’ ministry here. But notice it says they could not believe, because (verse forty) God has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts… But what does that mean? How has God hardened their hearts? And who all are these verses speaking of?

Well, first we need to understand that this applies to all of humanity. As I said, the problem isn’t Christianity, the problem is the sinfulness of humanity… Ever since the fall of mankind in Genesis 3, humanity has had hard hearts, deaf ears, and blind eyes when it comes to God… In the beginning the perfectly holy and good God created the universe and everything in it; all that He created was good, but man was especially good because He created us in His own image, which means that we are like Him in some ways, but more importantly it means that we were created to image Him, to glorify Him, to show the universe how great He is as we live our lives for Him. He created man this way and gave him free reign over the earth, with one exception: our ancestors were not to eat of this one particular tree… God told them, “for the day that you eat of it you will die,” meaning be dead to God, being soon to die physically, and being destined to die forever in hell…

Now our ancestors did ok for a little while, but then Satan came into the picture, spreading his lies… He basically told them that God’s Word isn’t really true, that God isn’t really good, and that He’s holding out on them, and keeping them from what’s really good… And tragically Adam and Eve believed the lie of Satan, and they disobeyed God… And listen to how Paul explains what happens afterword in Romans 1:21-25: “their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”

This is true of Adam and Eve, and it’s true of every man and woman since them… We all disobey God, and we fail to live for His glory, because—in our sin—we all have exchanged the truth about God for a lie—when we sin we are believing sin is better than God—and we are worshipping and serving created things—be it ourselves, others, stuff, or whatever—rather than God, who is the Creator. Ever since Genesis 3 this has been the default position of the hearts of humanity… That so, the only thing that God has to do in order to harden our hearts is to leave us in our sin, He just has to give us up to the lusts of our hearts …

Now the passage in Isaiah—quoted here—applied first to his immediate context, but it also applies to the Jews here who are rejecting Jesus… But it likewise applies to all of humanity outside of the grace of God. In our sin, we all, like Adam and Eve are believing the lie of Satan: that we know better, that we are better, that sin is better, that stuff is better than God… Isaiah here credits God with the hardening of hearts, but not in a way in which He is to blame… First off, mankind is clearly to blame for their rejection of Jesus… That’s why verse thirty-seven clearly has such a condemning tone to it, “Though he has done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…” They clearly should have believed… But they don’t… And they will be held to account for that…

When Isaiah says that God has hardened their hearts He’s pointing to the fact that God’s sovereign over all of this. As Paul said in Romans, God gave man up to their sinfulness. God is sovereign over everything… And man is responsible for his choices… But man in his sin will never believe on his own; indeed as verse thirty-nine says, man cannot believe on his own… It’s not that we are physically unable to, but that we are morally unable to; or perhaps a better way to put it is that—in our sin—we are unwilling to… We have such a love affair with sin that we are blind to the glory of God…

Again, in our sin we have believed the lie of Satan, and we think that the creation is better than the Creator… Simple logic should convince us that whatever goodness the creation has was given to it by it’s Creator; therefore if something is good, how much better is its Creator?… The beauty of a sunset, the majesty of the tallest mountains, the bigness of the ocean in all of it’s depths, the innumerable stars in the sky on a clear night… they all declare the glory of God, and they are telling us how good God is… But in our sin we don’t see it… And the Jews in our passage were not only blind to that, but they were blind to the goodness of God standing right in front of them in Jesus… This is why elsewhere the Scripture says, “the god of this world (Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4)…

So again, we can’t simply convince someone that Christianity is true… It takes a work of God to pull men out of the veil of Satan. But God is sovereign over all of this, He can stop Satan at any time… And indeed He does… He saves His people! I was at a funeral Friday singing these glories truths… “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see!” How glorious is this? Do you believe this church? We were blind to glory, but God can give sight to the blind… Which is what we begin to see in verse forty-one…

In verse forty-one we read, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” So Isaiah said what He said in Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53, and the rest of Isaiah for that matter, because He saw His glory… Now clearly John is telling us that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus… So, Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God… But Isaiah saw His glory, He saw the glory of Christ, who is the image of God… But Isaiah was a sinner like the rest of us—read Isaiah 6, he knows he’s a wretch; by nature he is an unbeliever, how come he could see? Well Scripture gives the answer. In 2 Corinthians 4:6 we’re told “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” God, in His grace, removes the veil of Satan and opens eyes, opens ears, and shines into hearts, allowing sinful man to behold the perfect glory of Jesus… Truly amazing grace… And is this not what happened to Isaiah?

In Isaiah 6 we’re told that Isaiah basically went to the temple one day, kind of just doing the religious thing because it was what he thought he was supposed to do, and something completely unexpected happened… God showed up… Isaiah seemed to be just going through the motions, certainly not expecting God in any way; but then he, “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And [Isaiah] said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to [him], having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched [Isaiah’s] mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’” (Isaiah 6:1-7)…

His eyes saw the King, the Lord of hosts! And here John is telling us that who he saw was Jesus… He saw Jesus in all of His glory… And he should have perished at the sight of a holy God, because he was a sinful man, but instead God atoned for his sins… His guilt before a holy God was taken away… God did a work that he could not do… God showed up and showed glory… He enabled him to behold the glory of King Jesus… And friends, in one way or another, this is what has to happen for any person to truly believe in Jesus… In our sin we are blind to glory, but God in His grace can open our eyes to behold glory… In our sin our hearts are hard to the gospel, but God in His grace can shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ… The human heart, by nature is rock hard when it comes to God… That’s one of the reasons why it’s so unhelpful to speak of inviting Jesus into our heart… We don’t need Jesus to come into our heart, we need a new heart… And that’s exactly what God does for His people. He says, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

So God can open the eyes of the blind, He can give hardened sinners new hearts and enable them to believe… And so even as our text tells us that these Jews couldn’t believe, we see in the beginning of verse forty-two that, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him…” God in His grace is apparently opening their eyes to see that Jesus truly is the King, the Lord of hosts… And like Isaiah, God Himself will atone for their sins; but this time it will not just be through a symbolic gesture, but the King, the Lord of hosts, Jesus Himself will suffer for the sins of His people, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring His people to God… Jesus has lived the perfect life for God’s glory that we were created to live, and here He’s heading to the cross to die our death, to pay for our sin, to have the wrath due His people poured out on Himself in our place. And indeed He does go to the cross and there He makes peace by the blood of His cross; peace between God and His people. That’s the idea behind that word atonement (at-one-ment); Jesus brings His people at one, together with, at peace with God.

And how amazing is all of that? Jesus, the King, the Lord of hosts, lives and dies for His people… We have all sinned against Him, and all sin leads to death as God promised… But instead of us having to die, the God whom we have sinned against comes and dies in our place. “God shows His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). And He didn’t stop there; because He is the Lord of hosts, He got up from the grave in victory. On the third after His death He rose from the dead, and in so doing He defeated death and justified all who will turn from their sin and trust in Him, all who will believe in Him… And that’s what true belief is: turning from our lives of living for self glory and the glory of creation, and instead living for the glory of God, because now we have eyes to see the glory of Jesus, now we have new hearts that love Jesus… God in His grace overcomes our love affair with sin and enables us to love Jesus… But truly loving Jesus means living for Jesus, it means living for His glory above all else…

Now our text tells us that some of the leaders believed in Jesus, but then it says something that is a bit disturbing… The rest of verse forty-two and verse forty-three tell us, “but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” This is disturbing because the key problem of our unbelief is that we love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God; and not just from man, but as we’ve seen, the glory of the creation rather than the Creator. Now we know from latter passages that some of the Jewish leaders do have genuine faith; men like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemous who risk their lives for the glory of Christ. But here, whoever these leaders are, they are not quite yet at the point of being sold out for the glory of Christ—they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God…

Anyone who truly followed Christ at this time was putting themselves in danger… Right before this the Jewish leaders put out a death warrant for Lazarus as well Jesus, and we know from church history that many of the apostles themselves were martyred. But this is a cost that Jesus calls all who would be His disciples to make. In John 12:25-26 Jesus just said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me…” And where is Jesus going? To the cross… That’s why elsewhere Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). We follow the Suffering Servant, therefore we must be willing to suffer for His sake. Now many have not been willing to count this cost. Today there are many who are willing to follow a Jesus who leads them into health and wealth… There fine with following Jesus as long as it leads to worldly prosperity and leads to them getting a better car and a bigger house… But, that’s the same type of thing we spoke of earlier… This is a Jesus that they have made up in their own minds… It’s not the Jesus of the Bible. So, many have rejected the Jesus of the Bible for fear of suffering… But that fear of suffering is really a continued belief in the lie of Satan: that we know better, that we are better, that sin is better, that stuff is better than God… And you see, this is actually the key issue with these leaders… They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God; they thought the glory of man was better than the glory of God…

But man was created in the image of God; any goodness he may have is only because of God, and it ultimately points to the perfect goodness of God… Which is actually what the glory of God is… God’s glory is who God is in all of His beauty and perfection. And that’s who Jesus is… That’s why Isaiah wrote of Jesus again and again, hundreds of years before He came to earth as the God man… He saw the King, the Lord of hosts. John said, Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him… About half way through the book of Isaiah in 33:17 he writes of the second coming of the Messiah, something we should all long for; and he says, “Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.” Well that’s who Jesus is… He is the King, the all-beautiful one… He is the image of the invisible God… He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature… So when you think of the glory of God, think of Jesus…

With that in mind then, look at verse forty-three again: “for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” In other words, they loved the glory that comes from man more than Jesus… Now John tells us in verse forty-two that it was for fear of the Pharisees that they did not publically confess their faith, but then in verse forty-three he elaborates, and says really there was a love issue, a glory issue. Now even if it was fear driving them, that fear just revels that they love themselves more than Jesus… Without hesitation I can tell you that I would willingly give up my life to save the life of my wife and my children… Why? Because I love them far more than I love myself… So whether these men loved the praise of men, or simply loved being alive or whatever, what they showed for sure is that they loved themselves more than Jesus. Now, I don’t know if these leaders had genuine saving faith or not; they could have, it just may have been weak, like Peter when he denies Christ… But we know at least two of them had genuine faith, because it shows itself later on. But I don’t think this text is here for us to figure out whether or not their faith is genuine; I think it’s here for us to figure out whether or not our faith is genuine…

What we must ask ourselves when we come to a text like this is, “Do I love the glory that comes from man more than I love Jesus? Do I love anything more than I love Jesus?” Friends, saying, “yes” to Jesus is like saying, “I do” in a marriage. You are committing yourself in love to that person above all. You are saying that you love that man or that woman more than any other man or woman and you are giving yourself over to them. And even more so, when our eyes see the King, the Lord of hosts, and we say yes to following Him, we are giving ourselves over to Him, and committing ourselves to love Him above all. We must only have eyes for Jesus, as it were… Now, Satan is real, and he is actively trying to deceive us… And the lingering effects of sin are still within us and all around us… And if we’re honest we know that our hearts are prone to wander… But we must not be content with this… In fact this is how we fight sin… When we find ourselves struggling with temptation, what we need in that moment to win the battle is to love Jesus more than whatever is tempting us… So if you want to grow in your walk with Jesus, if you want to be more faithful, you must seek to love Jesus all the more… We must not be content with half-hearted love for Jesus…

We were created for the glory of God… We were created for Jesus… Our love must be for Jesus above all else… Anything less is sin… I mean, it’s no wonder these leaders were scared to confess Him publically… They didn’t love Him as they ought… And I can only assume that means they still weren’t seeing Jesus rightly… Because if we think back to Isaiah again, who beheld the King in his beauty; after seeing Jesus, and after being saved by amazing grace, his response was, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8)… And then the Lord tells him He’s going to send him to preach but no one is going to listen because they have hard hearts… But Isaiah doesn’t fear man… He’s sold out for the glory of the Lord because He loves the glory that comes from God more than the glory that comes from man. He’s all in, come what may… “Here I am! Send me.” That’s the response of a disciple… That’s what love for Jesus looks like… That’s a love that counts everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus, the King, the Lord of hosts. That’s what saving faith should look like… Is that what your faith looks like?

Conclusion

I wonder which side of things you fall on… Here we are on the last day of 2017; as you look back over the last year, evaluate your life, and ask yourself, do you love the glory that comes from man more than they glory that comes from God, or do you love Jesus above all? Have you been, or are you afraid to confess Christ? Have you been living for the fame of Jesus, or have you been living for your fame? Have you been more concerned with what people think about you, or with what people think about Jesus? How many people have you told about Jesus over the last year? Have you been living in a posture of submission to the Lord, saying, “Send me, I’ll go…”, or are you leading your life?

Friends, think about it… How much has Jesus done? He has proven again and again that He is indeed the Lord, that He is indeed the Messiah… The problem is not with Jesus, it’s not with Christianity, it’s with our sinful hearts… Either we have yet to truly see the glory of God in the face of Jesus, or we have grown cold to it… Beloved, all we deserve in this life is death and hell, yet God gives us mercy and grace… Sinners should not be able to gaze on the glory of God and live, and yet God gives us eyes to behold His glory, and instead of taking us out, He Himself atones for our sin… He saves us… He makes us alive for the glory of Christ… And if we would see Jesus rightly, and if we would be amazed by grace rightly, we would truly be sold out for the glory of Christ above all else; we would love Jesus above all.

Remember what I said in my introduction, when we are consumed with our own glory, we forget about God’s… All we worry about is ourselves, and how we can get things the way we want them… But, on the flip side, when we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own, and we find that there is more joy in living for Him, than living for ourselves… When we love Jesus more than ourselves there is far greater joy… So that’s my prayer for us as we go into this New Year… That we would be a church, that we would be a people who are truly sold out for the glory of Christ… That we would pour out our lives for the fame of Jesus among all peoples… That we would pour out our lives for the glory of the one who poured out His life to save ours… That we would give our lives for the glory of Christ… For that is why we exist…