“Seeing is believing” is a phrase we use when a person, company or telemarketer makes a claim that seems too good to be true. In other words, we’ll believe the claim when we see the results! More than likely we’ll be disappointed because the product, feat or investment won’t measure up to the claim. But just the opposite is true with our Lord’s ministry and claims. His claims were backed up 100% by His perfect life and miraculous works. Only the hard-hearted and the close-minded could see them and not believe. In our Lord’s ministry we not only have the truth that “seeing is believing,” but we have the Lord’s instruction to “believe in order to see.” The phrase “believing is seeing” certainly captures the teaching of John 12:44-50 above. In the Gospel of John, the public ministry of Jesus ends with chapter 12. The “Upper Room Discourses” begin in John 13. These teachings were given to the disciples, not to the public, so the last section of John 12 is a fitting conclusion to the Lord’s public ministry as it is a summary of His manifestation of Himself to Israel, and a final appeal to them to believe in Him. The whole section consists of the direct words of Jesus. If you’re reading a “red letter” Bible, you’ll see that all of these words are in red. Jesus was speaking here to the crowds gathered in the temple courts at Passover, a few days before His crucifixion. For the most part, it was an unbelieving crowd that listened as He spoke these words (12:37). While some of the religious leaders, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, had become secret believers (12:42), the mood of the crowd in the temple courts was one of unbelief. Verse 44 tells us that Jesus “cried out” because He wanted everyone to hear these final, important words – both for then and now. Let’s look at three aspects of His final words, because they carry the same weight and importance today as they did then.
Jesus didn’t mean that to see Him physically was to see God physically. No one has seen God, that is, seen the essence of deity. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” What the Lord meant in verse 45 was that when we see the moral glory of Jesus’ character, we see the moral glory of God the Father. It reminds us of what Jesus said to Philip when Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus’ response was, “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’”? (Jn. 14:8-9).
Jesus was saying to the crowds in the temple courts, “Do you want to know what God is like? Look at me! I have come as a Light into the world, so that anyone who believes in Me will not remain in spiritual darkness. If you don’t believe in Me, you can’t see God – you’re in the darkness!” What a claim! It is still true today. If anyone ever says to you, “I just don’t know what God is like,” you should say, “Look at Jesus! When you look at Jesus, you see God.”
“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 at the last day. For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it.” — John 12:48-49
To receive the words of Jesus is to receive Him, and to accept Jesus is to accept God. To reject the words of Jesus is to reject Him, and to reject Jesus is to reject God. You can’t have it any other way! In verse 47 the Lord Jesus said, “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.” However, in verse 48 He said, “The one who rejects Me, and does not accept My words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” Is that a contradiction? No, because the purpose of the Lord’s coming was not to judge, but to save. However, the result of His coming will be judgment on those who do not accept salvation.
Here’s an illustration. Suppose we’re on a sinking ship. The SOS goes out and the Coast Guard sends a helicopter to rescue us. A Coast Guard rescuer is lowered down to the sinking ship, and he tells us, “Hold onto me, and you will be lifted to safety!” But we refuse! Maybe we’re afraid of heights, or maybe we don’t trust the man or the safety device. The result is that we go down with the sinking ship! We die! Refusal to obey the rescuer resulted in our death. The purpose of the rescuer and his message was to save lives. His presence did not cause the deaths; the deaths were the result of people refusing to accept the offer. They were condemned by refusing to listen to the words he spoke and respond to his offer of rescue.
This illustration demonstrates how verses 47 and 48 are harmonized. When Jesus said that He didn’t come to judge, but to save the world in verse 47, He was stating His purpose in coming to earth – to rescue us from sin. However, in verse 48, when Jesus said that the words He had spoken would condemn the person who doesn’t believe at the last day – that is the result for those who refuse salvation. Rescue from sin is available in Jesus.
The same thought is found in John 3:17-18. Verse 17 gives God’s purpose: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” In verse 18 we have the result: “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son.” If we reject the words of Jesus, we reject God. How can we apply this practically?
In John 12:48 Jesus said that the way a person responds to His words now determines that person’s status forever: “That very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” What an awesome thought! The words spoken by Jesus over two thousand years ago will be the means of determining the eternal destiny of all who hear His words. Your decision now counts forever!
In 1996 a book entitled The Five Gospels was produced by the Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal scholars. The subtitle of the book is, “What did Jesus really say?” These scholars got together for the purpose of questioning everything Jesus said. They came to the conclusion that He never said most of what the Bible quotes Him as saying. They decided that most of the words and teachings of Jesus written in the Gospels were fabricated by early Christians soon after His death!
I would not like to be in the shoes of any of those Jesus Seminar “scholars” at the last day. “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 at the last day” (12:48). The unbeliever who rejects and will not accept the words of Jesus, those very words will judge that unbeliever at the last day. Your decision now counts forever!
In John 12:46, Jesus said that He had come as Light into this dark world, and everyone who believed in Him would not remain in darkness. It’s important to notice that the Lord did not indicate that unbelievers would go into darkness, but that they would remain in darkness. It is rare for an unbeliever to admit that he or she is in darkness. In fact, most unbelievers think that they are more “enlightened” than believers, and that believers are in the dark. They even scoff at believers for being blinded by their religious beliefs and bigotry, and mock them for “living in the Dark Ages.” However, nothing could be further from the truth! According to God’s Word, believers have been called “out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Believers now have the great privilege of being able to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7).
Unfortunately, unbelievers who pridefully believe themselves to be “enlightened” are actually in the dark. They are the ones who are closed-minded, bigoted, and blinded by the lies and false philosophies of the satanic world system. They have been taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8). And they have always been in the dark! Unless they turn to Jesus and believe in Him as the Light of the world, they will remain in darkness.
John 12:37-41, which immediately precedes our passage under consideration, discusses people who refuse to believe despite the evidence that has been given to them. The prophet Isaiah is quoted: “He has blinded their eyes, and deadened their hearts, so that they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts” (Jn. 12:40; Isa. 6:10). If unbelievers continue to reject Jesus Christ, God confirms their choice and allows their resistant hearts to become hardened in unbelief. “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil … But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” (Jn. 3:18-21).
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org