Reader: “For when you see me,”
Response: “you are seeing the one who sent me.”
Scripture: John 12:34-50
The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”
After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.
But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him. This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted:
“Lord, who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?”
But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said,
“The Lord has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts—
so that their eyes cannot see,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and have me heal them.”
Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he said this, because he saw the future and spoke of the Messiah’s glory. Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.
Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
Some thoughts: (I shared a version of this story on Facebook. It relates to today’s passage.)
A couple of months ago, I went to the hospital to pray for a friend of several years who was in serious physical health. In full disclosure, this friend was an avowed atheist. We had talked over the years, and my prayers for this person were appreciated. Truthfully, I did pray daily, as specific prayer for various people and circumstances is part of my daily morning routine. When I got to the hospital, the attending nurse told me that my friend had passed away 50 minutes earlier. I was devastated and went to the waiting room to process what had just happened. What follows is part of the processing of reality.
Here was a person who openly rejected belief in God, had dismissed the work of Christ on the cross for their personal salvation and entered eternity, apparently without any personal relationship to God. I say “apparently” because only God knows the heart. We don’t. But all their outward words indicated a complete rejection. Understand, simply believing in God is not the point, devils do that. It is a matter of confessing one’s own sin before God, repenting and receiving the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. There is no other way into the eternal presence of God according to what Jesus said in the Bible. John 14:6. Accepting what Christ has done on our behalf alone is the prerequisite for heaven and eternal life in the presence of God. I grieve greatly for my friend.
What is weighing on my heart is the absolute truth of the existence of heaven and hell. We hear so often when someone passes that they are in “a better place.” The Bible never once makes a general statement of people dying and going to a “better place.” We may feel better in saying such, but that does not make it true.
When Jesus was on the cross, his word to the repentant thief was, “today you shall be with me in paradise.” He said nothing to the other thief who had hurled words of disdain. It is fair to surmise: that thief did not end up in paradise but in hell. Jesus often talked about the reality of heaven and hell in the Bible. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a classic example. Hell is an eternally tormented place apart from the presence of God. I can’t imagine being in such a place.
Turning to today’s pericope: during Jesus’ time on earth, the crowds grappled with the question, “Who is this ‘Son of Man’?” In their understanding, the Messiah would live forever, so if this Jesus was the Messiah, why was he talking about dying? The crowd reminds me of myself too often. I figure out what God should do, only to discover his ways and plans are not all the way I think! I’m in spiritual shadows and Jesus claimed to be the light. Disconnection! So people, come out of the dark, recognize that the light is right in front of you! Respond to it while there is still time! Jesus’ words lead to eternal life which has already begun for the believer. Bury yourself in his Word and encounter the Light.
Jesus came to this world on human terms to help humans be able to relate to God in a way to bring them redemption and the possibility of relating to God on God’s terms through Christ, the Messiah. There is no other way to accomplish this marvelous good news. The option is for humans to reject Jesus and remain in darkness. Jesus’ mission was to redeem those who would believe, not to judge those who rejected him. On the Day of Judgment, their own rejection of their only hope, Jesus, will condemn them.
The day is coming when there will be no more time to respond to Jesus’ invitation. Death is so final. When someone dies, it is not “over.” The person is not annihilated. They continue to exist, though not on earth. There are no “do overs” in life. “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27) Continue to pray and proclaim the truth to those around you who do not know the Savior. Death always arrives, is never late, never reschedules and never cancels. Though I arrived 50 minutes too late, death was not.
Music: “Walk as Children of Light” St. Olaf College Choir
We beseech thee, good Lord, that it may please thee to give us true repentance: to forgive us all our sins, negligences, indifferences, and ignorances; and to imbue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, to amend our lives according to thy holy word. Forbid it that we should ever wander into the shadows of darkness and unbelief. And grant that we may walk in the light of thy path ever before us, trusting in the brilliance of thy countenance as children of the light. This we pray in the name of Jesus our Lord, who lives with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
―Prayers for Easter, Thomas Cranmer, p.26, adapted Daniel Sharp