That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
- Isaiah 59:9-21
- John 12:34-50
Omar Bradley, one of the Generals in World War II also went to World War I. He became a General. He actually led one of the largest armies in history during World War II. He spoke at an Armistice Day in Boston, Massachusetts in 1948. He said,
“With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. This is our twentieth century’s claim to distinction and to progress.”
After he made this speech, we had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Golf War, the war in Iraq, the continuous unrest in the Middle East in and the whole group of other wars in the world. We do not know how to make peace.
If we are going to move into the future, if we want to give hope to our children and next generation, it must come through our commitment to Christ, so that His light can shine in this very dark world.
The Word come to us in these main points:
- Who is the Son of Man?
- What was the mission of the Son of Man
- The light will not always shine
- Persistent, stubborn, sinful rejection of Christ
- An urgent shout
Who is the Son of Man?
The title “Son of Man” was virtually the only title used by Jesus of himself. He has other titles. He is the Lamb of God, the King, the Messiah, the Beloved, the Word, the Son of God, and many others. But Jesus did not prefer to use these titles when He referred to Himself. In his own speech, He was always the Son of Man.
If we would look at the Hebrew, which lies behind this expression, we find something interesting about the grammar. The “Israelites” in the Old Testament are from the word pair “the sons of Israel.” With this title “Son of Man” Jesus identifies with the sons of Adam. But there is more to it.
One Old Testament reference to the expression “Son of Man” is found in chapter 7 of Daniel,. This is the chapter that relates Daniel’s vision of the four great beasts that come up out of the sea and reign in succession earth for a time. After the four visions of the four different kingdoms are explained, the vision shifts to heaven, and Daniel describes a scene in which thrones are set up and the Ancient of Days [God] takes his place upon one of the thrones and renders judgment. In this judgment, the last of the beasts is killed and all have their kingdoms taken away.
Daniel then writes of the final defeat and the establishment of a new and everlasting kingdom:
“In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13–14).
Between the writing of Daniel and before the coming of Christ, this concept of the “Son of Man” was spoken of in different writings, in which “Son of Man” is one term given to the long-expected Messiah.
Through the lens of all Scripture the “Son of Man” refers to “The Man” which means in Christ we have the eternal or man who exists eternally with God and who was to appear in this world at God’s command to complete God’s plan of salvation.
The title “Messiah” denoted a political figure whose primary work would be the deliverance of Jewish people from the Romans. But if Chris used this title publicly, everyone would have expected Him to organise an army and lead a liberation movement. So He did not make an open claim to be the Messiah. On the other hand, with the “Son of Man” title, people did not know what to think about it exactly in a political sense of the word. Jesus used this title of Himself while at the same time filling it in with the precise meaning his Father would want Him.
This is one thing we need to stop and think about today. We need to get a fresh understanding do who Jesus, the Christ, is. It might even be possible that we think of Jesus in all sorts of categories, other than what He actually was send for into this world.
Some see in Him the answer to their financial problems. The so-called prosperity theology makes a lot of this idea. It is known by many names, such as the “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “word of faith” movement, the “gospel of success,” and “positive confession theology”.
Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray, and even demand, of God “everything from modes of transportation (cars, vans, trucks, even two-seat planes), [to] homes, furniture, and large bank accounts. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit then becomes a medium through which one can achieve whatever he wants.
The Jews at the time of Jesus had ideas and longings they wanted to be fulfilled by the promised Messiah. With the tile “Son of Man” Jesus wanted them to understand that He was from God, God Himself, sent into this world to rescue it from its darkness by giving Himself to be lifted up. This idea did not fit into their expectations.
Jesus, by using the title “Son of Man” made it very clear that He is from before time began.
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (John 3:13, ESV)
Our Lord taught the people that if they would not eat the body of the Son of Man, and drink his blood they would have no life in them. The people were offended by these words and a great many left Him. He then looked at the disciples and said:
“Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? (John 6:61–62, ESV)
In other words, if they did not understand and believe that He came to shed his blood and have his body broken to save them from sins, they would still be in darkness, how much more will they be offended if He told them that He would return to heaven where He was before He became flesh and lived among sinners. It was something that choked every teacher of the Law: that a mere man could put himself on equal footing with God.
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18, ESV)
What was the mission of the Son of Man
We need to be extremely clear in this point: John right through his Gospel points to only one thing: God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into this world because
- this world is in darkness and therefore it cannot see the Kingdom of God
- this world can’t do anything about its own darkness, because flesh cannot do anything else but give birth to flesh
- this world is in need of a Saviour who is in essence not from this world, but who makes it his business to come into this world to bring light into this darkness
Natural man does not love this message. The concept of sin is not even welcome in dictionaries these days. Atheists believe we do not need any concept of sin today because through evolution we have outgrown sin.
Richard Dawkins declares:
“More and more of us realize there is no god, and yet religion still has a hold over us. I think ideas of saints and sinners, heaven and hell, still shape our thinking. I want to give you a scientific alternative.”
With these words Dawkins reveals that he is still living in darkness. To him and others who think like him the Gospel still extends the warning and invitation:
While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:36, ESV)
The light will not always shine
While you have light. This means that the light will not always shine. Jesus said:
“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. (John 12:35, ESV)
I think it is meaningful that soon after Jesus spoke these words, we read:
When Jesus had said these things, He departed and hid himself from them. (John 12:36, ESV)
We need to tell the world, those living in darkness, this very unsettling and disturbing truth: We will not always have this light. Now it is still time of grace for repentance, but this dispensation will come to an end.
There is a imperative, or a command, in verse 35. It says, “Walk while you have the light.” It does not say, “Walk in the light.” the command is, “Walk!” Darkness is coming. There is an earnestness and urgency in the words of our Lord. It almost says, “Run to the light while it is still light, for the light will go out in a short while. Grace is running out, darkness is close behind you, catching up with you. Run for your life.”
After He withdrew from the crowd, most probably because He understood the significance of the hour, and also what follows immediately after this verse, He needed to be alone with his Father to pray; the Bible does not say why, but fact is He needed time alone.
Persistent, stubborn, sinful rejection of Christ
What followed immediately in the Gospel of John?
Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him (John 12:37, ESV)
In Isaiah’s chapter about the suffering Messiah there are words of joy for those who walked to come into the light.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4–6, ESV)
We gladly take these words as words of salvation and bow before our Saviour who has brought us into the light so we could see we need redemption.
But Isaiah begins this very chapter with these words:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1,3, ESV)
John then quotes the words of Isaiah 6:10, which talk about the people in Isaiah’s time who stubbornly rejected the words of God because of their hardness of heart. They stopped their ears when they heard the prophets of God speak to them, and they covered their eyes for the message of God, only to find out that when they took their fingers out of their ears and uncovered their eyes that they had gone blind and deaf: there was no message for them anymore. God took it away from them. Time of grace has run out.
So it was even at the end of the public ministry of Jesus. He revealed the glory of God to them; He preached to them the message of the Kingdom of God; He became to them the light of the world and the bread of life; He was their good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep; He was the Son of Man who was lifted up as the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the word. Yet, they has their fingers in the ears and their hand over their eyes.
Some showed signs of some sort of faith, but out of fear for the people and their love of praise from men, they did not confess their faith. This probably describes the lives of so many who warm the pews of the church every Sunday.
An urgent shout
It was only a few hours before our Saviour celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples now. Then, later that night, He was arrested, taken away, sentenced and crucified. His personal call to the public to come to the light was never heard again.
Jesus appeared again after He had withdrawn from them sometime earlier. We read about what He said then in verse 44
And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent me. (John 12:44, ESV)
The word for “cry” here is to make a vehement outcry, or to speak with a very loud voice. He was not afraid for those who wanted to kill Him, but there openly and very publicly in the midst of the thousands of people who came to Jerusalem for the Passover, our Lord proclaimed the Gospel publicly: He is God, send by his Father to bring people out of darkness into light and to give them light. Faith in Him is faith in the Father. He calls people out of darkness into the light.
He also cried out very loudly and clearly for all to understand:
The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:48, ESV)
Can you in your mind’s eye see our Lord urgently warning the world not to reject his word? Can you hear Him say that all sermons preached about Him, and all chapters read about Him in the Word – things we know and have heard thousands of time, and which we maybe not believed – will one day stand up against us – screaming at us as a judgement because we have not walked to the light at the command of Jesus, the Son of Man. We rather loved darkness.
The last thing Jesus proclaimed publicly is a repeat of the first verses of the Gospel of John: He is from the Father, God Himself, and He only does what his Father commanded Him. Believe Him, and one believes in the Father; reject Him, and one rejects the Father. This action has severe consequences
John wrote his Gospel with this purpose:
“…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31, ESV)
It is important to understand this. The Son of God was lifted up, crucified, so that by believing in Him we will be able to see, hear, and believe – and have eternal life.
The alternative is too dreadful to even think about.
Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 12 May 2013