THE CENTRALITY OF THE WORDS OF JESUS Trinity
John 12:44-50 01.10.23
We speak about 6 million words a year. As a teacher, Jesus would have spoken more than 20 million words across 3 years.
What do you suppose he said most? “Judge not, so that you are not judged” … the most quoted words of Jesus today? How about “do to others as you would have them do to you”.
Here, in John 12:44-50, we come to the end of Jesus’ public ministry, and in about 150 English words, we have a summary of all those 20 million words. What does he say?
For starters, it’s all about him. It is not about our needs or our duties or our rewards or how good or lovable we are. In all that Jesus taught, he is at the centre, and not us. We could say that he is unashamedly Christ-centred.
The Christianity of Jesus is not focussed on making people feel good, or fitting in with what people believe already, or making people successful or popular or anything else.
The core teaching of Jesus is not about “What’s in it for me”. Or “Who I am”. Or “what I do for him”.
True Christianity always focuses on Jesus – who he is and why he was here at all in the first place.
They are the two big themes that come out of the summary of all his teaching which we have here this morning.
1. WHO JESUS IS
• In verse 44 we read “Whoever believe in me (Jesus) believes in him who sent me.”
• In verse 45 we read “whoever sees me (Jesus) sees him who sent me.”
• In verse 49 we read “I (Jesus) have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me … (has told me ) what to say and what to speak.”
Put all that together:
To believe into Jesus is to believe in God the Father who sent him.
To see Jesus, is to see God the Father who sent him.
To hear Jesus is to hear God the Father who sent him.
Jesus is not just like God in some way. When it comes to who he is, Jesus IS God.
Islam tells you that Jesus is a great prophet. And he is. Liberal Protestantism tells you that Jesus is a great teacher, and a great example of how to live. And he is.
But he is so much more. Jesus could not be clearer about who he is than he is right here. To believe him, see him, hear him, is to believe, see and hear God himself! How so? Because he is God himself.
He is not the same as the Father – they are different persons with variations of role: the Father sends the Son and the Son is sent; the Father commands the Son and the Son obeys.
So they are different persons. But in their nature, what makes God the Father God is exactly what makes the Son God.
You sometimes hear people say, “Jesus never claimed to be God”. What? How much clearer do we want it? You can’t have God apart from Jesus – so that he can say “Whoever does not honour the Son, does not honour the Father who sent him.” (Jn 5:23).
You can’t place Christianity on the buffet table alongside other world religions, as though they are all just variations of the same thing.
This is why Jesus as God is central in any form of Christianity that is true. Any form that says he is not, is simply not Christian.
It’s not enough to talk about “a Christian church” or “a Christian school” or a “Christian person”. That might all just mean ‘nice’. The question is: Is it/is he “Christ-centred”?
This is why we’re not hanging around waiting for God to show up to prove he is real. He already did. Or to give us something we think we need – for he has already given himself.
In these words that sum up all the teaching of Jesus, we firstly see Who Jesus is.
2. WHY JESUS CAME
We see here that he came to bring light, and life. Firstly LIGHT: In verse 46 we read “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
Being in the dark is not a good place to be. When we saw the theme of light and darkness in chapter 1, I mentioned the time I was walking home after a night session at one of our Philippines conferences. The path was through some jungle, and there was no moon, and I had no torch. Not only did I walk into a big spider web but fell into the church garbage hole. The only good thing was that I hoped the cane toads that jumped on me found the spider on me before it found me.
It’s no fun in the dark when you don’t know where you are or where you are going.
Imagine living in this world, and you don’t really know why you are here. You don’t know that you are no better than others on whom you look down. Or that life without Jesus as Lord is a poverty-stricken life. Or that everything that happens to you, and in this world, is no accident but purposeful in the hand of Jesus.
You are smart, you are clever, but you are in the dark. When it comes to what you need to know more than anything else, you are in the dark until Jesus turns on the light.
How does he do that? By what he says, by his words. He speaks about the person who “hears my words” (v47) and who “receives my words” (v48). He says in verse 49 “I have spoken” and “I speak”.
Friends, the words of Jesus are from out of this world. They are words from the God who first spoke and said, “Let there be light, and there was light”.
If he really is God, and you believe that, you could hardly say “Jesus speaking? Not for me, thanks. I’ll just nod off until he says something I think is relevant or important.” Or “Yes, it is God speaking, but if what he says doesn’t agree with what I think, I’ll give it a miss, thanks.” Or “I’ll mix what he says in what the other gurus in my life say, and just get a consensus view.”
If it is the Lord God Almighty speaking, then:
Of course, his words scatter darkness and bring light.
Of course, his words make sense of things that before made no sense.
Of course, his words change me like nothing else can.
You don’t get light by gazing at your belly button, or by going into a trance, or following your heart. But by hearing Jesus.
What you know about maths and history and mechanics and cooking are all gifts from Jesus. They are all part of his common grace to people everywhere. He enlightens everyone, John told us.
When the light gets turned on as to who you are and why you are here, and what life is all about, and how bad in his hand is good, it is Christ speaking in his words, in special grace.
Why did Jesus come? To bring LIGHT. Also to bring in ETERNAL LIFE. Jesus says (verse 50) “his commandment is eternal life”.
When Jesus speaks of “eternal life”, he is not saying that 10 or 1,000 or 1 million years get added onto the life you live here and now. It is a way of speaking about life that is of a radically different kind of life from the life you live here and now. It is life from ‘another world’.
By his words he brings you to himself, and you get to share in the life he has secured by his death, and now shares with all his children, when he calls us to himself by his powerful words.
Why don’t you fit into this world and what it thinks is important like you did before you knew Jesus? It is because you have eternal life.
Why have so many of your loves and desires changed? It is because you have eternal life.
Why do you want better things for your kids and your friends than you used to? It is because you have eternal life.
Why are the ordinary things in this life now more beautiful, more enjoyable, more significant? It is because you have eternal life.
It’s like you’ve been born again and started life a second time, isn’t it? Which is exactly what has happened. And how did that happen? Peter says that it was “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
Light and life, by the words of Jesus. That’s it!
It doesn’t sound like Jesus calls us to a life that is like a prison sentence, does it? Or a life of misery, doom, and gloom? Jesus is anything but a killjoy or a burden in an otherwise happy life.
How did we ever give people the impression that he is, or that following Jesus is like missing out on what matters? Or that following him means feeding on scraps while everyone else has a party?
How could you come into Jesus’ open arms and not be made profoundly rich when these are the arms of God, and the words he speaks mean light and life?
Why then, would anyone delay even one day to take hold of Jesus’ words, to take hold of Jesus, and thereby take hold of God himself? What excuse could ever be good enough when it is God speaking, and what he brings are light and life?
We saw a bunch of men last week, back in verse 43, who had the right religion, morality, family, and national connections, and they missed out. Why? We were told in verse 43 “They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (v43)
They didn’t miss out on God because Jesus’ words are too complicated. Sure, it is not easy to give up the belief that I or someone else can give me what only God can give me … but it’s not complicated, is it? It could not be simpler.
Three times here, Jesus says “whoever” and once he says “anyone”. Whoever believes … anyone who hears and is gripped by his words … whoever, anyone, receives light and life.
What if you are only 8 or 18? “Whoever.” What if you haven’t come from the ‘right’ family or the ‘right’ culture? “Anyone”. What if you have a messed-up life? “Whoever, anyone.”
People heard Jesus’ words but did not embrace him. Like these big Jewish men, each night they went to bed, with minds and hearts as black as the darkest night. With no more life in them than the beds they lay in. Maybe it was just too simple for them.
By his words he opens his arms, and he says, “I really am God himself … if you are in the dark come to me for light … if you have only this life, come to me for life.”
Jesus spoke clearly and simply and life givingly. Maybe his words are arresting you right here, right now.
They speak light and life now, but one day, soon, they will condemn you.
Not long, and these same words will be judging words. “The word that I have spoken will judge … on the last day.” (v48)
We will hear him say on the last day “I told you that I am Lord and God and that only in me is there light and life. Those words which spoke of life now seal your judgment.”
He now says, “I AM Lord and God; come to me”. At the end, coming soon, he will say “I am Lord and God; go away from me” to all who have not been willing to hear his words.
You are not waiting until you are better, are you? Or until you get all your questions answered? Or until you are one day older? Or delaying in case there is a better offer? There won’t be.
Jesus is so wonderful, isn’t he? In whom he is. In what he gives. In making it all so simple. In telling us all we will ever really need to know.