John 12:36b-50 (NRSV)
After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them. 37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. 42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.
44 Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. 47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, 49 for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
John collects some thoughts and some quotations from Jesus and wraps up the first half of his book with a huge flourish of a coda. So many of the themes are here – God as source of life and eternal life, those who believe and those who don’t believe, Jesus as the light sent from God so we can see God and see ourselves and see everything clearly, Jesus saving instead of judging even though he could do either if he chose, and the nature and source of glory.
All those big things are here, in a short set of verses at the end of John’s Book of Signs. John 13 takes us into the second half of the book, which focuses on Jesus’ last words and actions with his apprentices, his suffering and death, and scenes from the first days of his resurrection.
Read ahead if you like, but the blogging will come to a pause for now. I’m going to post a weekly reflection and invitation to fasting and prayer during our Advent season we call Light in the Darkness. And then in mid-February, 2018, we’ll start out annual 40 Days of Faith before Easter, which will include a set of daily readings in the so deep, so crazy final book of the Bible called Revelation.
See you around the blog!
Meanwhile, a final thought from John, well more from me, on the signs.
Almost five years ago, our family of five drove from Boston to Florida. During the second of two 12-hour days of driving, we saw sign after sign after sign – dozens and dozens of them – for this roadside attraction called South of the Border. One article describes the place this way: “If Las Vegas hooked up with Route 66 and had a baby, this would be it.” Sounds about right.
It’s bad Mexican food meets dollar store meets racial stereotypes meet roadside kitsch. We pulled over for a few minutes and then kept on going. We followed the signs to where they were going, but the destination disappointed. No glory.
As Jesus briefly goes into hiding, a few weeks before the explosive final final week before his crucifixion, John says the reverse has happened. There were so many signs – John has told us about several – that Jesus is from God, that Jesus shines the light of God, that Jesus connects us with God’s wonders, what John calls John’s glory.
But following those signs to where they lead takes a new way of seeing, different from our usual blindness to what’s most important. Following the signs takes open and courageous hearts. Following the signs might even take setting aside “our own glory” – our own reputation and narrow self-obsession.
Many people don’t follow the signs to the end, don’t take the exit and “come and see” for ourselves what’s there.
If John could write a little coda just to us, I think he’d urge us to keep looking at the signs he told us about, keep listening to the words that Jesus said, and go where they lead. Because there we’ll find God, there we’ll find glory.