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When Jesus told the crowd that He would die by being lifted up on a cross, they were confused. How could He claim to be the Messiah if He was going to die? Didn't the Old Testament promise that the Messiah's kingdom would have no end?
The problem was their limited understanding of the Old Testament messianic predictions. Yes, the Scriptures did promise a never-ending messianic kingdom, but they also revealed that the Messiah would die for our sins.
Jesus emphasized that His remaining time on earth was limited, and encouraged His audience to take advantage of the opportunity that would soon be gone. Comparing Himself to a light that was about to be shut off, He told them to walk in His light and believe in it. Light is symbolic of truth, and that is all Jesus spoke. In fact, He Himself was a revelation of God's truthfulness, because He was the Savior God promised to send. Those who walk in His light, that is, base their lives on what He said, and believe in Him, become His spiritual offspring, members of His family, or as Jesus said, "children of the light" (John 12:36).
Perhaps anticipating that some of his readers might wonder why so many Jews rejected Jesus if He was their long-awaited Messiah, John mentions that Isaiah the prophet foretold Christ's rejection. Thus Jesus' widespread rejection is not reason for readers to doubt He is the Messiah; rather, it is even more reason to believe He is the Messiah.
Unfortunately, the New Living Translation, in translating John's paraphrase of Isaiah's prophecy, makes it seem as if God hardened people's hearts so that they could not believe in Him even if they wanted to. However, other translations leave room for varied interpretations of Isaiah's words. It would certainly seem strange and unfair if God expected people to do what He made it impossible for them to do! Paul wrote that it is Satan, not God, who blinds the minds of the unbelieving (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).
In the final part of today's reading, Jesus again repeated His often-made claims, clearly conveying that He was nothing less than God. To believe in Him was to believe in God. To see Him was to see God. He was the sole source of truth in the world. He had come to save the world. He should be obeyed. The truth He had spoken would be the standard by which every person will be judged on the last day. His words were actually the words of God the Father, and they were the words that could bring eternal life. Anyone other than God who would make those kinds of claims would be guilty of blasphemy!
Q. Although many people rejected Jesus, according to John, many people also believed in Him, including some Jewish leaders. However, John told us that they wouldn't admit their faith to anyone for fear that the Pharisees would throw them out of the synagogue. Does that mean that they weren't true believers?
A. No, it just means they were timid believers. John criticized them for loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. When we are hesitant to confess Christ openly and boldly, we are guilty of the same fault.
Q. According to what we read today, Jesus expects people to believe in Him and obey Him. Which is more important?
A. That was a trick question. They are equally important, and, in fact, the two can't be separated. If a person believes in Jesus, he will also obey Jesus.
Application: Jesus, although obviously the Son of God sent from heaven, is still rejected by the majority of people. Because of the hardness of their hearts, they refuse to believe in Him. As the saying goes, "The majority is not always right." Be glad that you're a part of the minority who is right!