Sunday, March 22, 2015

Blinded and Hardened (John 12:37-43)

“Though He had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in Him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12:37–43, ESV) (Caps added to pronouns referring to God: Father, Son, and Spirit)

When we look at the issue of predestination and God’s calling we look at the issues of God’s sovereignty over salvation set alongside the choice of man. We read in Romans 8, “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called he also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29–30, ESV) Scripture says that God foreknows, predestines, and calls. It also says that all who He calls come to Him and that none of them are lost. And we learn from Scripture that as man’s heart is softened he comes to understand, believe and is saved. It speaks of both God’s sovereignty and man’s belief in response, and somehow we know that God works both together for a person to be saved.

Conversely we know that God is sovereign over those who aren’t saved. This does not make Him unloving or unjust. None of us deserves anything from God. We have all sinned and are judged guilty without any possibility of ourselves paying any acceptable restitution in order to satisfy our redemption. Having said this there is also the truth that man’s heart is hard. Just as God foreknows those who are saved He also foreknows those who aren’t. He foreknows the hardness of hearts, and while being able to overrule that hardness, in His sovereign scheme and wisdom He deals with each person according to His perfect will. In today’s passage we read that the prophet Isaiah prophesied how the hardness of heart of the people of Israel would be used by God such that He blinded their eyes so that they would not see Jesus for who He truly is such that they would be used by God to bring Him to the cross. In order for God’s plan to be fulfilled hard-hearted men were willingly complicit.

The nation of Israel had repeatedly turned away from God in their hardness of heart. He had come to them time and time again, and each time they turned. There was a regular cycle of them dong this, and God intervening. At this perfectly chosen time God did not intervene, and He hardened their hearts. While this was not universally true in that it included every single individual, it was nationally true as it included the larger number of the people and their leadership. The people that God has set apart as His own would be the people who God also would use to bring about their own restoration and bring salvation to all mankind. Just as Judas was chosen as one of the disciples knowing from eternity past that He would betray Jesus, so God loved, chose, and established the nation of Israel knowing that they would be the ones who hung Him on the cross.

Of course these verses are not all gloom and doom for the nation of Israel. John wrote that if their eyes were opened they would see and believe. And it was John who was later given the revelation by God about how this would end which included all of Israel being saved when Jesus returns at the end of the Great Tribulation. Even in this passage John said that many believed including some among the leadership who believed and yet were unknown by the others for their belief. At that time they were fearful of losing their position, and so they kept the secret. Among them may have been Nicodemus who spoke up on Jesus behalf in John 7:50-51 and who later would help bury Jesus with Joseph of Arimathea.

And of Joseph we read, “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.” (John 19:38–42, ESV)

So it was, while the nation of Israel demanded His crucifixion there were many among the Jews who loved Him and believed in Him. Even among the leadership there were secret believers who would later expose themselves as they cared for His body after His death. These secret believers had not seen the risen Christ. They did not know His resurrection power. Yet.

In 2 Corinthians 4 we read, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as Your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:3–6, ESV)

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