John 12:36b – 43
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 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?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “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.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 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; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
Whose glory do we love? By whom do we like to be praised? Some thrive on the praise of men, others perish because no one praises them. Does your Christianity depend on men? Is your love for the Lord measured by how much others love or hate you? You may have a good reputation, but are you concerned about God’s reputation regarding you? In this service, be mindful, consider and adapt your ways, your thinking and your understanding to God’s and not to man’s or your own opinions, likes and dislikes.
You may have endured many hardships and disappointments which have spoiled your future, life, image and reputation. You are downtrodden and despised because of what man has done to you. Have we come to serve ourselves or people or is our first priority our Maker who has put breath into our nostrils and opened our eyes?
In this context Jesus said that His soul was troubled. Should He ask the Father to save Him out of this situation? But that was the very reason why He came into the world. In what did Jesus take refuge? “Father glorify Your Name, glorify Yourself.” A voice from heaven said, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd standing there heard it and thought it had thundered. Others said that an angel had spoken to Him. This is what man is like. When God speaks do you have discernment and realise that it is God speaking? Can you perceive what He is saying or is your response: it has thundered, there was a noise, we saw lightning flashes, we were blown to pieces, there were pounding hailstones. That is your verdict, yet in the meantime God has spoken and glorified Himself through His Son and but you are not part of it. You do not have any idea of what has has been spoken from Heaven. Jesus answered them, “This voice has come for your sake, not Mine.” John 12:30 His soul was troubled and the voice comforted Him. But Jesus said that voice was not for Him but for you. How many heard and discerned that Voice?
After these things He departed and hid Himself from them. There are times when it seems as if Jesus hides Himself from us during times of testing and fierce trials. May Jesus not hide Himself from us because of our hardness of heart, our eyes that cannot see and our ears that do not perceive.
It can be likened to family life. Sometimes the children are happy when the father departs, the wife heaves sighs of relief, but as the saying goes: when the cat’s away, the mice will play. If this happens the father does not have much joy being at home. He tries to fulfil his duties. Do you children and wife wonder why your husband disappears and does not return when you expect him to? You point out all the wrongs your husband does but you do not point at yourself. You complain, you have no time, you are too tired, you work so hard, you use all your money to purchase groceries, and he just vanishes. The father does not need to say anything because his wife broadcasts the latest news like a radio. Are you surprised when he chooses to spend his time with others who treat him a bit better, those who serve him coffee and cake and speak kind to him words to him rather than spending his time with you. Where are the wives who are a helpmeet to their husbands? Mothers who can see and hear and whose heart is not hardened. Where are the wives who have an understanding heart? One day when the father or the husband dies, “Oh, I had such a wonderful husband,” you say. You can preach to the congregation about your wonderful father but you were not prepared to stand before the congregation and say that my father is in the coffin because I was a vagabond and a rebel, I chose to walk my own way. The church is not edified by this. The church has no pleasure in you sons who run away, walk rebellious ways and return and speak words over your father’s dead body. You daughters who marry without the approval of your parents, have the audacity to testify to the church of your wonderful mother or wonderful father. The church does not want to hear that sort of hypocrisy. When will you wake up? We want to hear the testimony of a son or daughter who has turned from their rebellion and serves their parents with dignity and pride. If you would like to testify one day, begin now by turning from your rebellion and what you are known for and become a shining light to the church. It begins at home. Stop seeing to your own self and vindicating yourself. Turn lest evil spirits haunt you.
Will Jesus not be pleased to spend time with and be close to those who see what He sees, who perceive what He perceives and who understand what He understands? Will He hide Himself from His own who love Him and lay down their lives for His sake, who take up their cross and follow Him?
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 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?” John 12:37-38
Thank God for prophets like Isaiah who could be entrusted with heavenly messages. Their message was the same one that Jesus felt.
Lord, who has believed our report? Are you busy with God’s report or your own? Children know reports. They know who write the school reports, whose signature is behind every subject, who awards the marks for your tests or examinations. The teacher does it, not the child. Some people bribe the teachers. I heard yesterday that people who are involved in occult practices, are shown the exam they are going to write by the devil and then they can prepare themselves for the examination. Some sell their own bodies for a good report from their teacher. Even if you get a cooked report, your future remains dark.
God is not impressed if you praise yourself. Of the two men who went to pray in the temple, who was justified? Was it the one who praised God for all his good deeds and that he was not as bad as other sinners? Who was justified? It was the one who beat his own breast and said a few words of sorrow and repentance, not of praise.
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” John 12:38 Who has believed our report, O Lord? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? There are some who are not even concerned that the arm of the Lord should be revealed in their time or their lives.
Two English brothers, one born in 1703 and the other in 1707 were John and Charles Wesley. These two men were among the most notable evangelists who ever lived. John Wesley is credited with staving off a bloody revolution in England, such as occurred in France. Both preached, both wrote hymns. Charles Wesley composed about 6000 hymns and songs. John is noted more for his sermons and Charles for his hymns. One of them is: And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Saviour’s blood?
John Wesley once said, “It is diligently to be noted, the faith which bringeth not forth repentance, and love, and all good works, is not that right living faith which is here spoken of, but a dead and devilish one.” Is it possible that our faith can be devilish? Inspired by the devil? John Wesley made this statement in the late 1700s, 200 years ago. What is God’s report about our faith? Is it a dead faith? It is a devilish faith?
Allow me to read a text about the lives of the parents of John and Charles Wesley.
What a difficult life. She was the twenty-fifth child in a Dissenter’s family. Though brilliant, she procured little education. Though strong-willed, she lived in a male-dominated age. She married an older man and bore him nineteen children. Nine of them died. Her house burned up, her barn fell down, her health failed, and she lived with a wolf at the door. She was Susanna Wesley.
Samuel and Susanna married in 1689, began pastoring in dreary Epworth in 1697. They served there forty years, enduring hardships like these:
Samuel’s salary was so small (and he was so incapable of managing it) that he was thrown into a debtor’s prison, leaving Susanna to fend for herself.
They disagreed about Susanna’s ministry, for her Bible lessons drew more listeners than his sermons. Susanna gave birth to a daughter during the election of 1705. The nurse, exhausted by overnight revelry, slept so heavily the next morning that she rolled on the baby and smothered it.
Susannah was often bedridden having to delegate home duties to the children. But several of her children were so wayward that she called them “a constant affliction”.
Her brother, having promised her a sizable gift, disappeared mysteriously and was never heard of again. Finally, on July 21, 1731, Susannah described an accident in which her horses stampeded, throwing Samuel from the wagon, injuring him, so that he was never well again from that day.
A difficult life, and yet…
And yet the parsonage at Epworth was destined to become the most celebrated in English history, for from it came two of the greatest evangelists of all time, John and Charles Wesley. And the mother who raised them shook the world. 21 July, On This Day in Christian History, Robert J Morgan
When Susanna Wesley bid her sons farewell on them leaving for the mission field she said, “Oh I wish that I had 10 sons that I could give to the mission field that I could devote to the Lord for His service.” The difficult life they experienced could have been a time when they cried out and asked the Lord where He was. They may have felt that the Lord was hiding Himself in all of their difficulties. But their hearts were yearning for the arm of the Lord to be revealed. It was as if the Lord loved them and this mother who could bring up these children.
Are you concerned about your report? What is being reported in heaven about you? Are you keeping your eyes on yourself busy with self-indulgence, self-image, self-glory, self-justification? God’s hand is busy writing your report. He will have the last signature over your life.
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “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.” John 12:39,40
God longs for your inner soul to be healed, He alone can heal. You need to forgive others – that is Biblical. The Bible does not talk about forgiving yourself, you need to seek forgiveness from God and from men whom you have wronged and acted wickedly against.
Don’t you see the glory of the wonderful, eternal Gospel? Have you shut your eyes to that? Don’t you want to see the light that shines in the darkness and turns darkness to light? Don’t you want your hardened heart to soften, don’t you want to allow the Gospel and Jesus’ words to penetrate your heart, “Lord, let your words strike this hardened heart of mine and break it so that Your light can penetrate and I can see things as You see them.”
Last night I read about Jacob. He needed to meet his brother, Esau. What did Jacob do? Jacob took all his possessions, everything that was dear to him, and he put it across the river – he sent it away. He did something that no one told him to do. No one else had done it before him. He remained alone – not alone with his image, his grievances, his self-pity but with a Man. He somehow realised He is the man who would be able to prepare him to approach his brother. He wrestled throughout the night. Have you ever wrestled for just one hour? He did through the night until dawn. At dawn the Man said, “Let Me go.” Jacob said, “I will not let you go until You bless me.” Then he was told, “You have wrestled with man and with God and you have overcome.” It was not enough for the Lord to say, “Alright, I will do as you have asked.” The Lord touched his side and he was a limping man from that moment. He could not do what he was able to do before. He was weakened in his capabilities. It was a sign of God’s touch on his life. It was a reminder of God’s touch. God prepared Jacob’s way and he found favour in the eyes of his brother. Jacob could be numbered among his fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Heaven’s God was his God.
May the Lord bless these words so that we can see what He sees, perceive what He perceives and that the arm of the Lord can be revealed.
Conclusion Jabulani Dube
Leave with this in your heart – faith which is the crux of the matter. If we believe as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from us. Someone said that it was impossible for a river to flow from a living person, but this is spiritual water. Blessed is the man who believes. Believe that, if you confess your sins to another, you can be helped, even though your sins are as scarlet, they can be forgiven. If you cleanse yourself, you will be forgiven. When you humble yourself and repent, you can be helped. Do you really believe? The one who comes, with whatever disease, can be healed – after he has believed. If you do not pray in faith you will never receive that which you are asking for. But if you believe and you kneel down in faith, God will grant it to you. If you pray for others to be helped, in faith, they will be helped.
People who walk in darkness, knock against each other and sin against each other. But if you have the Spirit of God, you will realise when you have said something wrong you will immediately apologise. Such a person will experience the joy of the Holy Spirit within because they have been obedient. This is not about church-going or going to KwaSizabantu, that type of church-going destroys people. You must have a personal faith, you cannot just go along with the crowd. Those who have the Spirit of God experience a joy within, a revived faith. Church on a Sunday revives us spiritually. A cold coal that is put amongst the red-hot coals, will be ignited and burn. Beware of your friends. Are they alive or dead? Will they kill your fire? Do they draw you to faith or away?