Sunday, May 12, 2024

“Believe in Me” [Matt's Messages]

“Believe in Me”
Life in Jesus’ Name - The Gospel of John
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 12, 2024 :: John 12:37-50  

Did you notice a key word in this passage as it was read to us a minute ago?

Which word gets repeated over and over and over again?

You might miss it because it’s a word that John had already used again and again and again throughout this book.

Twenty-five years ago, when I first preached the Gospel of John, I got exasperated a few times with John for repeating this word so many times! I would come home from studying the passage for that Sunday, and Heather Joy would say, “So what did John have to say this week?”

And I would say, “He says again that we should BELIEVE.”

Did you hear that word again and again? Believe. I think it’s like eight times in these few short sentences. 

Believe. Believe.
Believe. Believe.
Believe. Believe.
Believe. Believe.

And when Jesus says it, He says, “Believe in me.”  As we’ve seen again and again, Jesus tends to make everything about Himself. He doesn’t just want us to have faith. He wants us to have faith in Him.

That’s a big deal, you know? Lots of people talk about having “faith.” Maybe they even put a yard sign out in the yard that says, “Believe!” 

But the key question is, “Believe in WHAT?” or “Believe in WHOM?” Everybody believes in something. Everybody is trusting in something or someone every single second. But Jesus invites us to trust in Him. And He also warns us that there is grave danger ahead if we do not.

This passage is both an invitation and a warning. It’s one of those passages that is easy to miss. It’s easy to just let your eyes run over it on your way to the exciting things that happen in chapter 13. But today, I want us to slow down and consider what it is saying to us right now.

This passage is a great place to stop and take a deep breath before diving into the last major section of the gospel. This is our thirtieth message in this series, and this is great place to stop and catch our breath and consider what we have seen so far.

Because this is the last chapter in John where Jesus is teaching publicly. It’s His last big invitation and warning to the general public out there.

Starting in the next chapter, Jesus is going to teach a lot more, but privately. Just to the disciples in what we often call “The Upper Room Discourse” or “The Teaching on the Night He Was Betrayed.”

And chapter 12 is kind of like a summary review of what Jesus has been saying for the first three years of His ministry and one final invitation and warning to those listening to believe in Him in that crucial last week.

It starts with something that might seem at first like a problem. Let me show you. Let’s look at verse 37. John 12:37. 

“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”

How does that strike you? Does that make you worry a little bit? Does that surprise you? Jesus is inviting people to put their faith in Him. He’s done it over and over again. And many have consistently said, “No thank you. I don’t think so.” They have rejected Him.

nd He’s backed up His invitations with miracles! John says, “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”

What’s He talking about? What miraculous signs?    [ASK CROWD.]

Water into Wine. Chapter 2.
Supernatural knowledge of the woman at the well. Chapter 4.
Healing the official’s son long distance with a word. Chapter 5. “Your son will live!”
Healing the man who was paralyzed for thirty-eight year. “Take up your mat and walk.” Chapter 5.
Feeding the 5,000 men and with their families, maybe 20,000 people! Chapter 6.
Walking on the water. Chapter 6.
Give sight to the man born blind. Chapter 9.
Raising Lazarus from the dead! Chapter 11.
Speaking directly to God, “Father, Glorify Your Name” and the Father speaking directly back in a thunderous voice, “I have glorified, and I will glorify it again.” This very chapter, chapter 12.

John says in chapter 20 that He did many other miraculous signs which are not recorded in this book (20:30).

But those are enough, right? He did all of these miraculous signs in their presence, but they still would not believe in Him. 

That sounds like a problem! Was Jesus a failure? Was His mission a failure? They should have, right? They should have believed in Him. It’s obvious, right? 

What’s wrong? There’s a part of me that starts to worry that something has gone terribly wrong with the plan here.

But John says the exact opposite. Look at verse 38.

“This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him” (vv.38-41).

I’ve got three points of application I want to make this morning, and here’s the first one:


God’s plan is on track. Yes, these people should have believed in Him. They had every opportunity and every good reason to, but they rejected Him. And yet, that did not derail God’s plan. In fact, it was all part of God’s plan. Verse 38 again.

“They still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet...”

Their unbelief was a part of God’s plan from the beginning. John makes that point from two different beloved passages from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah lived more than 700 years before Jesus was born, but he clearly got a glimpse of Jesus long before that first Christmas.

The first passage that John brings up is Isaiah 53 which everybody should know and try to memorize. Isaiah 53 is an amazing telling of the gospel more than 700 years before Jesus was born. It begins: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”

The “arm of the Lord” refers to the Messiah who is being prophesied. And the question is actually a lament that so few have believed the message. And so many have rejected the Messiah.

Isaiah goes on to say:
“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:2-12).
The rejection was part of the prediction!

(And so was the exaltation.)

But the rejection was no surprise. It was baked into the plan. John pulls out Isaiah chapter 6 to say it even more strongly.

Isaiah 6 is that picture of the heavenly holy throne room. Isaiah writes: 
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 

And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 

Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ 

He said, ‘Go and tell this people: ‘'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed’” (Isaiah 6:1-10).
That’s the verse (v.10) that John quotes in chapter 12. 

The rejection was part of the prediction. In fact, it was part of the judgment. These people would not believe because they could not believe. And that was part of God’s judgment on them.

Now, how does that work? How is it that they are responsible for their wicked rejection of Jesus if God planned in advance for it to happen?

I don’t know. 

But John doesn’t think it’s a problem. The Bible consistently presents you and I as completely responsible for our free choices and God as fully sovereign over them, even our sinful ones.

I don’t know exactly how that works, but I’m glad it does. Because that’s what happened at the Cross, right? Sinful men put Jesus on the Cross in a sinful way. And at the very same time, God was working out His righteous plan through their sinful choices.

And that’s what saves us!

I’m not sure exactly how it all works. But I’m glad it does. 

And John doesn’t think it’s a problem. He thinks it solves a problem. Their rejection of Jesus did not create a problem. It didn’t mean that Jesus was failing was His mission. It didn’t mean that Jesus was clearly not the Messiah or they would have all believed.

It didn’t mean that everything was falling apart. There is no reason to panic. All is proceeding according to plan. 

I don’t know about you, but that is so encouraging to me. When I look out at the world and how it seems to be falling apart. And when I look out at people’s lives and see how they are falling apart. And when I see people I’m trying to share Jesus with and they don’t believe (at least yet). I am tempted to panic. And to worry that this is all wrong. And it is bad. It is trouble. It is terrible.

But that doesn’t mean that God’s plan has been thwarted. 

Not. in. the. slightest.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should just throw up our hands and stop our efforts to make the world a better place or to pray for people and situations that are falling apart or to share the gospel with those are currently rejecting Jesus. 

Just like this didn’t mean that Jesus was failing in His mission so that He should just quit and go home. But it does mean that we don’t have to worry or get scared that God’s plan is derailed and headed for the ditch. No, even the yucky stuff that happens along the way is all part of the plan.

Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:10 this way (Matthew 13:14-15). Paul quoted Isaiah 6:10 this way (Acts 28:26-27). John quotes Isaiah 6:10 this way to give us hope and reassurance that even though all is not well, all is going well.

And all is going to be well because Jesus is going to get the glory. Look at again at verse 41.

“Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him.”

Remember, Isaiah lived more than 700 years before Jesus was born, but He saw Jesus. Prophetically. Just like Abraham saw Jesus prophetically (John 8:58) Isaiah saw Jesus prophetically.

That LORD high and lifted up? Holy, holy, holy. That was Jesus.

That Messiah that was going to be pierced for our transgressions? That was Jesus. 

That righteous servant that was going to “see the light of life and be satisfied; [and] by his knowledge [He] will justify many” ? That was Jesus!

And Jesus was going to the glory and nothing was going to stop Him.

In this very chapter Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn. 12:23 NIVO).

And Isaiah could see it from 700 years away!

Don’t panic. God’s plan is on track.

Now, John says that some people, even leaders, did believe in Jesus. Many had rejected Him (as predicted). But some believed. Look at verse 42.

“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (vv.42-43).

That doesn’t sound good. It’s good that they recognized their Messiah when they saw Him. The miracles pointed to the truth all along.

But these folks were too scared to tell people that they believed. They were afraid of what other people would think, say, or do if they did. And that puts them in a dangerous spot.

It’s possible that some of them had real faith, and it was just timid at first. I think of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. They both apparently came to believe and were quiet about it at first. Nick came at night, right? But by the end of the gospel, they are being bold and going public with their belief in Jesus. 

But others might have believed and then never have gone with public with their faith, never “confessed” that they believed, and it’s really unclear whether or not they were truly saved.

And one of the ways you know your faith is real is if you go public with it.


Tell other people that you believe in Jesus.

These folks were scared that they might be ostracized. You might feel the same way. You might be scared of being laughed at. Or denied a promotion at work. Or excluded from the party. Look at what John says about them in verse 43.

“They loved praise from men more than praise from God.”

I don’t want that to be said of me or of you. So often it’s been true of me. I want people to like me. I want people to think I’m great. If they think I’m great because I believe in Jesus, that’s great. But if they are going to think I’m a dummy for believing in Jesus, then I get tempted to not talk about Jesus.

But what if we paid attention to that last phrase, “praise from God?” Do you want praise from God? The Greek word there is “doxa” which we often translated as “glory.”

Do you want the Glorious One to put some glory on you?

I do! We have to want that more than we want the glory that comes from Instagram.

Go public with your faith in Jesus by loving the praise that comes from God. “Well done, you.” 

We just had another baptism class the last couple of weeks, and we’ll be having some more soon. Because not all of us are baptized yet like Jesus told us to do.

Some of you are scared of being baptized because you have to stand in front of others to proclaim your faith in Christ. Let me tell you, everybody here is rooting for you if you do that. It’s not even that you’re going to be tossed out on your ear like these folks were worried about. We are all here for you.

And if you are scared to give your testimony, I will read it for you. I’ve done it before. You don’t have to speak. But you do have stand in front of others and be baptized in front of others. Baptism is going public with your faith.

Don’t be scared. Think about the praise that will come from God if you go public with your faith in Jesus!

Remember: There are no secret agents in the Lord’s Army.

Go public. Tell others. Don’t be like these guys in verses 42 and 43. Who could you tell this week? That you believe in Jesus.


In verse 44, Jesus invites the public one last time to believe in Him before He disappears to the upper room. And He tells them how wonderful it is to believe and how terrible it is to not believe. Look at verse 44.

“Then Jesus cried out, ‘When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.”

Everything Jesus says here is going to sound familiar.  

When you and I believe in Jesus, we don’t just believe in Jesus. We believe God the Father. Jesus doesn’t just act on His own. He was sent on a mission. And when you look at Jesus, you don’t just see Jesus. You see His Father. Sounds like chapter 1 to me. 

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known” (Jn. 1:18 NIVO). 

You want to know what God is like? Put your faith in Jesus.  Sounds like chapter 5 to me.  

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Jn. 5:17 NIVO).

Remember, they tried to kill Him for saying that! They are still trying to kill Him for saying that!

Jesus has been sent on a mission to show the Father and to save His people. Verse 46.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

When we believe in Jesus, we escape the darkness. Sounds like chapter 8 to me.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12 NIVO).

Who wants to escape the darkness?

Who wants to escape the judgment? V.47

“‘As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. [Sounds like chapter 3 to me. He didn’t come the first time to bring judgment though everyone who rejects Him will eventually receive it. V.48] There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.”

You see what He’s saying?

If you put your faith in Jesus, you aren’t just listening to Jesus.

You are listening to the Father. And you are escaping the darkness. And you are escaping the judgment that would come if you reject Jesus. And you are gaining eternal life. Verse 50.

“I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

“And He’s told me to say, ‘Believe in me.’” Sounds like chapter 3 to me.

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIVO).

Life that goes on forever and is life with Jesus and His Father forever.

Do you believe in Jesus?

I know you believe in something. We all believe in something. But Jesus invites us to believe in Him.

And He warns of terrible things if we do not. Judgment. Darkness. Perishing. Eternal Death.

But wonderful things if we believe:

Listening the Father.
Escaping from the darkness into the light of life.
Eternal life.

Put your faith in Jesus.

Believe in Him.


Messages in this Series

01. "That You May Believe" - John 20:30-31
02. "In The Beginning Was the Word" - John 1:1-18
03. "John's Testimony" - John 1:19-34
04. "Come and See" - John 1:35-51
05. "The First of His Miraculous Signs" - John 2:1-11
06. "This Temple" - John 2:12-25
07. "You Must Be Born Again" - John 3:1-15
08. "God So Loved The World" - John 3:16-21
09. "Above All" - John 3:22-36
10. "Living Water" - John 4:1-26
11. "Ripe for the Harvest" - John 4:27-42
12. "Your Son Will Live" - John 4:43-54
13. "Pick Up Your Mat and Walk" - John 5:1-18
14. "To Your Amazement" - John 5:19-30
15. "Testimony About Me" - John 5:31-47
Christmas Eve Bonus: "The Astonishing Gift" - John 3:16 Again
Christmas Eve Bonus: "We Have Seen His Glory" - John 1:1-18 Again
16. "Enough Bread" - John 6:1-15
17. "You Are Looking for Me" - John 6:16-36
18. "I Am the Bread of Life" - John 6:35-71
Vision Meeting Bonus: "As I Have Loved You" - John 13:34-35
19. "At the Feast" - John 7:1-52
20. "I Am the Light of the World" - John 8:12-30
21. "Your Father" - John 8:31-59
22. "Now I See" - John 9:1-41
23. "I Am The Gate" - John 10:1-13
24. "I Am the Good Shepherd" - John 10:14-21
25. "I And The Father Are One" - John 10:22-42
26. "I Am the Resurrection and the Life" - John 11:1-53
27. "Expensive" - John 11:54-12:11
28. "The Hour Has Come" - John 12:12-26