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John 12:27-43 Study Guide: Refusing to See Jesus

Community Group Study Guide — Refusing to See Jesus
John 12:27-43

Study Information:
How did Jesus, in his human nature, feel about the cross? We can read passages like Hebrews 12:3 that tells us that “for the joy set before him, (Jesus) endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of God.” It is a triumphant verse that declares boldy that Jesus looked at what the cross would accomplish, our redemption, with joy. Yet we cannot remove the reality that even though Jesus knew what would be accomplished through the cross it was still something that filled him with trouble. Our passage highlights that in Jesus’ human nature he experienced his soul being troubled because of the cross and the unbelief of the people he came to save.

The Voice From Heaven
John 12:27-34
Jesus affirmed that in his human nature he was troubled in his soul. The cross was perviously called his “glorification” and we learned that it was the time he was exalted and crowned king. But the cross was not an easy time for Jesus, our text said that he was filled with trouble and anguish. In that moment he turned to God the Father in prayer and expressed the tension of “should I look for a way out” and “but this is the purpose for why I came.” God’s divine mission was not at risk, but this moment gives us as the readers a window into how Jesus was fully human with a human nature that was tempted and yet without sin. God the Son took on full humanity for a moment such as this. He came to cast the ruler of this world out (Satan), and be lifted up (on the cross) to draw all people to himself (John 12:31-33). Jesus asked God the Father to glorify his name and God the Father heard the prayer of Jesus and responded audibly from heaven saying “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Meaning that God would use the cross to show to the world his character, love and plan of redemption in Christ. You would think that anyone in the crowd who heard this would have all their unbelief dispelled, but like many of us when we encounter truth we do not want to believe, they found reasons to dismiss the very voice of God. Some in the crowd said that it was thunder and others the voice of an angel and not God the Father (John 12:29). Why would they hold onto unbelief so strongly?

When Jesus talked about how his impending crucifixion (his being lifted up) related to God’s plan to defeat Satan and draw all people to himself, the crowd responded with disbelief. Their objection was that they had “heard” in the Law that the Christ must last forever. The could be a reference to the promise given to David in 2 Samuel 7, that the king from his line would have an eternal throne or maybe from Daniel 7 where the “son of Man” is called the “Ancient of Days”. The crowd could not wrap their mind around how Jesus could be that eternal king because they would at times see only his humanity before them. They also did not like Jesus’ teaching and his fame with the crowds, so they were stuck in unbelief. 

The Unbelief of the People
John 12:35-43
We get two insights from John into the ongoing unbelief of the people of Israel.

First, they were in darkness. Jesus connects his mission as being light in the world to their unbelief. He’d be with them a little while longer as light and they were invited to walk in the light and not to be overtaken by darkness. This was an offer of sonship according to verse 36. John later focused on this in his first letter as faith in Jesus as “fellowship with the light.” God the Son incarnated to make fellowship with God possible and to remove us from being stuck in darkness. However, Jesus already told us in John 3:19 that people loved the darkness rather than the light because going to the light revealed their sin and they’d prefer to hide. We have a huge motivating factor for unbelief in our lives, the discomfort that comes with admitting our sin and seeking salvation outside of ourselves. Look at John 12:37, though Jesus had done many signs they still did not belief. This crowd would rather dismiss the voice of God booming from the sky as thunder because admitting that God was at work in what was happening in and through Jesus would meant they had to deal with their sin and their error and they would rather stay in darkness.

Second, they feared man rather than God. The authorities felt a pull towards believing in Jesus, which is astounding. We’ve seen similar things in other parts of the gospel of John where a group is accredited as “believing” or having “believed” in Jesus and then later walked away or backtracked under pressure. John equated “believing” with active following, so this would make sense that there are some who test the waters or follow him for a time, which is different from how we typically think of “believing” as saving faith. So this group of authorities were interested in Jesus but did not confess it because of fear of the Pharisees (John 12:42); their love came from how people thought of them (John 12:43). A barrier to belief in Christ is how others would think of us. Many of us can be approval addicts and care more about what people think rather than what God thinks and that is what theologians have called “fear of man” throughout history. We may face legitimate rejection from family or friends. Some of us may even face being labeled or judged for our faith in Christ. Our culture is also quick to assign “guilt by association,” so people may think you’re like the worst representation of Jesus’ followers out there today. There were some in the crowd who wanted to learn to be like Jesus, but were held back in unbelief because of the social cost and yet we see others who take great risk to follow Jesus. For example, keep your eyes on Nicodemus and compare him with the disciples as the story moves forward. The disciples scattered when Jesus was arrested and crucified, but Nicodemus, even though he had been in the shadows and not officially identified as a disciple of Jesus took great risk by being one of the people who took Jesus body from the cross. He chose faithfulness to Jesus over the fear of man. We do not know when it will come, but any who follow Jesus will be confronted with a fear of man vs. fear of God dilemma and for some it can keep us stuck in unbelief or hold us back from following Christ. 

The people Jesus came to rejected him and were stuck in unbelief. Even though they heard Jesus’ prayer and God the Father responding back from heaven, they refused to believe the sign. We can be stuck in unbelief for many reasons and our text highlighted two of them. For some prefer the darkness and others are afraid of the social cost.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 12:27-43

How did Jesus think and feel about the cross in his human nature?

How did God the Father respond to Jesus’ prayer and what was the crowds reaction?

What is the "fear of man?” How do we see it in our text of scripture?

When you look back on your life before finding faith in Jesus, what were some of the biggest motivating factors for your unbelief?