John 12:37-43 – A Final Summary of Jesus’ Ministry

These verses are John’s evaluation of Jesus’ ministry. Even though Jesus did many signs, he was rejected by his own people. In many ways this paragraph mirrors themes from the prologue in John 1:1-18.  John cites two verses of Isaiah as “fulfilled” by this rejection. Jesus himself quoted the description of the people’s rejection of Isaiah’s message ( See Matthew 13). The original context of these two quotes is important:

Isaiah 53:1 from the most important of the “servant songs” in Isaiah. This section of Isaiah describes a “servant of God” who will be exalted by God (52:13) because he suffers on behalf of God’s people. This whole section of Isaiah is filled with language which is applied to Jesus by the early apostolic preaching. The servant of Isaiah 52:13-52:12 is afflicted, oppressed and crushed “for our iniquities” and “transgressions.” He was silent before his oppressors and the Lord “laid the iniquity of us all” on this innocent sufferer.

The identity of the suffering servant was something which was discussed in first-century Judaism. In Acts 8 the Ethiopian Eunuch is reading this passage when Philip is led by the spirit to share the gospel with him. The Eunuch asks if the writer was describing himself, or someone else, both were live questions even in the first-century.

Early preaching of the apostles centered on the identity of the suffering servant, claiming that Jesus was that servant of God. His death was an atonement for sin, and his resurrection is the ultimate vindication from God that Jesus was truly his representative.

The second text John quotes is Isaiah 6:10, a line from the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry. When he was called to be a prophet he was told that the people to whom he was sent will not listen to him and that he will not be successful in turning the majority of the people back to the Lord and covenant faithfulness. Like Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the rejection of Isaiah 6:10 looms large in the preaching of the early church. Jesus himself cites Isaiah 6:10 to describe his generation after his Galilean ministry (Matthew 13:1-17, the Parable of the Sower, cf. Mark 6:52).

John’s point here is that the generation who heard Jesus preach and saw the signs he did refused to accept him as the messiah. Like Isaiah’s generation, those who reject the message of the Messiah have been rejected and face God’s judgment.

Like Isaiah’s day, there is still a remnant who believes in Israel. Just as in the time of Isaiah there is a small faithful minority who have responded properly to God’s clear revelation. But even this righteous remnant is not perfect. John is quick to point out that those who do believe refuse to openly confess Jesus because of fear of the “authorities”

John’s summary of Jesus’ public ministry draws on themes found throughout the first 12 chapters of the book – God revealed himself in Jesus, the true light of the World, but those who saw the light did not receive them and therefore remained in the dark.

7 thoughts on “John 12:37-43 – A Final Summary of Jesus’ Ministry

  1. I find it so interesting and ironic that people who watched Jesus perform miracles would be able to see those things and still not believe that He is the Messiah. It was no surprise to Jesus that so many did not believe that what He was doing was holy and that He was God, He knew this would be the case. Jesus is not so concerned with these people, He is more concerned about those who have hearts that are ready to let Him in. I think the problem people had with Jesus was that He didn’t fit their mold, He wasn’t the kind of messiah they wanted. Jesus brought light to the things they wanted to stay hidden and many people hated this. We commonly see that the people who receive Jesus are the same people that, when they are convicted by Him, they confess and let Him into their life. If we want to truly have a relationship with God, it has to be more than just believing He is real and powerful! Even the demons believe in God! We need to let Him in and allow Him to bring light to the darkness knowing that He does it because He loves us.

  2. Jesus’ ministry was meant to bring the good news of the gospel first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. The Jews did not get it and to this day still some them, do not get it. The people wanted to see the physical signs and Jesus provided them with miracles which they rejected simply because Jesus’ miracles did not line up with the signs that the people wanted to see or expected. In John’s Gospel, he emphasizes over and over again that the Jews rejected Jesus. Just like with Lazarus and the rich man people want to see the signs but then they reject those signs because they are not what they wanted to see. The rich man asked Lazarus to let him go back so he could warn his family but it was not allowed because if the rich man’s family did not believe with the signs they saw in their everyday lives from God then nothing else would convince them. The same is true for the Jews. God came to them in the flesh and they rejected him because he was not what they expected or wanted. Jesus’ whole ministry was followed with rejection from the Jews. What they did not realize was that they were rejecting the greatest gift of all time.

  3. As we think about Jesus’ life and ministry while he was here on earth we read and realize that the people he was ministering to did not accept him all the time. In fact, they rejected him because what he was doing wasn’t exactly what the people were prepared or in want of. The people thought that Jesus being the savior would save them from the physical in flesh predicament that they are in. Jesus came to earth to be the way the truth and the life and although he was there to change people he didn’t come for the rich and smart in fact he came and changed the lives of those who were poor and in need. This was an example that he has set that we should also follow. As we know from reading all the stories the people rejected and got rid of a person who was a potential fake to them but as we read we know that he was the Savior of the world and the one that saved us from our sins.

  4. Every Bible class I have ever been in has made the point of pointing out (and chuckling) at the irony of the Israelites witnessing Jesus’ miracles yet not believing in him as the Son of God, but how often have we done the same thing? Hindsight is 20/20, how often do people share testimonies of God’s faithfulness and say, “At the time, I didn’t see God in this situation, but now I know that he was with me the whole time,”? How many times have we witnessed God’s power in our day-to-day life but were blind to it because of our own schedules, expectations, or general humanity? Romas 8:11 tells us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is abiding within us! That power is incomprehensible! I’m sure that the Spirit is working in ways that we are blind to on the day-to-day, just like the Israelites.

  5. Jesus’s ministry is so outstanding. It’s one of those things that as a Christian it’s talked about a lot, however it so much more interesting once you go ahead and read it thoroughly. John highlights key themes to Jesus’s ministry in such a way that it is intriguing to the reader. And it foreshadows the Death of Jesus in a way that makes it sort of more emotional to the reader. (even though that is not important really, it just helps with the authority of His ministry, Death, and resurrection.) It is also interesting to read that even though people witnessed the things Jesus had done, heal the sick, raise people from the dead, they still did not believe that Jesus is the light of the world, and would much rather live comfortably in their own darkness of sin. I’m not too sure how someone could reject this in the first place. Amazing works, that we no way deserve, however Jesus was willing to do these.

  6. The people around Jesus were shown time and time again who Jesus was, but they would no accept him. It’s mind-baffling, yet at the same time, it makes me think that I could have easily been in the same shoes. Because these people didn’t recognize him for who he is, the suffering servant was fulfilled from Isaiah 52 and Isaiah 53. The mission of Jesus is quite amazing if you step back and look at it as the big picture. Jesus gave up his place in heaven to live on the earth for 30+ years and his mission was to die and rise from the dead to save humanity. Yet the majority of who he came to die for are the ones who want to kill him and reject him. The love that God has for us so great, we can’t even fathom it. This is the reason why the people turned away from Jesus too. They couldn’t understand the bigger game that was at play for their souls. They didn’t understand the love that Jesus had for them and rejected him because he was different from what they were used to.

  7. The people were not only promised someone who would take all their sins, worries, fears etc. away, they were shown that as well. Jesus proved Himself to be the savior that was promised so long ago in the Old Testament, but the people even His very own doubted Him. This seems to be a pattern with the Jews or the people who have little faith; God promises them fulfillment but when things come down to it they doubt that it was or is being fulfilled at the exact time God had said. Though these people were told what to expect they still envision what these promises are suppose to look like. The Jews were expecting someone who would deliver them from political struggles not from spiritual struggles. When Jesus came along as a loving, caring, and not a person who was after a physical kingship they found it hard to believe that Christ was the promise that was in Isaiah 53.

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