Whoever Believes in Me: Unbelief as a Reason to Cry for True Belief in Jesus

Brian Mahon - 10/9/2022


Call to worship: Isaiah 6:1-10

Text: John 12:36b-50


For John's contemporaries, Jewish or otherwise, it would've been expected that the Jewish Messiah would've been believed upon by the Jewish people. That most did not was an obstacle needing clearance. Perhaps Jesus was not all He was rumored to be. Or, as John means to persuade us, the bear mention of their unbelief actually solidifies the historicity of the Gospel, and (more to the issue) their unbelief was expected. Their rejection of Christ was foretold by God in Scripture. Thus, their unbelief is really an apologetic for why one should believe in Jesus. He is the holy, divine King Who suffered and died for us and, as such, His ministry fulfilled the tenor of ministry for all God's servants, like Isaiah. But again, that then becomes a call to truly believe in Jesus---as the saving Word of God to sinful people. In a text that emphasizes the sovereignty of God even in unbelief, it boldly calls upon people to responsibly place their faith in Jesus for eternal life, and to be careful that they not reject the Word intended to save them, lest it stand to judge them. It is a fitting Word for the culmination and close of Jesus' public ministry.

Sermon Outline:

  1. Unbelief as a reason to believe truly in Jesus. (12:36b-43)
    • Unbelief establishing Gospel historicity.
    • Unbelief fulfilling biblical prophecy.
    • Unbelief underscoring Christ's glory.
  2. Jesus crying out to all to believe truly in Jesus. (12:44-50)


Discussion Questions:

  1. Read John 12:36b-50. Secondarily, read Isaiah 6:1-10 with 53:1ff (ff=and following).
  2. Coming out of 12:35-36a, why might Jesus leave and hide from them? What does it demonstrate? How does John relay the response of Israel to the ministry of Jesus? Why might this need an explanation for John's readers? How does John explain their unbelief?
  3. How do the two passages from Isaiah relate (and find fulfillment) in the response of the nation to the ministry of Jesus? What do they say about Jesus? What do they communicate about Israel? Why would God ever usher such a judgment as this? Can we agree that God is sovereign over belief and unbelief while, still, maintaining human culpability, responsibility, the justice of God, and the necessity of calling the lost to faith in Christ? How do we see all these things in this passage?
  4. Against the tendency to see God's sovereignty in salvation as a disconcerting thing, why might it actually be a most hopeful thing? How are we to understand John's comment that Isaiah saw Jesus' glory? How does that inform our understanding of the faith described in 12:42-43, that they loved the glory of man more than the glory of God in Christ? What is at the heart of true faith? How does Isaiah's life and ministry accentuate the worth of Jesus that should be central to our lives?
  5. How does John have Jesus respond to a section heavy on the sovereignty of God in salvation? How is this section a fitting close to the public ministry of Jesus? How does it relate to the purpose of this Gospel? How does it intersect with the prologue? What is the loud cry of Jesus here? What does He urge upon all souls? Is this the preeminent urgency and task in our lives, and in our life together as a church? What steps can be taken to develop an overriding passion for and practice of evangelism and the care of souls?
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