Commentary on John 12:44-50
Today we come to the end of what is called the “Book of Signs” (chaps 1-12) of John’s gospel. Through these signs – seven of them – Jesus clearly indicates who he is and what is mission is.
Today’s passage, which brings the “Book of Signs” to an end, is a recapitulation of all that has been said in the preceding chapters. The text says that Jesus “cried out” and spoke. This gives extra emphasis to what Jesus is proclaiming. It is once again a call to believe in Jesus where ‘believing in’ means much more than mere acceptance of the truth of his words. It implies that there is also a personal commitment to Jesus and to his mission.
And to believe in Jesus is also to believe, to surrender oneself entirely, to the One who sent him – the Father. All through this gospel Jesus emphasises the inseparability of the Father and the Son.
“I came into this world as light…” This phrase implies Jesus’ pre-existence as the Eternal Word as well as indicating he came with a mission – to bring light into darkness.
To put one’s faith in Jesus is to put one’s faith in God the Father, from whom he comes. And whoever really has insight into Jesus knows that he is in touch with God himself. As he has said before, Jesus is a light taking away the darkness with which we are surrounded. He also spells out more clearly than before what happens if we reject him and prefer darkness to light. “It is not I who shall condemn him” because Jesus has come to bring salvation, to bring wholeness to the world and not to condemn it.
“He who rejects me and refuses my words has his judge already: the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.” The sun’s role is to give light but when there are obstacles to that light we get shadows. That is not the sun’s doing. Jesus, too, is the Light of the world. But, because of certain behaviour on our part, there are shadows and even darkness.
The ‘word’ of Jesus is a challenge. It offers us a way of living and of inter-relating with God, with others and with ourselves. If we choose another way we have only ourselves to blame when our lives go downhill. But Jesus is always there to lift us up. We only need to stretch out our hand and he will take it into his own.
Jesus tells us that his Father’s commands – which he also observes – mean eternal life. Everything that Jesus did was the carrying out of his Father’s will. We are called to follow the same path. If only we could realise that to follow Jesus is not to fit ourselves into a straitjacket but is a way to total freedom.