"While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.
But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:
"Lord, who has believed our report?Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"
"He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them."
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
- John 12:36b-43
In our current reading, it is Holy Week. Jesus has been speaking to His disciples and others who are present at the Passover, telling them that the Hour of glorification, the time of the Cross, has come. In yesterday's reading, He told them, "Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to Him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself." This He said, signifying by what death He would die. The people answered Him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man? Then Jesus said to them, "A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.
"While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. This verse is repeated from yesterday's reading. It reminds us that the time is short that Jesus is present with them in the world, and that our time -- right now -- is for a purpose and a choice. In this same sense, our lives our short; to walk in the light (v. 35), to believe in the light, is to have a particular choice and direction, and to become more "like Him."
But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them." These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. Jesus quotes two passages from Isaiah's prophecy: 53:1 and 6:10. St. John Chrysostom comments here that Isaiah's prophecy does not mean that God causes spiritual blindness in those who otherwise would have been faithful. This is a figure of speech in Scripture that simply reveals God as giving people up to their own devices (see Romans 1:24, 26). To say that He has blinded their eyes is to say that God permits their self-chosen blindness (my study bible suggests a comparison here between Exodus 8:15, 32 and Exodus 10:20, 27). People did not become blind because God spoke through Isaiah. Rather Isaiah spoke because he foresaw their blindness. John writes that Isaiah saw His glory and spoke of Him: Isaiah's prophecy was written about 700 BC (see Isaiah 6:1); his prophecy speaks of Christ many times throughout its length.
Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. We know that the raising of Lazarus happened among witnesses who'd come from Jerusalem and who were of the ruling parties and classes. Here John tells us that even among the rulers many believed in Him. But the Pharisees plot against Him, and they fear the Pharisees. My study bible cites the commentary of Chrysostom, who says these rulers are in reality the worst of slaves: they are enslaved by the opinions of men (that is, of human beings as opposed to God). This keeps them from leading as God would have them lead.
To love the praise of men more than the praise of God is a great moral failing. It's all too human, unfortunately. But the capacities that we truly have for leadership don't come from kowtowing to popular opinion, or from being afraid of what others think when our own relationship to the light tells us something different -- when we know there is a better way. True leadership is the capacity to truly see and hear, to choose to walk in the light. I do not believe this applies only to religious leaders, but to leadership quality in all persons. We often must make choices in which the real question we face is whether or not we can be more guided by the praise of God than the "praise of men." Jesus spoke in yesterday's reading (see above) about glorifying God's name. Jesus' hour of the Cross is His hour of glory (12:23). What He asks us to do by walking in the light is to follow Him, to make the praise of God our priority. This is true leadership quality, and it belongs to all human beings. We may not all find ourselves in particular places of leadership with formal titles in the world, but we are each capable of seeking to walk in the light, as Jesus puts it, and becoming "sons of God." To choose the priority of loving God and loving the praise of God more than the praise of men is to choose a kind of illumination as the direction in which we walk in life, and to grow in that light. This is growth in "God-likeness." Genesis tells us that we were made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). To walk in the light that Christ offers is to grow in that likeness, and to reflect God's light in the world, to glorify God through our own choices and discipleship (Matthew 5:14-16). The decisions and choices that we make are each important, and Jesus emphasizes the time. He is about to leave them; the light is with them now. What we choose today is always going to determine the path we're on, the direction we're going. In chapter 14, Jesus will teach, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." That word for "way" in the Greek also means road. We choose the road, the path -- we're headed somewhere. When Jesus speaks of walking in the light, when John writes about choosing the praise of God rather than the praise of men, we're asked to consider which way we're going to choose, which way we take. Jesus is telling us, the time is short, and His is the way, the way we need to choose toward a particular kind of goal and growth, to become sons of light. Those without light are blind, and their hearts are hardened (without understanding). What matters is what we choose.