John 12:34
The crowd replied, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever. So how can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"
The Son of ManJ.R. Thomson John 12:34
Believing in the Light and its EffectsJ. R. Howat.John 12:34-36
Children of LightG. Fisk, LL. B.John 12:34-36
Delay Leads to the Winter of the SoulJ. Foster.John 12:34-36
Gospel LightThe EvangelistJohn 12:34-36
Light and its Little WhileH. Bonar, D. D.John 12:34-36
Light Limited in DurationT. H. Leary, D. C. L.John 12:34-36
Misunderstandings and ExplanationsD. Thomas, D. D.John 12:34-36
The Gospel of LightR. Watson.John 12:34-36
The Similitude of the LightT. Whitelaw, D. D.John 12:34-36
The Son of ManA. Maclaren, D. D.John 12:34-36
Too LateArvine.John 12:34-36
Perplexity and inquiry mingle in this question which the Jews were prompted to put, when they heard the language in which Jesus claimed authority in his death to gather mankind around himself.

I. THE DESIGNATION APPLIED TO JESUS. The expression, "Son of man," was familiar to the Jews.

1. In the Old Testament it was used as equivalent to "man." It is applied in the Book of Ezekiel to that prophet himself, in about eighty passages. There is one passage in the Book of Daniel in which the Messiah is introduced as "like a Son of man."

2. In the New Testament the expression occurs eighty-two times, and in almost all instances it is used by Jesus of himself. It is found in all four Gospels. Here only in the Gospels is it used by others of our Lord, and as if it were desired to understand the full meaning of the phrase. Stephen, when threatened with the martyr's, death, made use of this appellation, which shows that it was well known and current among the early Christians. The same is apparent from its employment by John in the Apocalypse, when describing the ascended Christ.

3. There are passages from which it would seem that "Son of man" was regarded as almost equivalent to "Son of God." Thus in Peter's great confession, in answer to Christ's inquiry (see Matthew 16:13-16). And again in Caiaphas's interpretation of our Lord's language (see Luke 22:69, 70).

4. To the Christian the designation is suggestive of great and distinctively Christian doctrines. The Son of man is to him incarnate Deity, and yet Deity in participation with our nature, in priestly fellowship with our life, in human sympathy with our feelings, in humiliation and sacrifice. And on the other hand, the Son of man assures us that he is our Representative above, our Mediator and Friend, our Lord and Judge.


1. It is a question which is prompted by our acquaintance with the facts of Christ's ministry. The record of what Jesus did, suffered, and said, is the most amazing record in the history of humanity. Is it possible, seriously and thoughtfully, to make acquaintance with the facts of his life, death, and resurrection, without being urged to the inquiry, "Who is this?"

2. It is a question upon the answer to which great issues depend. Was Jesus an impostor, or a fanatic, or an altogether mythical personage? Upon many questions we can afford to suspend our judgment; but not upon this. It makes all the difference to the world, it makes all the difference to ourselves, whether or not Jesus be the Savior from sin, and the Lord of righteousness and life.

3. It is a question which admits but of one reply. Reason and conscience alike are satisfied, and can find rest, when the assurance is given that the Son of man is Son of God. - T.

We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever.
I. MISUNDERSTANDINGS (ver. 34). They considered perhaps that Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:13 referred to Christ. Their question would be, therefore, "If Thou art to die, how canst Thou be the Messiah? We know who the Son of Man in the Old Testament is; but who is this Son of Man?" Men have always misunderstood the Cross. It is foolishness to the Greek, etc.

1. Some now speak of the Cross as a means of appeasing the wrath of the Almighty.

2. Some as a transaction that will purchase souls.

3. Some as the procuring cause of God's love.

4. Whereas it is the effect, demonstration, channel of God's love for man.

II. EXPLANATIONS. Christ does not explain the difficulty by logical disquisition, but by exhorting them to practice holiness (ver. 35). It is the pure heart, not the logical understanding, that solves the problems of Christianity. Christ urges the spirit of holiness on three considerations.

1. Their possession a special advantage. They had the light with them. From Christ's presence, words, deeds, holiness beamed brightly on them. They were moving in the rays of the highest moral excellence.

2. Their special advantage was only temporary — "Yet a little while." A few days more and their moral sun would be set. Man's opportunities for spiritual improvement are very transient.

3. The departure of their special advantage would expose them to danger — "He that walketh in darkness," etc. To walk on in moral darkness to the great eternity, how dismal and dangerous!

4. The right use of their advantage would fill them with light (ver. 36). Trust in Christ will fill the soul with Divine illumination. "The entrance of Thy Word giveth light."

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Who is this Son of Man?
This question of utter bewilderment negatives the supposition that it was equivalent to the Messiah. The two names do not cover the same ground; for our Lord avoided the one and habitually used the other. The name is found on no other lips, and no man applied it to Christ but Stephen. The two apparent instances in which it occurs — in Revelation — probably read a, not the Son of Man. It has been supposed to be taken from Daniel. No doubt there is a connection, but the Prophet speaks of "one like a Son of Man," in contradistinction to the bestial forms. What, then, is the force of the name?


1. The name declares the fact of the Incarnation and the reality and fulness of His humanity. It is employed where special emphasis is to be placed on our Lord's manhood.(1) As, e.g., when He would bring into view the depth of His humiliation — "Foxes have holes," etc. "Not merely am I individually homeless, but I am so because I am truly a Man, the only creature who builds houses, and the only creature that has not a home. Foxes can rest any. where; any bough will do for birds; I, as the representative of humanity, wander a pilgrim." We are all restless and homeless: the creatures correspond to their environment. We have desires and needs that wander through eternity; our Representative "hath not where to lay His head."(2) When He would emphasize the completeness of His participation in our conditions. "The Son of Man came eating and drinking" — having ordinary dependence on external things: nor unwilling to taste whatever gladnesses may be found in man's path through the supply of natural appetites.(3) When He would emphasize this manhood as having truly taken upon itself the whole weight and weariness of man's sin. "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto," etc.

2. All these instances suggest to us —(1) How truly and blessedly He is "bone of our bone" etc. All our joys, sorrows, wants were His. The Son of Man is our Brother and Example.(2) Is it not beautiful that this name, which emphasizes humiliation, and weakness, and likeness to ourselves, should be always on His lips. Just as if some teacher who went away into savage life might adopt some barbarous designation and say, "That is my name now."

II. CHRIST THEREBY DISTINGUISHES HIMSELF FROM US, and plainly claims an unique relationship to the whole world. How absurd it would be for one of us to perpetually insist on the fact that He was a man, and the very frequency and emphasis with which the name comes from our Lord's lips lead one to suspect that there is something behind it. The impression is confirmed by the article the.

1. Appropriately, then, the name is used with suggestions of authority and dignity, contrasting with those of humiliation. "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath," "hath power on earth to forgive sins," etc. And it is significant that the designation occurs more frequently in the first three Gospels than in the fourth, which is alleged to present higher notions of Jesus. In substance Christ claims, what Paul claimed for Him, to be the Second Adam. "Aristotle is but the rubbish of an Adam," and Adam is but the dim outline sketch of a Jesus. The one man as God meant him, the perfect humanity, is He who claimed that for Himself, and as He did so said, "I am meek and lowly of heart." "Who is this Son of Man?" A perfect Son of Man must be more than a Son of man — "the Christ the Son of the living God."

2. The name is employed in connections in which He desires to set Himself forth as the solitary medium of all blessing to mankind — "The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many," "the angels of God ascending and descending," etc., — the Medium of all communication between earth and heaven. He who is perfect manhood touches all men, and all men touch Him, and the Son of Man whom God hath sealed will give to every one of us bread from heaven.

III. THE PREDICTIVE CHARACTER OF THIS DESIGNATION. If not a quotation from it is an allusion to the prophecy of Daniel. Hence we find the name occurring in passages which refer to Christ's second coming — "Hereafter ye shall see," etc. "He hath given Him authority," etc. "Standing at the right hand of God."

1. The name carries with it a blessed message of the present activity and perpetual manhood of the risen Lord. Stephen does not see Him sitting, but standing, as if He had sprung to His feet on response to the cry of faith from the first of a long train of sufferers. He is the ever-present Helper.

2. That perfect manhood will be our Judge. It could not end its relationship on the cross or at the Ascension. That He should come again is the only possible completion of His work. That Judge is our Brother. So in the deepest sense we are tried by our Peer. With the omniscience of Divinity will be blended the sympathy of humanity. Conclusion: Let us lay hold by true faith on the mighty work which He has done on the cross, then we shall rejoice to see our Brother on the throne.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Yet a little while is the light with you
I. THE LIGHT. Light is that which reveals, as darkness hides. Christ is the Light: He reveals the Father, the Father's love and righteousness, and all the riches of His grace; and we, opening our eyes to take in this light, are thereby enlightened.

II. THE SIGHT WITH US. The first gleam came in the first promise. After that the rays multiplied. Then the Light came and remained here for thirty-three years. It is still, though impersonally, with us; and it will be yet more gloriously so when Christ comes again. We may withdraw from it, but it never withdraws from us. We may shut our eyes and our windows, but the light still shineth — not starlight or moonlight, but sunlight. "The darkness comprehendeth it not." Oh dark world, child of darkness, when wilt thou let in the light.

III. THE LITTLE WHILE OF THE LIGHT. Our Lord's personal presence. There are other little whiles. Israel had hers; the Churches have had or are having theirs; so with nations, congregations, souls. A little while of Sabbaths, sermons, sacraments, providences, and all is done. Then the light departs, and its little while for thee may be near. Improve it. Jesus is coming, but with darkness to the despisers of the light.

IV. THE USING OF THE LIGHT. "Walking" is equivalent to the whole of a man's life. Our Lord's meaning is "Use this light for whatever you do."

1. Believe in the light, and in no other. The light of reason, literature, science will do nothing for the soul. At best they are but starlight, clear but cold, distinct but distant. God proclaims His testimony concerning this light, and it wants admission.

2. Become children of the light. He into whom it enters becomes a child of light, and a light to others.

V. THE REFUSAL TO USE THE LIGHT — by neglect, delay, hatred, rejection.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

A man who would enjoy the pleasures of this world said it was too soon for him to think of another world. He journeyed, and was taken ill very suddenly, and in the middle of the night, at an inn. The people there sent for a clergyman. He came; and the dying man, looking him in the face, before he could speak, said to him, "Sir, it is too late!" The minister said, "Christ is able to save to the uttermost," and explained the gospel to him. He replied, "Sir, it is too late!" The clergyman asked, "Will you allow me to pray with you?" His only reply was, "Sir, it is too late!" He died, saying, "It is too late!"


I. A GRACIOUS PRIVILEGE. "While," or "as ye have," etc.

1. Great. A day without light, a world without the sun, expressive but faint emblems of a soul without spiritual illumination, of humanity without Christ.

2. Present. The world was never without it, but only since the Incarnation has it attained to meridian splendour.

3. Temporary. It is not permanent to us any more than it was to the Jews, or than the natural light is to any.

II. A SOLEMN DUTY. "Believe in the light."

1. Plain. Christ's language neither vague nor ambiguous.

2. Easy. It is not work or suffer for, but only believe, trust, walk in the light.

3. Continuous. It is not one act of faith and then all is done. "Walk" implies continuance and progress.

III. A GLORIOUS RESULT — "That ye may become," etc.

1. Magnificent. The light, for man, can illuminate his understanding, purify his heart, quicken his conscience, vitalize his spirit, direct his conduct, beautify and dignify His whole life. It can put Him in direct contact with and assimilate him to Him who is the Light.

2. Designed. This it does not unexpectedly or accidentally, but purposely and necessarily.

3. Certain. He who walks in the light will as certainly be transfigured by it as the flower is transformed into a spectacle of beauty by the beams of the sun. Lessons —

1. Thankfulness to Him who hath furnished the light.

2. Watchfulness lest the light should pass away unimproved.

3. Hopefulness with respect to the future of those who believe on the Saviour.

4. Pitifulness for the fate of those who still walk in darkness.

(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)

The gospel is "light." This marks its origin from heaven. It is no human device, but comes from God Himself. It is "light." This denotes its truth. It is fitting that what is truth, without mixture of error, should be compared to the most simple substance in nature. It is called "light" because of its penetrating and subtle nature. Kindle it up, and no shade is so gross that it cannot penetrate it; there is no imposture so well devised which it will not expose; there are no works of darkness which it will not drag to light and shame; there is no conscience so callous but this light will search it. It is called "light," because of the discoveries which it makes. It is a "great light." It makes manifest the invisible God, in His awful and mild glories. It shows Him in His works, His providence, and His grace; it opens to view the path of peace which has been so long lost; it presents the model and the promises of holiness; displays the connection between the present state of probation and eternity; it plays round the darkness of the tomb, and illuminates the mansion of the grave with hope of a resurrection; it makes the future start to sight, and is both "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." But it is called "light" for another reason. It is life and health to the world; it shows us "the Sun of Righteousness," rising with "healing in His wings." The comparison is made to the parent bird, warming her young to life, and giving health and strength by brooding over them. Such is the sun to nature. It warms to life, purges the atmosphere of its vapours, and renews the health of the world. Such is the light of the gospel. Where it prevails, spiritual life is inspired, and the moral disorders of the soul give place to health and vigour.

(R. Watson.)

I. LIGHT is the symbol of —

1. God the Father (1 John 1:5). He is the Medium through which all spiritual things are discerned. It is only in God, as light, that we can see God or have any notion of Him. The old pervasiveness of light, too, is an apt emblem of omnipresence.

2. Christ Himself (John 1:4). He is the Light of God to man in a state of darkness. Without Him we cannot know God, ourselves, or the relations between the two.

3. The written Word (Psalm 119:105). The fact of our receiving the light in any of these senses throws upon us a vast amount of responsibility.

II. BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT. Not believe it, or about it, or reason about it, but believe so as to participate in it. Of what use is it for man to believe in the fact of the sun, or in some theory about it, or to reason about its effects, especially if he is charged with some mission which requires its light, if he persists in keeping his shutters closed. Yet how many there are who, requiring the Light of the World to illuminate their path to heaven, content themselves with mere orthodox views about Him. Numbers are more ready to argue about the Divinity of Christ than to say with adoring trust, "My Lord and my God." Numbers more are content with acknowledging God's claims and the reasonableness of Bible precepts who never think of fulfilling the one or walking by the other.

III. CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT means more than being enlightened. "Children" implies parentage, propagating power. Light produces light, and by believing in Him who is the Light we become light in the Lord. And if light as applied to God sets forth His perfections, the enjoyment of that light means the perpetration in us of holiness, truthfulness, etc.

(G. Fisk, LL. B.)

The Evangelist.

1. The light of nature.

2. There is the light of infidel philosophy. This is full of self-importance and swelling pride.

3. There is the light of enthusiasm. This is a sort of wild-fire, it blazes as straw, bewilders the mind, and produces an obstinacy not easily eradicated.

4. But Christ is the "Light of Life." That which is pure, unadulterated, and unchangeable. This blessed light centres in Christ, and emanates from Him. Jesus Christ neglected — disregarded — undervalued, must give the death-wound to a man's brightest hopes, and his best felicity (see 1 Corinthians 16:22).


1. Gross ignorance; a mind perfectly uninformed. The Sadducees did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God.

2. A heart inflated with vanity, and puffed up with its own consequence. Some of the Corinthians were thus puffed up. If they had a little light, they had much darkness.

3. Self-righteousness and self-sufficiency are evidences of positive darkness dwelling within (see Romans 10:3, 4; Matthew 23:1). Affected royalty in a lunatic provokes a smile, but self-righteousness in a sinner ought to produce astonishment and grief.

III. THE WAY TO BE SECURE IS TO TAKE HEED. To look well within and wisely around. We must guard against pride, the operations of which preclude the entrance of truth, as the gay colouring of cathedral windows excludes the common light of day. We must guard against prepossessions and prejudice. These often operate upon the mind greatly to a man's disadvantage. Prejudice will turn that which is beautiful into deformity, and then reject it. Beware of two great evils, negligence and unbelief. Negligence (see Hebrews 6:12; Proverbs 19:15). Unbelief (see Hebrews 3:12-19). Do not resist conviction, do not shut out the light.

1. Let the infidel take heed lest his boasted light terminate in a worse than Egyptian darkness.

2. Let the proud, self-righteous Pharisee come down from the pinnacle of his elevation, and seek both light and life in Jesus Christ.

3. Let the profane sinner, venturesome as he now is, look out in time; go to Jesus Christ the Sun of righteousness, in time.

IV. MENTAL DARKNESS, THAT OF THE UNDERSTANDING, IS THE WORST KIND OF DARKNESS. It produces enmity to the truth of God, and neglect of His ways. Permit me to give you a word of friendly counsel in reference to this light.

1. Set a just value on it. Buy it at any expense, sell it not on any account.

2. Labour to gain more of it.

3. Communicate it to others, and that to the extent of your abilities.

4. Remove obstacles to its shining whenever you can.

5. Triumph in the happy victories which the light and truth of God may at any time gain, in any one family, at any one place.

6. Look forward to its final and complete triumphs, its unfading and eternal splendour!

(The Evangelist.)

In certain parts of Asia there is a curious plant which grows in the forests. These forests are very dense and gloomy, for the trees grow thick together, and twine their branches into one another at the top, till the forest almost seems to have a great roof over it keeping out the sunlight. This plant at first is a very slim and feeble-looking plant — just a straight stalk, with only a thin leaf here and there upon it. But it shoots up and up, and gathers strength as it grows, till it becomes like a tall bamboo rod. And now it reaches up to the first branches of the trees, then up to the middle ones, then up to the topmost boughs, and pierces its way through the thick roof of leaves at the top; then, for the first time, it lifts its head unto the sunshine. And now, it does what it never did and never could have done before. It puts out beautiful blossoms and flowers; and, by and by, out of these it brings fruits and seeds. Once it has become a child of the light it begins to blossom and be fruitful. This explains the text in this way: at first the plant had a little light, and that little made it glad. It loved the light, and believed it was good for it. It believed in the light, and it found that the more it loved the light the more light it got, because it was growing more up to it, and from being a sickly, pale plant it became strong and beautiful. Now Jesus is the Light of the soul. We know a little about Him, that He loved us and died to save us, and wants to make us good. We have a little light, and what we have now to do is to love that light and believe that light, that our souls may be changed by the light from day to day, till we also become children of light. Suppose that plant, when it had only a little light, had said to itself, "Ah, I don't want the light, I don't want the light; I am tired of always trying to grow higher into the light. I think it would be much nicer if I could become a creeper and grow on the dark ground!" Well, if the plant said that and did that, it would bend down and down and away from the light, and it would receive less light and less light, and it would never have any flowers or any kind of fruit, just because when it had the light it would not believe in the light, or try to get more of it, or love it. It is the same with you. If you do not want that light, if you do not believe in it, if you prefer to do this thing and that which is sinful, then you will be growing away from the light, and receive less and less light still, and you will forget the light you once had, and your life will be lost.

(J. R. Howat.)

Alexander the Great, when he besieged a certain city, kindled a torch, and offered pardon and peace to the besieged citizens if they would surrender themselves so long as the torch continued to burn, but threatened them with destruction and death if they did not surrender during the blazing light of the torch. So will it be with God and ourselves. Let us therefore work while we can enjoy the light that shines from heaven and leads us to heaven, for when this light is quenched, if we have not before surrendered ourselves to God, we must certainly, as He has warned us, meet with eternal death and destruction at His hands.

(T. H. Leary, D. C. L.)

How dangerous to defer those momentous reformations which conscience is solemnly preaching to the heart! If they are neglected, the difficulty and indisposition are increasing every month. The mind is receding, degree after degree, from the warm and hopeful zone; till at last it will enter the arctic circle, and become fixed in relentless and eternal ice.

(J. Foster.)

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