"There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken." (John 12:48-49)
Is this about Jesus' 'words' or teachings?This statement by Jesus illustrates the importance Jesus placed on his teachings, as well as the Source of his teachings.
There are two instances of the term "words" in this statement. The first instance is translated from the Greek word ῥῆμα (rhēma). As mentioned with Jesus' previous statement, this can mean "words," but in this context, according to Thayer's lexicon, it would mean "doctrine," or "instructions."
This is confirmed with the second instance of "words," which is translated from the Greek word λόγος (logos), which can mean "doctrine" or "teachings."
Within the context of Jesus' statement, "instructions" would be more appropriate for the first instance, and "teachings" for the second instance.*
Jesus' statement reveals the critical nature of hearing Jesus' teachings and following them. What use is hearing Jesus' instructions without following them?
Accepting someone's teachings does not mean simply giving lip service. It means to follow those teachings.
By Jesus linking the acceptance of his teachings with rejecting him, he is binding his purpose and his mission to what he is teaching.
What does 'condemn them on the last day' mean?Jesus' statement also indicates that Jesus' teachings can enlighten the listener, but rejecting his teachings will have negative consequences.
The phrase "the last day" among some translations* is taken from the Greek phrase, ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. The first word ἔσχατος (eschatos) relates to time as in last time or last of a period. The second word ἡμέρα (hēmera) can mean "day" but also "days" and "days of his life" according to the lexicon.
In other words, the phrase ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ refers to as the time of death - the end of our days here on earth - the end of our physical lifetime.
Therefore, to 'condemn them on the last day' would refer to there being consequences received following the death of the physical body for those who reject Jesus and do not follow his instructions.
What are the negative consequences?Those who reject Jesus' teachings and throw away the opportunity to regain our relationship with the Supreme Being - the substance of Jesus' teachings - will find ourselves alone and without a refuge.
To reject Jesus' teachings that help us develop our relationship with God means to have an emptiness within our hearts. Such a vast emptiness can only be filled with a loving relationship with the Supreme Being.
Who is the 'judge'?Jesus states clearly that, "There is a judge for the one who rejects me..." This indicates the separate existence of judgment outside of Jesus.
The reality that Jesus is the final say is confirmed by his next statement:
"For I did not speak of my own accord" indicates a distinction between Jesus and the Supreme Being. If Jesus did not speak of his own accord as he spoke of God, Jesus could not possibly be God.
Jesus then clarifies his connection with the Supreme Being "....the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it."
This clarifies the relationship between Jesus and God. Jesus was sent by the Supreme Being. This means that Jesus is God's messenger and thus representative. Anyone sent by someone else is acting as that person's messenger and speaking on their behalf makes them their representative.
This indicates that the "judge" Jesus is referring to is ultimately the Supreme Being.
Furthermore, since the Supreme Being commanded Jesus regarding what to say and how to say it, we know that Jesus is serving God. A person who follows the commands of another is acting as that person's subordinate, and their actions comprise servitude. And if that service is done voluntarily, it is based on love.
Who is the 'Father who sent me'?Is Jesus referring to a physical father who has sent Jesus out? That would be short-sighted. Jesus is referring to the Supreme Being as having sent him.
This means that Jesus is admitting that he is a messenger of God. He is God's representative. It also indicates that Jesus is God's loving servant.
Loving servitude is when a person follows the instructions ("commands") of another specifically and precisely - because they want to do what pleases the other person. Since Jesus not only said what the Supreme Being commanded him to say, but said it in the manner commanded by God, we can know that Jesus is not God: He is God's loving servant and messenger. This makes Jesus God's representative.
We can also see in Jesus' statement a significant amount of humility. It was not as if Jesus considered himself so knowledgeable. The fact that he followed God's commands specifically means that Jesus saw himself as simply a humble loving servant of the Supreme Being, and that Jesus enjoyed a private and intimate relationship with God.
Jesus stated clearly that he is teaching what God wants to teach us:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)This also means that Jesus' most important teaching actually was coming from the Supreme Being:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)When we put this "first and greatest" teaching together with Jesus' statement in John 12:48-49, we can know that above all, God wants our love. He wants us to return to our loving relationship with Him because He knows that only this will make us happy. The Supreme Being wants us to be happy because He loves each of us intimately.
*Here is the translation from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"Yet one who rejects me and does not follow my instructions will be condemned: The Teachings I spoke will condemn them at the time of death. For I speak not from myself but the Creator Himself who sent me gives me instructions as to what to teach and what to say." (John 12:48-49)