He stayed a couple of days longer when He heard Lazarus was sick. Then Jesus decided to go to Judea. His disciples quickly reminded him that the Jews were trying to stone him just a few days ago. Why did Jesus respond to his disciples by asking them "Are there not 12 hours in a day?" I understand the significance of walking in the light and darkness (i.e. walking with Christ vs. sin). Is there something about the journey back to Judea that one should only walk during the day? Or was it too dangerous to walk at night due to terrain or thieves/robbers/mercenaries?

7 Answers 7


He continued, saying: 'Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks around in the daytime, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks around at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.'

Meaning he himself is the light. There is no stumbling for him. Those of the darkness will stumble over him. But not yet. As long as the Father lets him shine, he continues his work until his day is over.


Walking in the light of God's will and word was Jesus' deepest desire (Jn 17:4), even though doing so would culminate in His death. His goal was ultimately to accomplish the work His Father sent Him to do, thereby pleasing His Father (see Jn 8:29) and bringing many sons to glory (He 2:10).

Jesus' disciples feared for His safety, and rightly so. Jesus, on the other hand did not. He was certainly in the eleventh hour of His earthly sojourn, but He was determined to continue walking in the light of His Father's will, even if it meant certain death.

As for His enemies who hated Him without a cause, Jesus would leave them to stumble on in the darkness of their disobedience, the disobedience to which they were appointed (1 Pe 2:8b); to them, Jesus was a rock of offense and stumbling (1 Pe 2:8a). They preferred the darkness because their deeds were evil (Jn 3:19), and they were determined to kill Jesus, despite His being the Light of the world (Jn 8:12; 9:5).

In conclusion, the timeframe of which Jesus spoke when he asked His disciples "Are there not 12 hours in the day?" drew attention to His time being short. The spiritual darkness of the cross was imminent. While His soul shrank from what lay ahead, He was determined to finish His work, knowing that the darkness could not overpower the Light of life which emanated from the cross (see Jn 1:4,5; 8:12).


I think this was a message of wisdom to his disciples as to how to go about their work on earth.

As we know it, day (light) and night (darkness) take their turns over the earth, and it pleases God to make it so.

Therefore, it is so important that we as Christians work with the times (day of course). Spiritually speaking darkness can be over a land while there is sunlight, so this should not be taken literally.

Christ's advice?

Do your good works while there is light (Remember how Christ dodged the Pharisees each time they tried to hurl stones or push him down the cliff after a word against them?), and rest when it is night till there is no more night but day.

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  • I am still baffled. It just doesn't seem to flow correctly. Disciples "Don't go back to Judea because you're a wanted man!" Jesus "There are 12 hours in a day..." It seems misplaced to respond with "Aren't there 12 hours in a day?" Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 7:00

In order to answer the question, it is necessary to go back to the beginning so that the context may be understood more clearly. "Darkness" in the Scriptures is a reference to the spiritual blindness within us but which is overcome by the light of the world who is Jesus (John 9:5). "Darkened waters" of chaos--without form--takes us back to Genesis 1:2-5, when "darkness was on the face of the deep."

Jesus' name is called the "Word of God" (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13b); therefore, the written Word, the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16b) is the light of the world. John 9:3, Jesus said, (paraphrased) "This man is not blind because he or his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." "In him" is the key; the light of the Word of God gave the man his spiritual insight into the healing power of the waters of the Word of God who is Jesus. The inner healing accompanied his outward display of walking in the light, knowing where he was and where he was going. The disciples, as yet, did not seem to understand fully the power of the Christ whom they followed.

The light of the world is to be transferred from the written Word of God into the minds of His mortal, born again children in order that they may function in the light of the Word of God. When we get to chapter eleven, the Word of God heals a physically dead man who typifies the spiritually dead; the light must be in him (John 11:9-10); he must respond to the command of the Word of God in order to live. The disciples as yet, did not have the faith of the physically blind man who Jesus healed; they knew that going back to Judea meant certain death for Jesus and for themselves. Jesus seems to be explaining to His "student-followers" that "to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). His time (and theirs) had not yet come, so they were safe in going back to Judea and were not to grow weary in well-doing on the way.


We can read amplifie version to understand what jesus was saying here.the question of the dixiples makes it clear that they were afraid that he will be put to death if he returned there.his answer shows that he knew in the spirit that those who want to kill him were no more there or they were there but can not stone him any more. He says : He who walk in daytime sees by the light of the world.who is the light of the world?It is the spirit that is in him.He perceived by the spirit that the atmosphere has changed so they can go back to judea. He even said:are they not 12 hours in the day.that means : In this hour i'm talking to you or before we get there,our enemies would have gone..

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οὐχὶ δώδεκά εἰσιν ὧραι τῆς ἡμέρας;

Are there not twelve hours in the day?

ἐάν τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ,
οὐ προσκόπτει,
ὅτι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου τούτου βλέπει·

If any man walk in the day,
he stumbleth not,
because he seeth the light of this world.

ἐὰν δέ τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ νυκτί,
ὅτι τὸ φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ.

But if a man walk in the night,
he stumbleth,
because there is no light in him.

The passage is a parable, and not necessarily to be taken literally. The Eastern Orthodox commentator, Lawrence Farley, explains here:

Jesus assured them of their safety with a parable. It was the same as a man who walks in the day. There are a whole twelve hours in the day, and as long as he walks during those daylight hours, he is safe and does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world, the sun shining in the sky. It is only if one walks in the night, without the sun shining above and with the light not in him, that he stumbles and trips in the dark. So it is with them. As long as Jesus - the light of this world, is still with them (8:12, 9:5), they are safe - even in the closing hours of the day.1

The parable almost certainly brought to mind the Proverb:

The ways of the righteous shine like light; they go on and shine, until the day be fully come.
But the ways of the ungodly are dark; they know not how they stumble.
(Proverbs 4:18 LXX).

Perhaps also this prophesy of Jeremiah:

Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and ye shall wait for light, and behold the shadow of death, and they shall be brought into darkness. (Jeremiah 13:16 LXX)

These passages in the Septuagint use the same word for "stumble" that is found in John - προσκόπτω (proskoptō).

The word for "hours" - ὧραι (ōrai, plural of ὥρα/ōra) - brings to mind what Jesus had said on some occasions before:

So they sought to arrest him; but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come (John 7:30)

These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come (John 8:20)

What Jesus' says in v.9-10 is in reply to the disciples' concern (v.8):

Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?

So in this sense He is reassuring them that just as one need not fear during the 12 hours of daylight (+/- 2 hours in Judaea, depending on the season) because darkness has not yet arrived, neither have they to fear for their safety ... yet (their "hour" is described in John 16:2).

Also regarding the daytime, the Lord had already told them, I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work (9:4 KJV)2

Further, the meaning of the number 12 did not escape the notice of commentators in antiquity. Athanasius (296-373), for example, wrote:

Consider what I have said, that the Light is Christ. Everyone who will walk in his commandments will not be laid hold of by evil. These twelve hours that are in the day are the twelve apostles. The devil … is compared with the night. He who walks in the will of the devil will stumble because he does not have the light of Christ (Homily on the Resurrection of Lazarus)

Here the author perhaps may be recalling also the Psalm:

The ordinances of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is bright, enlightening the eyes (Psalm 18:8 LXX)

Augustine (354-430) proposed a similar interpretation:

What did the Lord mean? As far as I can judge … he wanted to dissuade them from their doubting and unbelief. For their words were meant to keep the Lord from death, who had come to die, in order to save themselves from death too. … And so, when [these] men presumed to give advice to God, disciples to their Master, servants to their Lord, patients to their physician, our Lord reproved them, saying, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks during the day, he does not stumble.” Follow me if you do not want to stumble. Do not give counsel to me when you should be receiving it from me instead.… He showed himself to be the day by appointing twelve disciples. If I am the day, he says, and you are the hours, is it for the hours to give counsel to the day? The day is followed by the hours, not the hours by the day.… Even when Judas fell, he was still succeeded by Matthias, and the number twelve was preserved. Our Lord did not make the choice of twelve disciples arbitrarily, then, but to indicate that he himself is the spiritual Day. Let the hours be lightened by the day so that by the preaching of the hours, the world may believe on the day. Follow me, then, says our Lord, if you wish not to stumble (On the Gospel of John, XLIX.8)

Cyril of Alexandria (378-444) provides this comprehensive exegesis of the passage:

Perhaps he compares to the ever-moving course of the day, the easily-swayed and novelty-loving mind of people, which is not established in one opinion but vacillates from one way of thinking to another, just as the day changes from one hour to another. This is also how the words “are there twelve hours in the day” can be understood. In other words, “I,” he says, “am the Day and the Light. Therefore, just as it is not possible for the light of the day to fail without having completed its appointed time, so it is not among possibilities that the illumination that proceeds from me should be shrouded from the Jews without having fully reached its fitting measure of love for humankind.” And he speaks of the time of his presence as “day,” and of that before it as “night,” as the Lord also does when he says, “We must work the works of him that sent us while it is day.” This therefore is what he says here: “This is not the time for me to separate myself from the Jews, even though they are unholy. Instead, I must do everything that I can for their healing. For they must not now be punished by having the divine grace (like the light of the sun) withdrawn from them. But just as the light of the day does not fail until the twelve hours have been completed, so the illumination that proceeds from me is not shrouded before the proper time. However, until I am crucified I remain among the Jews, sending forth unto them like light the understanding of the knowledge of God. For since the Jews are in the darkness of unbelief, and so stumble on me as on a stone, I must go back to them and enlighten them so that they may desist from their madness in fighting against God” (Commentary on John, VII)

1. The Gospel of John: Beholding the Glory (Ancient Faith Publishing, p.201)
2. Based on Textus Receptus. Compare Nestle-Aland Critical Text: We must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.


Genesis 1:16  "And Elohim made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night, and the stars."

The greater light is the SUN which is why it rules the DAY. The MOON rules the NIGHT. The Messiah was indirectly referring to this as well.

  • I don't see how this answers the question. The question is why did Jesus say what he said at the time. What was the relevance of his statement to the surrounding circumstances and the current events.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Aug 16, 2020 at 7:56

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