John 12

Bill McFarland

March 27, 2005


This is tournament time in college basketball.  It is a time of the year when every game is what the players call “crunch time.”  The pressure has to be great as these young athletes try to perform in such a way that they can move on toward the final four and then the championship game and the championship itself.  It is always enlightening to hear them interviewed before one of these games.  There will be some comment that will be like, “This is it.  This is what we have been working for and playing for, and this is where we have been wanting to be all along.”  The idea that “this game, this point in time, is what we have been working toward all along” is what gets my attention.

I think I can see something like that in comments of our Lord here in John 12.  Always before in his ministry he has claimed that his hour had not yet come.  That is one of the underlying themes in the gospel of John.  Here are two examples.  In John 7:30 the Bible says, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him because his hour had not yet come.”  It wasn’t time yet for him to be arrested and then for the events that followed his arrest to occur.  And in John 8:20 the Bible says, “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.”  There you notice the idea again.  His time hadn’t come yet. 

But here in John 12, something changes.  If you notice in John 12:23 it says, “Jesus answered them ‘The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.’”  By being glorified he is referring to his death on the cross, not as defeat but as the hour for him to be glorified.  That theme continues on through the story that leads up to the cross here in the gospel of John.  In 13:1 it says, “Now before the feast of the Passover when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father….”  Notice his hour to be glorified is his hour to depart.  And then notice in John 17:1, the great prayer of Jesus, “He lifted up his eyes to heaven and he said, ‘Father, the hour has come.  Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.’”  Notice very carefully that shift from “his hour had not yet come” to now “his hour has come.”

In the passage that we have here in John 12:20-36, the thought that his hour had come is the theme.  Jesus mentions that idea three times in this section.  And it is interesting that this is the last public statement that John records Jesus making.  His open work among the crowds of people is finished with this statement, with this address.  We don’t know for sure exactly when this conversation occurred, but most writers that I can find suggest that it happened on the Tuesday of that last week of the Lord’s life.  And it is interesting that the only event that John records between the triumphal entry and the Last Supper is this statement of Jesus.  This is what Jesus wanted to say to people when his hour had come.  This is the last thing that he wants to leave in people’s minds at that crucial hour.  It must be of extremely weighty importance and there must be lessons here that we surely need in living for him.  What do you need to be able to have on your mind when the hour has come? 

Commitment To A Great Purpose

When the hour has come you need to be committed to a purpose that is greater than any other.  Notice beginning at verse 20 in John 12, “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of what falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it does, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.’”

Now here is an interesting situation.  At the end of verse 19, the Jewish critics of Jesus were saying, “Look, the whole world has gone out after him.”  And then beginning in verse 20, some who are not from a Jewish background do come looking for Jesus.  These are Greeks.  That probably means they are the God-fearers, like Cornelius was in Acts 10.  They are not proselytes to the Jewish faith yet, but they are worshipers of God, the living God, the one God that the Jews worship.  They have either heard Jesus’ teaching earlier in the temple, or maybe they saw him drive the money changers and the animals out of the temple earlier and they were impressed by that, or maybe they have seen some mighty work done, but they come wanting to see Jesus, wanting to talk to him, wanting to know him better.  It is interesting that there are people always like that who want and need to see Jesus.

When the word comes to the Lord, notice that his answer seems at first to not have anything to do with the news that these Greeks wanted to see him.  He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  In other words, this is the time now for me to be offered up.  This is the time for the sacrifice on the cross and this is the time for God to show his power in raising me up.  What’s the connection between the Greeks coming and the hour coming?  Bear in mind that these are people from a Gentile background.  They had no covenant relationship with God.  Ephesians 2:12-13 made the point that at that time people like these Greeks were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, without God and having no hope in the world.  And that means for them to be brought to Jesus and to be accepted in fellowship with God’s people would require a new covenant, and that new covenant would require that there be an offering of blood in order to establish it.  And the only kind of offering that could do that was the offering of Jesus himself.  Ephesians2:14 and following explain what takes place here.  The apostle Paul wrote, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one (both stands for Jew and Gentile) and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”  Notice that abolishing this law of commandments and ordinances was the removal of the first covenant so that he could establish a new covenant in which both Jew and Gentile could be in one body and could have peace with God and with each other through his blood.  That one body, Paul explains in Ephesians 1:22-23, is the church.  For them to see Jesus, for them to be brought together and accepted as God’s people required a new covenant through his blood and the establishment of a new body, one body, where anybody from anywhere could be brought together reconciled to God and at peace with God.  Jesus said, “The hour has come.”

And then he used an illustration to show the power that his being offered on the cross would have.  He used the illustration of a grain of wheat.  That seed could not bear fruit unless it first died.  And only when it died, having been planted in the soil, could it then bring forth such great fruit.  Jesus was referring to himself with that illustration, and he is saying that by his being offered on the cross, he would have a great posterity, a great people would come along as his descendants, a great people would be produced by his being offered, by his death in our behalf.  That great people is that one body that we mentioned a moment ago, the church.  In Revelation 5:9-10, it says that the Lamb of God by his blood redeemed a people from every tribe and kindred and tongue and nation to be his, and he made them a kingdom.  That is the idea that is here. 

Some of you have planted beans.  I have noticed a few times that when those beans come up, there will be that young tender plant and the shell of that bean still over the leaves.  That bean is bringing along a fruitful plant after it.  That is what Jesus is.  He is the first fruits.  By his death he brings along a great people to be his very own.  By his death he bears much fruit. 

He then applies this principle to us.  That means, he says, that as his people we have got to love him and to love the Father’s will so much that it makes every other kind of love that there might be seem like hate by way of comparison.  Just as Jesus was so dedicated to the Father’s purpose that he is willing to be offered up on the cross, you and I have got to love something beside ourselves so much that that great love rules over our choices and our actions and our activities, that we love something more than selfishness and more than making ourselves look good, and that that becomes the controlling influence and factor in our whole lives.  A person who loves his own life, Jesus said, is in the process of destroying himself.  A person is set only on what he wants and what makes him feel good or look good is destroying his personality, is withering his soul, and is causing himself to head toward destruction.

And so the Lord said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.”  We sang about stepping in the light.  We have to be stepping in the light if we serve Jesus.  But if we follow him now, then we will be with him where he is, and that ultimately means heaven.  Beyond that, there is even the fact that the Father will honor him.  When the hour came, Jesus was committed to something greater than himself.  When the hour comes for you and me, we have got to be deeply committed to something greater than ourselves.

Confidence In God’s Will

Secondly, this great text shows us that when the hour comes, we need to have confidence that the path we are pursing really is God’s will.  We have to have confidence that we are actually headed in the right direction.  Notice verses 27 and following Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  But for this purpose I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.  Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’  The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered.  Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’  Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not mine.’” 

John gives us no record of what occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane like Matthew, Mark and Luke do.  But the prayer that we find here in verses 27 and 28 is a variation of the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden.   He said, “My soul is troubled, in turmoil.”  In chapter 14:1-2 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  But the reason Jesus can say that is because his soul was troubled.  We can have peace because he bore that kind of trouble. 

“And what shall I say,” he says, “Shall I ask the Father to save me from this hour?  Am I going to say, ‘Now God, I don’t want to do this?’”  Remember in the Garden he prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”  He may mean something like that here.  Then he says that is not even a possibility.  “For this purpose I came to this hour.”  If you are facing a crisis like this and you can’t ask the Father to remove it from you or to not have you to go through it, then what do you ask?  Jesus response was, “Father, glorify your name.  By what happens to me on the cross, Father, glorify your name.” 

How in the world could you look at what appeared to be a humiliating defeat like the cross and think that in some way God is glorified?  But God is glorified there.  Do you want to know how much God loves?  Look at what he is offering.  Do you want to know how just God is?  Look at the price he is willing to pay rather than to just overlook sin.  Do you want to know how faithful God is?  Look how he keeps his promises.  Do you want to know about God’s power?  He can take even a sacrifice like that which looks like weakness and some regard as a scandal or a stumbling block, and he can provide a mighty salvation for man even through that. 

What happened at the cross did glorify God.  So when Jesus prayed this, a voice from heaven came, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  Some think that when he said, “I have glorified it,” he was talking about how Jesus raised Lazarus.  But when he glorified it again, he was talking about how he was going to raise up his own son from death.  That is possible.  Maybe he just meant that he had glorified it in Jesus’ teaching and ministry, and he would glorify it by raising and exalting Jesus and seating him at his right hand.  That is possible, too. 

But this voice is a way of saying to Jesus, “You are doing what I want done.  You are following my purpose.”  It was a way of saying to everybody around who could hear and would hear, “This is my Son; he is doing what I sent him to do.”  Remember that the voice spoke to John the Baptist at the baptism of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  This voice spoke to Peter and James and John at the transfiguration and said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  You listen to him.”  Now at the end of the Lord’s ministry, the voice speaks again and says, “I will glorify my name through what my Son is about to do.”  Not everybody could grasp this.  Some just regarded it as thunder like the people who were with Paul on the way to Damascus when the Lord spoke to Paul.  Some thought it was the voice of an angel.  Jesus said this was spoken not so much for my sake but for you to show that this is the right course, this is God’s will.  When the hour comes for you and me, we need to know for sure that we are following God’s purpose and God’s will for our lives.  I don’t know a way for us to know that for sure apart from the Lord’s Word and his promises.  The importance of our listening to the Lord is here.

Courage For The Conflict

Thirdly, when the hour comes we will need to have courage because of the victory which is in store for those who are pursuing the Father’s will.  Notice in verses 31-33 Jesus said, “’Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” 

There are two great statements in that reading.  Both of them have to do with what this event on the cross was going to accomplish.  It was first going to be the judgment of this world, and the ruler of this world would be cast out.  This world has to do with human life and human philosophy as it organizes itself against God.  The world is dominated by the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  And it lifts itself up and says, “You don’t need God.  Don’t pay any attention to him.”  That is the world.  That system of living and that approach to life is about to be doomed by the cross where someone says, “You can be unselfish.  You can follow the Lord’s will.  You can be faithful to him even at the price of your life.” 

And when he says the ruler of this world is to be cast out, he is talking, of course, about Satan.  By sin, the ruler of this world holds all people in the bondage to the fear of death.  Sin brought death into this world, and he rules over us in that way.  But when Jesus died, he said the ruler of this world has nothing in me.  Peter preached in Acts 2:24 that it was not possible that Jesus should be held by death.  He had committed no sin, and since the sting of death is sin, he could not be held by a tomb.  That means that he could die for me and for you.  He had no sins of his own for which he owed death.  He could die for us.  And when he did, according to Hebrews 2:14, he through death delivered all of us from the bondage to the fear of death which had held us hostage all along.  Victory has been brought!  The strong man, who was the devil, has had his realm invaded and he has been bound or tied up, and all of those who he held as hostages have been brought out to freedom by what Jesus did for us. 

Secondly, notice that he said that in the process of offering himself, “when I am lifted up from the earth,” which in the gospel of John always talks about his death, “then I will draw all men to myself.”  These Greeks were evidence of that.  Gentiles and Jews, people from every tribe, tongue, nation and kindred (not every individual but all kinds of people) will be drawn to Jesus as by a magnet by his love and his devotion and his grace and his goodness and his power.  When the hour comes for you and me, we need to have courage that in faithfulness to God there is victory and that the darkness will not overcome the light.

Challenged By The Light

When the hour comes, all of us will need to know that we have chosen already the right path, that we have chosen to walk in the light.  People were confused by what Jesus was saying.  In verse 34 the Bible says, “So the crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever.  How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up?  Who is this Son of Man?’”  Now the law didn’t really say that the Christ would never die.  It said that he would rule forever and he would abide forever.  The Lord does that, raised up and on the throne right now.  They couldn’t grasp that.  It didn’t fit their picture of what the Christ or the Messiah was supposed to do.  They wanted to question Jesus about it. 

Notice that he doesn’t really answer their question.  He appeals to them to walk in the light.  Jesus said to them in verse 35, “The light is among you for a little while longer.  Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.  The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”  You may know that in John 1:4, 5, 9 the Bible emphasizes that in Jesus was the light, and that light was the life of men.  That light has shined in the world and the darkness cannot overcome it.  Jesus said in John 8:12 and John 9:5, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of men.” 

He is talking here about choosing, while you have the time to do so, to believe in the light, to walk in the light, to become sons of light.  That is what he urges for every one of us.  When it comes our hour, we will need to have already chosen to walk in the light.

In John 12:46-48, it says, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.  If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”  Jesus came to a world that was already lost and offered it light and life.  When somebody rejected the light, he was saying in the process that he loved the darkness more.  And so Jesus said that person has judged himself.  There will come an hour when you and I will be judged by the word the Lord spoke.  That means that we will need to have already chosen to walk in the light.  That is what we appeal to you to do. 

The hour has come for a choice from us to be committed to the Lord, to have confidence in his promises, to have courage to pursue the victory, and to make that choice to walk in the light.  If you need to make that choice today, won’t you let it be known while we stand and sing together.