April 9, 2020

John 12:27–36

“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. 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. 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?” So Jesus said to them, “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.”

All four Gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – tell us many things about the life and teachings of Jesus. We learn in those accounts about the nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We learn about how the world treated our Lord. We learn how to walk as followers of Christ. But the primary purpose of all four gospels is to tell us about the cross – Jesus’ death for sinners. The gospel of Mark for example devotes 8 of his 16 chapters to Jesus’ fateful journey to Jerusalem. Fully one fifth of Mark is devoted to the crucifixion itself. We see the same thing in Matthew whose narrative makes the journey toward Jerusalem – the journey toward the cross – the central pivot of the whole story. In Luke’s Gospel, Peter makes his famous confession – “You are the Christ the Son of the living God” – in chapter nine and at that point the whole narrative is focused on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the cross. John gives no reference to such key events as Jesus’ baptism, his temptation in the wilderness, the transfiguration, and the Lord’s supper. But from chapter 7 onward the focus is on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. John chapters 13-17 are devoted to the last night of Jesus’ life and chapters 18 and 19 on the crucifixion itself.

The gospel accounts were never intended to be conventional biographies. For instance, there is only a brief mention of Jesus’ childhood and then nothing until he is about 30 years old. The gospels, while treating the teachings of Jesus with earnest seriousness, nevertheless are not primarily a catalogue of quotations. The gospel accounts are written in such a way as to cast Jesus death and resurrection as the axis point, not only of Jesus’ life but of human history.

“Now My soul is troubled.”

What an amazing statement to come from the lips of Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God. In just two chapters Jesus will say, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God believe also in Me. In My Father's house there are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am there you may be also. Let not your hearts be troubled” (14:1-2).

And yet as Jesus’ appointment with the cross looms nearer he confesses that his “soul is troubled.” In those words, so full of pathos, we are given insight into the extent to which God became man in Jesus Christ. This is the mystery and miracle of the incarnation. We do not need to guard the impeccable divinity of Jesus by denying his true humanity. Without a Savior who was God and man we would still be in our sins.

“Father, glorify your name.”

After acknowledging that the agony that awaited him had troubled his soul Jesus said, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (vs. 27). The cross was not an accident of human wickedness. It was not an unforeseen tragedy. The cross was the very purpose for Jesus’ coming. The entire trajectory of Jesus’ life, indeed for all of human history, was a deliberate movement toward the cross.

Notice then the connection Jesus makes. After stating that his death for sinners was the very purpose he came into the world, he prays, “Father, glorify your name” (vs. 28). Jesus understood that there was something fundamentally God-glorifying about his coming death. The crucifixion of the Son was an accomplishment of the Divine will; God’s eternal decree. By Jesus’ death, the Father would be glorified.

Specifically, God was glorified in Jesus’ death in at least two ways. First, because “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (vs. 31). Through the dying of Christ, God cast down Satan and his demons. Through the cross God has “[canceled] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:14-15).

Secondly, God was glorified in Jesus’ death because through it God accomplished the salvation of his people. Jesus referred to this salvation by saying, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (vs. 32). Jesus did not die as a martyr. He did not die merely as a victim of wicked men. On the cross Jesus knew he would be faced with the holiness of God and that he would do so with the full weight of our sins upon his shoulders. Moses trembled on the mountain as he received the law of God. But think of Jesus on the cross. He appeared before the bar of Divine justice not to receive the law but to suffer its curse. He paid the full ransom price of every one of God’s people down through time beginning with Adam and Eve.

He left His Father's throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself [because of] love,

And bled for Adam's helpless race;

'Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

Amazing Love how can it be,

That though my God should die for me?