Today we find ourselves skipping John 12:12-20. It is not because it has no value, but because the lectionary likes to look at The Triumphant Entry on a Sunday rather than a weekday. Thus, previously we considered the challenged from Matthew 21 to see Jesus clearly. Now, having raised Lazarus from the dead, had a meal with his beloved friends in celebrate of what has been done. At which one person showed us what true worship of Jesus looks like, and another how worldly worship reacts to those who genuinely follow Christ. Then Jesus set off to enter into the Jerusalem, not with the trappings of an earthly king, but the humility of the King of Heaven as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9. John is pointing out that at that time, the disciples did not connect the dots, but, after the Cross and his Resurrection they understood. This was happening while those who had seen Lazarus raised from the dead testified about it.
You can picture the rising political tension in the city, as the strong support of Jesus reaches boiling point, and those who feel threatened by him can take it no longer. The scene is being set for the crowing of the King, not by any earthly standards, but by way of Heaven – the Cross. This King will not wear a crown of gold and diamonds but of thorns and briars. Nor, will his throne be one of beauty, but an old rugged cross. Yet this would be a kingdom like no other. A Kingdom that the world could not understand, nor stop. Kill their King, and it begins, kill his followers, and it spreads. This is the beginning of the upside-down KingdomKingdom, that knows no borders, ethnicity or tribe, it merely knows the power of the Holy Spirit, the Kingship of Christ and the Glory of God the Father. The breath of this KingdomKingdom to come being captured by John in verses 19 & 20 as the Pharisees declare the whole world going after him (they mean the multiplicity of Jews), but in Johns presentation of Greeks seeking Jesus, we see something of an ironic fulfilment of this statement. Form this point, John begins to contrast two sets of eyes. The blind eyes of Israel, who although they know the Torah and claim to follow God, cannot see him, Messiah, in Comparison to the open (and opening) eyes of the gentiles. In this passage today, we will consider four main headlines from the passage:
- The Essence of the Glory (23-34)
- The Way of Glory (25-26)
- The One Who Is Worthy of Glory
- The Glorious Reality of the Cross (30-35)
- Choosing the Light of Glory over the decay of Darkness (35-36)
John 12:20-36 CSB
Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. 27 “Now my soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus responded, “This voice came, not for me, but for you. 31 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate what kind of death he was about to die. 34 Then the crowd replied to him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them.
The Essence of Glory (23-24)
Any time Jesus has referenced his “hour” it has always been in the future tense. Now his “hour” has arrived. Meaning, the moment his life and ministry has been building too has arrived. Like a prince waiting for his throne, Jesus is ready to fulfil his mandate. In John 7:33 Jesus warned the disciples ‘I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me.’ The fulfilment of that warning is beginning, and now Christ will be glorified. Yet, it is a glory that displays the ways of the Kingdom of God and contrasts to worldly notions of Glory. Think about our image of Glory. It is one of splendour, beauty and magnificence – A bride on her wedding day, A royal occasion, or some sort of event with worldly riches. Maybe we are not that grand in our notion’s of Glory, perhaps for us, it is the view out of the back window, the morning sun rising. Yet, whatever our thoughts are this moment of Glory stands in contrast to it. Why? Because God works in his own ways. Thus, it makes complete sense that the most magnificent display of the Glory, Grace, and power of God would offend the sensitivities and logic of the world.
The Cross is the essence of the Glory of God, that is what Jesus is referencing here. Yet, when Rome and the religious authorities would nail him upon that rugged structure, it was for them the inglorious and shameful death. So disgraceful that Romans citizen it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen. What a picture of the wonder of God working in the world, and the way of the kingdom. As earthly powers give his Son an inglorious death, that it would, in fact, prove to be the exact opposite – his great exultation. The Greatest display of Divine Glory that the world has ever, and will ever be known. Amazing. Yet, what makes it even more amazing is what it makes available to the sinner who acknowledges it. It is only when we see the ugliness of our situation and sin that we begin to grasp the beauty of the Cross and how it is the essence of Glory.
So confounding is this Glory to the ways of the world that it operates in almost direct opposition. Think about it: Glorious moments for the world tend to be the pinnacle of life, yet, this Gods greatest glorification was not the taking of a throne, but dying on a cross. This Glory requires death. Like the imagery of the seed, when one ‘dies’ an abundance of new life comes (the seeds, and trees that follow). As such this death is even more glorious because it brings eternal life – that is the wonder of God. Matt Chandler captures it when he says “The work of God in the cross of Christ strikes us as awe-inspiring only after we have first been awed by the glory of God.”
Have you grasped it? Is the Cross of Christ glorious or offensive to you, because that today will tell you where you stand before God: “Not to see the wisdom of God, and the power of God, and consequently all the other holy properties of his nature, in Christ, is to be an unbeliever.” (John Owen, the Glory of Christ). I wonder today if the logic of the seed seems beautiful to you, that in the death of Christ there is new life. Abundant life. Why? Because his death brought resurrection! In dying he defeated death, and in rising, he offers you life. The essence of the Glory of Christ is the Cross, the offer is glorious life with the triune God if you will take it?
2 – The Logic and Way of Glory (25-26)
I do not know what you think of when you think of logic. I love Star Trek, so the logic for me draws images of Vulcan or Spock. Logic is so often cold, distant and factual to the messiness of life. Logic amid a pandemic might suggest one course of action, yet compassion would suggest another. This section of the passage draws out something of the logic of the Kingdom of God, and its way. It is a logic and way that stands in contrast to world, but thankfully it is a logic and way that leads to life.
2.1 – The logic of Christs Glory
The logic of the Kingdom builds on the logic of the seed that we heard about previously. Thus the logic of the Kingdom for the follower of Jesus is one the world will not grasp. Here the imagery is of hating life to life. This is the principle of dying to oneself that we have heard so much about across the Gospels (Matthew 16:24-27, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23). The logic of Christ glory for his followers is that his way is applied to them. So what is the image here? Does Jesus really mean that if we love being alive then we will spend eternity in death? Does he really say that we have to hate living to live? Yes and No! This is the logic of the KingdomKingdom. Yes – in that if you love your life more than you love God, then it is evident that you do not love God. Thus this life will be all you known. It is a question of the priority of our heart. That is what the ‘hate’ employed here means: Do you love God, and what you have received from him through faith in Christ more than anything the world can offer? Are you willing to choose God above all else? To ‘hate’ ones life means “thinking so little of this life, and so much of God, that you are willing to sacrifice it all for God.” and loving this life here means delighting in the world more than God. Does the Logic of Glory make sense to you?
2 2. The Way of Glory
A disciple is someone who adheres to the teachings of another to learn. Like a Padawan under a Jedi Master (Star wars). To be a disciple of Jesus is much more than sitting his feet or reading The Word to learn. It is to look to him, to live like him by the power of his Spirit to bring Glory to his name! To put it another way: “a disciple is someone who learns from him to live like him — someone who, because of God’s awakening grace, conforms his or her words and ways to the words and ways of Jesus. ” (from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-a-disciple) . Thus to be a true disciple of Jesus is to walk the way of Jesus, which means walking the way of Glory. Hence, Jesus applies his Glory to his followers here in verse 26. To truly serve Christ means following him, and to follow him means being willing to walk the way of Glory even to death. It is not that as followers of Jesus we expect crucifixion. It is that we are willing to die to ourselves because we have received all we need through faith in Christ. In our dying to self, Christ is glorified in and through us, and others are drawn to him. It is the logic of the seed and KingdomKingdom, and the way of Glory. It is why Jesus says: “Where I am, there My servant also will be.” to follow Christ is to serve Him and to serve him is to die (to one’s self and the world), like a seed so that others might see his Glory and find the fullness of life.
2.3 – Living The Logic and walking the way
Walking the way of Glory and living by its logic is then evident that we are Christ’s. It is the bearing of fruit. Thus as we walk the way of Glory, die to ourselves and become like a seed, we produce spiritual fruit that bears seeds that are planted, and more life grows. As disciples walk his way and serve him, the KingdomKingdom of God advances and grows, and the Cross becomes glorious to more.
Furthermore, and wonderfully God will honour and bless those who walk in his Glory. Thus today, we must ask ourselves how in this pandemic can we die to ourselves so that Christ might be lifted high? Where is God calling us to serve and give of ourselves so that others find real life?
3 The One Worthy of Glory (27-30)
Leaders only receive praise, adulation or Glory when they have done something to prove their ability. A President is praised by some and condemned by others based on the same evidence. True Glory given is justified in some way. So why should one choose to Glory in Jesus? We see the answer in this part of the passage: Jesus again proves himself worthy. As he proved himself in his wilderness testing so here he proves himself worthy of the task that he has been called to, and the Glory he will receive. As he contemplates all that is ahead of him, we are told his ‘soul is troubled.’ The word used for troubled here is the same as the one that described the disciples as being ‘terrified’ when Jesus approached them on the water (Matt 14:26). This is not easy for Jesus, he feels the weight of his task, and even though he could pray for rescue (“Father, save me from this hour?”), he does not, he prays that God’s will would be done. Hence, the voice speaks from Heaven to affirm the prayer of the Son, this course of action and Jesus Christs worth. A leader proves his worthiness of Glory. Jesus Christ needs not too, but verify it he does in his going to the Cross, and proof affirmed here by the voice of Heaven. The crowd then may have had questions about who Jesus was, even with the voice of Heaven that spoke for them (v30). Today, we are afforded no such doubt, either we accept Christ, and that he is worthy of Glory, an acceptance the means we serve and walk his way to bring more Glory. Or we reject him, what he has done and what he offers. A rejection that leads to death. Do you consider him worthy of Glory?
“Consider Jesus. Know Jesus. Learn what kind of Person it is you say you trust and love and worship. Soak in the shadow of Jesus. Saturate your soul with the ways of Jesus. Watch Him. Listen to Him. Stand in awe of Him. Let Him overwhelm you with the way He is.” – John Piper
4 – The Glory of the Cross (31-34)
At this point, Jesus begins to explain the significance of all that has been said and will happen. Verses 31-33 are an explanation for Jesus himself. Then verse 33 is a side note from John (the author of this Gospel) to make sure we understand correctly what Jesus is saying.
The Cross is glorious because of what it does. It is Glorious because it draws people to Jesus (32) and constitutes Judgment on this world, all of humanity is in open rebellion against God the source of all Goodness and Justice. Here, it thought it was passing Judgement on Jesus via the Cross. Yet here Jesus makes clear that the Cross passes judgement on the world (then and us today). To reject the Son is to reject God, the Father (The Cross being the worlds ultimate rejection of him). Thus, in nailing him to the cross humanity shows the vileness of its sin: yet, in Grace and mercy, God also gave his Son as a sacrifice for sin – the lamb of God. As the Old Communion service cries out:
“who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world…”
This is the duality of Cross and the substance of its Glory. That through it, sin is judged, and Grace is offered. Secondly, the Cross is glorious because in his dying and rising, Jesus drives out the prince of this world – Satan. The Cross, which should be the ultimate victory of Satan, proves his ultimate defeat as the Kingdom of God breaks out, and with its advance, people are drawn to Jesus (v32).
Johns aside in verse 33 links his being lifted up in Glory of verse 32 also to his being lifted up in a literal sense – on a cross. Yet it hints at more, suggesting that Jesus’s death is the path to his glorification, as FF Bruce reminds: “his being glorified is not a reward or recompense for his crucifixion; it inheres in his crucifixion.” Thus the Cross is glorious in three ways: It is the judgement of sin, the defeat of death (eternal life through faith), and the beginning of the Kingdom of God. Is the Cross glorious to you?
Conclusion: Chose the Light of Glory (35-36)
The crowd with Jesus are one that understands the law. Thus they ask a question about the eternality of the Son of Man. How could Jesus be what he claimed to be if he was to die? (We know the answer), yet Jesus answers their question indirectly as our passage finishes. A solution that leaves us with a challenge and a choice. The choice is between Light and Darkness, and the challenge comes to form that. Jesus implores the crowd to take advantage of the time they have with him: “You have the light with you only a little while longer” (JBP), then he means before his crucifixion. Yet, today that urgency still lives because the Bible tells us that Jesus will come again, and this time there will be no after because he will come for those who are ‘children of light.’ The challenge is for us to consider what we are? Are we those who walk in the light, and whom by the Holy Spirit at work in us through the word of God, know which way we are walking? Or, are we stuck stumbling around in the Darkness. This day while the light is still on seek it. Then as children of light, especially in the Darkness of this pandemic, with all the fears and worries that accompany it, let us chose to be light in Darkness. That as we live by the logic of his Glory and walk his way in service of Jesus, people will find hope, light and eternal life.
Questions to Consider
- What is your understanding of the Glory of Jesus?
- Do you find the cross beautiful or offensive? If so what does that mean too were you stand before God?
- As you consider the Way of Glory, are you truly walking it? If you are then how is that journey going?
- As you consider the Logic and Way of Glory, what are some of the things you could be doing in service of Christ to bring Glory to his name?
- What are some of the practical things we can be doing right now to live out the logic of the seed, to die to oneself and bring light and life to others?
- In the midst of a pandemic perhaps we can stop and consider Jesus and the gifts we have received from him. In what way can we be thankful ?
- Are we those who can truly say they are children of light, or are we still stumbling in darkness?
- Finally, as we walk in the light of Christ, today and in the weeks ahead how can God use us to bring light and be a light so that he is glorified?