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John 12:20-36 Notes

Jan 19, 2020 | Sermons | by Ben Gum

    Today, we will be back in John chapter 12, looking at Jesus’ last days before his passion.

    As we look at vv. 20-36, remember John’s purpose statement from 20:31 – “These [signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

     

    So far in John’s Gospel many have refused to see how all the signs point to Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. In this passage, we will encounter some who DO see Jesus as the Messiah but cannot accept that his glory (and the Father’s) will come through his death on the cross.

     

    Today, John will show us that the Father’s name is glorified through the sacrificial death of his Son by crucifixion, and by all that this death accomplishes.

    1. Intro
      1. The key thought is expressed right in the heart of today’s text, v.28: “Father, glorify your name. I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
      2. First let’s understand the terms:
        1. “name” = reputation
        2. “glorify” = praise, highly esteem
      3. How do WE approach building a name for ourselves – building a legacy?
        1. We build a name through public displays of our greatness.
        2. We focus on achievement, competition, winning, excelling.
    • Quite a few athletes will be focused today on building their legacies.
    1. Especially a young quarterback named Patrick Mahomes.
      1. He must keep racking up stats.
      2. Show himself to be disciplined in high pressure situations.
      3. Show himself to be a leader.
      4. Lead his team to victory.
      5. And outside the game he must build his brand, get his face out there on billboards, in TV ads, social media, etc.
    2. There’s a saying in international football – what we call soccer:
      1. “For glory and for club”
      2. In the world cup you might hear, “For glory and for country.”
    3. Now, think of a familiar sports image:
      1. The star of the team has just led them to victory, perhaps through some amazing feat – a great catch or throw, a goal, a touchdown, a 9th inning home run…
      2. What does the team do to the star when he leads them to victory?
      3. They LIFT HIM UP
      4. Ah, the glory we achieve through our best accomplishments!
      5. That’s how we usually think of building a name for ourselves.
        1. Whether it’s in sports or music or as a dedicated engineer or a faithful homemaker – whatever…
        2. We want to be lifted up like we imagine in that sports image.
      6. The Reformers spoke of glory, as they boiled down the reason all creation exists into one statement: sola deo Gloria – for the glory of God
      7. God’s glory is his highest goal. It is why he created everything.
        1. For us, seeking our own glory is narcissistic, and inappropriate.
        2. For God, it is perfectly appropriate, for all creation exists for his sake - Rm 11:36: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To HIM be the glory forever.”
    • Further, the greatest gift he can offer us is to know him and experience his glory.
    1. How does GOD build his legacy? How is HE glorified?
    2. In today’s text, Jesus will speak very plainly about how the Father is glorified.
    3. And what he says is so counter-intuitive to how WE build a legacy, that many just cannot make sense of it.
      1. Jesus WILL be lifted up, but not exactly the way we would picture it.
      2. And not at all the way the 1st century Jews pictured it.
    4. Let’s read the text, and then we’ll work back through it to see how John unfolds this truth that God is glorified through the crucifixion of Jesus, and all that it accomplished.

     

     

    John 12:20–36 (CSB)

    JESUS PREDICTS HIS CRUCIFIXION

    20 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.

     

     

     

     

     

    1. So, how is the Father glorified?
      1. First, he is glorified through the Son. Jesus says in v.23,

     

    The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

    Then in v.28 he prays,

    Father, glorify your name.

    Then the Father replies:

    “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

    1. Jesus has been working and working to establish in the minds of his audience his perfect unity with the Father.
      1. “I and the Father are one” (10:30).
      2. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father,” he tells Philip in ch.14.
      3. John made it clear in his prologue. Jesus, the Son, the Word, was in the beginning with the Father, and is one with him in essence.
      4. The Father sent the Son to accomplish his will, and the Son’s obedience is exactly in agreement with the Father’s will.
    2. This means the Father’s reputation is the Son’s reputation.
    • The Father’s glory is the Son’s glory.
    1. The Father has already been glorified in the Son
      1. In the beginning, when the Son shared equally in the Father’s glory,
      2. In the incarnation, when he came to perform the Fathers works
      3. In his earthly ministry,
      4. In his baptism and his transfiguration, and – especially important to John –
      5. In the signs he has performed.
    2. The Father has already been glorified in the Son – but the best is yet to come! The Father will glorify his name through the Son.
      1. He affirms Jesus’ prayer to that effect with a thunderous answer from the sky.

     

    29 The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”

    1. The crowd doesn’t seem to have been able to understand what was said, but they got the message – the Father has responded to the Son’s prayer!
    2. This is why Jesus says in v.30

     

    30 Jesus responded, “This voice came, not for me, but for you.

    1. Not that they could make out the reply – apparently, Jesus informed his disciples later what was said,
    2. But that he was affirmed publicly by the Father as he was at his baptism
    1. Now we get into the meat of this passage. How will the Father and Son be glorified?
      1. Will Jesus live up to the messianic hype?
      2. Will he take his place as the rightful heir to David’s throne?
      3. Will he overturn Rome and liberate his people?
      4. Will he establish his eternal kingdom the prophets talked about?
      5. Will the cries of “Hosanna! The King of Israel!” continue to ring out as the Jews drop their palm branches and lift Jesus over their heads? – just like Rudy?
        1. JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!
        2. Can you sense these expectations that are nearly bubbling over in the crowd?
        3. Well, Jesus declares that his legacy – and that of the Father – will be established in a very different way.
        4. He will be lifted up the way they imagine – but not yet.
        5. First, he must be lifted up on a cross. And THIS is his glory.
        6. How will the Son bring glory to the Father?
      6. Through his death. The Father is glorified through the Son’s death. And as Jesus explains what is ahead for him, we see several different aspects of his death that construct for us a rich theology of the work Jesus does in bringing glory to the Father.
        1. First, his death is a sacrificial death, vv.24-25

     

    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.

    1. We understand that self-preservation is hard-wired into all of us
    2. This is why it sets someone apart if they overcome that drive to save themselvesfor the sake of saving someone ELSE.
    3. Everyone sees the nobility in such a sacrifice. This is why it is such a common theme in so many stories we tell.
      1. The mountain climber who lets go so the one trying to save him won’t fall to his death too.
      2. The soldier who throws himself on a live grenade to save those around him.
      3. The secret service agent to takes a bullet for the president.
      4. Samwise Gamgee, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”
    4. Where do we get the idea that sacrificing ourselves for another is noble rather than wasteful?
      1. The atheist has nothing on which to hang this value, for in his worldview, youare not inherently worth saving more than myself.
      2. We understand the nobility and glory of sacrifice from God himself.
      3. And Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the supreme example from which we draw.
        1. But it is more than that.
        2. For a sacrifice by any other but Jesus would have helped no one.
    • It would not have satisfied God’s wrath for sin.
    1. Only the sacrifice of Christ carried the value and power to save others, to bring forth the fruit of eternal life in everyone who would believe and trust in him.
    2. In fact, this is the purpose for Jesus’s death – to produce fruit, to produce spiritual offspring.
    1. So, Jesus would bring glory to the Father through his sacrificial death, and that sacrifice was uniquely qualified to produce the fruit of eternal salvation and life for everyone who believes.
    1. Second – and closely related – we see his death is an act of service

     

    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.

    1. As Jesus challenges his disciples to serve him, he implies that he is the example by serving the Father. Just as Jesus will die in service, so must his followers serve.
    2. This echoes the words of Isaiah, who spoke of Jesus as the Suffering Servant in Is 52-53
    3. We can really see now where glory the way Jesus defines it is diverging away from our picture of the sports star:
      1. Instead of making the big play, it sounds more like Jesus will be taken out of the game by a brutal tackle from the defense.
      2. Instead of being “top dog” in the locker room, it sounds like Jesus will be running around with Gatorade bottles or serving as equipment manager.
      3. But this is the picture of glory John is painting for us through Jesus’ own words.
        1. Glory that comes through sacrifice and service that demands Jesus’ death.
    • Third, we see the manner of his death – it will be by crucifixion

     

    32 As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.”

    1. Now, being lifted up could be taken one of two ways:
      1. Being exalted or honored or praised
      2. Or being crucified.
    2. John’s comment in v.33 makes it clear that Jesus is talking literally about the second sense.

     

    33 He said this to indicate what kind of death he was about to die.

    1. But for Jesus, the two meanings are inseparable, and both are present in this context as a double meaning: Jesus will be glorified by being crucified.
    2. Make no mistake, his impending death weighs heavily on Jesus…

     

    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.

    1. The prayer Jesus feels like praying, “Save me from this hour,” is contrasted with the purpose for coming to this hour (to die for sin)
    2. This potential prayer is also contrasted with his actual prayer which Jesus knows is in accordance with the Father’s will: “glorify your name.”
    3. Ez 36:22 that God will act for the sake of his holy name, and Jesus here bears that out, but at great personal anguish.
    4. As commentator Bruce Milne puts it, “The truth here extends far beyond our feeble imaginings, as God wrestles with God on the brink of Golgotha. The gospel may be simple, but it is not superficial. It may be free, but it is not cheap.”
    1. And Jesus’ death is more than costly – it is effective.
      1. It will produce fruit in those who believe in him
      2. Further, he goes on now to speak of another result of his death:
    2. It brings judgment.

     

    31 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.

    1. First, his crucifixion brings judgment of this world.
      1. Notice the imminent nature of this statement - All these eschatological implications are “now”:
        1. The hour “has come,” v.23
        2. The troubling moment is “now,” v.27
    • “Now” is judgment and “now” is victory, v.31
    1. We know from elsewhere in the NT that final judgment is still in the future but the basis for that judgment is already determined at the cross.
      1. It hangs on the reception or rejection of the Son’s sacrifice.
      2. Those who accept it through belief will be judged righteous with Christ, while those who reject it will be judged according to their own unrighteousness.
    • Here, John’s focus is on the negative aspect. The world that rejects Jesus is judged.
    1. Second, Jesus’ crucifixion brings judgment and victory over the ruler of this world
      1. This is a reference to Satan

     

    Jesus says in John 14:30

    30 I will not talk with you much longer, because the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me.

    Jesus affirms again in 16:11:

    11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

     

    1. As we do with our sports hero stories, we tend to think of the resurrection as Jesus’ victory over Satan – and that is not wrong,
    2. But here, Jesus talks about his DEATH as the event that casts Satan out of his dominion.
    3. The resurrection brings the defeat of that final enemy – death.
    4. So, Jesus’ death on the cross brings judgment and victory.
    1. Fifth, his death will draw all peoples to him. Jesus says in v.32.

     

    32 As for me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.

    1. This makes sense of why John opened this section of the text with the Greeks requesting an audience with Jesus:

     

    20 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.

    1. Greeks here for John represent all Gentiles
    2. It looks like these Gentiles were “God-fearers,” Gentiles who worshiped the God of the Jews, because it says they had come to Jerusalem to worship at the festival.
    3. Their being Greek is given as the reason they sought out Philip to request time with Jesus.
      1. Given the mention of Galilee it seems probable that these men were from someplace near Philip’s town, perhaps Decapolis
      2. Also, they may have come to Philip because he had a Greek name.
    • Whatever the case, it seems they approach Philip because they are not sure whether or how Jesus might receive them.
    1. And it seems Philip may not himself have been sure about that, for he consults with his brother Andrew before going to Jesus.
    1. If Jesus responds to these Greeks, John does not record it.
    2. However, it seems like the fact that Gentiles are seeking Jesus is a trigger of sorts, for that is when he launches into his declaration that his “hour has come.”
    3. One more thing you should know:
      1. God-fearing Gentiles were welcome at the festival by the Jews, but they were not welcome in the inner courts of the temple – they did not have “full access” to God
      2. Now here they are asking for access to Jesus.
    4. And Jesus says that when he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself.
      1. Jesus does not mean that all people will believe and be saved.
        1. I wish that were the case,
        2. And Scripture says God himself is not willing that any should perish.
    • There are some today among evangelicals who believe this,
    1. But there is far too much NT material that overturns such optimism.
      1. Jesus himself said that few would find the narrow road that leads to life.
      2. There is no force to the command to believe in Jesus if, in fact, everyone does.
    2. What Jesus is saying with his statement is that in his death he will draw all people groups into life in himself.
      1. That is, the Gentiles will finally gain the access they have been desiring.
      2. Jew and Gentile alike will be drawn into one in Christ through belief.
    • This is what Paul talks about in Eph 2

     

    UNITY IN CHRIST

    11 So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. 12 At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. …16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death.

    1. Jesus, will, in his death draw believers from all people groups to himself.
    1. How does the crowd respond to what Jesus has said?

     

    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?”

    1. They can’t get their heads around a messiah like this.
      1. “That’s not how you build a legacy!”
      2. “By crucifixion? That doesn’t build a movement to overturn Rome and establish your kingdom.”
      3. “The OT says the Messiah will remain forever – how is that compatible with YOUR plan?”
    2. They understand Jesus’ claims are messianic – that’s at least a win. He has been for months now, showing that he is the Messiah.
    3. And they are not wrong that OT prophecies speak about Messiah as being eternal (Is 9:7; Ps 89:35-37)
    4. Further, they understand that by “lifted up” Jesus means death.
    5. But, they struggle to reconcile the two things, that Jesus is Messiah and that he is to die
      1. They do not realize the eternal lifting up (glory) must come through a temporal lifting up (crucifixion)
      2. This is not surprising; Peter struggled with the same truths (Mt 16:21-23; Mk 8:31-33)
    6. As Jesus responds to them, we see the last way the Father will be glorified.
      1. Not only is the Father is glorified through the Son
      2. Not only is it specifically through the Son’s death, in all these ways we’ve just seen
      3. But lastly, the Father is glorified…
    7. Through the children of light, v.35…

     

    “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.”

    1. And then, to illustrate his point (that the light is leaving):

     

    Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them. (v.36b)

    1. Jesus tells them to come to the Light through belief while there is opportunity
      1. Belief now based on Jesus’ teaching and signs is what will determine whether the darkness will overtake them, or they will become children of light
        1. The darkness, here, is imminent in the same way as the “hour has come” and “Now is the judgment of the world.”
        2. What they do with the light will judge them, and their opportunity is NOW.
        3. Carson is right: “It will not be any easier to place trust in Jesus after the cross; the crowds should commit themselves to him in trust and discipleship now, before he, as the light of the world, is taken from them, and they find themselves in total darkness.”
    • So, Jesus hides
      1. Physically, so that he can finish preparing the Eleven
      2. Spiritually, he hides from those who refuse to believe (cf., 37ff)
    1. But he will be glorified by those who become children of light through belief.
    2. How is the Father glorified through the children of light? Through US?
      1. First, we believe in the Son
        1. This has been John’s purpose all along.
        2. It’s why he recorded these signs Jesus performed.
        3. He has demonstrated Jesus to be everything he began with in his prologue:
          1. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, distinct from the Father but one with the Father in essence, and fully divine.
          2. He is light and life.
        4. Second, we follow the Son
          1. In 1st century Jewish thought expressed by Jesus himself, to believe is more than to agree in your brain – it is to follow in obedience.
          2. If we are convinced Jesus is everything he claimed, then we follow him just like those first disciples. We learn to obey everything he has commanded, as it says in Mt 28.
          3. We emulate him; we live out his mission.
          4. What does it look like as we follow Jesus?
        5. We sacrifice like the Son,
          1. Just as Jesus died to produce the fruit of belief and obedience in so many of us, we too die to produce that fruit in others.
          2. Ours may not be a literal martyr’s death, but Paul’s letters help us understand that we must daily die to ourselves, to our old nature, so that we may be holy as he is holy.
        6. We serve the Son
          1. We make whatever is important to Jesus the top of our own priority list.
          2. We are his slaves – willing and joyful slaves.
          3. Whatever he wants, and whatever brings him glory. That is what we will do.
        7. We produce the Son’s fruit
          1. We are not responsible for outcomes, but we are faithful to die to our own desires and conveniences to tell and live out the gospel for others.
          2. We bear the fruit of his righteousness in our own holy living, and we spread the seed of the word so that others may do the same.
        8. How are YOU called to die for God’s glory?

     

    You may have heard of Adonirum Judson, missionary to Burma in the 19th century. Here’s a brief synopsis of HIS legacy:

    In 1808, as a seminary student, after being greatly impacted by the stunning death of his friend and neighbor, Judson “made a solemn dedication of himself to God.” Not long after, he felt God’s call to foreign missions, and in 1810 he joined a group of likeminded students who established America’s first organized missionary society, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. This group on September 19 appointed Judson to go to the East as a missionary.

    By this time Judson had courted a woman named Ann Hasseltine. Here’s the letter he wrote her parents asking for her hand in marriage…

    (p. 106)

    Believe it or not, they consented, and Judson married Ann on Feb 5, 1812. The two set sail for India 2 weeks later. It was over 4 months after that before they arrived in Calcutta. Not long after, the British East India Company ordered them out of India, and so in July of 1813 they moved to Burma. On the way, Ann miscarried their first child aboard a ship.

    Judson, who already had learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew, spent over 3 years learning Burmese, studying 12 hours a day. For years the couple had virtually no contact with any European or American – they were alone. It was 1819 – 6 years in – before they had one convert. By then, Judson and his wife had lost their second son to illness about 8 months of age. 12 years in, they had 18 converts.

    War broke out in Burma in 1824, and Judson, believed to be a British spy, was imprisoned and tortured for 17 months. Ann was on her own with a newborn baby that Judson had not yet seen. Not long after Judson was released from prison, Ann died in 1826, and their 3rd baby died 6 months later at 2 years old.

    After that, Judson entered a year-long depression that he finally shrugged off and went deep into the jungle to evangelize an animistic people called the Karen. Between his trips to these remote regions, he worked on – and finally completed – translation of the entire Bible into Burmese.

    In April of 1835, Judson married Sarah Hall Boardman, who was herself a missionary widow. They had 8 children, only 5 of which survived to adulthood. Sarah took ill and did not survive a trip back to America for treatment. Judson had lost his second wife. Still, he finished the trip home, and traveled the eastern seaboard to raise awareness and support for missions. He could barely speak above a whisper due to pulmonary illness and so had an assistant repeat his words aloud.

    On June 2, 1846, Judson married Emily Chubbuck, whom he had commissioned to write the memoirs of his 2nd wife, Sarah Hall Boardman. He and Emily had a daughter in 1847.

    Just 3 years later, Judson died from a serious lung disease onboard a ship at the age of 61, and was buried at sea. 10 days later Emily gave birth to a son who died at birth.

    2 wives buried. 6 children. Years of isolation and struggle and depression. 17 months of torture and imprisonment. What drove this man? Hear his own words…

    “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated suffering.”

     

     “There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.”

     

    Adoniram Judson was no Jesus. But he was a child of the light. He understood how God builds a name for himself. He does it through the sacrifice of his Son. And he continues to do it through those of us who follow his Son in sacrificing for his glory.

    Your sacrifice and mine – these probably won’t seem quite as dramatic as Judson’s, but the text still requires us to ask and answer the same question that Judson did, as he followed his Savior…

    How are YOU called to die for God’s glory?