God Glorified Jesus for Himself & All Nations
Passage: John 12:27–12:36
Sermon from John 12:27-36a by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Delivered on May 25, 2014
A Remarkable Passage
This morning we have a remarkable passage of Scripture before us. It’s remarkable for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s part of chapter 12, which is a rich chapter already. I said last time that the entire Gospel of John hinges on chapter 12: many of the loose ends come together in chapter 12; chapter 12 serves as a conclusion of all Jesus’ sign-miracles to this point; and chapter 12 also begins the Passion narrative, the final days before Jesus dies. So important things are coming together here to help us understand what Jesus’ Passion and death on the cross is all about.
It’s also remarkable in that Jesus’ cross is again connected with what is called Jesus’ “glorification.” And that’s just not how we normally think in a world so bent on pride and self-elevation and self-glory. We have difficulty seeing that the way of humiliation is the way of glorification (John 1:1, 14; 12:24; 13:1-12; cf. Phil 2:1-11; Heb 1:3). But Jesus again brings both humility and glory together as he speaks of his own death in submission to the Father’s will.
Also in our passage, we encounter the authenticity of the Son’s human nature, as we witness the immense burden he bears when staring in the face his own sufferings and death on the cross. His soul is really “troubled” in verse 27. The Son of God actually learned suffering in human terms (cf. Heb 2:9-10; 5:8). The eternal Word became flesh to identify with our sufferings under the curse of death—he willingly felt the dread of God’s judgment on his way to the cross to deliver us from that judgment. And that is also remarkable.
Another remarkable aspect of our passage is that God the Father responds to Jesus’ prayer audibly—the people standing around hear the voice. There’s only two other recorded instances during Jesus’ earthly ministry when God testifies with an audible voice—once at Jesus’ baptism and another at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt 3:17; 17:5). So this is a unique event in Jesus’ earthly ministry; and in every way we should tremble with thanksgiving that God is so graciously willing to reveal himself to us. He not only chooses to send his Son, but also bears witness about his Son from heaven (cf. 5:37). We read it today from the hand of an eyewitness, the apostle John.
So those are a few reasons why our passage is so remarkable; and while I’d like to camp out on each of those aspects longer, I want to point your attention to the overarching message all these remarkable aspects are serving. John has brought these things together to give us a few short lessons about Jesus’ mission. And when I say Jesus’ mission, I mean the specific, divine work his Father sent him into the world to accomplish and all of Jesus’ doing of it. We get at least four lessons about that mission from our passage today; and here they are…
Lesson #1: The Ultimate Aim of Jesus’ Mission Is to Glorify the Father
Lesson number one: the ultimate aim of Jesus’ mission is to glorify the Father. We see this in verses 27 and 28. He says, “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.” Jesus is on a mission here. It’s not merely that the hour comes upon Jesus, or that Jesus accidently stumbles into the hour, but that Jesus comes to the hour willingly. Facing the hour is his pursuit. And should the temptation present itself to escape the sufferings of his hour, Jesus submits to the purpose for which God sent him—another indication that Jesus has a specific mission. There’s a purpose driving him to this hour.
And the purpose is voiced in his prayer: “Father, glorify your name.” Jesus knows his earthly ministry is about to reach its apex in the cross, where he will suffer not just the hatred of Jewish betrayal and the brutality of Roman crucifixion, but he will suffer under the fierce weight of God’s wrath against the world’s sin. And his chief concern, his chief motivation, is not escape from the hour. It’s not relief from his troubled soul in that hour. It’s that he fulfill the purpose for which he was sent to begin with—namely, to glorify his Father through his mission.
Another way to say it is that Jesus’ mission is to make his Father look great. In the same way we discern someone’s character by the way they act, so we discern God’s character by the way he acts in his Son. Jesus’ prayer is for God to be seen for who he truly is through his mission. His prayer is for God to make himself look great through the events of his death and resurrection—not in the sense that any greatness must be added to his Father, but in the sense of putting his Father’s greatness on display for the world. That’s the main reason Jesus comes to his hour.
Lesson #2: The Ultimate Aim of Jesus’ Mission Is the Father’s Aim
We get even more specific with lesson number two, namely, the ultimate aim of Jesus’ mission is the Father’s aim. In other words, Jesus is set on glorifying his Father’s name, because that’s why his Father sent him. Jesus’ passion to glorify the Father’s name is rooted in the Father’s passion to glorify his name. God the Father sent God the Son on a mission to glorify God the Father in the saving of sinners. Read with me the Father’s response to Jesus’ prayer in the rest of verse 28: “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’” What we’re getting here is the Father’s interpretation of Jesus’ mission. He’s explaining all that’s occurred in Jesus’ mission up to his appointed hour—“I have glorified it”—and then all that’s about to occur in Jesus’ hour, especially his death on the cross—“I will glorify it again” (cf. 13:31-32).
If you’d look on the screen for just a minute, I’ve prepared a little diagram to help you outline what’s going on in John’s Gospel.
This is really a snapshot of Jesus’ mission. He’s the eternal Word (1:1-2; 17:5), who became flesh (1:14-18; 3:13; 6:38); he has works he does leading up to the cross (5:36; 9:3-4; 10:25). And if you look just beneath the cross you can see a line that’s labeled “Hour of Glorification” (12:24). The hour of glorification extends from the cross, through the resurrection, to Jesus’ ascension back to the Father; and includes two sorts of glorification. One you see just above the cross—that’s when God displays his glory in Jesus’ death, the resurrection then confirming and announcing that glory (12:27-28; 13:31; 17:1-4). The other you see just after Jesus returns to the Father (7:33; 8:21; 16:5)—that’s when God re-clothes Jesus with the glory he had before the world existed (7:39; 8:29; 17:5). If you want a diagram with all the verse references, then Gary has put one together for you in the foyer on your way out.
But I prepared this diagram to help you get the bigger picture of what’s going on in our text when God says, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” You see, the Father gave Jesus particular works to perform during his earthly ministry—sometimes they’re called “signs” (2:11; 4:54; 12:18)—and these signs had the specific purpose of manifesting God’s glory as Jesus obeyed his Father’s will (2:11; 5:36; 9:3; 11:4; 12:37, 41). And this took place again and again and again to teach us that everything Jesus does leading up to his “hour” anticipates what God achieves through his hour, namely, the revelation of the Father’s glory in the Son’s obedience unto death on the cross (see also 13:30-31; 17:1-5).
The Father is saying, “I have displayed my glory through my Son’s obedience already; and I’m about to display my glory through my Son’s obedience supremely when he obeys my will unto death on a cross. The full range of my infinite perfections and majesty are fixing to be revealed, displayed, demonstrated, in my Son’s death for sinners.”
This is the Father’s interpretation of the cross. It’s why Jesus says that this voice has come for your sake, not mine (12:29-30). When God spoke from heaven, he was telling us what his Son’s death was about—it was about displaying his glory in saving the world. And this shouldn’t catch us by surprise. God has worked this way throughout the Bible. Any act of salvation towards mankind is ultimately about the revelation of God’s glory or the spread of God’s name or the manifestation of God’s power (e.g., Exod 9:16; Num 14:21; Deut 7:6-9; 9:4-5; Ps 79:9; Isa 48:11; Rom 11:36; 15:8-10). When God saves people, it’s never an announcement of how much the people he’s saving are worth; it’s always an announcement about the greatness of God in saving them despite their unworthiness.
What that means is that as we approach the cross, as we sing about the cross, as we trust in what God did for us on the cross, as we preach the cross to others, we should not see the cross as an echo of our glory, but as a revelation of God’s glory. We should not view Jesus’ death as an echo of our worthiness, but as a public display of God’s worthiness. To put it another way, the cross is first about the Father’s revelation of his glory in the Son before it’s ever about addressing human needs. Do both of those things come together in the cross? Absolutely and gloriously so! It’s just that if we make the cross an echo of our worth—as if God sent Jesus to die for us because he’d be missing out on something great if he didn’t—then we’ll never know God truly in his holiness and we’ll never see the depths of his love for us rightly and we’ll keep idolizing self just like humanity has done since the Fall and we’ll be very disappointed on Judgment Day when all of heaven is worshiping God for the cross and not us.
The main reason Jesus came to die was because his Father is lovely, not because we are lovely; but therein lies the only hope that we would be saved unlovely as we are. When we look at the cross, we don’t say, “See how much I’m worth to God;” we say, “See all that God is in his majestic holiness and in his righteousness and in his justice and in his wrath and in his jealousy for his name. And see all God is in his love and in his grace and in his compassion and mercy and wisdom; and see all he has done for me, unworthy as I am, to have him.” The cross is heaven’s loudest shout that God is infinitely glorious and that his glory is central even when he chooses to save us.
Lesson #3: The Father’s Aim to Glorify Himself in Jesus’ Mission Brings Great Salvation for All Nations
Lesson number three: the Father’s aim to glorify himself in Jesus’ mission brings great salvation for all nations. So this is where God’s pursuit of his glory in the cross and our salvation come together, because what we find in these next few verses is that God will not allow the evil world system—which despises his glory—to win out in the end. You know the “world” in John’s Gospel. We’ve been through this before.
The world is the whole system of rebellion against God (John 3:19-20; cf. 1 John 2:15-17). Everyone in the world has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Everyone in the world is guilty for exchanging the truth about God’s glory for idols (Rom 1:23, 25). Everyone is subject to an evil world ruler—the devil himself—that enjoys robbing God of his glory (John 8:44; Eph 2:2).
But the next few verses tell us that God will not allow that to continue. In fact, his decisive triumph over the evil world is just over the horizon with Jesus’ death and exaltation. He will deal the decisive blow to the evil world system as Jesus finishes his mission, so that his glory is lifted above all. And get this, he’s bringing people from all nations with him to enjoy that glory. That’s one of the amazing things about the cross: the cross is God’s way to rescue evil people who hate his glory from an evil world that despises his glory all the while upholding his glory.
Look at it with me beginning in verse 31: “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.” What kind of death is he going to die? He’s going to die a death that judges the world, casts out the ruler of this world, and becomes his pathway to victory where he draws people from all nations under his lordship. Let’s look at it more closely.
The Judgment of This World
He says, “now is the judgment of this world.” We were told in 5:22, 27 to expect a judgment of the world in the future, when God gives the Son of Man all authority to execute judgment. But there’s a very real sense in which God has already declared what he thinks of the world in the death of Jesus on the cross. This was even anticipated earlier in 3:19 when John says, “this is the judgment: the light [i.e., God’s eternal Son] has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” Jesus’ coming into the world passes judgment on the world insofar as its rejection of him exposes the depth of our depravity—the world is so morally bent on evil it wants nothing to do with the One who reveals God’s glory.
The same is happening as Jesus enters his hour, an hour when the evil world will make the infinitely beautiful One bleed before hanging him on a cross. And when that happens God will be passing judgment on the world in the body of Jesus himself. If you want to know what God thinks about the evil world, and your sin, and your depravity, and your ignoring of his glory for lesser things in this life, then look at the cross. God condemns the world’s evil in Jesus. He pours out his wrath on your sins when Jesus carries them in his body to the cross. God’s judgment of the evil world is clear in Jesus’ death. And as long as you side with the world, Jesus’ cross stands as a witness against you and your evil and that your judgment is coming (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-19).
But here’s something amazing. God’s judgment of the world in the cross also results in our salvation if we forsake the evil world and side with Jesus. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13). By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh (Rom 8:3). That judgment of God against sin and evil results in our salvation if we trust in Christ. But also remember that the cross will always stand as a testimony against the world and its evil, for in it God passes judgment on the world.
The World’s Ruler Cast Out
And not only does God pass judgment on the evil world in Jesus’ death, but he also casts out the evil world’s ruler, Satan himself (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 1 John 5:19). We shouldn’t think of this casting out in spatial terms, as if Satan was kicked out of this world into another. The Bible tells us Satan still has an active presence in this evil world, and even gives us instructions on how to resist him, discern his wicked schemes, and preach and pray for victory over him (e.g., Rom 16:20; Eph 6:10-20; 1 Pet 5:8-10).
A better way to think of this casting out is in terms of smashing the tyranny of his reign, or overthrowing his place of authority in people’s lives. The New Testament says Jesus achieves this victory through his death.
For example, Col 2:13-15 “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with [Jesus], having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling 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 [Jesus].” The powers of darkness held a certificate that spells out the penalty for our sins that we rightly deserve for breaking God’s law—they hold it over us to keep us under their power and influence. But Paul says that Jesus paid the penalty laid out in that certificate through his death on the cross and then destroyed the certificate itself, thus stripping the powers and principalities of their accusing might.
Or according to Heb 2:14-15, the devil oppresses people with death, so that in fear of death they submit to his rule. But Jesus “partook of flesh and blood, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
So through Jesus’ death, God condemns the evil world and then ousts this world’s leader from his place of authority in people’s lives. The very weapons the devil uses to rule people—sin, with its power and consequences, and death, with all its threat—have been taken from his hands, so that he has no real power over those who follow Jesus. First John 5:18 says, “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but [Christ] who was born of God protects him [the believer], and the evil one does not touch him.”
We get a great picture of what sort of freedom from the devil’s rule Jesus gives people in Rev 12:11. It says there that Christ’s people conquer “[Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” The evil world and its ruler doesn’t dictate their lives anymore, even when he threatens them with death and tempts them with sin. The blood of the Lamb frees them from Satan’s strongholds. I can’t help but think of Miriam, the woman in Sudan sentenced to death for blasphemy under Muslim law for holding fast to Jesus. Her life is a portrait of what it means to be freed from the strongholds of the evil one.
Satan’s power is decisively broken when Jesus dies for sins on the cross and overcomes the threat of death. John 16:11 even says that one of the jobs the Holy Spirit has after Jesus is glorified is convicting the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged”—meaning you’re a fool if you keep following a defeated foe and living for a defeated kingdom.
The Son of Man Lifted Up from the Earth
Verse 32 then completes the picture. With the world judged and its ruler ousted, God does something more: he lifts up Jesus to his rightful place of honor and authority over the new world order, only he happens to do this too through the cross. Jesus says he’ll be “lifted up from the earth.” He’s referring to his death by crucifixion (cf. 3:14; 18:32). But when read in light of the bigger picture, Jesus’ death is no mere crucifixion. It is his appointed pathway to glory and exaltation.
This language of “lifting up” comes from the prophet Isaiah; and nearly every time it occurs, God or his temple-mount is being “lifted up” or “exalted” in the last days above all. This was God’s way of saying that he alone would win, that he alone would rule, that his glory alone would be above all other nations and peoples. And then amazingly, in Isa 52:13, God applies the same language to his Suffering Servant, which we know is Jesus: “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” Jesus borrows this language from Isaiah to say that in his “lifting up from the earth,” God himself will exalt his Son. Not only will he display the Son’s glory through his death, but he will confirm and announce the Son’s glory upon raising him from the earth back to glory with the Father (17:1-4).
In other words, the cross is the pathway to glory and victory with the Father. And this only makes sense in light of the fact that Jesus is the Son of Man—verse 24 says—the figure we also read of in Dan 7:13-14: “to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” Jesus is telling us that this is how he brings that kingdom—first through the humility of his cross and only then through his exalted lordship in heaven.
The Son of Man Draws All Nations
And what happens when this Son of Man is lifted up in glory through his death and exaltation, with all his enemies overthrown? He draws people from all nations to himself. He doesn’t draw every single individual in the world. “All people” doesn’t refer to all people without exception—people must believe in order to be saved (1:12; 3:16); people must be born again in order to come (1:13; 3:1-8; 6:44); people must be part of God’s sheep to hear Jesus’ voice (8:47; 10:16, 26-27), part of his elect people (11:52; 17:24).
But it does mean Jesus draws all people without distinction. Whether Jew or Greek (12:20), whether young or old, whether rich or poor, whether a bad sinner or the worst of sinners—Jesus draws people from all nations to himself. He has snapped Satan’s power over them, loosed them from captivity to the evil world system, so that when he calls them through the gospel, they come to him (10:16; 11:52). They don’t come to a mere system of beliefs or to a philosophy of life or to an organized institution; they come to Jesus himself, to his person as the crucified, risen, and exalted Son of Man. This is how Jesus wins. This is how we are saved as Jesus pursues his Father’s glory.
Lesson #4: Jesus’ Mission to Glorify His Father Demands We Walk in His Light
This brings us to lesson number four: Jesus’ mission to glorify his Father demands we walk in his light. The crowd doesn’t understand him much. They try to fit him into their own categories for a Messiah, but they still stumble over Jesus’ words. So Jesus appeals to them once more to walk in his light and believe in him.
“The light is among you for a little while longer”—meaning he, as the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), is among them a little while longer. His death is coming. So here’s the first appeal: “Walk while you have the light [while you have me], lest darkness overtake you.” That’s the darkness of this evil world (1:5; 3:19). If you walk with Jesus—the One we saw already judged and conquered the dark world through the cross—then the darkness of this evil world will not overtake you. If you don’t walk in the light, the darkness will.
He goes on: “The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he’s going.” That’s really bad news in the Gospel of John: it means you join everybody else walking blindly but gladly to eternal condemnation in hell (3:19-20, 36; 8:12; 12:46). And John is only getting this from places like Isa 50:10-11. The same appeal Jesus is making to the people here about himself, the Lord already made to Israel before regarding his Servant. If you follow Jesus, the Lord’s Servant, then you will be saved (Isa 50:10). If you decide to light your own way in life, then you will lie down in torment (Isa 50:11). So in a very similar fashion, Jesus makes another appeal to the Jews: “While you have the light [or while you have me], believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Jesus’ appeal to them is that true escape from the world’s darkness (1:5)—true freedom from the blinding power of this world’s sin (11:9; 1 John 2:11)—is found alone in a relationship with him. When you walk with Jesus and believe in him—believe that in him God judged the world, in him God overthrew the devil, in him God is drawing all people under his lordship—when you believe that about Jesus, then you’re fundamentally changed. You no longer just see Jesus as the light; you become a son of light—which is another way of saying a person characterized by Jesus’ light, a person reflecting the glory of God that radiates so brightly in Jesus, a person belonging to the new world order under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Satan no longer has sway; the world and its way of thinking no longer has sway. Jesus now directs your steps and your words and your affections.
You see things you were never able to see before. You see the sinfulness of your sin in contrast to the new-found love for God’s holiness. You see the darkness of this world in contrast to the beauty of Jesus’ light. You see the stupidity of Satan’s lies in contrast to God’s hope-filled truth. You see the foolishness of following the defeated evil kingdom in contrast to God’s forever-kingdom under the rule of Jesus Christ. You see the vanity of prideful human pursuits in contrast to delighting in the glory of God.
Put on the Armor of Light
So, in the spirit of Paul's words, “wake from [your] slumber [brothers and sisters]. Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So let’s cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let’s walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy”—not in lifestyles that idolize comfort (12:25-26), not in patterns of laziness in our vocations (Col 3:23), not in careless words with our wives (1 Pet 3:7), not with coveting hearts toward others (Eph 5:3), or with grumbling spirits toward our children (Eph 6:1-4), or with selfish attitudes (Jas 3:14, 16).
“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:11-14). If you believe in Jesus this morning, “you were darkness at one time, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph 5:8-10). Call evil what it is and lift up all that brings glory to God’s name.
Pray for God’s Light to Penetrate the Darkness
Moreover, pray that God’s light would penetrate the darkness around us—the darkness in your home; the darkness in your neighborhoods; the darkness in this city; the darkness among West Bengali Muslims in South Asia and the Turks in Central Asia and the Dai people in Southeast Asia. If Jesus has truly cast out the ruler of this world, then we pray against a defeated world empire, and we pray with great hope that Jesus’ kingdom can and will advance among all people. It doesn’t matter if the darkness wears war-paint while carrying voodoo dolls or if he wears a pinstriped suit driving a polished sports car—God is able to penetrate the darkness and save. It doesn’t matter if the darkness looks like broken, drug-infested apartment complexes full of prostitution or sophisticated, greed-infested communities full of adulterous hearts—God is bringing the evil word system down, and he dealt the decisive blow in Christ. So pray that God would break through to people and save them. Teach each other how to pray and tell each other what to pray for in your care group meetings that God’s light might shine and people’s eyes might be opened to the glory of God in Christ’s cross and resurrection.
Preach the Light to Others in Darkness
Also, preach the gospel of Christ’s light with fervency of spirit to others (cf. 2 Cor 4:4-6). Don’t think for one minute that anybody you meet will be saved apart from seeing the exalted Son of Man. Jesus is right now drawing all people to himself from his heavenly reign, but he does this when you invest yourselves in the lives of others and point them to God’s glorification of Jesus for himself and for the world. Show them how God conquers in Christ. Show them how God judges the world in Christ. Show them how God displayed his greatness in the cross. Show them God’s holiness from the cross and the depth of their rebellion; and then show them God’s scandalous love displayed in Jesus’ death for their sins.
If we learn anything from the book of Acts, it’s that when the glory of God in the cross of Jesus is lifted high, people from all kinds of backgrounds with all kinds of sins, fall in love with Jesus and submit their lives to him. And when they do, not only are they transferred into the Son’s kingdom, but God’s glory goes on display even more as the power of Jesus’ cross is confirmed and the volume of worship increases among all peoples of the earth. And that’s what it’s all about anyway, is it not? The cross has taught us today that it is. It’s about God receiving all glory and being seen truly in what he’s done for sinners.
Persevere in the Light’s Victory Over Darkness
And finally, as you put on light and pray for the light and preach the light, persevere in the light. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet, Rom 16:20 says. Satan’s kingdom is a defeated one, and we know his ultimate end in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:10). And should he accuse you for your sins along the way, agree that they are ugly and condemnable. But then preach to yourself that God already condemned them on the cross once and for all when he judged Jesus in your place. And should the devil threaten you with death, remind yourself that the Son of Man stands in heaven triumphant and has power to raise you in the end. The Serpent’s tail is a wily and vicious thing, but the good news for us is that his head has already been crushed (Gen 3:15; John 12:31; Col 2:15; Rom 16:20). So persevere in this evil world. If you’re in Christ, you belong to a King and a kingdom that will not fall and has much hope.
More in The Gospel According to John
May 24, 2015Eyewitness Testimony to the Greatness of Jesus
May 17, 2015Loving Jesus & Feeding His People at All Costs
May 10, 2015Believing the Apostle's Testimony When Not Seeing Jesus