Jesus has entered Jerusalem. What is termed the “triumphal entry” is his walk to his death. People have come out to see Jesus. But to see Jesus is to see Jesus going to the cross (12:23). Now is the time for Jesus to be glorified and his glorification will be through his sacrifice. We learn from Jesus the spectacular glory of self-sacrifice. Jesus will be the grain of wheat that is planted in the ground so that through his death much fruit will be born for the glory of God. This scene continues in John 12:27-36.
Glorify Your Name (12:27-30)
Jesus says, “Now my soul is troubled.” This is good for us to hear. In what is called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his disciples to be “anxious for nothing” (Matthew 6:25). But Jesus is troubled and distressed. This shows us that being “anxious for nothing” does not mean living without fear, concern, dread, or agitation. Jesus was not teaching that we are be impervious and emotionless to any situation that arises. Jesus did not act this way. But what is the response to this distress? What is the response to fear, concern, dread, or troubling? Should the response be panic, self-reliance, or something of the like? No, Jesus’ response is to let God’s glory be displayed. Let God’s purposes be accomplished. Jesus says that he is troubled. But what is he going to say? Save me from this hour? Absolutely not. Jesus has come for this very hour. The path for Jesus is not easy. But there is no “get me out of this” response! Jesus knows why he has come. Jesus knows what he is supposed to do. His purpose is clearly stated in verse 28, “Father, glorify your name.” This is the answer to trouble and difficulty. Jesus wants the Father’s name to be glorified, no matter the cost. We must remember this when we come to the garden scene and Jesus asks, “Let this cup pass from me.” The flesh does not always desire what obedience entails. We can be vexed but not panic. We can be distressed but trust in the Lord. Handling trouble and anxiety requires seeking God’s glory to be displayed in our lives through our circumstances (cf. John 9:3; 11:4). This is what Jesus declares. Jesus is not going to ask for deliverance because he has come for this very purpose: to glorify God through the sacrifice of his life. Obedience to the will of God is how God is glorified.
Now something amazing happens. A voice from heaven speaks. Before we hear what the voice says I want to listen to what the words sounded like to the people. After the voice from heaven spoke, the crowd that heard it said that it had thundered. Thunder is the sound of the voice of God. At Sinai when God came with the covenant to the people, notice what is described. “And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.” (Exodus 19:19 ESV) Hear these words of the Father as a thunderous response: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” This is our whole desire in this life. Jesus says that he wants the Father to be glorified. The Father’s response is that he has been glorified through Jesus in his earthly life. Further, the Father will be glorified again when Jesus goes to the cross to sacrifice himself. The one who glorifies God is a servant who does not do his own will but the will of the Father. This is the way the Father is glorified. Now some attribute this sound to an angel speaking to Jesus. Either way, this should show the crowd the favor of the Lord upon Jesus. God just spoke to him and the people should know that because thunder is the voice of God. Others think it is an angel, which is just as amazing that God would send his messenger to speak to Jesus. The people are to pay attention to what is going on and what Jesus is saying. This is why Jesus says that the voice came for their sake, not his. Jesus knows who he is and what he is doing. They need to understand what is happening as Jesus takes his walk to his death.
The Power of the Cross (12:31-33)
Jesus turns his attention to this very moment, the time of the cross. Jesus wanted people who desired to see him to look to the cross (12:23). But Jesus wants us to see a few more things when we look to the cross. Notice the repetition of the word “now” in verse 32. Jesus’ spectacular glory of self-sacrifice is seen in the cross and the cross shows immense power. First, the cross is the time for the judgment of this world. The world thought they were passing judgment on Jesus. In reality the cross was passing judgment on them. The cross becomes the judgment of the world. It is our sins that caused Jesus to go to the cross. It is our rejection of God that required Jesus to need to do this dramatic act of self-sacrifice for us. The cross is a permanent sign of our rejection of the Father. To reject Jesus is to reject the Father. But it is the rejection of the Father that required Jesus to go to the cross for us. The cross stands in judgment of every single human being.
Second, the cross is when the ruler of this world is driven out. The cross becomes the defeat of Satan, not the triumph. Satan’s power is now neutralized by the cross. Now Satan’s power has been greatly stripped. Now Satan cannot charge sin against us who have Jesus as our Advocate and Savior (cf. 1 John 2:2). Jesus takes our sins to the cross (cf. Colossians 2:12). The cross is the decisive event in history for our souls. Satan’s power over us through sin and death is broken.
Third, the cross is the lifting up and exaltation of Christ. Jesus being lifted up in verse 32 has a double meaning. Jesus would be lifted up (exalted) by being lifted up on the cross. Isaiah prophesied this very dual thought. “Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.” (Isaiah 52:13 ESV) Amazingly, Jesus’ atoning death is also his exaltation. The nature of his execution is the pathway to glory.
Fourth, the cross will draw all people to Jesus. The cross is the only way that our separation from God because of our sins can be overcome. The lifting up of Jesus provides eternal life to everyone who believes. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14–15 ESV) Jesus said that no one comes to him unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). The cross is the means by which the Father will draw people to Jesus. The cross is the calling of the world to be reconciled to God the Father through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
In summary, the cross reverses everything. Jesus overcame the ruler of this world. Jesus will not overcome Satan. At the cross Jesus overcame Satan. The battle is over and the victory has been achieved. The cross opened the way to the Father. Now there is a means for the Father to draw us back to himself. The cross is the power by which he draws to himself all who believe in him and brings them into his kingdom. The cross is not the death of a helpless victim. The cross is the means of accomplishing his triumph and victory.
Respond To The Cross (12:34-36)
Now the crowd has a problem. They say that the Law teaches that the Christ would remain forever. So how can you say that he will be lifted up, that is, crucified? This question is a good question because the scriptures do teach that the Christ would be Israel’s prince forever (cf. Ezekiel 37:25). So how can the Christ die but live and reign forever? But to ask the question is to answer the question. It is not hard to understand how these two concepts reconcile. Jesus is God. This is how one can die and live forever. This is how Jesus could say that no one takes his life from him but that he lays down his life and takes it back up again (cf. John 10:18). Only God can do that.
This is Jesus’ response in verse 35. “The light is among you for a little while longer.” Who is the light in the scriptures? God is light. No one else is light. God is light (Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 60:19; 1 John 1:5). Jesus calls himself light and says that he is with them for a little while longer. God is walking among his people, calling people to see the cross as the ultimate glorification of Jesus as the Servant of God and Savior of the world. So here is the call: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” Jesus has come and revealed the way to walk. He is the light in the darkness. We are blind and cannot see how we ought to go (John 9). But Jesus has shown us the way. While you still have opportunity come to the light of Christ. Believe in the light so that you can become children of light. “The one who walks in darkness does not know where he is going” (12:35). You and I are lost in our sins until we come to the cross.
The cross is Jesus’ final call for belief. This is the last invitation for salvation. Notice that believing in the light is the same as walking in the light. Walking in darkness is to be lost. Walking in the light is to believe and be saved. Why does Jesus say, “The light is among you for a little while longer?” Yes, Jesus was going to leave but we know many would be saved from their sins after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Why does Jesus press upon them to believe the light now? Why does Jesus call for people come to the light now? The answer is that the more time we take, the more we will harden our hearts to the cross. The cross stands as the judgment of the world. The cross is a reminder of the coming condemnation for every person who has rejected God’s drawing to himself. Jesus died for you and your rejection is worthy of judgment. How can it be that Jesus gives his life on the cross and absolutely nothing changes in our lives?
The cross stands as something glorious to those who will believe in the light. The cross is the means for us to come back to the Father who loves us. The cross is the glorious answer to the problem of sin. Jesus casts out the ruler of the world. Jesus exercises victory over him so that we can be completely clean from sin. Notice the end of verse 36. Look at what happens to those who will look to the cross and be drawn to it. “Believe in the light that you may become sons of light.” The Gospel of John began with this message.
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11–13 ESV)
God did something amazing at the cross. He gave you the right to become children of God. God is drawing people to himself so that you can belong to him, heirs of the promises of God. Jesus glorified God again through the cross. Oh, how we must cherish the cross! We must love the cross of Christ!
“When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died; my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” (Isaac Watts)
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” (George Bennard)
Let us be drawn to the image of the cross and see our freedom there as Jesus dies for us.