About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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    Jesus Predicts His Death (ch. 12:20-36)

 

John mentions in verse 20 that there were certain Greeks who came up to Jerusalem to worship.   Remember up is in relation to elevation not in direction.  Jerusalem is actually down in terms of direction from Greece.

 

These Greeks were most likely Gentile converts to Judaism.  The Old Testament Law allowed for Gentiles to convert to Judaism as long as the men were circumcised and they obeyed the Law.

 

There were two types of Gentile converts.  One was a full fledged convert where the man would be circumcised.  The others were called "God fearers."  They were not full fledged converts.  They were more supporters of Judaism, not those who practiced Judaism.      

 

In verses 21 and 22 some of these Greeks came to Philip and ask, "Sir, we would like to see Jesus."  This is an often used text for a Sunday morning message.  Here were some Gentiles whose hearts seem set on seeing Jesus.  So, Philip went to Andrew and they both went to Jesus with this request.

 

Note that Philip was from Bethsaida of Galilee.  The reason why John states that Bethsaida was in Galilee was because there was a Bethsaida in Judea, and Judea was where they presently were.  Jerusalem was in the Roman province of Judea.  The Hebrew name "Bethsaida" means "house of fish."     

 

Verse 23 gives Jesusí answer to the request.  It doesnít seem to be related greatly to the exact question but what Jesus has to say is very important.  Jesus says that the "hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."  A careful study of John 17 will show you what Jesus means when He speaks of Him being glorified.  Jesus was fully glorified when He returned to be with His Father on the day of ascension, but, before He could ascend, He first had to descend into death, and that hour was now at hand.  I believe the way in which Jesus was to be glorified suggests that it was a process; a process of death, resurrection, and, most importantly, His return to Heaven where He would experience that which He had before His incarnation.  This is what He says in His prayer as seen in John 17.        

 

In verse 24 Jesus states a real spiritual principle.  He says that if a kernel of wheat doesnít fall into the ground and get buried, itís only one kernel of wheat.  It will not produce any fruit.  On the other hand, if the kernel of wheat, or that seed gets buried, it will produce much wheat.  The seed has to first die before it can bring forth fruit.  Jesus was clearly speaking of His death here, but, the same principle applies to believers and the church as well.  Unless we die to self, we cannot live for Jesus as we should.       

 

In order for the Kingdom of God to come to earth Jesus had to die as a seed, yet after He died, He rose from the dead as a stem growing out of the ground which produced a great crop of believers. 

 

This same truth can be seen in the martyrdom of Christians throughout the ages.  Every time a Christian or Christians are martyred for the sake of Jesus, the gospel spreads.  This is what is happening in the Islamic world as I write these words. 

 

In verse 25 Jesus goes on to apply this principle to us.  He says that if we love our lives, we will in fact end up loosing our lives, but on the other hand, if we hate our lives in this world we will receive eternal life.  The Greek word "miseo" is the word translated as "hate" in verse 25.  It really does mean "to hate".  Jesus is using a strong word here.  He says that we should hate our lives in this world.  Does this mean we should abuse ourselves?  One who hates another might even kill the one he hates.  Should we kill ourselves?  I think the answer is obvious. 

 

What we should understand here is that there has traditionally been a big difference in the outlook of life between eastern people groups and western people groups.  Traditionally speaking, and this is changing to a degree to our move to globalism, western people groups approach life from more of a rational basis.  Eastern people groups approach life from more of an emotional standpoint.  Eastern people groups often use exaggerated language to make or clarify a point.  Jesus was an easterner.  He often used exaggerated language to make a point.  His eastern audience would have understood exactly what He was getting at while westerners might be scratching their heads in amazement that Jesus said we should hate our lives.  Simply put, Jesus said that we must lay down our lives, our goals, and all of who we are to pick up what He has for us.  We must live for Him, and not for us.           

 

In the final analyses if we really want to find life, we must lose our lives.  Real life, from God's perspective is doing His will.  If we live for self we will not experience what God has for us.  Living for self, which would include not trusting your life with Jesus, will end in the Lake of Fire, and that is eternal death.        

 

In verse 26 Jesus then says that "anyone who wants to serve me must follow me."  That means we must think, act, and live, as Jesus thought, acted and lived.  We are to follow, or imitate, Jesus and not the world.  I believe this is what Jesus is saying here.

 

Note the word "serve" in verse 26.  It is associated with the word "follow." If you claim to be a follower of Jesus; meaning a disciple, you must consider yourself as a servant, or, as the Greek text implies, a slave.

 

The Greek word "diakonos" is translated as serve and servant here.  There is another Greek word, "doulos" that is also translated as "servant" in the New Testament.  Diakonos; a servant, is related to the job one performs.  Doulos; a servant relates not to the job but to the one who the servant serves.  Doulos as seen in first century Christianity was a "bond servant or a slave by choice".     

 

The word "serve" and "servant" in this verse is "diakonos."  Jesus is thus putting the emphasis on the work we do for Him as His servant.      

 

Jesus goes on to say that where I am my servant will also be.  Today, Jesus is found in the midst of His people.  If we are to follow Jesus, we too will be in the midst of His people where He is actively at work.  Being in the midst of what Jesus is doing is vital for the believer.  We are not to be what some have called loan ranger Christians.  We are to live and work alongside of those the Lord has placed us in the Body of Christ, where He is actively working at any given time.     

 

In verse 27 Jesus says that His Father will honour the one who serves Him.  As Paul so eloquently says in Galatians 1, we are not to seek honour from men, but from God.  If man does not give us honour, that is fine.  We are looking to be honoured by God in whatever way He sees fit.  That is the only thing that should matter to us.  Yes, it is nice to be honoured by our fellow man, but if we never receive honour from man but receive it from God, then thatís all we need.  We shouldn't be seeking honour from man because in the process we will end up pleasing man instead of serving man, and, there is a major difference between pleasing man and serving man.

 

In verse 27 we begin to see the heart of Jesus.  He says, "Now is my heart troubled."  I doubt if we can really understand how troubled Jesus is now beginning to feel.  Just think of the worst time that youíve had in terms of your heart being troubled, and that is nowhere near what Jesus was beginning to feel. 

 

Our English word "heart" in the NIV is translated from the Greek word "psyche," which is associated with the word "breath."  Some translations translate the Greek word "psyche" as "soul" and that would be a good translation.   

 

Then Jesus asks a question.  He asks, "What shall I say?  Father save me from this hour?  No, it was for this reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name."

 

Jesus was on the brink of disaster.  Human nature would cry out to God to be delivered from this pending doom.  In His humanity Jesus felt the pressure, but in His spirit He knew very well the impending doom was the reason why He came to this hour.  He would not turn back.  He would glorify His Father in His death. 

 

Jesus would do anything to give glory to His Father, which included His death.  The same should be said of us concerning Jesus.  We should do anything to give glory to Jesus, no matter the cost, even if it included our death.

 

Why was Jesus, the Creator of all things so troubled?  Was He afraid to die?  I don't think Jesus was afraid to die.  He is the author and sustainer of life.  Death meant nothing to Him, or so I believe.  What I think Jesus was so troubled about was being forsaken by God His Father while on the cross.  "Why have you forsaken me" are the well known words He spoke while on the cross.  Separation from His Father was what troubled Jesus. 

 

Understanding that God and Jesus were and are one, we have a hard time understanding how God and Jesus could actually be separated while Jesus was on the cross.  This is how I view this.  Jesus was killed on the cross because of our sin.  The Jews and the Romans thought they were executing Jesus as a criminal but God thought differently.  In reality, it was God Himself who have Jesus executed, not as a common criminal but as one who was being punished by God on behalf of sinful humanity.  God had no choice but to turn His back on Jesus while Jesus was inflicted with our sin and sickness while on the cross.  Did God forsake Jesus?  Well, maybe for a brief time, but, I prefer to view it as a momentary turning of the back of God.  God did not utterly forsake Jesus.

 

One thing I should note at this point is that Jesus did not stop being God when God forsook Him.  Jesus never lost His divinity.  That is impossible.  Some Christians believe that Jesus ceased being God on the cross but that is false teaching. 

 

In verse 28 Jesus asked God His Father to glorify your name.  In other words, Jesus wanted God to glorify His own name no matter the cost to Himself.  Of course, the cost meant the death of Jesus but that wasn't all.  Glorifying God's name would include the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension into Heaven.                   

 

An astonishing thing happens in verse 28.  In the presence of those listening to Jesus, God the Father answered Jesus from Heaven.  He says, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."  The life of Jesus in all that He has said and done gave glory to God.  The ultimate glory would come at Jesus' ascension where Father and Son would be reunited as was Jesus' desire as seen in His prayer in John 17.  This must have been a strengthening word for Jesus in these times of great sorrow and grief.

 

In verse 29 we note that all were in ear shot of Jesus heard this voice speak to Jesus.  Some said the voice was like thunder.  It is hard to imagine the audible voice of God but it would not surprise me that it did indeed sound like thunder.  Others said that an angel spoke.  These people were wrong.  We know it was the voice of God the Father Himself because the voice said, ďI have glorified it and will glorify it again.   In context the only one to whom this voice could belong would be to God the Father.

 

Revelation 1:15 also tells us that the voice of God sounds like rushing water.  I picture the voice of God sounding like Niagara Falls .  Niagara Falls produces a very loud sound.  

 

In verse 30 Jesus told the crowd that the voice they heard was for their benefit, not His.  Jesus didnít need an audible voice to hear from God.  He was in constant communication with Him in spirit.                            

 

In verse 31 Jesus says two things.  He says, `Now is the judgement of this world and now the prince of this world will be thrown out."  So what does this mean?

 

The death and resurrection of Jesus is multifaceted.  One thing that it did was to bring judgment to the world.  The death of Jesus brought judgment to the world in that every human who has ever live and ever will lived in one real sense of the word was judged and condemned to death by God, but, Jesus stepped into the situation and was punished, or executed, on our behalf.  In that sense of the word judgment came to the world.  If we do not embrace Jesus' act of grace then there is nothing left for us other than the White Throne Judgment as seen in Revelation 20.             

 

Jesus then says that now the prince of this world will be thrown out.  This is a confusing statement for the English reader because of the mixture of verb tenses here. The use of the word "now" suggests that the prince of this world, who we know is the devil, is to be thrown out right now in present time, but, then Jesus says that the prince of this world will be thrown out, as in some future point.  Just when the devil was thrown out, and that means thrown out from Heaven, has been well debated.  Revelation 12:7 to 9 tells us that satan was hurled to the earth with his angels.  Was he thrown to the earth at the death or resurrection of Jesus or at some future point in history?  At this particular moment I am not sure.  Revelation 12 speaks of a great heavenly battle between the angels of God and the angels of the devil.  Just when this took place, in part, is understood on how you view the book of Revelation.  Of course, we also know from Revelation 20:10 that the devil will eventually be thrown into the Lake of Fire.    

 

Here is another thought concerning the word "now."  As we have seen throughout the book of John, when it comes to time and the things Jesus says, something that happens in the future is often considered as happening right now in present time in the mind of Jesus.  Jesus is from eternity where there is no concept of time.  Remember in John 4:24 Jesus said that the hour is coming and now is that the true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth.  How can something that will come in the future be already here, as Jesus stated in John 4:24.  The simple answer is that if Jesus says something will happen, it is as good as already happening, or, as already has happened.  His word is that reliable. The devil will be judged and thrown out of heaven and into the Lake of Fire.  That is as good as done, as in right now, even though it may yet be in the future.               

 

In verse 32 Jesus says that when He is lifted up from the earth He will draw all men unto Himself.  It is clear from verse 33 that Jesus was speaking about being lifted up on the cross in His death.  My best understanding of these words to date is that the cross, whether we know it or not, will cause people to come before Jesus to make a decision concerning salvation.  It is clear that the Holy Spirit would have to be involved in this drawing process.  Although these words specifically apply to Jesusí death, His ultimate uplifting was at His ascension.  It was only after the Holy Spirit came to earth when all men could be drawn to Jesus.  

 

If being lifted up from the earth means Jesus being lifted up on the cross and ultimately lifted up into Heaven then the preaching of the cross, the resurrection, and Jesus' ascension is very important.  How can people be drawn to Jesus if we don't lift Jesus up in our preaching?  That's not hard to figure out.       

 

 

This question should be asked at this point.  Is every last person in history thus presented with the chance to either accept or reject the Lordship of Jesus?  This verse may suggest just this, but, how this takes place is uncertain unless Jesus Himself or an angel speaks to the heart of those who have not heard the gospel with their physical ears.          

 

In verse 34 the crowd's understanding concerning the Messiah and the Law of Moses is noted by John.  They understood that once the Messiah came, He would stay and set up His Kingdom and remain on earth.  If this was the case and if Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, what was He talking about concerning being lifted up in death?  In their thinking, what Jesus was saying made no sense at all.   

 

The crowd then asks, "Who is this Son of Man?"  They were confused.  They were wondering if the Son of Man was the Messiah or someone else.  They just couldnít understand because they did not see the suffering ministry of the Messiah.  They only saw the Messiah as King of Israel.  They never saw from Scripture that before the Messiah would rule the earth He would die for the sins of everyone.   

 

In verse 35 Jesus speaks about the light again.  He says that those listening to him in the crowd would only have the light a little while longer and should walk in the light while the light is with them.  As we have noted before, Jesus was this light.  When Jesus said that the Jews would have the light for just a little while, was this in reference to His death?  That is to say, once He died the light would be gone and those in the crowd would be in darkness?  I don't think that is what Jesus meant. The first disciples would carry on Jesus' witness to the Jews.  They would become that light, that is, until Rome came and demolished Jerusalem , and thus Israel , as an act of God's judgment on Israel .  From that point on, the majority of Jews would walk in darkness, and, are still walking in darkness to this very day.  Of course, as the Old Testament prophets predict, and, as Paul predicted in Romans 11, there would be a remnant of Jews who would be saved by the light.             

 

In verse 36 Jesus goes on to tell these people to put their trust in the light while they have the light so they can become sons of the Light.  This is faith, that is, trusting your life to the Light.  Trusting implies a certain measure of giving ones self to the one you are trusting.  Jesus is asking these people in a round about way to trust Him; to give themselves to Him. 

 

At this point Jesus left and hid Himself from the crowd.  His time had not yet come, although it was getting closer by the minute.  Remember, Jesus was working on a very strict time table here.  Nothing would happen before His time.  I believe every second had been planned in advance by God.    

 

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