22. The Hour Has Come to Be Glorified (John 12:23-50)

Audio (39:41)

James J. Tissot, 'The Lord's Prayer' (1886-1894), gouache on gray wove paper, 8.5x6.4 in, The Brooklyn Museum, New York.
James J. Tissot, 'The Lord's Prayer' (1886-1894), gouache on gray wove paper, 8.5x6.4 in, The Brooklyn Museum, New York.
This passage chronicles the winding down of Jesus' public ministry. Jesus talks about his death, which he refers to as being "glorified" and "lifted up" and has a final exchange with the Jewish leaders who are intent on discrediting and killing him.

Hour Has Come to Be Glorified (12:23)

"Jesus replied, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.'" (12:23)

"Being glorified" (doxazō) seems like a strange way to describe one's death, but we see this idea in the great Suffering Servant passage that begins in Isaiah 52:13 and extends through chapter 53.

"See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted." (Isaiah 52:13)

We'll refer to this later in the lesson. For more on this see Appendix 6. "Glory" and "Glorify" in John's Gospel.

Jesus seems to use "being glorified" to refer to his death, resurrection, and ascension.

"Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified (doxazō)." (7:39b)

"Only after Jesus was glorified (doxazō) did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him." (12:16b)

"Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory (doxa) and spoke about him." (12:41)

To the men on the road to Emmaus, Jesus explained the Scriptures and then said:

"Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" (Luke 24:26)

It's like us humans to think that suffering and pain are bad, and ease is good. But when do we learn the most? When do we make the greatest strides forward? When we're really struggling. We look back at some of those times and marvel how God has helped us. The song "How He Loves," contains the lines:

"When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me."[250] 

It's in the afflictions that God's glory shines its brightest. When a lame man walks. When a man born blind sees. It's at times like that the Jesus' glory peeks out for all to see. And on the dark, dark day of the cross, when Jesus says, "It is finished," and breathes his last, his glory blazes out once more as the power of Satan and sin are broken, sin is atoned, and men and women are set free. When, like Moses, we pray, "Show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18), the answer may not be what we anticipated, but when his glory is revealed, it's all worth it.

Kernel of Wheat Dies and Produces Many Seeds (12:24)

Now Jesus begins to explain how his death is the beginning of his glory -- as evidenced in the multiplication of one seed to many -- but only after death and burial.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies[251], it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (12:24)

Paul repeats this concept in his teaching on the resurrection of the body.

"What you sow does not come to life unless it dies." (1 Corinthians 15:36)

I think Jesus is anticipating the powerful coming of the Holy Spirit that his death, resurrection, and ascension will unleash:

"Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (16:7)

Then there will be not just a single Man anointed by the Holy Spirit -- Jesus -- but many, many of his followers all over the world, empowered to advance his Kingdom.

Q1. (John 12:23-24) How can God's glory be revealed even in death? How does the seed illustrate this? How does Jesus' death illustrate this? How does us dying to our old life illustrate this?

He Who Loves His Life Will Lose It (12:25-26)

Again, Jesus speaks with paradoxes and contrasts.

"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (12:25)

"Love" and "hate" are used here as opposites. But "hate" in the New Testament doesn't necessarily carry the visceral emotional content of the concept in English. The lexicographer explains concerning the Greek verb miseō:

"Depending on the context, this verb ranges in meaning from 'disfavor' to 'detest.' The English term 'hate' generally suggests affective connotations that do not always do justice, especially to some Semitic shame-honor oriented use of [the Hebrew equivalent] shānē', (e.g. Deuteronomy 21:15-16) in the sense 'hold in disfavor, be disinclined to, have relatively little regard for.'"[252]

It is also true that Jesus often speaks in hyperbole in order to make his point with greater impact. Nevertheless, the Synoptic Gospels echo this teaching. Twice in Matthew we read the same basic message:

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)

Verse 26 provides a corollary to verse 25.

"Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (12:26)

If Jesus is in a dangerous place -- like Jerusalem, or the barrios of the inner city, or on a mission in a Muslim land -- his servants, his disciples will be there also. We naturally seek to protect ourselves and our possessions. But that is putting ourselves before Jesus. What he demands is the opposite: to follow him, even when it leads you into danger. Disciples are not wimps or cowards; Jesus calls us to a courageous Christianity. We see this kind of courage modeled in Jesus' words in the next verse:

"What shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" (12:27b-28a)

Jesus sees the danger coming, but refuses to shrink from it. Rather he must do what he is called to do.

The principle of this verse is the bedrock of what it means to be a disciple:

"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (12:25)

For us, the issue is not necessarily danger, but willingness to obey in the small things. For us, the good can easily be the enemy of the best. We are doing things we enjoy, things that are good, things that are not sin. But the still, small voice of the Spirit is saying, stop doing that, stop living there. I've got something better for you. We are confused. There's nothing wrong with what I am doing, Lord. Why should I stop? And we aren't given the reasons. We aren't always to know -- until much later, and maybe not even then. But our Lord's way is better. If we let him guide our lives by giving up what he asks of us, and taking on what he shows us, the place he leads us will be the center of his will for us. Not always comfortable. Not necessarily pain free. But the place of an obedient disciple serving Christ as he is leading.

Can you do this? This was the issue Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane, and it is our issue today. Not my will, but yours be done. It is the way of Jesus.

Q2. (John 12:25-26) In what way is verse 25 the essence of what it means to be a disciple? In this verse, what does it mean to "love" your life? What does it mean to "hate" your life? How did Jesus live this out in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Father, Glorify Your Name (12:27-30)

"Now my heart is troubled...." (12:27a)

Why is Jesus' heart "troubled"[253]? Is he troubled for himself? Is this what we see in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus asks the Father to remove this cup from him? Probably, given the immediate context. But in the larger context of the Triumphal Entry, Luke 19:41-44 records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and their fate, since they won't recognize the Messiah who came to them.

Whatever Jesus is troubled by, he doesn't give into the natural human reaction to escape from danger and death. Rather he sees that this is his "time," his "hour" to glorify the Father in his death, resurrection, and ascension. Prior to this, Jesus has slipped away from his enemies and ministered elsewhere to avoid arrest and stoning (7:30; 8:59; 10:31, 39; 11:53-54). Jesus is very aware of timing. Until now, his "time" or "hour" had not yet come (2:4; 7:8; 7:30; 8:20). But now is his time. Now he faces it head on.

"27  Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28  Father, glorify your name!" (12:27-28a)

Jesus clearly sees his death as glorifying the Father, since, according to the Father's plan, Jesus' sacrificial death is necessary to atone for the sins of the whole world, and redeem men and women to fellowship with their Creator.[254]

"28  'Father, glorify your name!' Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.' 29  The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30  Jesus said, 'This voice was for your benefit[255], not mine.'" (12:28-30)

The Father's audible voice confirms Jesus' words to the crowds and disciples who are present on this occasion -- though they don't have the spiritual acuity to understand it. This is the third occasion in Jesus' ministry where the audible voice of God is heard (though the only one recorded by John) -- first, at his baptism (Matthew 3:17) and second, at his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). The crowds don't know what to make of it. But Jesus is clear: the voice isn't for his benefit. His communion with the Father is such that he knows this already.

Casting Out the Prince of This World (12:31)

"Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." (12:31)

Here's a paradox. Jesus is speaking of his own death and at the same time he is saying that by condemning Jesus to death on the cross, the world itself is being judged. They have received a sentence of condemnation (krisis).[256] The world thinks it is passing judgment on Jesus, but the cross passes judgment on them, for when they reject the Son, they reject the Father who sent him. As Jesus said earlier in John's Gospel:

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned[257] already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (3:18)

Indeed, the Holy Spirit will "convict the world ... in regard to judgment (krisis) because the prince of this world now stands condemned (krinō)" (16:8, 11).

The devil is prince of "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor" (Matthew 4:8-10). The "prince of this world" is mentioned one more time in John:

"... The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me...." (14:30)

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Satan is called "the god of this world." This coming of the "prince of this world" culminates in Jesus' arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus tells his captors, "This is your hour -- when darkness reigns" (Luke 22:53). But this reign of darkness is short-lived! Hallelujah!

Our text says:

"Now the prince of this world will be driven out." (12:31b)

The verb "driven out" (NIV, NRSV), "cast out" (ESV, KJV) is ekballō, "to throw out," here, "force to leave, drive out, expel."[258] The verb is followed by the adverb exō, "out," pertaining to a position outside an area or limits, as result of an action.[259] It gives the sense of thrown completely out!

What does this mean? We can't be sure, but several passages shed some light on the question. The first is Jesus' words after seventy-two disciples return from a mission:

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.' He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.'" (Luke 10:17-19)

"And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15)

"He ... shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death -- that is, the devil." (Hebrews 2:14)

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8b)

The final passage is a vision in the Book of Revelation about the fall of Satan.

"7  And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9  The great dragon was hurled down -- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
'Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.[260]
11  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.
12  Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.'" (Revelation 12:7-12)

I wish we understood more about the present state of Satan and his angels. Much of what we think we know is speculative, deduced by reading between the lines and trying to piece together clues from various parts of the Bible to create a comprehensive picture. What we do know at the very least, however, are these truths:

  1. Jesus won profound and decisive victories over Satan during his temptations in the wilderness before his ministry, during his ministry in "binding the strong man and plundering his goods" (Luke 11:20-22), and through his death, resurrection, and ascension.
  2. Satan's power is broken. The key battle has been won, but Satan is still dangerous. He is still considered "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the world is still under his control (1 John 5:19).
  3. Through the Holy Spirit, Christians have power over Satan and demons (Luke 10:17-19; Mark 16:17). Greater is the Spirit in us than Satan, demons, and the antichrist (1 John 4:4).
  4. The final battle where Satan's hold on this world is completely broken will take place in the Last Days at the coming of Christ (Revelation 20:10).

Son of Man Will Be Lifted Up (12:32-34)

Now we consider Jesus' declarations about being lifted up.

"32  'But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.'
33  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. 34  The crowd spoke up, 'We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, "The Son of Man must be lifted up"? Who is this "Son of Man"?'" (12:31-34)

Jesus' insight comes from the great Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This passage begins with these words:

"See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up (hypsoō) and highly[261] exalted (doxazō)."
(Isaiah 52:13)[262]

I have indicated in parentheses the Greek words used in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. They are the same as the words in John's Gospel where Jesus describes his being "lifted up" and his "glorification."

While Jesus' words about being lifted up refer initially to his being lifted up on the cross (12:32-33), his words seem to have a triple meaning -- (1) being lifted up on the cross, (2) being raised or lifted up from the grave, and (3) being lifted up to heaven in the ascension. Here are the three passages on "lifting up" in John's Gospel, all using the verb hypsoō, "to lift up spatially, lift up, raise high."[263]

"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up (hypsoō),  that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." (3:14-15)

"When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me." (8:28)

"'But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (12:32-33)

So John speaks of Jesus' glorification and being lifted up in a way that includes the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension as a single event.

Q3. (John 12:32-33) What does Jesus mean when he talks about being "lifted up." Do you think Jesus means being "lifted up" literally or figuratively or both? "Extra credit": How does this phrase relate to Isaiah 52:13? How does it relate to Philippians 2:8-9?

Sons of Light (12:35-36)

"35  Then Jesus told them, 'You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36  Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.' When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them." (12:35-36)

Here, Jesus isn't talking about daylight fading, but the crucifixion of the Light of the World that is coming soon. Jesus says,

"Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." (12:36a)

Jesus is saying to the crowd listening to him: Put your trust in me now, while I'm still here. This way you will be "sons of light," that is, people who take on the nature of light themselves, by their faith in and emulation of me -- in the way that Jesus had said to his disciples, "You are the light of the world..." (Matthew 5:14-16).

Isaiah's Prophecy of Blind Eyes (12:37-41)

In each of the Gospels, but especially in John's Gospel, we see the terrible irony of people seeing powerful miracles, but reacting to them in different ways, depending upon the openness of their hearts. John comments on this, quoting a passage from Isaiah 6:10, also quoted in the Synoptics (Matthew 13:11-17; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10) and Acts 28:26.

"37  Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38  This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

    'Lord, who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?' [Quoting Isaiah 53:1]

39  For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:

    40  'He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts,
    so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn -- and I would heal them.' [quoting Isaiah 6:10]

41  Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him." (12:37-41)

Isaiah's task is to preach God's word as a faithful witness, knowing that his preaching will have the effect of hardening the hearts of those who have set their hearts against God. In the same way, Jesus' teaching and miracles have a hardening effect on those who resist God.

Q4. (John 12:37-41) In what way does declaring truth to resistant people harden them further? How can a person (or a Pharisee) see a miracle and become even more determined to resist Jesus? How do you understand this paradox?

Loved Men's Praise More than God's (12:42-43)

Many rejected Jesus, but many believed in him.

"42  Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed[264] in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess[265] their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43  for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (12:42-43)

To be a believer in Jerusalem at that time was difficult. Jesus' enemies were prominent Pharisees, influential in the city's synagogues. They had let it be known that any believers in Jesus as the Messiah would be excommunicated from membership in their neighborhood synagogue, their primary religious and social community. The adjective aposynagōgos means, "expelled from the synagogue, excluded, put under a curse/ban."[266]

John explores various kinds of belief in this Gospel.

  1. Belief resulting from miracles that goes no further.
  2. Belief in Jesus that isn't confessed openly because of fear (as in this passage).
  3. Belief in Jesus that may have started with miracles, but continues to open, confessing faith and following (the faith of the disciples, of Mary and Martha, the man born blind, etc.).

At times in church history, believers have been threatened with death unless they recant. All of the eleven apostles, except John himself, were martyred for their faith. In later Roman persecutions, many caved into the pressure, but some, such as St. Polycarp of Smyrna (69 to 155-160 AD), refused to recant.

"Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?"[267]

 But here, John is talking about social pressure -- excommunication from the synagogue -- not physical punishment or execution. And John -- who himself was exiled for his faith to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9) -- is critical to those whose faith isn't strong enough to stand during persecution.

"... For they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (12:43)

"Praise" (NIV, KJV), "glory" (NRSV, ESV) is noun is doxa, "glory." Here it refers to "honor as enhancement or recognition of status or performance, fame, recognition, renown, honor, prestige."[268] In our passage, John has been talking about Jesus being "glorified" by his death. But many so-called believers shun true "glorification" from God, in exchange for approval by or glory from their peers. Not a good trade!

In his Parable of the Sower or Soils, Jesus referred to such fair-weather believers with the figure of seeds sown on rocky soil.

"The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away." (Matthew 13:20-21)

Were they "true believers"? Some debate this. But we know they didn't persevere to bear fruit. Sad!

Dear friend, are you afraid to be open about your faith in Christ because some people in your circle of friends might criticize or reject you? Christ is calling you to the faithfulness of a true believer!

Q5. (John 12:42-43) When we are quiet about our relationship to God out of fear that people will criticize us, what does this say about our priorities? About whether we are true disciples? When Peter denied knowing Jesus in the High Priest's courtyard, what was the effect in his life?

The Believer Sees the One Who Sent Me (12:44-46)

In the last few verses of chapter 12, Jesus speaks encouragement to those who hear and believe (verses 44-46), as well as a warning to those who hear but do not follow Jesus' teaching (verses 47-50).

Jesus begins by clarifying what belief or faith entails. He cries out these words in a loud voice:[269]

"Then Jesus cried out, 'When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.'" (12:44)

For Jesus there is no separation between belief in the Son and belief in the Father. If people really know the Father they will recognize and welcome the Son. To his enemies, the Pharisees, he said:

"You do not know me or my Father.... If you knew me, you would know my Father also." (8:19)

Jesus continues:

"When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me." (12:44)

What an amazing statement. Later Jesus clarifies it to Philip, who asks Jesus to show them the Father: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:19).

The question for us today is, if someone looks at you, will he see the One you believe in? If not, why not? To be disciplers, people who disciple others, we must have a life in which Christ is visible and a life worth imitating. As Paul taught:

"Follow my example[270], as I follow the example of Christ."  (1 Corinthians 11:1; cf. 4:16)

Jesus concludes this section with another reference to himself as the "Light of the World" (8:12):

"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness." (12:46)

This is a theme developed earlier in this Gospel (1:4-5; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5). The Apostle John carries this idea into his First Epistle as well:

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)

People have a choice whether or not they wish to "stay[271] in darkness" (12:45).  When we move into the light -- and then walk or conduct our lives there, then we live in his light. That is, we make a life practice of following the teachings of the One in whom we believe. Those who claim to believe, but refuse to walk in Jesus' teachings, deceive themselves if they think they are really Christ's followers (1 John 1:6).

The Unbeliever Will Be Judged by My Words (12:47-50)

Now Jesus turns from the blessings of the believer to warn those who hear -- and even understand -- but don't follow Jesus' teachings.

"47  As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (12:47-48)

These people hear and seem to understand. The verb "hears" is akouō with the genitive object: "to hear," usually to hear with appreciation and understanding.[272] But they don't go the next step of keeping Jesus' message or teaching.[273] "Keep" (NIV, NRSV, ESV) in verse 47 is found in all the earlier manuscripts, in contrast to the KJV's "believe," which is found only in late manuscripts. The verb is phylassō, "watch, guard." Here it has the meaning, "to continue to keep a law or commandment from being broken, observe, follow."[274] We're not under Jesus' words as a law, whereby if we keep them we are saved. Rather, we keep Jesus' words and observe his teachings as an indicator that we actually believe in him. Jesus said something similar in his Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders:

"Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." (Matthew 7:26)

There is a pitfall that those of us who attend church can easily fall into -- of thinking that familiarity with Jesus' words is the same as keeping them! Jesus' brother James notes:

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22)

Jesus says about a person who hears but doesn't follow:

"I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." (12:47b)

Some people imagine that if they do something bad God will strike them down with a bolt of lightning: active judgment. I didn't come to judge, Jesus says, but to save! When his disciples want to call down fire on a Samaritan village that wouldn't receive Jesus, he rebukes them. In some manuscripts he says, "The Son of man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56, NKJV). Jesus is criticized for associating with tax collectors and sinners without telling them how bad they are. His reply is:

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:12-13)

Jesus didn't come with an impatient judgmental spirit, but a spirit of love, mercy, and patience (2 Peter 3:9).

But those who don't follow his teachings don't get off scot-free. Though they are not subject to immediate judgment, nevertheless they will be held responsible for Jesus' words, for they are the Father's words.

"48  There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49  For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." (12:48-50)

Q6. (John 12:47-49) In what way can judging people get in the way of saving them? How did Jesus deal with this in his own ministry? What will it take for us to lose our stiffness and judgmental demeanor so that we might be able to be Jesus' agents of salvation?

Jesus is fulfilling the description of the prophet predicted in Deuteronomy:

"I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him." (Deuteronomy 18:18)

While the NIV of verse 49 reads, "what to say and how to say it,"[275]  it is probably better to render the verbs as synonyms, that the Father tells Jesus "what to say (eipon[276]) and what to speak (laleō[277])" (NRSV, ESV, cf. KJV).[278] That being said, it is true that God can guide us in both the words to say and how to say it, whether as a parable or a saying or a rebuke (12:49). Recently, God gave me a rebuke for a group I was speaking to -- and told me to deliver this message on my knees, so that they might be more inclined to receive it. God wants to -- and is able to -- guide us in not just what, but how to say it, if we'll seek him for this wisdom.

Lessons for Disciples

John's Gospel: A Discipleship Journey with Jesus, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Entire study is available in paperback, Kindle, and PDF formats.
  1. God's glory can reveal itself even in death, as expressed in the parable of the seed that dies and is buried (12:23-24).
  2. We disciples must not hang onto our lives, but surrender them to God, otherwise we'll lose them (12:25-26). This willingness to surrender our lives to obey Christ is at the very basis of what it means to be a disciple. Jesus gave us an example of the surrender of our wills in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  3. Jesus sees his death -- "being lifted up from the earth" -- as the precursor of being exalted by the Father and glorified, as prophesied in Isaiah 52:13 (12:32-34).
  4. We must recognize, as Jesus did, that sharing truth with people who resist God has the effect of hardening already hard hearts even further. The same miracle or teaching can cause one person to believe and another to become harder in unbelief (12:37-41).
  5. Failure to publicly side with Jesus out of fear of people's criticism, shows that we care more about the praise of men than of God (12:42-43).
  6. Like Jesus, we are effective only when people can clearly see God in us (12:44).
  7. Jesus didn't come to judge people, but to save them. We need to dispense with our judgmental attitude and adopt Jesus' mission strategy. People who reject the truths of God that we share with them will be judged by those very words on Judgment Day unless they repent -- though judgment isn't our goal (12:47-49).


Father, teach us to find the glory in laying down our lives before you in trust and obedience. We often don't trust you enough to surrender to you. Forgive us. Help us grow, Lord. Help us become like our Master Jesus. In his holy name, we pray. Amen.


Key Verses

"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." (John 12:23-24, NIV)

"The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:25, NIV)

 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28  Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:27-28a, NIV)

"'But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.' He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (John 12:32-33, NIV)

"Many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God." (John 12:42-43, NIV)

"When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me." (John 12:44P-45, NIV)

"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:47-48, NIV)

"For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it." (John 12:49, NIV)


[250] "How He Loves," words and music by John Mark McMillan, © 2005 Integrity's Hosanna! Music.

[251] Of course, from a scientific viewpoint, the seed doesn't die. But from the observation of a farmer -- and this audience was made up of people who had experience with subsistence farming -- it might well appear like death and burial, and resurrection glory when the seeds appear on the plant.

[252] Miseō, BDAG 652.

[253] "Troubled" is tarassō, which we saw in 11:33 at Lazarus's tomb. It means, "to cause inward turmoil, stir up, disturb, unsettle, throw into confusion" (BDAG 991, 2).

[254] John 1:29; 11:51-42; 1 John 2:2; 4:10; Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18.

[255] This is the preposition dia with the accusative: "the reason why something happens, results, exists: because of, for the sake of" (BDAG 225, B2a).

[256] Krisis, "legal process of judgment, judging, judgment." The word often means "judgment that goes against a person, condemnation, and the sentence that follows" (BDAG 569, 1aβ).

[257] "Condemned" in 3:18 is krinō, the verb form of krisis. The basic meaning is "to set apart so as to distinguish, separate." Here, the sense is, "to engage in a judicial process, judge, decide, hale before a court, condemn, also hand over for judicial punishment," frequently as a legal technical term. (BDAG 568, 5bα).

[258] Ekballō, BDAG 299, 1.

[259] Exō, BDAG 354, 2a.

[260] In Revelation 12:9-10, "Hurled down" (NIV), "thrown down" (NRSV, ESV), "cast out" (KJV) is the verb ballō, "to cause to move from one location to another through use of forceful motion, throw" (BDAG 163, 1b).

[261] Sphodra, "very much, exceedingly" (Liddell-Scott, Lexicon).

[262] Paul says something similar: "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place (hyperypsoō) and gave him the name that is above every name...." (Philippians 2:9). Hyperypsoō means,  "to raise to a high point of honor, raise, exalt" (BDAG 1034, 1).

[263] Hypsoō, BDAG 1046, 2.

[264] "Believed" is in the Aorist tense, action at a past point of time.

[265] "Confess" is in the Imperfect tense, continued action in the past.

[266] Aposynagōgos, BDAG 123. The word is used three times in John -- 9:22; 12:42; and 16:2.

[267] Martyrdom of Polycarp, 9. A recent article in Christianity Today pondered whether the church in the Middle East might become extinct, due to intense persecution from radical Islam. The author traces church history to examine other times when the church has responded to such persecution, such as in Japan and China in previous centuries. The church in situations like this often goes underground, with clandestine meetings, etc., with believers who are hidden, but believing -- "crypto-Christians" (Philip Jenkins, "On the Edge of Extinction," Christianity Today, November 2014, pp. 36-42).

[268] Doxa, BDAG 257, 3.

[269] Krazō, "to communicate something in a loud voice, call, call out, cry" (BDAG 564, 2a). Jesus also calls out loudly at the Feast of Tabernacles: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink" (7:37).

[270] "Follow my example" (NIV) is more literally, "imitate me" (NRSV, ESV), "be followers of me" (KJV) is the verb ginomai, "become, be" and the noun mimētēs, "imitator" (BDAG 652, a).

[271] "Stay" (NIV), "remain" (NRSV, ESV), "abide" (KJV) is menō, in transferred sense, "of someone who does not leave a certain realm or sphere: remain, continue, abide" (BDAG 631, 1aβ).

[272] Morris, John, p. 608, n. 120, cf. also p. 318, n. 76; Brown, John 1:491; BDAG 37, definitions 7 or 1bγ.

[273] "Words" is the plural of rhēma, "that which is said, word, saying, expression, or statement of any kind" BDAG 905, 1).

[274] Phylassō, BDAG 1068, 5a.

[275] Supported without much comment by Brown, John 1:489, and Carson, John, p. 452.

[276] Eipon, used as the second aorist of legō, "say, tell" (BDAG 286, 1a).

[277] Laleō. In older Greek it referred to small talk, but in the New Testament it is becoming the equivalent to legō, with the meaning, "to utter words, talk, speak" (BDAG 582, 2aβ).

[278] The verbs are synonyms that are difficult to differentiate here. So Morris, John, p. 609. Barrett (John, p. 435) sees the use of synonyms as characteristic of John's style.

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