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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

We Would See Jesus


It's Palm Sunday, which means there’s one week to go until we celebrate the risen Lord Jesus on resurrection morning. So, it seems right this morning to focus some attention on the cross, and to do so in a way that primes us to reflect on how central it is. Central to Christianity. Central to Christians. Central to the Church. Central to history. And central to the glory of God.

That’s why I’ve chosen this passage in John 12 for this morning.

In it, Jesus is explaining to the crowd who are listening, the kind of death he is about to die (v.33). One remarkable thing straight away is that the whole discourse is a response to some Greeks who had told Philip that they wanted to see Jesus. Verses 20-22 tell us that there were some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover festival to worship God - not a typical thing for Greeks to do in that day. Evidently these were Greek converts to Judaism. And when they met Philip and discovered he was a disciple of Jesus, they told him they would like to meet with Jesus. Philip told Andrew, and the pair, in turn, told Jesus.

It is precisely this request, from these Greeks to Jesus via Andrew and Philip, that instigates the response that we have recorded for us in this passage. Verse 23 says ‘Jesus replied’.

Which is curious. If I were told, ‘some people want to meet with you’, I would consult my diary and determine if I had time.

Or, I would enquire as to why they wanted to meet with me. Jesus neither consults his diary, nor sends an enquiry back, so far as we can tell, but he does respond.

He replies by speaking to the crowd that are in front of him. And by unveiling some details about events that are about to happen.

He unveils them using massive themes. Themes like the glory of God, judgment of the world, Satan, light and darkness, and others beside. Those themes alone suggest, this is worth some of our time this morning.

Up until this point, in the account John gives us, Jesus had been saying that his hour had ‘not yet come’. John 2:4; 7:30; & 8:20 all have words to the effect that Jesus considered that his hour had not yet come. John 8:20 says, ‘He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come’.

But here in verse 23, Jesus confirms that the hour had now arrived, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’.

And we can be sure that he’s talking about himself when he uses the phrase ‘Son of Man’ because as he continues his discourse he refers to himself as having come to this hour (v.27). So right from the outset of his reply, Jesus is telling the crowd, and us, that it is for the purpose of Glory that he himself had come to this hour.

The details of the events that he is about to describe are to this end: glory. And not only his glory – the fact that they are unto his glory is evident from verse 23. But also, they are unto the glory of his Father in heaven.

Verse 27, ‘It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father glorify your name!’ And immediately after the words had departed his lips, a voice came from heaven (for the benefit of the crowd and us – verse 30) saying, ‘”I have glorified it, and will glorify it again”’.

This is the voice of the Father speaking - not an angel as some in the crowd thought. It is the Father responding directly to the Son’s request to glorify his name.

And his response is revealing – he says in effect, ‘I have and I will, glorify it’. In other words, ‘I did when you were born and I will again when you die’. John 1:14, ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’.

That’s the incarnation in view and it is steeped in glory according to John. God says, ‘what I have already done, I will do again’. So, the Father is reinforcing, with audible words, from heaven, what Jesus has said to the crowd – namely that, the events about to unfold will be for his and his Father’s glory.

Now what that means is not that Jesus and his Father are made to be more glorious than they already are. It means that they are going to accomplish something so central and significant that it will reveal, and show, and magnify what is already supremely glorious.

This might help us to understand the idea of God glorifying himself. The sun in the sky is the same ball of awesome burning gas that heats and lights our world at midday as it is at dawn and dusk. It is no less great, no less life sustaining, or effectual when it hangs in the high-sky at midday than when it rises in splendour and glory above the horizon bathing the sky in pink and taking our breath away in the early morning.

The difference is that at dawn and dusk we see the same mighty orb in a splendour that conveys more of its awesome nature to us than we perceive when it’s in the high sky; yellow and relatively uninteresting at midday.

It’s the same sun. No less glorious. But seen to be so by where it is located. But twice a day, providing conditions are favourable, we see it in fuller glory.

That’s what God means when he talks about glorifying himself. He is no less glorious today than yesterday or ten thousand millennia ago. But Jesus is telling us that in the events that are about to unfold, the supreme expression of his glory is going to be displayed.

So, Jesus is passionate about his glory and the glory of his Father. The Father is passionate about his glory and the glory of his Son. And so, should we be.

Passionate to see and show the glory of God.

Therefore, Jesus seems to be tipping us off now, to look out for this glory in the rest of his response to the request – ‘we would see Jesus’.

Jesus has told the crowd and us that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (v.23) but how glorified? What will happen for him to be glorified? Will he be crowned the conquering king the crowd had been waiting for? Would he take up the throne of Israel? Would he defeat all his enemies with power from heaven and restore to Israel their nation and their land? That would surely look glorious. What is more glorious than a king - reigning in his kingdom, robed in gold; sceptre in hand, with surfs at his command.

Here’s the answer, verse 24, ‘Very truly I tell you, 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’.

When a kernel of wheat falls into the ground, if it sprouts it produces a new head of wheat with up to 30 kernels. But park that for a few moments – we’ll come back to it.

Drop down to verse 27. Jesus is not speaking in parables any more, here. ‘Now my soul 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’. In verse 23 he said he would glorify himself in this hour and now he has a deep sense of trouble about the hour. It even seems he’s tempted to ask the Father to save him from having to go through the hour, even though he knows his Father’s glory is wrapped with the hour.

‘So, what is going on Jesus? It sounds like your life might be about to be snuffed out. It sounds like you might be sensing that you are about to die. It sounds like you might be feeling the need to be saved from what is about to happen. It sounds like it’s all very troubling.

Is that right? We thought you were going to glorify yourself, and now it sounds like you’re heading for an inglorious end. How does it add up?’

I think you are left wondering that, at this point in his response. ‘Why are you talking like this Jesus?’

Verses 30-33 give us all the answers and that’s where we want to spend our time now.

Verse 30, ‘This voice was for your benefit not mine’. The Father wasn’t speaking to the Son from heaven in some sort of divine PEP talk ahead of his death, when he spoke from heaven. The Father is giving us his divine approval of Jesus’ plan to glorify him. The message to the crowd and us is, ‘believe in my Son – he has the divine sanction to glorify me with his death’.

And now Jesus gives us 3 accomplishments that he intends to accomplish by his death with the blessing of his Father:

1. Now is the time for judgment.

2. Now is the prince of this world driven out.

3. When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself.

Now’ means the same thing as ‘the hour has come’ and the same thing as ‘when I am lifted up’. Jesus means that the appointed time has arrived for the worlds of men and angels to align in the climatic, world history-defining event that is going to result in his death on the cross and the glory of God to be demonstrated like never before.

It means the hour had come where the Jews, the Romans, the betrayer Judas, the great enemy Satan and ten thousand other details were about to align to bring about his crucifixion.

John 14:30-31 (just two chapters after these words), ‘I will not say much more to you for the prince of this world is coming’. He’s coming to set the whole thing in motion.

So, since these three things he told the crowd, are to show the kind of death he was going to die, we should focus in on them for a few minutes each.

Number 1, the hour has come for judgment.

John 9:39, ‘Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind”’.

Judgment means the decisive moment when the verdict is delivered. It means the moment when you are declared innocent or guilty. The moment when you are acquitted or convicted.

Jesus’ death on the cross was for judgment. That is to say, it was the moment when the court room of heaven pressed its charges against all of humanity.

It was the moment when judgement was meted out on all people. On the cross was where some were exonerated and the rest were condemned.

Those who were exonerated, were exonerated because Jesus purchasedthat acquittal on their behalf by presenting himself as their surety in the courtroom of heaven. He received in his own body, on the cross, the full penalty for all their unbelief.

John 3:18, ‘Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned’.

This cross work, is a justifying work. That is, it is a work that brings about positive righteousness in the ledger of a person’s life who has consistently rejected God and spurned his glory – in people who have fallen short of his glory.

It is a satisfaction of the wrath of God against the sinner for the sins committed in the flesh.

And it is all of grace.

No one merited that acquittal, but Jesus chose to bestow that acquittal on whom he will. And not on the rest. Therefore, cross accomplishment number 1, according to Jesus, is ‘judgment of the world’.

Number 2 is, ‘now is the prince of this world driven out’.

The prince of this world is Satan, whom Jesus tells us in John 16:11 ‘stands condemned’. And we have to surely ask ourselves, what is Jesus referring to when he speaks of driving Satan out?

He’s saying, ‘now - in his hour of being lifted up on the cross - is Satan driven out’. Does that mean that on the cross Jesus made an end of Satan?

Does that mean Satan is disarmed? Does it mean his influence is surrendered? Does it mean his power has been severed?

It sounds like it.

But we should be careful not to rush to that conclusion. Mainly because of texts like Ephesians 6:12, ‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

That’s a word spoken to believers, after the death of Jesus. So, in spiteof what Jesus did on the cross, we are still having to contend with an adversary in the spiritual realms who has spiritual force and who wieldsthe powers of darkness.

Or, perhaps more explicitly, 1 Peter 5:8, ‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’. So, in spite of what Jesus did on the cross the devil remains a real enemy; lion-like; devouring faith wherever he can.

That’s two texts and there are others. So, we shouldn’t think the Devil has been taken out of the way and incarcerated because of what Jesus says here. He is prowling and devouring! Jesus means something else.

Here are some texts to help us understand what he does mean: Colossians 2:13-15, ‘God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross’.

And, put that together with Revelation 12:10,

‘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 Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down’.

Colossians and Revelation are saying that there was a charge of legal indebtedness that Satan wielded in the presence of God that demonstrated that you and I were guilty and therefore rebels just like him.

With that warrant he was our ‘night and day’ accuser in the court room of heaven. But Jesus came and snatched that warrant out of Satan’s hand and took it to the cross with himself and nailed it with himself to the cross owning all the devil’s accurate accusation against us, as if it were really his own.

And he received in his body the rightful punishment owing to that accusation. In that way he disarmed Satan and triumphed over him by the cross. And, in that sense drove Satan out of the presence of God; hurling him down; bruising his head and receiving the strike to his own heel in the process.

That’s the second thing Jesus accomplished on the cross. ‘Now has come the hour for disarming the accuser of the brethren and for driving him out of God’s presence’.

The third accomplishment of the cross according to Jesus is ‘the drawing of all people to himself’.

The cross draws all people to Jesus. And the text says ‘all’ people, and we should ask what does Jesus mean by ‘all’ people?

There are at least two things he could mean. He could mean the whole world. Or, he could mean all of his chosen people.

There are good reasons to believe Jesus doesn’t have the whole world in view.

The first is, he has already spoken of how his death was to be for the purposes of judgment, and we’ve seen that he distinguishes between those who will be condemned and those who will be exonerated in that judgement.

If he means to draw all people to himself, and yet some will refuse to believe in him and will receive his condemnation, then his ‘drawing’ is not very effective.

The second reason is, Jesus uses the same phrase in John 6:44 when he says, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day’. The ones Jesus will raise up at the last day – eternal life – are the one’s the Father draws to him. But no one can come to him unless the Father draws them to him. Do all come to him then? Judas evidently did not come to him. Judas willnot be raised up to eternal life on the last day. So ‘all’ doesn’t mean the whole of humanity.

And thirdly, in John 17, Jesus specifically said the Father had granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those the Father had given him. So, although authority has been given to Jesus over all people, not all people have been appointed to receive eternal life. Those appointed to receive are a limited number and not the whole number of people.

The fact that this discourse is Jesus’ response to the request of Greek gentiles, would certainly mean that he will draw to himself the chosen ones which will be of both Jew and Gentile origin. In other words, his elect people are from all kinds of people. There is no favouritism in the cross.

The point is, however, that there is an inclination problem that Jesus’ cross work overcomes. 1 Corinthians 1:18 puts the problem like this: ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing’.

Our inclination is to reject God, to reject his Son, and to reject the message of his cross.

Jesus is saying that the power of his cross-work overcomes that wayward inclination. John 1:12 states the overcoming power of the cross on behalf of the elect like this: ‘Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’. No one by nature would receive Jesus. But God draws people powerfully to himself, through the cross-work of Jesus and enables them to receive Jesus.

So, to sum up, Jesus tells the crowd that unless a kernel of wheat fall to the ground and die, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Jesus is that kernel and his death produces many Sons and Daughters of God (seeds).

And the question is how does his death produce many seeds? The answer he gives us is, by tearing down 3 monumental barriers of spiritual proportions.

By his death on the cross he satisfies the judge that we are righteous, by giving us his righteousness; declaring us not guilty in the court room of heaven.

Second, by his death, he drives Satan – our accuser - out of the courtroom by snatching the record of our wrongs out of his hand and nailing it to the cross with himself.

And third, he overcomes our inclinations to reject God, and himself and his Cross, by purchasing for us divine power that overcomes our waywardness, so that, we can see the surpassing preciousness of Jesus like never before.

One by one, the barriers that stood in the way of our being reconciled to God have fallen. And not one of them would have moved one millimetre without the awesome power of the Cross of Jesus.

Which is why, the cross is such good news.

If you have received this three-fold blessing of Jesus on your behalf, I encourage you, in light if this message, now, to heed two verses that we haven’t touched on. They are verses 25 & 26.

And, if you have not received the three-fold blessing of Jesus on your behalf, but perhaps you would join with the Greeks and say ‘I would see Jesus’.

To you, I encourage you, now, in light if this message, to heed two other verses that we haven’t touched on. They are verses 35 & 36.


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