Story 162: Passion Week: The Coming of the Son of Man

John 12:20-36

VIENNA - JULY 27: Holy Trinity. Detail from fresco of scene from apocalypse from 19. cent. in main apse of Altlerchenfelder church on July 27, 2013 Vienna.

VIENNA – JULY 27: Holy Trinity. Detail from fresco of scene from apocalypse from 19. cent. in main apse of Altlerchenfelder church on July 27, 2013 Vienna.

It was the second day of the week. The exaltations of Christ’s triumphal entry the day before and the havoc He had created in the morning as He threw out the businesses that clogged the worship in the Temple courts were still ringing in the atmosphere of the Feast. At this point in the story, Jesus was teaching in the court of the Gentiles, keeping the money-changers and sellers out, holding His ground for the purity of His Father’s holy Temple.

Among the crowds there were some Greeks. They had come to the Feast, seeking to worship the Most High God of Israel. They listened to the Lord’s preaching in the court of the Gentiles and were intrigued. They went up to Philip who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They could see that he was one of Jesus’ close disciples. “‘Sir,’” they asked, “‘We wish to see Jesus.’”

Now, the Greek people were among the most sophisticated thinkers in the world. We still study the works of their great philosophers. Their ideas were so rich and deep that their language was able to communicate ideas as no other language could. The Romans found the Greek languages so beautiful that even though they had enslaved the Greek people as a nation, they took on the Greek language as their own. Educated Greek slaves were valued tutors for the children of the elite rulers of Rome. When these Greek men heard the words of Christ, they recognized a depth that they wanted to pursue.

Philip went to Andrew and told him what they said, and they went to Jesus together with the request. Jesus had no answer for them. Now was not the time for Him to make a great name for Himself among the great scholars and philosophers of the world. He had a far greater goal.  The time had come for the Messiah of the Jews to bring a redemption that would extend salvation to the Gentiles.  Jesus had a task to complete for His Father, and all of His focus was trained on it. He said:

“‘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. The man who lives his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.’”

John 12:23-26

Jesus would bring salvation to the world, and He would do it in the way the Father ordained. How opposite the ways of God are from the ways of the world. Every logical, human thought would have driven Jesus to grab hold of every chance to influence the wider world. There was no rational reason to believe that His death would bring anything more than an end of a life, and the end to His ministry. Now that the Jewish leadership had rejected Him it made perfect, worldly sense for Him to go with the Greeks and proclaim His message among their people instead.  But Jesus was not operating by the sight of fallen humanity. He was moving forward steadfastly by faith. In doing so, Jesus was modeling the life that He calls all who follow Him to. It was the route to honor in halls of the Most High God. Yet for all His bold obedience, He still carried in Him the heart of a man. He said:

“‘Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’”

John 12:27-28

By denying an opportunity to find His fortune with the Greeks, Jesus was once again choosing the way of the cross.  This story is a short passage in Scripture, but it was a significant moment in the choices of Christ.  By speaking the tremors in His heart out loud, Jesus showed the inner surrender that was taking place as He stepped forward in constant obedience to His Father. And His Father responded. As Jesus uttered this, standing with the crowds on the steps of the Temple, the voice of God Himself came booming from the throne of Heaven:

“‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’”

Wow. WOW! The crowd heard it. Imagine them startled, looking up, shaken by the sound. They turned to each other and murmured. Was it thunder? Was it an angel? Nobody could imagine that it was the Father Himself!. Once again, the glory of God was swirling all around them, but they were too spiritually blind to see. Jesus said:

“‘This voice was for your benefit, not Mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.’”

John 12:30-32

Once again, the people were given a magnificent testimony that the Lord Jesus was the Christ. If the people had listened, they would have seen the profound events that were happening around them and would have understood. God’s judgment was coming. It would fall on the shoulders of His Son, and He would utterly defeat sin and death, crushing the powerful tools of Satan against humanity. Through His infinitely valuable life, Jesus would purchase what no other human could afford.

As Jesus spoke to the crowd, He gave hints about exactly how He would do it. He would be lifted up. We can read this now and see clearly that He meant He would be lifted up on the cross. By His precious blood, He would buy the right to salvation for humanity, who was so impoverished by their shame that they could never afford it otherwise. When the people in the crowd heard this, they may not have understood that Jesus would die by crucifixion, but they knew that He meant to die. They said:

“‘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?’”

You see, the Jews were looking to the prophecies of the Messiah’s everlasting reign. There are many of them in the Old Testament. In 2 Samuel 7:11b-13, when the prophet Samuel was anointing David to be the future King of Israel, he spoke the words of God when he said:

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you:

“‘When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish His kingdom. He is the one who will build a house in my name, and I will establish His kingdom forever.’”

King David himself wrote about God’s promises to him in Psalm 89:3-4”

“You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one,

I have sworn to David my servant,

I will establish your line forever

and make your throne firm through all generations.’”

The prophet Isaiah declared it as well:

“For to us a Child is born,

to us a Son is given,

and the government will be on His shoulders,

And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor,

Mighty God, Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government

there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this.’”

Isaiah 9:6-7

Daniel saw the coming Messiah in a vision and said this:

“‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His Kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’”

Daniel 7:13-14

The Jewish people were looking forward to that victorious Messiah that the Bible so surely proclaimed. Yet here was Jesus, preparing them for His death. It didn’t fit their storyline. The Son of Man was not supposed to die. He was supposed to win! They could not imagine that the mighty victory would come through humility, surrender, and death. But the thing is, the people didn’t have to understand the whole story to be faithful. They just needed to trust what He taught. Jesus said:

“‘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. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.’”

John 12:35-36

Once again the Lord Jesus offered Himself. But once again, they rejected Him. In spite of the grand celebration the day before, the glorious miracles, the upholding of righteous truth in the Temple and His clear teaching, the voice of God thundering from on high…in spite of all this, the crowds did not follow the light. They clung to the darkness where it was familiar.

The people of Jesus’ day are not so different from the people of our own time.  Their temptations are the same as our own.  We have been given our own messages about the work of God, our own signs about following Him and choosing a life of surrendered faithfulness.  Will we reject Him out of protection for our positions of power and greed, like the religious leaders?  Will we seek Him as long as He stays safely behind philosophical ideas and arguments? Or will we follow Him according to His plan, along the path of a life surrendered to the plans of God?




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