For This Purpose
Text: John 12:27-36
This week I was talking with some folks about what it was like to jump out of airplanes. I was explaining to them that my very first time to fly in an airplane was to Basic Training. My second time was when I was jumping out of the plane. In fact, the next fourteen or fifteen times I flew, I was jumping out of the plane. It wasn’t until I flew home to visit Katrina and family, something like my 18th flight ever, that I landed with the plane for the second time ever.
Preparing to jump out of an airplane sends all sorts of emotions through you. There is adrenaline and excitement, but there is also fear and nerves. So every time you jump you are mustering up the courage to do the most unnatural thing ever: to walk out of an airplane flying in the air. In Airborne School, some guys quit because they can’t do it. They go through the first two weeks of training and do fine. But when you get to week 3, jump week, some can’t. They can’t find it in them to go through with it. Some decide that before getting on a plane, others decide that once they get on. Most of the people who jump, understand what those people are feeling, because we felt it too. We just pushed through those fears and nerves and found something within us that propelled us to action. For me, it was 1. The desire to be a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, 2. It was the fear of being a failure who quit, 3. It was the desire to make my family and Katrina proud. Those things outweighed caving in to the fears.
Why do I bring this up today? Because in our text today we see Jesus having a real, burdensome emotion about what he is facing, yet he press forward with courage because there is something bigger and more important than his troubled soul driving him. We’re going to look at what that is today.
Exegesis of John 12:27-36:
Our passage today picks up in Jesus’ response to Andrew and Philip when the Greeks asked for an audience with him. He begins talking about his hour has come, and in what he will do in this hour (die on the cross) he will be glorified. He gives the grain of wheat illustration. The grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die in order for it to breed a harvest. The single grain must die in order to give birth to a great harvest. Jesus is comparing himself to the grain. It is his death on the cross (that the disciples do not realize is about to unfold) that will bear the fruit of many children of God. If he doesn’t die, we don’t have our sins forgiven. If we don’t have our sins forgiven, we perish eternally in our sins. Jesus’ death gives birth to the church — the redeemed people of God.
Then Jesus says that those who serve him, follow him. And wherever he goes, his followers will be also. Those who serve the Son will be honored by the Father. The passage today is a continuation of this same discourse.
Vs 27 — Jesus reveals that his soul is troubled. What does this mean? It is burdened. It is heavy. Why is this? It is because the cross looms near. His hour has come, and he knows what that means. But it isn’t death that Jesus is burdened by. He has told his followers not to fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather they should fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Hell. In other words, Jesus isn’t being a hypocrite who tells his followers not to be afraid of death, but in reality he is as well. No, what is burdening Jesus’ soul, what has his soul troubled is the wrath of His Father that He is about to absorb. He is troubled because He is going to stand under the judgment and condemnation of His Father on behalf of sinners.
This is one of those passage where we see explicitly the fully humanity of Jesus on display. Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is fully God and fully man. His humanity is on display in this passage. He wasn’t God in the appearance of a man, he was a man. He had a troubled spirit. He experienced this real life emotion. It didn’t get enveloped in his divinity and squashed out as a nothingburger. It was real.
We need to understand something for a moment. Jesus’ death on the cross is unlike any other death. Everyone dies. Thousands even died on the cross. But nobody has ever died in an act of atoning for sin. Nobody has ever died with the weight of the God Almighty’s righteous wrath directed and applied to their souls. There have been plenty of have died, and THEN experienced that wrath. That is what Hell is. But Jesus is going to experience while alive, and then give up his soul in death as the payment for the sins of His people.
Friends, recognize here that the troubled spirit of your Savior is because of the piercing glare of His Father’s wrath is going to divert from you and onto Himself. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
So Jesus’ soul is troubled, and he verbalizes it. He expresses this to his disciples. He doesn’t keep it internal, and isolate his troubles. He tells them. But then he says, “What shall I say in response to this troubled spirit, ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” Jesus is asking his disciples an important question that we need to grasp. Is Jesus’ response to this troubled spirit to bail on the plan? No. Is his response to having this troubled spirit to ask the Father to instead save him from what is coming? No. In fact, he emphasizes: for this purpose I have come to this hour.
Listen and catch this again: FOR THIS PURPOSE (of dying in the place of sinners on the cross) I HAVE COME (in the flesh, to the world) TO THIS HOUR. We are weeks away from Christmas where we celebrate the birth of Christ. We take time to reflect on and celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior. But we cannot reflect upon the manger without thinking about the cross. The reason we even have a manger story is because we have a cross purpose. Jesus knows exactly what he is there to do, despite how troubled his spirit is, his resolve is to go forward.
Vs 28-30 — Jesus then utters a prayer as he tells these things to his disciples. As he recounts his purpose for being there, and expresses the weight of this burden (and his unwillingness to escape it), he prays, “Father, glorify your name.” I love this. This may be hard. This may be such a burden. Yet, “Father, glorify your name.” God, may you receive your glory from this. Despite my discomfort, Father have your glory. What a prayer! What an example!
The Father replies back to Jesus, audibly from heaven, “I have glorified it (meaning, through you, Son) and I will glorify it again (through you, Son).” How is Jesus going to glorify the Father in his coming to die on the cross? At the cross, the holiness and justice of God will be on display, as He punishes sin on the head of His Son. But the Father is also glorified through the death of Christ on the cross because His grace and mercy are displayed in the pardon of sinners who the Son has made clean. This is how God is glorified in the death of Christ.
This is one of a couple of examples in the Gospels of the Father’s audible voice booming out for others to hear. We see at Jesus’ baptism. And we see it at the Transfiguration of Jesus. Here we see the Father affirm the Son, and His delight in His Son.
The crowds hear the voice. Not everyone knows they heard the voice of God. Some said it had thundered. Others wonder if an angel had spoken to Jesus. So Jesus tells them that the voice they heard (he affirms it was a voice and not thunder) was for their sake, not his. Jesus doesn’t need an audible voice from Heaven to know God and to know He is doing the will of God.
Rather, Jesus says the voice is for the sake of those there. It is to help them know, as another sign, the truth of who Jesus is. Every evidence needed for them has been on display, yet so many are still so hard-hearted.
Vs 31— The judgment of this world has arrived. This isn’t the final judgment that is still to come. But the sending of the Son of God into the world, only to have sinful humanity crucify him is a judgment. But it is also a judgment of this world being poured out on Jesus at the cross. There on the cross, God is going to pour judgment on a guilty race of men who will be condemned in the body of Christ. And the ruler of this world (Satan) will be cast out. Satan is defeated at the cross. The seed of the woman promised in the Garden of Eden is Jesus, and he fulfills the promise and crushes the head of the serpent at the cross. The ruler of the world is cast out of his position as ruler, and Christ will reign supreme.
Vs 32-33 — Jesus says when he is lifted up he will draw all people to himself. What does he mean by this? John says it to demonstrate what kind of death he is going to die. And that’s exactly right. But I believe that death includes the whole sequence of events that happen with it. In one sense, Jesus being lifted up is the picture of the cross. Just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent and everyone who looked upon it was spared of the venomous snake bite, so everyone who looks upon the crucified Jesus with the eyes of faith will be saved. In another sense, the lifting up of Jesus is his resurrection from the grave. When he is lifted up from the tomb, people will place their faith in the one who defeated Satan, sin, and death. In other another sense, the lifting up of Christ could refer to his ascension to Heaven to rule and reign over the world until the Day of his return. All who trust today on the enthroned Christ will be saved. I believe in every sense: his death, his resurrection, and ascension, Christ is saving people in his exalted state. He draws men and women to himself even still.
Vs 34 — The crowds listening to him speak ask a question, “We heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say the Son of Man must be lifted up. Who is the Son of Man?” There question is centered on how Jesus could talk about these things (being lifted up) when he is supposed to reign forever. His kingdom is supposed to have no end. He can’t die or leave. They reveal by their question that they are grasping the gravity of what Jesus is claiming. They understand. But they reveal at the same time their lack of understanding about the role of the Messiah. What kind of Son of Man is going to die or leave?
Vs 35-36 — Jesus tells them that the light is among them for a little bit longer. Remember from John 1, Jesus is the light. He is the light of the world. But he is only there a little longer. His death is near, and after his resurrection, he will return to Heaven. So what is his exhortation? Walk while you have the light lest the darkness overtake you. Walk while you have light to see where you’re going, lest you stumble in the darkness. He is speaking here of spiritual light and spiritual darkness. He is speaking of living in holiness and obedience to God versus living in opposition and rebellion. The one who walks in darkness does know where he is going. Why? Because he can’t see. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. Jesus is the light, and it is only as we belong to him, and follow after him, that we walk in the light. Those who walk with Christ are sons of light. Those who do not are children of darkness. Jesus is the dividing line.
After Jesus says these things, he left from the crowds, and hid himself. It doesn’t mean that he hid behind a bush, building, or curtain. Not like that. It means that he did not make himself available to the public. He laid low.
There is so much in the verses for us to consider today for our own lives. I want to take a few minutes to extract some application from the text for our own considerations:
1. Jesus is a Savior who can sympathize with our troubles.
It is important to recognize that while Jesus is God in the flesh, he experienced the feelings we go through in our lives. His soul is troubled. He felt a burden of a looming event. We watched Jesus cry at the funeral of Lazarus. We’ve seen crowds disapprove of him. He knows rejection, sadness, and heaviness of heart. This is good news for us, because the one who invites us to come to him with our burdens is not detached from understanding our plight. He too has suffered.
2. The coming of Jesus into the world was to redeem us.
For this purpose he has come. What a thought?! Our theology needs to be right on this. Jesus was not a man who became God in the process of time and obedience. No, this is the One who has always been God before there was a created world. God became a man. Jesus is the embodiment of God Almighty. And the reason for his coming to his creation was to redeem it. Only God can fix this broken world, and restore our sinful souls. And that’s why he came. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. [Quick commercial on this: I’m preaching a series of Christmas messages on TV that will air across the country and here locally. And the ADVENT devotional is going to dive further into this wonderful truths. It’s free. Please sign-up for the download.]
3. Our salvation is for the purpose of the glory of God. Your salvation is not ultimately about you. It involves you, but it’s not about you. It’s not to celebrate you, or highlight your greatness, it is about the glory of God. His giving grace to the undeserving is about His character on display. It showcases His kindness. The ultimate purpose of God in the death of Christ is the glory of God in saving the undeserving. You and I are trophies to the glory of God.
4. Some people have enough knowledge to condemn themselves. The religious leaders and crowds knew what Jesus was talking about with being lifted up, but they didn’t grasp that this was the purpose of the Messiah’s coming. They expected, and longed for, something different. Discerning the truth of the gospel and believing it requires God’s help.
5. Children of light walk in the light, not in darkness. This gets to a life of obedience and holiness. We cannot claim to be children of light if we live in darkness (John 1:5). This means our lives should be a reflection of obedience to God’s Word. We should live in repentance when we find our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions are out of step with Scripture. This is how we walk as children of the light.
I want to close today by reminding us that Jesus was troubled because of the weight upon his soul for the judgment he was about to endure. This should tell us something really important about the nature of facing the wrath of God. We do not want to be under the judgment of God. We do not want to stand condemned by a holy God. Jesus knew it was coming and it wrecked him. I love the realness and vulnerableness of Christ in this moment, and I love that Scripture records it. There are no attempts to make a superman that doesn’t feel burdened or troubled. I love that we are exposed to it.
And here’s why: it forces us to recognize 1. What made it so troublesome (staring down the judgment of God), and 2. Why he endured it instead of running away. He was seeking the glory of his Father, and he was there for this purpose of dying to save his people.
Friends, if you ever question the love of Christ for you, look no further than this passage. The sending of Jesus for our salvation is a testimony to the love of God. It displays the love of the
Father in sending the Son (1 John 4:10). And it displays the love of Christ in staying the course despite how troubled he was.
Receive that love today. Rather than facing that wrath and judgment for yourself, receive the work of Christ as a work done in your place.
Obey God today. Follow the will of God revealed in the Scriptures for the purpose of glorifying God today. Demonstrate courage to obey when it isn’t popular or easy. Show a willingness to stay the course in a world that runs when things get hard.