John chapter 12 follows an ever-popular Jesus into the final days of His walk on earth. The Cross is confronting Him, weighing heavily on his mind. His close disciples and friends seem oblivious to what is before Him, even though He has told them many times before. His emotions must be running high. In John 11 we see him breaking out in tears after John describes Him as being troubled in spirit. Luke 19:41 describes Him weeping over the people of Jerusalem. Jesus admits that He is troubled in John 12. Why does He weep?, why is He troubled?
Could it be the Cross that looms before Him? Could it be the way His friends and disciples seem oblivious to His deity, His power over life and death? I think it was all of this weighing heavily upon His heart, His heart that carried the great reservoir of God’s love for mankind. A heart that wept at their blindness to God’s love. A heart that wept at their blindness to who He really was, and what He was about to do.
God wants us to peer into the heart of Christ by focusing on a minute moment in Christ’s life that is recorded in the latter half of John 12. This is the moment following His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which followed hours after His resurrection of Lazarus from the dead. This was at the height of His popularity with the masses. They were declaring Him King after the line of David! He could have demanded whatever He wanted, and the crowd and His disciples would have immediately obeyed. Yet in this moment, Jesus chose to hide himself and disappear. Why? What can we learn from Him? What does He want us to grasp for our lives?
In John 12:17-43, we find 4 groups of people circling Jesus Christ, the indicted man-God, the immortal God-man. We see a group of intoxicated people, a group of Incredulous people, a group of interested people, and finally a group of Influential people.
Let us look at these folks, and consider the words and reaction of Jesus Christ, and then explore the ramification for our lives in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Crowd was wild about King Jesus!
- Vs 9 – When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. John 12:9
- Vs 13 – So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” John 12:13
- Vs 17 – The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.
It seemed as all Jerusalem was hailing Jesus as King! He had achieved rock-star status! They were declaring Him a King after the lineage of David! And Jesus refused to discredit their cries. When the Pharisees told Him to rebuke his disciples, he declared “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
What attitudes would you have had if you were part of this crowd?
I imagine you would be jubilant because you imagined a better life with Jesus as King.
Gone would be the iron boots of Roman soldiers. Taxes would be lower. Your way of live would not be restricted.
You would think that Jesus would improve your life and so you were excited. After all, He had this amazing power; He could raise the dead back to life, He could turn water into wine and a tiny lunch into a feast for thousands. You wanted to join His parade, because it meant a better life for you! So yeah, you joined the bandwagon and bowed before Him as King! He was the King you wanted and needed! Yeah!
Vs 19 – So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” John 12:19
We find another group, smaller, but more important. They are the religious leaders of all Israel, and they are the real power reigning in Jerusalem. They rule in the shadows, openly pretending to be righteous, but secretly revealing their greed and lust for power. They cannot believe what the people are saying. They are incredulous that the populace is following an ignorant, uneducated man from a town like Nazareth. They sense their power and influence being usurped, and they despise this Jesus. They despise him so much they will soon hatch a plot to murder him.
What attitudes would you have if you were an incredulous Pharisee?
I imagine you would be incredibly self-focused. Your world would mean everything to you, your power, wealth and influence. You loved the way people regarded your ‘status’ and all the perks that went with your position. You looked down your nose at this Jesus, because he really was nothing, of no importance. He could not hold a candle to your pedigree, training and wealth.
He probably had gotten into your head though. You remember those confrontations, those things he had said that made you so boiling mad. You tried to shut him out of your life, so much so that now you resented even the sight of Him. The only way to stop him from threatening your nice privileged life was to get rid of him. He was of no consequence, after all, and soon the crowds would move on to some other fascination.
Vs 20 – Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John 12:20-21
We see another group of folks, strangers to the religious Jews. They share some of their beliefs, but they are more worldly, more educated, less likely to rush foolishly after someone like the Jewish crowd was. They were more in control of their lives. After-all, they were more ‘enlightened’. However, they had heard such marvelous stories about the Jesus. They had heard of countless miracles, of teachings that were so ‘outside the box’. They desired to further enlighten their lives by meeting with him, by getting a sense of whether the stories were true. Perhaps he would see how important they were and honor them with some of His wisdom.
What attitudes would you have had if you were one of these Greeks seeking an audience with Jesus?
I imagine you thought pretty highly of yourself. You considered yourself above these mendicant Jews. You were more worldly, more advantaged, but you wondered if Jesus should be a part of your world. After all, you considered God as important, especially when it came to your standing and consideration as an ‘enlightened’ free-thinker.
You thought you should at least see how Jesus could benefit your worldly standing. Plus, your friends would be jealous when you told them you had secured a private audience with Jesus!
It is no coincidence that the visiting Greeks approached Philip to secure an audience with Jesus. People of importance never did anything themselves, they always used an intermediary. They recognized Philip from the old neighborhood, and perhaps even knew him. They saw that he was in the inner circle of Jesus, so would be influential in getting them that meeting.
The Disciples indeed were the “gatekeepers” of Jesus. They were with Him wherever he went. People around them recognized their influence, and the disciples were starting to realize their position. There had already been arguments about who would have the greatest influence when Jesus began His reign. This week must have been intoxicating as well to the fleshly disciples. To be a part of this madness, this idolization of Jesus would have had their ego’s swelling with pride!
What attitudes would you have had if you were one of these influential disciples?
I imagine you would have felt quite good about your decision to follow Jesus. After all, it had been quite a hardship to give up everything to follow him. Now you could feel the possibilities of fame and standing. You could imagine yourself reigning beside Him, perhaps as a governor or mayor. Your life was about to take a drastic turn and you were getting excited. People would whisper about you, come up to you and ask “are you one of His disciples?” Proudly you would declare your position with Him. They would ask you all sorts of questions about Him. If there had been paparazzi back then, your face would have been in all the magazines.
Yes, your attitude would have been pretty good about your decision to follow Jesus right now. After all, it had greatly benefitted your life.
Jesus of Nazareth
We find one more person who is central to this passage, Jesus Christ. I prefer to refer to Him as the Indicted one, for He stands in their midst fully aware that He is a condemned man. Oh, He did nothing wrong, but He has willingly agreed to bear the full weight of all the sins of mankind. He has confessed the crimes and now faces the sentence, crucifixion upon the Cross.
Some argue that He was a helpless pawn, but His words in response to Philip and Andrews request for a private audience with the Greeks reveal His full knowledge of what was going on.
Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Was Jesus influenced by the adulation? Was His head swelling with the possibilities of His new-found popularity? Was He already picking His Kingdom advisors? NO! Jesus, even with His emotions swirling, was totally focused on His mission-to save mankind from the horrors of the judgment of Hell, and usher them to true life-eternal life with His Father, God.
He began by saying something that His disciples and anyone else listening would never understand. He declared that “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” I can just see the disciples trying to restrain their excitement. But Jesus meant something just the opposite of what they imagined. Jesus spoke of His death by crucifixion, the most shameful and horrible manner of death at that time. There was no ‘glory’ in being crucified. The disciples were so intoxicated with possibilities that they would never believe Jesus was about to be crucified.
The Indicted Son of Man made a startling declaration, one which all the groups surrounding Him were unable to understand. Jesus declared, “Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Each group featured in this microcosm of those in the Life of Christ was there because they loved their life. The Intoxicated were there because they wanted Jesus to improve their life. The Pharisees were there because they wanted to protect their life. The Greeks were there because they wanted to increase their life, and the Disciples were there thinking they were about to really enjoy life.
Jesus was there because He wanted to give people real life, but real life would only come though His death. His death must precede His glorification. His death must precede His gift of Life for mankind.
This is why Jesus said: “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Why was Jesus Here?
I believe that what even most Christians miss from this exchange is that Jesus did not come to this Earth for our benefit, for His benefit, or even to be crucified. All of these happened, but the truth of His coming is revealed in this one phrase, “for this purpose I have come to this hour; Father, glorify your name.”
Most translations put a period after “I have come to this hour.” The casual reader infers that Jesus came for the purpose of crucifixion, of death. However, the Greek is quite clear. The statement “Father, glorify your name is the cause of His ‘purpose’.
Explained by glorify thy name. For this use, namely, that the Father’s name might be glorified.
Jesus came to this world to glorify the Name of His Father! Why? Because He and His Father were one!
- I and my Father are one. John 10:30
- And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. John 17:11
- That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:21
How could Jesus bring glory to His Father? He emptied himself, and then humbled himself to death, death on the cross:
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-9
Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. John 12:23-33
Why Did Jesus Hide?
Knowing His ultimate motivation, why was Jesus troubled so? Why was He so emotional? Why did He hide himself from His disciples and adoring public?
Could He have been troubled because the people did not connect Him with His Father? Could He have been troubled because His disciples failed to understand His relationship with the invisible Father?
Could He have been troubled because they could not see His Father because they were so focused on their own lives?
Could He have hid Himself because He did not want the people to focus on Him, but rather He wanted them to see the Father?
What is the Lesson for us?
If we want to really “see Jesus”, we must die to our lives, and give ourselves without reservation to the will and glory of God. If we value anything of our lives above God and His glory, then we will not see Jesus. He will withdraw from our lives, and go into hiding.
God is jealous of our attention and devotion. Too often we say we love Him and follow Him but we are really doing it because of some perceived benefit. We want a God who is always at our side, who is always there for us no matter how much we sin against Him. We want a God who accepts us as we are and doesn’t want to change us or demand too much of us. We follow a God on our terms, not His.
If this is true of our interest, then we are fooling ourselves. We may have all the forms of godliness, but we are in denial about the true power thereof. There can be no godliness apart from the holiness of God in our lives. That is only possible as we die to what we want and live for His glory.
Christ did that and proved it by His obedience. When we do it we prove it by living IN CHRIST! But before we can live in Christ we must die to our life, our wants, and our selfish interests.
Is God Distant to You?
Does God seem distant to you? Do you wonder about the mess you are in? Are you troubled because God doesn’t seem to care?
The truth is that He may have hidden Himself from your life. He is waiting for you to get to the point where you hate this life and are willing to die to yourself, and finally willing to live in Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus said, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by me!”
Jesus Christ is the Way of Eternity
There was another person there in the crowd. He was the Immortal One. All the folks saw him as Jesus, but God saw Him as Immortal. He would live forever at His side, for He would overcome.
Regardless of your attitude toward Jesus Christ: intoxicated, incredulous, interested or one who thinks you are one of His; He will hide from your life as long as you are in it for yourself. Until you experience the Cross, and die to what you want or desire, He will remain distant, even hidden.
If you should ever take the serious step of actually experiencing the Cross, then you shall experience Jesus Christ! The glory of the Father will be open to you; the power of the Father will be upon you; for the Cross, the ugly curse of the Cross that Jesus gave Himself to for the Glory of His Father, is actually wisdom and power of God!
The Cross – a Great Mystery
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7
The wisdom of God is hidden in the Cross. You will never experience His wisdom until you experience the Cross for yourself. The Cross is the key to you experiencing the Glory of God!
What are you seeking from Jesus today? A better life, an influential life, a better status or acceptance? Perhaps you are satisfied with what you have. Regardless of what you are seeking or not seeking, you will lose everything at the judgment. The only way to gain the Life that Jesus holds is to die to your life, your wisdom, your riches and your might.
Consider carefully His Words of Life:
And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” John 12:44-50
 Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, (New York: Scribners, 1887), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “John 12:27”.