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John 12:20-33 The Hour has come! 9:30am Service Sunday 22nd March,2015

John 12:20-33 – The Hour has come!

Let’s pray

People of many ethnic backgrounds were attracted to the monotheism and ethical purity of Judaism, a significant number of which came to Jerusalem for the Jewish feast days. It’s not surprising then that John mentions that among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. Now these Greeks were obviously not pagan Gentiles but proselytes to Judaism, or from a group known as the God fearers, who whilst were attracted to Judaism had yet to become full-blown adherents. Clearly, these Greeks embodied the hostile remarks from the previous verse to today’s Gospel reading where the Pharisees pointed out that the whole world has gone after Jesus.

The request from the Greeks; Sir, we wish to see Jesus was, I’m sure, much to their amazement, was like light a fuse in the mind of Jesus. For after already stating on 3 occasions in John’s Gospel that his hour had not yet come this is the 1st of 6 times which Jesus declares that the hour has come. So far, the hour had been ‘not yet.’ However, the ‘not yet’ is now over, the ‘now’ has arrived. So John brings us to the central crisis of the Gospel and the goal of the entire mission of Jesus, and does so by the middle of the 12th of 21 chapters!

No clearer indication of the centrality of the cross and resurrection could be given. Christian faith is Easter faith.

Yet there are some who have tried to limit the message and significance of Jesus to his moral teaching and to reduce his kingdom to his ethical principles. Those who hold to this view would prefer to conclude Jesus’ ministry at the beginning of Holy Week, eliminate the resurrection, and see no significance in the cross beyond it being an outstanding example of self-giving love.

But in response to the Greeks’ request, we wish to see Jesus, they were about to see him for who he truly is and were to receive insight in to the very purpose of his coming.

You see, the hour was of course not simply a 60 minute block of time but the point in history upon which the entire universe revolves. And it was through and in this most monumental moment that Jesus was glorified. Yet this was not, as we heard in our reading from Hebrews, for Jesus own sake, but for ours, and ultimately, for the glory of God the Father, as it was through Jesus utter submission to his Father that the glory of God was made manifest.

In fact, in just a few verses on we hear Jesus say to God; Father, glorify your name. Now what is particularly profound about this plea of Jesus is that it is virtually identical to the petition at the beginning of the prayer he taught his disciple’s Father, hallowed be your name.

You see, to glorify his Father’s name meant more to Jesus than life itself. Now, to glorify the Father’s name means simply to glorify God as the name stands for the person.

God was glorified in the hour of Jesus death because it was then that the grace of God was most clearly seen – For the glory of God is his character and so he is glorified when his character is revealed. Indeed, Jesus glorified the Father by becoming personally transparent – like a window or a lens through which the Father’s glory is seen and focused.

Yet whilst Jesus very purpose for coming was to glorify God, this doesn’t mean it was all fun and games. Confucius said; choose a vocation you love and you will never have to have to work a day in your life. Well, maybe this is true for some, but certainly not for Jesus. You see, when Jesus reached this world defining moment (his moment of truth), this is what he said; 27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.

In fact, this section, which is posed as a question in most English translations, can be just as legitimately translated as a direct request; Father, save me from this hour!

You see, there is no account of Jesus agony in the Garden of Gethsemane in John’s Gospel. So perhaps this works as its equivalent. In a sense, John had no need to recount Jesus prayer in Gethsemane, when he prayed for the hour to pass from him – for this counterpart, says it all!

It reveals Jesus facing up to the hour of his death and resolutely choosing to go ahead with it. As in Gethsemane, so here, Jesus was deeply troubled.

He contemplated stepping back from the hour of his death, but was determined instead to carry out his Father’s will, no matter the cost. Our reading from Hebrews articulates Jesus’ struggle powerfully by stating that; in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and petitions, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death.

And what we learn from John is that Jesus wrestled with this before the garden of Gethsemane. How many times we do not know – at least 2 that we know of, maybe more. But what we can be sure of is that each and every time he recommitted himself to his divinely ordained mission.

You see, being truly human, Jesus naturally wanted to be delivered from this dreadful hour. But he wanted something even more which lead him to speak an emphatic No, for it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name – which is akin to Jesus’ 7 perfect words spoken in Gethsemane; not my will but yours be done.

And it was because of Jesus willingness to die, that abundant blessings would flow, including 2 biggies mentioned in today’s Gospel; the banishment of evil and the availability of universal salvation.

So let’s look at the first: the banishment of evil.


The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record numerous exorcisms. But John’s Gospel recounts only one; the casting out of Satan himself. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. For as John says elsewhere: that the whole world lies under the power of the evil one and that the Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

It is here also that Hebrews (2:14-15) is particular helpful/illuminating – 14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.

You see, the cross has broken Satan. As Martin Luther said; his doom is writ. The wound in the heart of evil is terminal. Indeed, Jesus victory over evil, over sin and death, is 3D, meaning, that it has past, present and future dimensions. For Jesus’ death removed the penalty of sin, which is death breaks the power of sin, which is our fallen nature, and will ultimately remove the presence of sin – as Satan and all his cronies are done away with once and for all.

The 2nd biggie which Christ’s death made possible is the availability of universal salvation.


In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said: And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Now, throughout John’s Gospel Jesus uses this somewhat ambiguous phrase; lifted up. John utilizes this phrase as a way of referring to Christ’s salvation event, as he sees the death, resurrection and exaltation as all inseparable parts of God’s redemptive purposes through Jesus. Yet it needs to be said that in this particular passage, Jesus death is in view as we have the qualifying comment; He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Now Jesus says that through his death he will draw all people to himself. In John’s Gospel, the term drawn was used literally as in, to draw in a fishing net, and spiritually, as people are drawn to Jesus, meaning that they are drawn to put their faith in Jesus. It does not mean that all people without exception will put their faith in Jesus, as clearly, many do not. but what it does mean is that people of all ethnic backgrounds would put their faith in him, an obvious example of which were the Greeks seeking Jesus which stimulated Jesus words here.

However, it needs to be pointed out that it is possible that Jesus’ words here are not referring to merely all people (as in all kinds of people) but all things, which emphasises not only the universal offer of salvation to humanity but its benefit for the entire universe. This is in line with how Paul sees the cosmic dimensions of Jesus death.

Col 1:20 says; through Jesus God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. This is why I said earlier that the Hour which was upon Jesus was the point in history upon which the entire universe revolves.

So now that we have had a look at the significance of Jesus hour, how does it relate to how we are to live our lives as Christians 17 373 841 hours after this world defining event?

Well, thankfully we have the answer to this question in the Gospel reading itself. And as we are still in the season of lent, it’s another challenging one; Jesus says; 25 those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

As in a similar challenge from Mark’s Gospel, which I preached on a few Sunday’s ago, I find The Message paraphrase of this verse particularly helpful: anyone who holds on to life, just as it is, destroys that life. But, if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

And to put into perspective the next challenge we are to adhere to. That, 26 whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. And that Whoever serves me, the Father will honour, I find John Bunyan’s attitude very helpful.


John Bunyan, was the author of the Christian classic ‘The Pilgrims Progress’ – a book which in Western history has only been outsold by the Bible itself. Now John was imprisoned for 7 years for, get this, preaching without a permit. Well, this is how he saw things, “If my life is fruitless, it doesn’t matter who praises me, and if my life is fruitful, it doesn’t matter who criticizes me.” You see, as Christians we are to live for the audience of one. To follows Jesus unashamedly, and let the chips fall where they may.

As I highlighted in the Bulletin insert, Christians often make the mistake that it is only Jesus who, like a grain of wheat, falls into the ground and dies so that he might bear fruit. But it is as much a challenge for us to respond to the way of Jesus as readily as Jesus responded to the will of his Father. For in this way, we too can glorify God. For as Jesus said only a few chapters on from our Gospel reading; 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit by becoming my disciples.

For the reality is that we have a divine mandate from Jesus who said; I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. For Jesus continues; 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.



And so, to summarize I can think of no better, than these words from The Westminster Catechism. Please excuse the masculine language. It was written in 1647. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Amen.