(Please read John 12:20-36. My quotations are from the NIV.)
MESSAGE: By an audible voice, God the Father expressed His satisfaction with Jesus and His ministry.
In December 2010, a church erected a Nativity scene in their yard. One night, the folks came across the scene pictured in your message notes. An abandoned dog was looking for a comfortable, protected place to sleep. He chose baby Jesus as his comfort. No one had the heart to send him away so he was there all night.
We should all have the good sense of this dog and curl up in Jesus’ lap from time to time. And did you notice that the dog is a “Shepherd”? Inspired by this photo I’ve written a new Christmas carol. I call it, “A Stray in a Manger.”
- The occasion was not particularly joyful.
The context: some Greeks wanted to see Jesus (20-22). They were likely Gentile converts to the Jewish faith, as they were AMONG THOSE WHO WENT UP TO WORSHIP AT THE FEAST (20). Philip is a Greek name, so they may have decided to approach him as a kindred spirit. “WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE JESUS,” they asked (21). For some reason, this had to go to committee, but ultimately the request was approved (22).
No doubt part of the buzz-kill was Jesus’ prediction of His death: HE SAID THIS TO SHOW THE KIND OF DEATH HE WAS GOING TO DIE (33). Jesus used an illustration of a kernel of wheat (24-26). The planting of a seed is a symbol of burial; the germination of the seed is a symbol of resurrection (24). Jesus warned them that in like manner, He would be killed and raised to life (32). He went on to explain a general principle that gaining eternal life requires sacrificing this life (25). It’s a matter of priorities. In v. 26, Jesus applied that principle to those who would be His disciples. There is no true discipleship where a person does not follow Jesus. God will bless everyone who follows Jesus.
And yet, His heart was TROUBLED (27-28). This sounds a lot like the inner struggle Jesus had in the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to His arrest. (Interestingly, the Gospel of John does not record Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, so this is it for John.) Verse 28 is an apt summary of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry; to GLORIFY the NAME of God the Father.
– To GLORIFY means to draw attention to God, to worship Him and encourage others to do the same.
– The reference to God’s NAME includes His character & purpose. It’s a different way of referring to God Himself.
- God the Father expressed His approval.
Jesus saw His death as His time to be GLORIFIED (23). The purpose of the cross is to make God known, to bring people to Him so they can be saved. Jesus was GLORFIED because of His obedience to the will of God. This means that He was identified with God the Father. Of course, they are as one.
In this, Jesus gives us an example to follow. If we will faithfully obey God’s will, we show that we are truly His children with a heavenly home and rewards.
God the Father affirmed Jesus with His words (28). This is our key verse. It is here that we see the joy of the Father expressed in His complete satisfaction with the work and person of God the Son. In each case, the purpose of the voice is to confirm the identity of Jesus as God the Son and to affirm that His message is true.
This is the third time in the Gospels where God the Father speaks from heaven. Each of these occasions represents a turning point in the ministry of Jesus, a time when additional affirmation was needed.
– Jesus’ Baptism was the beginning of His public ministry. We can use extra support getting started.
– Jesus’ Transfiguration was the turning point when Jesus’ steps began to lead to the cross.
– This occasion is John’s version of the Garden of Gethsemane. This would be a time when confirmation and affirmation would be especially necessary.
Jesus’ mission – and ours – is to lead people to God. We do this by following His example of sacrifice and by grace.
- Some didn’t get it, so Jesus explained it to them.
People who heard the voice had different reactions to it. Some didn’t even hear it as a voice; they thought it was THUNDER. Others did not understand that it was the voice of God the Father; they attributed it to an ANGEL instead.
It is clear in v. 29 that they were questioning this teaching. Maybe they just didn’t understand and/or maybe they didn’t WANT to understand. In vs. 30-32 He rephrased His teaching, restating it in different terms.
He said, “THIS VOICE WAS FOR YOUR BENEFIT, NOT MINE (30).” Because He was in close fellowship with the Father (14:10), Jesus was constantly aware of the Father’s approval. However, no one else was aware of this and so God the Father spoke from heaven to let them know clearly that He was fully satisfied with Jesus.
Jesus elaborated, “NOW IS THE TIME FOR JUDGMENT (31).” THIS WORLD will soon be judged. Unlike the Son, all of us will be found wanting, falling short of God’s standard. The only way to avoid judgment against you is to accept Jesus as your Savior and follow Him all the days of your life.
A result of that judgment is that THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD WILL BE
DRIVEN OUT; there will be no room for the devil or his followers in heaven. Jesus warned them not to be found a member of the wrong team when Judgment Day arrives.
The reference to being LIFTED UP in v. 32 is clearly about Jesus’ crucifixion. By means of His death on the cross, Jesus drew all people to a saving relationship with God the Father. Why say this? The text explains, HE SAID THIS TO SHOW THE KIND OF DEATH HE WAS GOING TO DIE (33). Jesus warned the about Judgment Day and the means to avoid the righteous wrath of God the Father that will be poured out on all wickedness on that day.
Some refused to understand; even so, further explanation was given them (34-36). Truth is, they only knew enough Scripture to be dangerous. What they thought they knew was that when he appeared, the Messiah would lift forever. They understood Jesus to say that the Son of Man was going to be killed (LIFTED UP). These two facts did not square up and in v. 34, they asked him who he meant by the SON OF MAN.
Jesus’ answer (35-36) was couched in symbolism and His response was to give them a taste of what life would be like without Him around. He is the LIGHT. Just as it is easier to walk in the light than in the darkness, so it is easier to navigate life in general with the illumination of Jesus guiding our steps.
After that, the text says, Jesus not only LEFT them, but also HID FROM them! He provided these people with the opportunity to experience firsthand the things He had just taught them!
Here are a couple of news stories that form a commentary on the sad condition of American culture:
Entire School District Closed Over Calligraphy Lesson
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff Posted Dec 18, 2015 7:01 AM CST
(Newser) – Students of Augusta County Public Schools in central Virginia are enjoying an early winter break thanks to outrage over a lesson in Arabic calligraphy. During a world geography unit on Islam on Dec. 11, Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to practice calligraphy by copying an Islamic statement of faith known as the shahada. Some refused, with at least one parent calling the lesson “indoctrination.”
The Virginia Department of Education and Superintendent Eric Bond found her lesson involving the shahada met state standards and didn’t violate students’ rights because they weren’t asked to “translate it, recite it, or otherwise adopt or pronounce it as a personal belief.” (The translation: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”) However, an abundance of “profane” and “hateful” calls and emails followed, says a sheriff. Based on the “tone and content” of the communications, the district on Thursday announced the Friday closure. School officials say a non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the Islam unit in the future.
Kentucky School Edits Christmas Play to Remove Bible Passage; Protests Ensue
Bill Young email@example.com
The scene in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where the character Linus quotes from the Bible has been cut from an elementary school production. In the Charlie Brown play, as well as the classic TV special, Linus said, “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in the manger. And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.”
That is the part being cut from the play.
The Superintendent of Johnson County Schools said that Christmas programs district-wide were being edited for any religious references. He also said that past performances where religious references were made lead to complaints to the district.
The decision lead to protests outside the district administration building. Despite the anger, the superintendent told CNN that he checked with the district attorney who advised the changes be made to honor law that requires separation of church and state.
It’s remarkable how convenient the doctrine of the separation of church and state can be, isn’t it? Our objective as Christian citizens should be to ensure a level playing field, a uniform application of the doctrine of separation. This nonsense of Islam receiving favorable attention and Christianity being ignored is nothing like a level playing field. We must be vigilant and assertive without being offensive. Especially in this Advent season, the world needs us to reflect the light of Jesus Christ.