The Hour Comes

April 2, 2006

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 12:20-36

[Jn 12:20] Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; [21] these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [22] Philip *came and *told Andrew; Andrew and Philip *came and *told Jesus. [23] And Jesus *answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. [24] “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. [25] “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [26] “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

[27] “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. [28] “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” [29] So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” [30] Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. [31] “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. [32] “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” [33] But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. [34] The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” [35] So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. [36] “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”

These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. (NAS)

John 12:20-21

[Jn 12:20] Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; [21] these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

The Curious

The Greeks prided themselves on their insatiable curiosity and hunger to learn.  They were a cosmopolitan people whose primary value was knowledge for the sake of knowledge.  It would not be unusual to find a wandering band of Greeks mixed among the huge masses of Jews during Passover.  They were probably not converts or Philip wouldn’t have hesitated to bring them to Jesus.  More than likely, they were curious tourists (cameras in absentia) looking for something to “write home about”.  They might have even been a group of students with their teacher out to learn about the religions of the world.  Whatever they were, they were in the right place at the right time.

Now, of the many sights and sounds of the Jewish Passover, why in the world would they be drawn to Jesus?  Why would he be worth a diversion of their studies of Jewish rituals and culture?  There are two primary explanations for this:

1.       They had heard of Jesus from others in their travels towards Jerusalem:

This is highly possible as we find as many as ten to fifteen thousand people congregating around Jesus at times.  A crowd as large as a medium-sized city was now following Jesus from place to place.

2.       They had witnessed Jesus’ cleansing action in the temple.

I find this even more likely to believe (not that it’s one or the other).  John’s reports are primarily about the last few weeks of Christ’s ministry.  As Gentiles, the Greeks would only have been allowed into the very outer courts of the Jewish Temple (the Court of the Gentiles).  This was also where the money changers set up their trade.  For years, the only experience a Gentile would have of Jewish temple worship would be the shouting and bargaining of the outer courtyard, which was as far as they were allowed to go.  All they would witness of Judaism was the repugnant bartering of rapacious hawkers taking advantage of the Jewish faithful who had walked days, weeks, or even months to worship in Jerusalem.  Imagine the view they received of God’s people.

What is the image that we, as church, present to outsiders?  Are they invited past our rituals and into our relationships?  Do they see more than bickering and politics as usual?  I have heard, all too many times, men and women that I have tried to steer to churches from shelters and jails respond with; “No thanks, I already know how messed up I am.  I don’t need their glares to tell me even more.”  Others say; “Are you kidding?  Church is just a bunch of hypocrites playing control games.”  Often, I think the reason that most people turn away from Christianity is because of Christians.

Like these Greeks, most people never see beyond our “Court of the Gentiles” either.  It is precisely why we need to witness Jesus clearing out our temples on a regular basis!

“Sir, I want to see Jesus.”

I believe that these gentile-men were in the temple the day Jesus cleaned house.  I think there is enough evidence to suggest that these men saw this extraordinary event and were drawn to the extraordinary man who did it.  They came to see a ritual of religion and were instead pulled into relationship with a radical.  Bypassing the priests and their sacrifices, they went out of their way to meet the man who knifed through the fat of routine and into the heart of faith.  They were no longer curious about religion; they were ravenous for Jesus.

This is what I see in so many eyes today.  “Sir, I want to see Jesus! Please don’t sell me ritual, don’t burden me with denominatilism, give me a God who breaks through ritual to love me!”

Like these Greeks; people on the fringe are starving for relationship with Jesus that isn’t shrouded in ritual and recruitment (“you can attend if you buy into our denomination”).  They cry out; “Can your God give my life purpose?”  They are hungering for more than the consumerism so rampant in the court of Gentiles.  They want a radically sincere God who will break through business as usual.

Is that the God in my life?

“Lord, sting my backside with the whip of your presence.  Clear my courtyard so those on the fringe of faith might find me radically available to you!  Help me answer the cry, ‘Sir, I want to see Jesus,’ with the pure embrace of YOU and not the sale of two overpriced turtledoves!”

John 12:23

[Jn 12:23] And Jesus *answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (NAS)

The focus of Jewish history

All of Jewish history focused on this one sentence; “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  This is the one phrase they had longed to hear throughout their entire history.  The phrase comes from the book of Daniel:

Daniel 7:13-14

[Dan 7:13] “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. [14] “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and {men of every} language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (NAS)

Yet, the context of the reading led to confusion among the Jews.  For they saw the Son of Man, not as one who would come to bring peace through humble service; they saw him as one who would bring all countries into subjugation before Israel.  The context of Daniel’s vision seems to imply dominion over the world powers of his time.  These included: The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, and the Persians.

Daniel 7:2-7

[Dan 7:2] Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. [3] “And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. [4] “The first {was} like a lion and had {the} wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. [5] “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs {were} in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ [6] “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. [7] “After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. (NAS)

Ultimately, Rome would fall, just as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medians, and Persians would not last.  Worldly kingdoms based upon worldly strategies must die; no world authority has been able to sustain the title of sole world power.  It is like being “King of the Mountain” on a mound of fire ants.  The Jews kept looking for a Messiah that would lead them into battle.  He would be armed to the teeth and smash his opposition.  Instead, God sent a Messiah that was completely opposite of our understanding.  Jesus did not arm himself—but his rule will last eternity.  Jesus’ work was not to arm for battle but to disarm for service.  An article in SojoMail tells of just such an incident employed in 1991 by then-president George H. Bush:

One of America’s shining military moments occurred between May 10 and June 13, 1991, just after the Persian Gulf War. Just as troops were returning home, Cyclone Marian hit Bangladesh. It was a disaster. More than 100,000 people died and millions were left homeless. More than 1 million cattle died. Crops on 74,000 acres of land were destroyed. The soil was contaminated.

The president of Bangladesh turned to the world for help. Within 24 hours President Bush directed the U.S. military to provide humanitarian assistance. A 15-ship Navy amphibious force returning from the Persian Gulf was redirected to Bangladesh. When a Bangladeshi citizen spotted the force arriving from the water, he allegedly called them “Angels from the Sea.” Operation Sea Angel had begun. It was one of the largest military disaster relief forces ever assembled. Thousands of U.S. soldiers worked with multinational forces over the next month to provide food, water, and medical care to nearly 2 million people. The valiant relief efforts of the troops were credited with saving as many as 200,000 lives.

What would it take for American to wage an “Operation Sea Angel” in Iraq, rather than a repeat of the horrors of Desert Storm? What would it take to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? This is the kind of “war” our troops could wage and win with honor.

Imagine our 200,000 troops working with multinational agencies to rebuild Iraqi water systems; rebuild roads; transport medicine and food to the non-urban areas where access is severely limited; rebuild hospitals, churches, mosques, and homes; assist UNICEF’s social mobilization for a polio free Iraq. Imagine our troops serving as teachers, doctors, engineers, and veterinarians. Imagine them rebuilding Iraq’s agricultural base that has been so badly neglected. Imagine them training people for democracy. Imagine starting a massive humanitarian aid project for the people of Iraq now, not after a war.

Imagine also our troops coming home without nightmares, without “syndromes.” Imagine them bringing home pictures of kids they helped save, rather than images of children they were trained to kill. Imagine not having the post-war spike in depression, addiction, and domestic abuse among our vets.

Would Saddam Hussein ever allow such a thing? Probably not, but it’s hard to know without trying it.

Rose Marie Berger, associate editor, Sojourners magazine

Copyright © 2003 Sojourners. All Rights Reserved.  SojoMail material may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Sojourners 2003 ©

War is a failure of vision.  The greatest pre-emptive strike will always be to feed the hungry and make family of the poor.  To be repairers of the breach:

Isaiah 61:4

[Isa 61:4] Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

Isaiah 58:6-12

6 “Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? 7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness, and your gloom {will become} like midday. 11 “And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. 12 “And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell. (NAS)

To love those who persecute you:

Matthew 5:43-48

[Mt 5:43] “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ [44] “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may  be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. [46] “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Messiah announced his presence.  The long-awaited prophesy was spoken in the temple.  Yet, it was spoken to foreign Greeks for the tribe of Israel could (would) not hear it.  God did not match their expectations.

How often do I miss God because he does not match my expectations?  And how little would my God be if that is all he did?  What if he gave me all that my shallow heart desired instead of constantly pushing me beyond every boundary that I know?  If God met my petty expectations I would decrease in stature daily, my life would be totally about me and my wants.  God would be no more than a drug or a lottery winning.

There is, however, one who is more than willing to be such a god in my life: To give me all of my pleasures and desires; to give me enough of my “gluttony” to gorge myself to death.  That “One” loves it when I focus my expectations on myself.

To truly know God is to be constantly humbled by the realization that what I want and what I expect are so miniscule when compared to God’s plan. I am totally clueless!  I want possessions; he wants my liberation.  I want comfort; he wants salvation.  I want him to give me things; he wants me to live with abandon.

Praise God that he is above our expectations!  When we pray for something and life suddenly takes a turn in the opposite direction than you can almost be assured that God heard the “heart” of your prayer.  Instead of blaming God, that is when we need to be “in awe” of God; for something more wonderful than what we could ever expect is about to occur. Most of us do not experience God at work in our lives because we resist our current circumstances, we reject our current experiences—especially when they are unpleasant—as something that God can use for our growth. Is God God or not?

Like the followers of Moses, we want to leave the wilderness before our forty years is up. Unlike Jesus, we want out of the wasteland before our forty days have passed. Desperately seeking a way out of the pain; we don’t see how God can work—even in our most desperate situations. Yet, that is when God shines brightest.

So, we are called to love “through our persecution” and to love “especially our persecutors.” This is the way to God.

John 12:24-26

[John 12:24] “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. [25] “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [26] “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

The Unexpected Response.

Though the Jewish people had been waiting for the Son of Man to murmur these words all of their lives, by the time they were spoken by Jesus they would already have been discounted by the Chief Priests and many of the Pharisees.  Jesus certainly did not fit their expectations and they were already plotting his death.  His apostles and disciples would have drawn in a deep breath of awe for they would certainly think these words heralded Christ’s transformation into the warring Messiah; the Messiah that they desired.  They truly expected Jesus would step into a local phone booth and become ‘SuperMessiah’.  However, the chances of Jesus becoming the Christ that they wanted to see were about as likely as finding a phone booth in a first century Israeli town in the first place.

Do you remember the children’s puzzle common in so many books where you would find “what’s wrong with this picture?”  The same premise would apply to this scene from the Apostle’s standpoint:

1.       First, the messianic announcement is actually made to a tourist group of Greeks and not the Jews!

2.       Jesus begins to speak about dying and service; not conquering and ruling!

Both of these facts would knock the followers of Jesus on their ear.  The Jewish people were convinced that the Messiah had to be a conquering replica of King David returning to claim his throne.

Psalm 89:3-8

3 “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4 I will establish your seed forever, and build up your throne to all generations. “Selah.” 5 And the heavens will praise Thy wonders, O LORD; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones. 6 For who in the skies is comparable to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD, 7 A God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all those who are around Him? 8 O LORD God of hosts, who is like Thee, O mighty LORD? Thy faithfulness also surrounds Thee. (NAS)

Psalm 132:10-18

10 For the sake of David Thy servant, do not turn away the face of Thine anointed. 11 The LORD has sworn to David, a truth from which He will not turn back; “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. 12 “If your sons will keep My covenant, and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.” 13 For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. 14 “This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. 15 “I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy with bread. 16 “Her priests also I will clothe with salvation; and her godly ones will sing aloud for joy. 17 “There I will cause the horn of David to spring forth; I have prepared a lamp for Mine anointed. 18 “His enemies I will clothe with shame; but upon himself his crown shall shine.” (NAS)

Psalm 144:9-11

9 I will sing a new song to Thee, O God; upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to Thee, 10 Who dost give salvation to kings; who dost rescue David His servant from the evil sword. 11 Rescue me, and deliver me out of the hand of aliens, whose mouth speaks deceit, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. (NAS)

The apostles saw Jesus, his army of 12-foot soldiers and 144,000 angels taking back the high places of Jerusalem.  Shoving Rome aside and sorely defeating all attempts upon the land of Jerusalem forever.  Who can blame them?  Despite the many admonishes of scripture and of Jesus himself; these men had no context of the power of peace and the influence of service.

What about us?  We have seen the power of Jesus throughout the ages.  We have seen how his love outlasted the family of Annas and Caiaphas; we have seen how Rome crumbled and how the church grew in the face of continuous opposition.  We have read how the incomprehensible forgiveness of Stephen overwhelmed the maniacal hatred of Saul.  We have seen Peter told to toss away his sword while Jesus willingly offered himself as sacrifice of the ages.

Matthew 16:21-25

[Matt 16:21] From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. [22] And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid {it,} Lord! This shall never happen to You.” [23] But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” [24] Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. [25] “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. (NAS)

What about us?  We have heard, read, and witnessed all of these things but, do we yet understand the Way of the Cross?

John 12:24-26

[John 12:24] “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. [25] “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. [26] “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”

Do we yet understand that dying to myself leads to being alive in Christ?  That peace is not the fruit of war; after all, how can wheat be harvested from a weed?  Does my life resemble the sacrifice of Christ?  Do I live “for giving” instead of “for taking?”  Am I finding peace through death to my own pleasures and service to the least of these?

Is it any wonder that Philip didn’t know what to do?  Should we be “tut-tutting” over the lack of understanding among Christ’s own—let alone the upper echelons of Judaism?  We all miss the point.  Our Lord came as a sacrifice for our sins.  He came as suffering servant.  Even though this scripture has been revealed to us, even though we have the testimony of countless witnesses and that Holy Spirit, despite all of this, we still don’t seem able to practice humility and forgiveness in our daily lives.  We are drunk with the oil of other generations and determined to direct world matters with a sword and not bread.

We are Philip, we are the Chief Priests.  We still do not embrace the suffering servant.

Isaiah 53:1-12

1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no {stately} form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke {was due?}

9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting {Him} to grief; if He would render himself {as} a guilt offering, He will see {His} offspring, He will prolong {His} days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see {it} and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors. (NAS)

John 12:27-30

[27] “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. [28] “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” [29] So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” [30] Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.” (NAS)

The perfect prayer

The perfect prayer of Jesus Christ begins long before this sentence.  It begins with the type of obedience that would follow God’s call into Jerusalem.  The word that John uses for troubled [GSN5015 tarasso] is also used for a ship on agitated seas.  The ship that never heads to sea will never find its true purpose or challenge its core mettle.  Similarly, the soul that scurries to remain in a comfortable port will never know the perfect prayer that comes only in agitated seas.

The perfect prayer begins with complete obedience; obedience that leads to trials.  Then, in the face of stormy seas, Jesus does not turn back for comfortable ports.  He stays the course: “What shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.’” [John 12:27]

Great men and woman always have two things in common:

1.       They rise to greatness in troubled times;

2.       They stay the course in stormy seas.

When we find ourselves persecuted for the cause of the Lord and our response to persecution is to turn to God and state; “Let all that I am and do glorify you.”  Then, God will respond with overwhelming spiritual power:

Matthew 5:10-12

[Matt 5:10] “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11] “Blessed are you when {men} cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. [12] “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (NAS)

The glory without end

In the face of today’s prosperity preachers; we must never forget the prosperity that God promises Jesus.  Jesus, nor any of his closest followers, received worldly prosperity in exchange for “staying the course in agitated seas.”  Instead, they received even more spiritual power; they were given freedom from desiring this world’s gluttony in exchange for the purest relationship with God.  They cared nothing for this world and longed only to be closer to Jesus.  Jesus cared nothing for the wealth of this world but loved those of this world so much that he wanted them to have an unadulterated, pure relationship with God.  Jesus loved God so much that he lived solely to glorify him—even by death on a cross.  The blessing is this: When I give my life as a sacrifice to glorify God; he glorifies my life by purifying my love for him.  He shapes my heart and my desires.

Psalm 37:3-11

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday. 7 Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret, {it leads} only to evildoing. 9 For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be {there.} 11 But the humble will inherit the land, and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (NAS)

The sorrow of this story is the same as the sorrow of Jacob and Esau.  God promised the blessing of the first-born son; yet, Jacob did not believe God could deliver on that promise.  So, Jacob connived with his mother and stole the gift that was promised him.  The result was years of wandering, family conflict, bond-slavery to Laban; the fear of returning home.  The promise seemed above Jacob’s understanding; impossible for God to deliver.  So rather than wait for God to give the blessing—Jacob tried to take it.  The result was nothing but struggle until Jacob finally surrendered in complete humility.

Jesus, on the other hand, begins with trust.  He offers his life to God in what also seems like impossible circumstances.  How could God be glorified by a death only given to the most cursed of criminals?  Yet, Jesus succumbs to God’s mysterious will and states; “Father, glorify thy name.”  God gives glory unto glory.

The word for glory [GSN1392 doxazo] is itself revealing of the heart of God.  The root word [GSN1380 dokeo] is a financial term, it means to place money in someone else’s account.  To give glory to God is to place any praise or credit directed at me into his account.  Similarly, it would then also mean to value him above valuing myself.

Yet, look at this interchange between God and his son closely.

[28] “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

The more Jesus gives credit to God (puts value into God’s account), the more God values him!  The same applies to us.  The more we obey God and credit his account or value his ways; the more God glory puts into our account.  It is like a law of unlimited reciprocity.  God provides unlimited blessings to those who live their lives to bless him.  That blessing (to Jesus) is difficult for this world to understand.  It did not fund an extension on his deck nor add a new 4-wheel drive chariot to his garage; it brought him closer to God.  It purified him, it simplified his desires, it gave him renewed strength to face the difficulties of obeying—of keeping the ship on course through the stormy seas.  There is no greater reward.

The subtle affirmation

There is an important, but subtle affirmation that occurs in God’s glorification of the Messiah.  God’s words are audibly heard.  These audible affirmations occur infrequently yet they always underscore Jesus’ role as the Christ and they are signs to the observers—not Jesus.  To the Greeks, the disciples and those around Jesus, the glory of the Messiah was given “credit” (credibility; I put “credit” in your account). 

However, what we must not overlook is that this event had to occur after the temple cleansing.  Therefore, those who were with Jesus were risking their credibility.  The network of temple and Roman spies was complicated and impressive.  Just to be with Jesus after the temple cleansing was a serious risk.  Those brave enough to be with him, gave “glory” to Jesus and what we witness here is a dramatic show of God’s affirmation to those who risked their names for the one name that mattered.  They HEAR God’s voice. 

What does that mean for us?  When we choose to follow Jesus by relating with him through the least popular (the Greeks) and in the most unpopular places (shelters, labor camps, prisons, rest homes) it glorifies Jesus.  God then glorifies us by helping us EXPERIENCE (hear) the power of Christ’s presence in tangible ways.  We SEE God’s power, we HEAR God’s truth, we TOUCH God’s face whenever we love the least of these.  God is no longer a concept—he is visible and tangible.  We can hug him, dry his tears, and see his joy in the face of the least wanted.

How do we know if we are walking with Jesus? 

We are walking with Jesus when our names and reputations don’t matter anymore.  At the moment when all that matters to us is being where Jesus would be, hanging around with those whom he would hang around (foreigners, nobodies, the crippled)—even if it sullies our so-called reputation; that is when we are walking with Jesus.  We are walking with Jesus when his name is praised in our presence. Our only glory is that he receives glory and any work we do is attributed to his name.  We are walking with Jesus, whenever people look at us and instead, see him.

John 12:31-36

[31] “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. [32] “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” [33] But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. [34] The crowd then answered Him, “We have heard out of the Law that the Christ is to remain forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” [35] So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. [36] “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”  (NAS)

The application of a lifetime

John would have been as confused as the others by the series of events and sayings that were witnessed in the brief span of Christ’s life.  Complete understanding would only come to him after a lifetime of reflection and application.  That’s a critical key; reflecting on Jesus, studying Jesus, is incomplete.  To read about the ocean is not to stand on its shore and see its power, hear the thunderous surf, watch the crash of breaking waves or experience the unrelenting pull of the tides.  Decades of reflection and application of the Holy Spirit’s power (from the word for dynamite) led to the words finally penned here.  We can only understand his words fully when we similarly commit to Christ.  We understand them through a lifetime of reflection and application.

Purposes beyond our parochialism

It is easy to tell what the spies of Rome and Jerusalem would do with Jesus’ statement.  Yet, even the followers of Christ misunderstood and had to be corrected.  His followers would still be thinking in the parochial terms of the Jewish situation.  The disciples were still longing for a temporal kingdom with Rome in subservience.  Yet, we must remember who initiated this conversation; it was the cosmopolitan Greeks who had sought out the man who had the audacity to clear the temple.  These world travelers had a far larger viewpoint than the parochial Jews.  Like the Jews, the Greeks were also a conquered people.  Yet, they had permeated every culture that invaded them.  Their scholarship and philosophies became the envy of Rome, Persia, and more.  Greece had learned that temporal rule was fleeting; but ideas could last for generations.  They had become a people who treasured knowledge above power and knowledge became their power.

These “Greeks” would “get it” long before the Jews or the Romans because the power of “the Word” [GSN logos] was ingrained in them.  We may never know what happened to these Greeks; but we can be assured that God’s Word does not go forth empty.  Perhaps this was the first seed to the Greeks that prepared the way for Paul and others to harvest fruit in that country years later.  It reminds us of how little we know of God’s ways; how great his purposes are; far beyond our sight and even comprehension.  We cannot see what he sees but we can trust that he sees into our deepest needs and greatest fears with intense compassion.

Yet, God sees purposes beyond us.  He sees a broken world that he has been healing since man first turned away.  His purposes include all people:

2 Peter 3:8-9

[2Pe 3:8] But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. [9] The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NAS)

It is God’s desire that we be involved in these great purposes.   He seeks to include us, but he will not use us.  Like the man at the pool of Bethsaida [John 5:1-8], he seeks our participation; “Do you really want to be whole?”  God knows that our path to growth lies in applying the word—not just hearing it.  He pushes, pulls, and cajoles; but he will not manipulate.  To join in the fullness of creation means to accept God’s invitation to participate in his plan.  To the extent that we abandon our plan for his; we will experience the fullness of life.

Who can claim God?

Finally, this reading should also remind us of the danger of seeing God as my patriotic flag-bearer.  God bears the standard of no country.  We bear his standard—which is none other than the cross of Christ—and then only if we live in service and act justly.

The defeat of the ruler

“Satan has lost.”  There is no reason to color in these words.  His rule has ended with the cross.

What ruined the Prince of Death?  In short; it was pride and self-indulgence.  It wasn’t enough for him to claim possession of the souls of sinners; he wanted more.  He was ravenous for God’s glory (self-indulgence) and he thought he could pull off a heavenly coup (pride).  He is like the tenants who killed the Owner’s son thinking they could claim the land by manipulating the law.  Their pride and their self-indigence led to their destruction.

Satan imploded in his own lasciviousness.  The snake thought he was devouring his prey but it turned out that he was consuming his own tail.  His pride and self-focus won’t let him cease even now when his situation is dire.  Satan is self-consuming; and sin is—at its heart—self-consumption.

This shows us Satan’s character in detail; a craving that won’t cease, pride that is self-blinding; a ravishing hunger that devours itself.  In kind, this picture of Satan shows us how to defeat him.  For he can only tempt us with what tempts him.  He is not tempted by service, humility and obedience; he is revealed by them.

The light of revelation

The light of Jesus (carrying our cross, loving with humility, and offering service to the least of these) reveals the beast that devours itself.  It is that beast that wants to bind us from serving Jesus because the beast is cast out when we humbly bow before our Lord and follow him in service to his wounded.  This is why Jesus prays: “Lead us not into temptation [[GSN3986 peirasmos] but deliver us from evil [GSN4190 poneros].”

This could literally be interpreted as; “lead us from the Adversary and deliver us from degeneracy.”  To degenerate is for the flesh to begin eating itself—like cancer or leprosy.  In fact, another widely used word for evil [GSN4550 sapros] meant “rotting flesh”.  This is how Jesus wants us to see Satan’s work and the result of sin in our life.  This is the enemy that lurks in the darkness—around the edges of Christ’s revealing light.  This is the spiritual force that we fight:

Ephesians 6:12-13

[Eph 6:12] For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual {forces} of wickedness in the heavenly {places.} [13] Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (NAS)

Yet, rejoice!  For here is the judgment of darkness.  When light comes upon it—it does not “flee,” it utterly and completely ceases to exist.  The ultimate darkness (hell) is when one ceases to exist in God’s presence.  Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light nor can evil exist in the presence of God.  Our amazing Lord, Jesus the Christ—affirmed by God’s very presence—offers not just to become our light—he offers to install his power grid!!!

Jesus offers to make us into children of light.  This means to become light—not just reflect it.  The light goes where we go and darkness ceases to exist in our presence.  This is an incredible offer; an unbelievable concept.  God’s light made manifest in the darkness of humanity.

Don’t miss this!  Where did Jesus offer light?

My friends, here is the most gentle aspect of this reading.  Jesus is speaking in the temple; but he is in the outermost courtyard, the Court of Gentiles (which he had just cleared of money changers and merchants).  By temporal rights, he could have been inside; past the Court of Gentiles, past the Court of women and into the Court of Priests.  Yet—by all heavenly rights—Christ could have gone in still further and claimed access to the temple of the Holy of Holies; the place where only one priest annually was allowed to enter and then only by birthright.  Our Lord was teaching in the outermost courtyard; a place where even these wandering Greeks could find him.  The light that our Lord spoke of is that available—not exclusively tucked away but out, among the people.  Never claiming the inner sanctum of privilege, Jesus was ever seeking the furthest reach of availability; the Court of Gentiles, the fields, the streets, even the desolation.

Where will I take the light that he has given me today?  Will my claim to follow Christ be one of exclusivity and privilege, or humility and availability?  It is evident that Christ calls us to the latter.  To take light to the darkness and to be water in the desert—that is the commission of Jesus Christ.

The “Christ Zone”

Jesus balances his availability to people with his availability to God.  We can neither be transparent nor accessible to God’s people if we are not transparent or accessible to God.  God is the giver of peace in the cacophony of today’s frantic society.  Athletes often speak of “the Zone”; an experience where they become “ultra-aware” of the surrounding environment and yet, they are above it.  It is almost like the world exists in slow motion and they exist in a separate reality. 

I have experienced that zone as an endurance athlete; but I have experienced it even more as an enduring Christian.  At times when there should have been no peace in my life; God’s peace has been most abundant.  I can remember one particular time in my life when I had a threat against my life by a drug dealer and gang leader, then the doctor found what he thought looked like cancer, my tuberculosis test was positive, and I had parasites (all of that happened while I was battling bronchitis).  Yet, Jesus was tangibly present to me as during that time.  I am convinced that it is especially because the outside world’s pressures are so high that God makes his presence so tangible.  It was “the Zone”—but it was “the Christ Zone”; a place beyond temporal boundaries where the veil between God and man does not exist.

As we walked (Jesus and I); he gifted me with a sense of presence that would follow me into every situation.  I was not afraid, intimidated, or oppressed (by either the things that were happening to my body or the threats that I faced).  Two times someone was sent to take my life—once through a group of seven gang members—but the Holy Spirit overpowered them before they could lift a weapon against me.  I cannot tell you how this happened.  I cannot account for it.  I only remember trying to get the children who were in the after school program out of harm’s way and then I sat on a piano bench and—with the total shalom of Jesus Christ—I looked from face to face to see who would give me the first blow. It never came. 

I was in “the Christ Zone”.  I was “in the situation” but not “of” the situation.  I was an instrument being played the Lord and nothing more.  I will never be able to explain that situation—but I have been blessed to feel it at other times when my life seemed totally out of control.

Once you have been there, you never want to go back.  I would not necessarily seek painful circumstances, but, I will never flee them either!  There is a wellspring much greater than you and I that will pour down into the enduring Christian, the available Christian; the Christian that is willing to be available to God and transparent to his people.

Youth Supplement

John 12:20-21

[Jn 12:20] Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; [21] these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

 “Sir, we want to see Jesus…”

Have you ever been on a mission or educational trip where you visited another culture?  Some of you might say; “Yea, to my brother’s bedroom.”  But, I mean a place where you felt noticeably out of your comfort zone; maybe even a bit frightened.  A place where the way that people looked different, talked different and even the sights and smells were different (some of you are probably still thinking of your brother’s room).

That is how it would have felt for those Greeks visiting Jerusalem in this story.  They were likely on an extended educational trip to see the Jewish culture and explore their ideas.  They would have experienced many sights and sounds quite different than their own culture. The young Greeks language, dress, and even skin color would have set them apart from the Jews surrounding them.  Their experience would have been made even worse by the open prejudice and distrust of strangers that the Greek students would have met—especially from the Jerusalem Jews.

There is another factor that would probably disturb the Greeks about the temple at that time.  The entire outer courtyard (which is as far as these Greeks would be allowed to see) was taken over by money changers and rip-off artists.  It would have been no different than the most dirty open-air flea markets common to every city the Greek students would have visited on their long trek from their homeland.  The only difference was that all of this hassling and bartering was falsely in the name of God.  Yet, this is all that someone who was not Jewish at that time would see of the temple.

For those Greek Students, it must have been like trying to learn about Christianity by watching churchgoers leave the parking lot after a lengthy church service on Superbowl Sunday.  It was probably the most unattractive face of God’s Chosen that these Greeks could have ever seen.

I believe that something happened when those Greeks were in the Courtyard of the Gentiles.  I believe there’s enough evidence to suggest that they saw Jesus clear the courtyard.  I think they returned on the following day with the hope of seeing the man who confronted an entire culture.  Who stood, if you will, in the middle of a busy city street and made each car stop while helping the little ones get safely cross to their homes.

I don’t mean to trivialize what Jesus did—for it was far more significant than a short note such as this can capture.  Yet, these Greeks waited and searched for the man who cleared the courtyard for the “outsiders of the faith.”

When they came to Phillip (Phillip is a Greek name—so the Greeks probably thought he would be most likely to help them), they brought one simple request.  They didn’t want to hear about the law and they were no longer interested in observing ritual or sightseeing.  They wanted to meet Jesus and that’s just what they said; “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”

I often ask myself; “Which face of God do I present to ‘outsiders of the faith?’”

Do they look at me and see a “parking lot Christian?”  Ready to run over anyone in my way as I clear out of the parking lot after I’ve done my Sunday morning “thing?”

Or, do they see someone who is taking radical action to make sure even outsiders have access to God.  Do I have the type of faith that is so evident that outsiders seek me out to say; “We want to see Jesus.”  Is my love of God so obvious that people might even ask me that question today?  Am I ready to respond to their request and show them Christ’s love—or do I sit kind of dumb (like Phillip) and tell people; “Uh, I don’t know much about him, you should go to someone else.”


Christ didn’t care what anyone else thought except God.  He was willing to risk everything to give “outsiders” direct access to God. 

1.       Who are some of the “outsiders” in our communities today? 

2.       What kind of walls do you see between those outsiders and what the touring Greek students must have felt in the temple courtyard?

3.       Do you honestly live a life where outsiders say to you; “I want to meet Jesus?”

4.       Do you know anyone that does live a life like that?

5.       What makes them stand out?

6.       What could your youth group do to make itself more “outsider accessible?”

7.       What could you do to become someone that others come to and ask; “Would you tell me how to get your type of courage and values?”


Copyright © 2003 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2003 ©

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