“The Hour Has Come”
(John 12:20-33 – Lent 4 – March 18, 2018)
John 12:20-33 – 20Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. 27Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
Dear Redeemed in Jesus Christ:
The hour of death is not something people tend to look forward to. Perhaps when people think of what lies after death, many may look forward to what is to come. Perhaps they have visions of entering heavenly glory, receiving a perfect heavenly body, and experiencing peace and joy forevermore. But the hour of death itself, as the earthly body takes its last labored breath, who would look forward to that?
Here, Jesus is preparing for His last hour. His painful death on the cross in a few days is not something to look forward to. Yet, as He thinks of all the good to come through His death, He boldly declares: 23“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” Truly it is an hour of glory – not only for Him, but for all who believe. “The Hour Has Come”: 1) To win the glorious battle at the cross, and 2) To share the victorious salvation with all people.
1) To win the glorious battle at the cross
Jesus has come to Jerusalem for the annual feast of the Passover. Soon, the lamb would be slain for every household. Blood would flow, to remind the Jews how God had redeemed them from Egypt long ago as His people. Yet, that feast foreshadowed a greater redemption that was about to take place – not only for Jews but also for Gentiles. This redemption would be paid for by the blood of the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Our text begins by introducing Gentiles: 20“certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.” They approach the disciples saying: “We wish to see Jesus.” Their request points to the fulfillment of God’s prophecy in Isaiah 49:6: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” When the disciples bring word to Jesus, His answer reflects what is uppermost on His mind: 23“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” The hour of Jesus’ glorification was the hour of His death. It was the hour to win the glorious battle for fallen mankind at the cross.
It was a necessary hour, for all mankind had fallen in sin and all needed redemption. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden tree, “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). All mankind was held in bondage to sin, cursed with Satan, living in fear of death.
There was only way to reverse the curse. God had declared it from the fall of Adam and Eve. He told Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). God would send His eternal Son in human flesh, born of a woman, to win the battle over Satan. As Hebrews 2:14-15 explains: “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” As the innocent Son of Man, Jesus must take the place of all guilty mankind and be cursed. As the holy Lamb of God, Jesus must be slain and His blood shed on the cross to redeem a world of sinners.
Jesus, knowing there was no other way, said: 24“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” If He had not descended from heaven to die on the cross, He would have remained alone in heavenly glory. But every sinner would have shared the awful fate of Satan, perishing eternally. Instead, through His death and resurrection, Jesus would win forgiveness and eternal life all.
But what a heavy burden He carried, as He faced His battle at the cross. Who can fathom the pain He would feel, nailed to the cross to die a slow agonizing death, to the last labored breath? Who can understand the loneliness He would feel, surrounded by all who rejected and mocked Him. Yet that was not the worst. Who can fathom the burden He felt, as the Father laid on Him the guilt and punishment of a world of sinners? Who can understand the loneliness He felt, as the Father rejected and forsook His Son, having made Him a curse for us (Galatians 3:13)?
Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning, Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him, None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him Was the stroke that Justice gave.
In view of His cross, Jesus says: 27“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Jesus would not shrink from the horror of the cross. He would carry out the will of His Father. For love of a world of fallen sinners, for love of you and me, He would go to the cross and do all it took to win the glorious battle for our salvation.
How good it is for us that He faced the cross for us! For often we have shrunk from the Father’s will and followed our own will. Jesus says: 25“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Hating one’s life in this world has to do with hating sin, repenting, dying to the temptations of Satan, the world, and our flesh. Serving Jesus has to do with taking up our cross and following Him in faith (Mark 8:34). As we follow His Word and His truth, we will feel the cross imposed by Satan and the rejection of the world. Yet, how often have we loved our life and the praise of the world more than the honor of the Father. How often have we followed sinful pleasures rather than God’s commands?
But when Jesus went to His cross, He took all our sins and failures with Him. There, God wiped out all the ways we have broken the requirements of His law. He nailed all the law’s judgments against our sins on His own Son. Colossians 2:13-15 says: “He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Jesus says: 31“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” By His death on the cross, Jesus crushed the head of Satan. He set us free from the devil’s power. Since the Son of God satisfied divine Justice by His own death for our sins, now Satan the Accuser has no claim on us. “It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
Having won the glorious battle at the cross, and having risen for our justification, Jesus also set us free from the power of death. In taking away our sin on the cross, He reversed the curse of the fall. He took away the root of death.
Sing, my tongue, how glorious battle Glorious victory became;
And above the cross, His trophy, Tell the triumph and the fame,
Tell how He, the world’s Redeemer, By His death for us o’ercame.
When Jesus prayed, 28“Father, glorify Your name,” the Father’s voice was heard from heaven: “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Already, Jesus had brought glory to His Father, by speaking the words and doing the work His Father sent Him for. It all glorified the name of God, who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son to save fallen sinners (John 3:16). It would culminate in Jesus’ glorious battle on the cross, whereby He conquered sin, Satan, and death for us. Then, the Father would glorify His Son by raising Him on the third day, as the proof that He really did win the victory for us.
2) To share the victorious salvation with all people
It is with all this in view that Jesus boldly declares: 23“The hour has come.” It was the hour to win the glorious battle at the cross. And now, it is the hour to share His victorious salvation with all people. This was Jesus’ loving desire as He went forth to bear His cross for a world of sinners. He said: 32“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
So with Jesus’ death on the cross, the grain of wheat fell into the ground dead. But with His resurrection, that single Seed produced much grain. The day He rose was the day the Jews offered the first of the barley harvest at the temple, during the Festival of Firstfruits. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 points to the fulfillment: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Seven weeks later, the Festival of Weeks celebrated the wheat harvest. At that time, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit brought in a great harvest of souls through baptism and faith in Christ.
To this day, Jesus continues to bring glory to His Father, by bringing souls to eternal life – as the fruit of His saving work. How many souls cry out with these Greeks in our text: 20“We wish to see Jesus.” How many souls Jesus sees, still bound up in unbelief under the power of sin, Satan, and death. Therefore He sends His Gospel to every nation as “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, the apostle Paul stated the enduring mission of the Church: “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Through this Gospel, Jesus shares His victorious salvation freely with all people. Through this Gospel, He declares forgiveness to the worst of sinners. Through this Gospel, He delivers unbelievers from Satan’s lies. Through this Gospel, He imparts eternal life to the dying.
Through His Gospel in Word and Sacrament, Jesus shares His victorious salvation with us. In Holy Absolution He shares the victory of His salvation, forgiving our sins. In Holy Baptism He shares the victory of His salvation, clothing us in His holiness and uniting us in the new life and power of His resurrection. In His Holy Supper, He shares the victory of His salvation, feeding us His very Body and Blood sacrificed on the cross for our forgiveness and eternal life.
Now, even in the hour of death, we may to look forward to what is to come. Christ has won the glorious battle at the cross for us. And we share in His victorious salvation and eternal life. And when we have taken our last breath here, He will bring us to share in His heavenly glory, with a perfect heavenly body, and with peace and joy in His presence forevermore.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.