John 12: 26–37
Jesus has just come into Jerusalem, and everyone has heard about the way he raised Lazarus from the dead—not just people in Jerusalem and the rest of Judea, but even foreigners, Greeks who are now in town to celebrate the Passover. As everyone is celebrating Jesus, he tells them, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Then he says that his servants must follow him.
He tells them that his soul is now troubled. The Greek word tarasso here can mean disturbed, terrified, confused. He knows that the time has come for him to die, and frankly, it’s very unsettling. But even though it bothers him, even though it troubles him, he also knows that this is why he’s come into the world. Even in his anguish and inner turmoil, his confusion and terror about what’s going to happen to him, he doesn’t want his heavenly Father to save him from this violent fate. He says, “Father, glorify your name.” Even in his suffering and death, Jesus seeks, not his own glory, but the glory of his heavenly Father.
Then, John writes that a voice came from heaven itself. And it’s a confirmation that Jesus is speaking the truth in all of this—that in these events, his father’s name would be glorified. The voice says, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” Meanwhile, everyone else is also pretty confused at all of this. What is Jesus talking about? Where did that voice come from? Was it an angel? Was it thunder? And Jesus tells them all that the voice was for them. How else would they believe that this Jesus was really going to die? Yeah, the temple elite wanted to kill him, but as the pharisees themselves just said in the verses prior, the world has gone after him.
As Jesus himself knows what’s going to happen, he tells them that now the world is going to be judged in all of this. And the one who leads this world astray, the one who rules in humanity’s rebellion against God, is finally going to be cast out. Satan will no longer have dominion over this world. His tyranny has ended.
And, in Jesus’ death, the world reveals what it’s really like. There is no more hiding, no more pretending. How often does our world, our society, our culture pretend to be something that it’s not? But all of it is exposed, those lies are shattered with the crucifixion of Jesus. Having rejected God, our sinful world would now reject the one sent by God himself. The crucifixion of Jesus is an event which exposes the world’s sinfulness. It exposes our sinfulness. And, in that sense, just as it’s an act of judgment, it also frees us and allows us to see the world for what it really is.
That revelation is only half of what Jesus says will happen as a result of his own crucifixion. He says, “And, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” He’s telling them that this is going to happen. He’s not only going to die, he’s going to be crucified like a criminal. The world’s going to make him look like the bad guy. But when this happens, everyone’s going to see it, and they’re going to be drawn to him.
Jesus’ crucifixion draws us out of the sinfulness and brokenness of this world. He draws us out of the world’s confusion. He draws out of the world’s lies and dysfunction. When he comes before us in such strong contrast to the world around us, when he comes before our eyes, and we experience his love, he draws us out of the darkness and into his light. Jesus on that cross is a beacon. He’s a beacon of hope, a beacon of love, a beacon of mercy, a beacon of reconciliation with God and reconciliation with each-other. As he calls the whole world to himself, he gives up his life to do it.
The crowds around Jesus just couldn’t understand this. They said it’s written that the Christ would remain forever—and he’s saying that he’s going to die? Who are you, and what does this mean? It’s so counterintuitive to what we thought we knew about the world. But he tells them that the light is here. There’s no need to walk in the darkness any longer. He says, “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Jesus, the true light, is counterintuitive to the darkness of this world. Which is so hard for us, isn’t it? When the world is saying one thing and God is saying another, it’s so hard for us to walk away from the darkness even when we know it’s wrong, even when we know it goes against Jesus. Even though Jesus is our beacon—our salvation—we’re constantly drawn to the world’s lies. The only way to fight the darkness is to focus our eyes on the light.
This is why it’s so important that we put ourselves around Christ every single day. This is why it’s so important that we pray to our heavenly Father, that we read the proclamation of his word—the writings of the prophets and apostles—every single day. This is why it’s so important that we keep our focus on Jesus each and every day of our lives. In closing, I pose this question for you to consider this week: what things does the cross of Jesus put away in my own life? From what things does Jesus draw me, so that I might be closer to him? Is it a certain kind of distraction? A false ideology? A false hope? A false idol? What in my life needs to be crucified with Christ? Jesus is the light and in him there is no darkness.