How God’s upside-down Kingdom helps us make sense of Jesus’ death – John 12:12-50, Part 3

Jesus is just days from his death. So it’s no surprise that in John 12 verses 27-28 Jesus becomes introspective: 

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Jesus chose to experience humanity, thus he knows the depths of what he is about to endure, struggling, and yet he says, “I’m still in.”  He is going to fulfill the mission of God, which includes giving his life.

So instead, here’s what he actually prays, “Father, glorify your name!” It is a prayer of commitment.  Jesus wants God to be glorified.  Shockingly, something extremely rare happens.  Look at the second half of verse 28 and then all of 29:

“Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.”

God responds in an audible voice to this prayer!  People there heard it! 

That must have been astounding.  As verse 29 suggests, people didn’t know what was going on.  Was it thunder?  An angel?  You and I would likely be confused too. 

Why did God speak?  Jesus prayed many other times, and there was no response from heaven.  Why now?  In verse 30, Jesus explains:

“Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine’.”

That makes sense to me.  Hearing the voice of God could help some people place their faith in Jesus.  His followers especially are about to get hit with a wild roller coaster ride of emotions of fear, confusion and doubt.  When Jesus is dead, and his followers feel like giving up, they can remember that the voice of God spoke truth about Jesus. 

But right after God speaks, what Jesus says next in verse 31 seems odd.

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.”

What is Jesus talking about? In this passage we’ve heard a lot about his death. In the previous post, Jesus talked about how his death relates to being his disciple.  Just above in this post we heard Jesus’ inner conflict about his soon-coming death and his prayer to God to glorify God’s name.  Now Jesus talks about judging the world and driving out the prince of the world.  If you feel like there’s a lot going on in Jesus’ teaching, you’re right.  It’s hard to keep it all straight.  Is there a theme to help us understand what Jesus is getting at?

Yes, the theme is his death.  Everything he says in verses 23-32 revolves around his death.  So whatever verse 31 means, it will likely refer to his death.  What connection is there between Jesus’ death and the idea of judgment on this world and the driving out of the prince of the world?

The world is not being punished by death.  Jesus is.  No prince is being driven out.  Jesus is.  Wouldn’t Jesus’ death be evidence of a judgment on Jesus?  But this is where we see the upside-nature of God’s Kingdom. 

In God’s upside-kingdom, everything Jesus says makes sense.  You and I have the benefit of hindsight, and we can understand Jesus because we know that he is talking about his soon-coming death, and we know that in his death, ironically, he was victorious.  Yes, he dies, but rises again in victory.  Through Jesus’ sacrifice, the world is judged according to how the world responds to Jesus.  

But what about the prince of the world?  Who or what is that?  Almost certainly Jesus is referring to Satan, to evil in this world.  It could seem that in Jesus’ death, Satan had the upper hand. But the upside-down Kingdom rules again, because it is precisely through Jesus’ death that victory is made possible for all people to experience life. Through Jesus’ death, Satan faces a major loss.

That gives Jesus reason to make an important conclusion,

“’But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”

After all this potentially confusing talk, what Jesus says here is extremely welcoming, “All of you, join me.  Every single one of you.  Every tribe, every nation, ever culture, every ethnicity, I invite you into my Kingdom.”  Jesus draws all people to himself, inviting us, welcoming us, he does not force us. 

These verses have a darkness to them because he is talking about his death.  But his death, Jesus says, has the surprising result of opening the way for whomever wants to enter his Kingdom.  That is the connection to the Greek people from verses 20-21 who wanted to have a meeting with Jesus, which we talked about in this post.  In the Jewish mindset, Greek people were not included in God’s Kingdom.  Jesus says, “Things are different now.  The Kingdom is for all.”  Thus the church of Jesus is for all. Jesus’ death is a loving self-sacrifice by which he invites all people to enter his kingdom.

This makes me think of a recent visit Faith Church had from Church World Service. See their impactful presentation here. Church World Service Lancaster invites churches to start Welcome Teams because they need more churches to welcome people from all over the world who are resettling in Lancaster.  CWS has offices in communities across the US. There are numerous other resettlement agencies as well. Consider how you can connect with and their support their important work.

Jesus showed us the example of sacrifice for the purpose of welcoming all.  How will we invite holy disruption in our lives?

As we’ve seen in John 12:20-33, Jesus has done a lot of teaching. How will the crowd respond? Actually, they have a rebuttal for Jesus, and it seems they have a good point. In the next post we’ll learn what they say, and how Jesus will answer them.

Photo by Elsa Gonzalez on Unsplash

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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