“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.
One of the most famous Christmas scenes in the Bible is the announcement to the shepherds by an angel that the Savior is born. And then it says, “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 among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11–14).
Glory to God, peace to man. The angels are sent to make something crystal clear: the Son of God has come into his creation to display the glory of God and to reconcile people from alienation to peace with God. To make God look great in salvation, and to make man glad in God.
God Glorified in the Rescue of Sinners
So when we come to our text in John 12 today there is no surprise when we hear Jesus praying that this would actually happen at the most important point of his earthly life, namely his death and resurrection. That God would in fact be glorified, in the rescue of sinners. Look at John 12:27–30,
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? [We know he means the hour of his death because in verse 24 he had said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”] But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.”
In verse 27b Jesus says, “For this purpose I have come to this hour.” What purpose? Answer: verse 28a, “Father, glorify your name.” That is why my death approaches.
The Father hears Jesus’ prayer and answers in verse 28b, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” He had just glorified his name in the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:4, 40), and now he will glorify it in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Good News About God’s Glory
And don’t miss the emphasis on God’s own commitment to glorify God. The text doesn’t just say that Jesus prayed for God to glorify God. Verse 28: “Father, glorify your name.” It also tells us that God himself says, I have and I will. God sent angels to say it in Luke 2. And God himself says it in John 12:28b, “I have glorified [my name], and I will glorify it again.” The deepest reason why we live for the glory of God is because God lives for the glory of God. We are passionate about God’s glory because God is passionate about God’s glory.
And what makes this such good news especially in the Gospel of John is that the glory of God is full of grace and truth. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The most glorious thing about God is that he is so completely, fully self-sufficient that the glory of the fullness of his being overflows in truth and grace for his creatures. He doesn’t need us. And therefore in his fullness he overflows for us.
God’s Glory in Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
Everything God does is the display of some aspect of his glory — his beauty, his greatness. And in today’s text, John calls our attention to four ways that God glorifies himself at this supreme “hour” in Jesus’ existence — the hour of death and resurrection — the hour when the seed falls into the ground and dies and bears much fruit. We see today some of that amazing fruit.
I’ll mention these four ways that God glorifies himself in the death and resurrection of Jesus and then we will look at them briefly. 1) God glorifies himself by judging the world; 2) God glorifies himself by casting out the ruler of this world, Satan; 3) God glorifies himself by drawing all of his sheep to Jesus; and 4) God glorifies himself by shining as the Light of the world in the lives of those who believe in Jesus. That’s the order that they come in the text. So let’s look at them one at a time in that order.
1. God glorifies himself by judging the world in the cross of Christ.
John 12:31a, “Now is the judgment of this world.”
Now! Not just at the end of history. Now. The day of judgment comes in the death of Jesus.
Let me give you three other passages from the Gospel of John that shed light on what this means.
- John 5:27, “And God has given Jesus authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” Judgment is going to happen through Jesus.
- John 5:28-29, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” So there is a future judgment that’s coming after the resurrection of all people — the good and the evil.
- John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” In other words, those who trust Christ to reconcile them to God will not come into judgment. Why? Because they have already passed from the condemned state of death into the justified state of eternal life. Their judgment already happened.
When did it happen? That’s what our text today tells us. John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world.” Now. In the death of Jesus. In other words, the death of Jesus becomes the decisive dividing line between the condemned and the vindicated. If you trust Jesus, you are united to him and his death is your death (Galatians 2:20), and his condemnation is your condemnation (Romans 8:3). And if you never trust Jesus, you stand condemned both by your sin, and by your rejection of the offer of forgiveness.
So God glorifies himself by bringing the final judgment into history so that his Son can bear the sentence of condemnation for all who believe in Christ. This is part of what the angels were singing about: glory to God and peace to men who come to Christ and pass from death to eternal life and never come into judgment.
2. God glorifies himself by casting out the ruler of this world, Satan.
John 12:31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”
In what sense was Satan cast out at the death of Jesus? We know that he remains active in the world because the New Testament tells us how to protect ourselves against him (e.g., Ephesians 6:10ff).
There are some pointers. Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me” (John 14:30–31). We know from John 13:27 that Satan entered into Judas in that final hour. So the picture is that Satan was making a final move against Jesus in the hope that he could possibly make his final hours so bad as to destroy his faith and obedience, and thus undermine the whole work of salvation.
He failed. And in failing, he himself was judged and decisively defeated. Jesus says in John 16:11 that the Holy Spirit is coming to convict the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” The sense in which “the ruler of this world was cast out” or “judged” is that he experienced his decisive defeat at the cross — not the final defeat, but the one that secures and guarantees the final defeat. Jesus did not give in. He kept entrusting himself to God. He did not sin.
And therefore he bore our sin. And he stripped Satan of the one weapon that he had that could damn us: namely, the valid accusation of our unforgiven sin. That weapon is taken from his hand. He is disarmed. We have no unforgiven sin. The blood of Jesus covers our sin — all of it. Therefore the cross was the decisive defeat of the condemning designs of the devil. He cannot succeed. The victory is ours though faith in Christ. This is why John said in Revelation 12:11, “They have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb.” The blood of the Lamb strips Satan of his one condemning weapon, our unforgiven sin.
The god of this world is cast out of the courtroom. Our case is settled. Our judgment is passed. Our sins are forgiven. Our accuser has no records in his folder. He has no say in our future any more. We have passed from death to life. God has glorified himself by defeating his ancient adversary at the very moment when Satan thought he could win.
3. God glorifies himself by drawing all of his sheep to Jesus.
John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
This might mean that the death of Christ, when preached with clarity, has a general drawing effect on all people. That is the way it seems to be usually taken or that it draws all kinds of people. I doubt that it means that. I think it means that when Christ died —when he was lifted up on the cross — he actually secured — obtained, guaranteed — the home-coming of his sheep, the ingathering of his children.
In other words his death not only makes it possible to offer salvation freely and truly to everyone, so that “whoever believes on him might have eternal life” (John 3:16), but his death also secures with certainty the bringing in of all his sheep (John 10:16), the ingathering of “the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52).
Here are the reasons I think this is what Jesus means.
- The word “people” is not a necessary part of the Greek word for “all” in verse 32. It simply says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself.” I am suggesting it is all his sheep, all his children, all the elect.
- The word “draw” is used in John 6:44, where Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” If the sense is similar, it’s a real, effective drawing. It’s not an attempt to draw which fails. It’s a successful bringing to Christ.
- This is what Jesus said he would do for his sheep in John 10:16 when he dies for them: “I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.” His death has a certain effect on his sheep. They come. All of them.
- The death of Jesus does not draw all people this way. Judas, for example, knows the cross and the Savior, and is not drawn by the lifting up of Christ. He rejects Christ and perishes. In fact it’s Judas’ unbelief that is in view in John 6:65 when Jesus says, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
- Jesus uses the term “all” for his elect the way he does here when he says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself.” For example, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). And the Son gives “eternal life to all whom you have given him” (John 17:2). This is the “all” of John 12:32, “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all — all whom you have given to me, all my sheep — to myself.”
Therefore, God multiplies the ways he gets glory in the death of his Son. He glorifies himself in the death of Christ not only by making salvation available to all, so that whoever believes may have eternal life (John 3:16), but also by securing with absolute certainty the ingathering of all those whom he has appointed to eternal life (Acts 13:48) — all his own, all the sheep, all the children of God, all the elect who were chosen in Jesus before the foundation of the world. “When I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all of them to myself.” And my Father will get great glory for this triumphant salvation.
4. And finally, God glorifies himself by shining as the Light of the world in the lives of those who believe in Jesus.
John 12:36, “While you have the light [namely, Jesus], believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Here is where all of this becomes very personal for you. God’s glory is revealed for us to cherish as our highest treasure. It’s revealed supremely in the death of Jesus, because there the world is judged, Satan is cast out, and the homecoming of all believers is invincibly secured. The question is, will you trust Jesus for all of this? Will you welcome it and treasure it as his blood-bought gift for you?
Will your heart say,
- I believe that my judgment is over and I have passed from death to life.
- And I believe that Satan has no claim on me, but is cast out of the courtroom of my vindication.
- And I believe that Christ purchased me and secured me invincibly by his blood, and I am not my own. I belong to him, my Savior and my God.”
If you believe, he says in verse 36, you don’t just see the light of Christ; you become children of the light. Which means you share his bright and holy nature: “While you have the light believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” You don’t just see the glory of God, you shine forth the glory of God.
That is Jesus’ word and promise to you this second Sunday of Advent. And it is a great mercy.