The Gospel of John: a commentary & meditation 
"Now my soul is troubled"

Scripture: John 12:27-43
27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say--'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that 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 standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. 34 The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" 35 Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.

37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 39 And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn-- and I would heal them." 41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. 42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Meditation: In Jesus' last public discourse shortly before the time of Passover and his impending betrayal and death on a cross, Jesus spoke openly of his anguish of soul. Unlike the other Gospel accounts, John's gospel does not describe Jesus' agony in the Garden on the eve of his sacrifice.  But here John does describe Jesus' emotional and spiritual anguish as his "hour" approaches.  What is this inner struggle which Jesus underwent as he anticipates his hour of trial and confrontation with those who sought to destroy him? It certainly would be a natural reaction for anyone to turn away from suffering and humiliation. Jesus knew that he could have chosen to avoid the cross and the scandal and shame it would have brought him.  That is why he posed the question: "Father, save me from this hour?" Jesus courageously chose to suffer and die, not only in obedience to his Father, but for our sake and for our salvation.  He freely embraced the cross without any resentment or self-pity, because he knew that the cross would bring glory to his Father and victory for us.

It is at this precise moment of Jesus' total acceptance of the cross that the Father speaks audibly for all to hear.  The Father confirms that Jesus' hour of exaltation will indeed bring glory to God's name. The gospels tell us that the voice of God was present at all the decisive moments of Jesus life.  It came at his baptism at the Jordan River when Jesus began his public ministry (Mark 1:11).  And it came at the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus in the presence of three disciples, after Jesus had told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and lay down his life for their sake (Luke 9:23-31).

On this occasion Jesus describes his approaching "hour" as both a "judgment of this world" and his "being lifted up from the earth". The judgment Jesus had in mind here is the "driving out" of Satan as the ruler of the earth. Jesus saw the cross as defeat for Satan who sought to rule humankind enslaved by sin and the fear of death. His cross not only wins pardon from guilt but freedom to live a new way of love according to God's wisdom and the promise of eternal life.

What did Jesus mean when he said he would "draw all people" to himself as he is lifted up from the earth (John 12:32)? This is the third occasion in the Gospel of John, when Jesus spoke of his being lifted up (see John 3:14-15 and 8:28).  John sees Jesus "being lifted up" as a sign of triumph over his enemies and his enthronement in glory as true King, not only of Israel, but the whole world which has been under the rule of Satan. When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus (John 3:14), he likened his being "lifted up" with Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. This uplifted bronze emblem brought healing to the Israelites poisoned by the deadly sting of vipers because of their rebellion and disobedience (see Numbers 21:9).  Now when people see what Jesus accomplished on his cross and recognize the great victory he won for them, then they will receive full healing, pardon, and reconcilation with God.

John the Evangelist saw the cross not as shame and defeat for Jesus, but as a throne of glory from which Jesus triumphed over sin, Satan, and death itself. Do you believe in the power of Jesus' cross?

"Lord, by your cross you have redeemed the world.  May I always have the courage to embrace your will for my life. Though it may produce a cross on earth for me; it will surely produce a crown in heaven that will last forever".

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(c) 2005 Don Schwager