The glorification of the Son of Man, the death of Jesus on the cross, is the climax of the mission of God. Through the cross, victory and life are given to those who believe in him , but defeat and judgement are announced to the world and its ruler who stand against him.
After 12:19 - “the whole world is going after him”, the narrator introduces “some Greeks” - probably the God-fearer“ - the gentiles (cf. Luke 7:5; Acts 10). Many gentiles were interested in the Jewish way of life and worship. Such people occasionally went up to Jerusalem to worship at the festivals (see Acts 8:27). And they could be admitted to the ”court of the Gentiles".
The Greeks address Philip with respect, “κύριε - sir”.
Some commentator point out that between 12:19 and 12:20 the cleansing of the temple could take place (Mk 11:15–17). Jesus expelled the traders and money-changers from the court of the Gentiles thus turning it again into the house of prayer (Is 56:7). Did those Greek witness to that action and were moved by it - namely that Jesus cared about them?
Why did they approach Philip? Some say because of his Greek sounding name, others that Bethsaida was close to the Greek region of the Decapolis.
The Greek wanted to ‘see Jesus’ (cf. 1:39) but then, the Gospel does not tell us whether they could really see him. Moreover, they are not mentioned anymore later in the Gospel.
The main point is that in the presence of those Greek, “the whole world” began to come to Jesus (12:19).
Andrew was also from Bethsaida. Both of them deliver the message about the Greeks seeking Jesus to Jesus.
Here the introduction ends and Jesus’ monologue begins.
The basic message of Jesus is that the time is fast approaching that not only the Greeks but many others will come to Jesus to experience his gift of life eternal, but first he has to die for us.
In this first part of Jesus’ monologue, the Evangelist explains the glorification of the Son. Jesus’ answer is not directed to the Greeks but to the whole world. Jesus’ answer is commentary on what Jesus has already done and the one thing he has yet to do - the crucifixion.
Jesus’ death is presented as: (1) the glorification of the Son of Man and (2) the seed being sown in the earth to produce a plentiful harvest.
In the Synoptics, the glory of the Son of Man comes after his suffering on the cross. In John, the suffering of the Son of Man is seen as the first stage of his receiving of glory (12:16).
“The hour has come”. Till this moment the hour was presented as a thing of the future - it has not yet come (cf. 2:4). Now, with his arrival in Jerusalem for the last Passover, it has come.
12:23 - “The hour” refers to his death but also to his going to the Father.
Jesus always said that he does not seek his own glory (8:50, 54), and so it will be the Father who will glorify the Son (17:5).
12:24 - the grain of wheat - think about the Eucharist.
With this short parable Jesus explains the meaning of his statement in the previous verse.
The ‘dying’ seed - actually the genetic code of seed does not ‘die’ - explains the paradox of the glorification of the Son of Man (12:23).
As the farmer does not lose a seed but gains fruit, so God the Father does not lose the Son but gains many more children!!! (1:12).
12:25 - he who loves his life … (cf. Mk 8:34–38)
Jesus’ explanation now connects the seed with the fruit, that is, the death of the Son with the life of the children of God. What is true of Jesus must be true of his followers.
The seed (the Son) establishes a precedent or an example for the fruit (the disciples) to follow. Any seed that would not want to ‘die’ fails to understand its purpose - it would not produce fruit. The same goes for Jesus’ disciples.
To love one’s life here means to give priority to this world and one’s own self over God’s kingdom or eternal life. The ultimate value of life is not to be sought “in this world” but in “eternal life”.
“Hating life” means to love it rightly. It means to follow Jesus in the sequence dying in order to produce fruit.
12:26 - if anyone serves me … .
Just as the fruit springs from and follows the seed, so also the disciples come from and should follow the Son.
The fruit (Christians) is so organically joined to the seed (Christ) that its very existence is directed by the interrelationship.
Our self must be displaced by Jesus; the endless focus on self must be displaced by focus on Jesus Christ.
This is the kind of life that the Father “will honour” by making us to participate in the life of the Son (see 14:21, 23; 16:24; 17:22–23).
12:27–36 - the second part of Jesus’ monologue. It explains the mission of the Son.
In 12:26, Jesus focused on his disciples, now he focuses on himself again (12:24–25).
“My soul is troubled”. The Word of God truly became flesh (1:14). And so he was capable of experiencing the full range of human fear and suffering.
In that very moment, the seed is tempted to love his life and not hate it. This is the question Christ is faced with and why he poses it as a question: “Father, save me from this hour?”. Some put this verse as a statement not a question. (See Mt 26:38–39).
But, if the seed doe not die there will not be any fruit. So, Jesus immediately ‘reminds’ himself the purpose of his life and mission - he came for this “hour”. So, Jesus continue his prayer.
“Father, glorify your name” is a perfect description of hating your life in this world and loving your life in eternity (12:25). The form of the verb is an imperative of request.
So, the cross will also glorify the Father.
In that moment, a remarkable thing happen - the Father spoke “from heaven”.
The name of the Father has been glorified by Jesus’ entire ministry (now already completed) and the cross will be the climatic act of glorifying the Father by the Son (cf. 12:23).
Since the Son already made his decision to the will of the Father - “Father, glorify your name” or in the words of the Synoptics - “let your will be done” (cf. Mt 26:39), the Father can say that He will further glorify His name through the death and the resurrection, and probably also the ascension of his Son.
The crowds that heard ‘something’ try to interpret ‘the voice’: (1) a natural occurrence - thunder; (2) supernatural occurrence - the voice of an angel.
The narrator wants to show again that the people still do not comprehend Jesus. As they could not make sense of the “voice” of God the Father, so they do not understand the Word of God, His Son.
Jesus himself explains the significance of the voice heard by the crowd. The ‘voice’ they heard should make them realise how deep is the relationship between the Father and the Son. Even if they could not hear the message - after all it was between the Father and the Son - the “sound” itself should point them into the right direction - toward faith in Jesus, the Word of God.
The “hour” of his glorification (12:23) is also the time for “the judgement of this world” (see also 3:17–19; 5:22–30).
The cross is simultaneously the “glorification” of Jesus and the “judgement” of the world. It is the point of decision for the world, either as the place of their salvation in which the cross is the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on their behalf, or the place of their judgement, by which they stand already condemned (3:18).
The judgement also involves the removal of “the ruler of this world” - an exorcism language so often used in the Synoptic Gospels.
In Rev 12:7–9 - the word “cast out” is used three times, and the “god”/ “prince of this world” is also mentioned in 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2).
Thus, the cross is the locus of a cosmic battle in which Jesus achieves a decisive victory over Satan.
Some commentators indicate that the “hour” of the cross is the dethronement of the Devil from his tyranny over people and the enthronement of the rightful King, the glorification of the Son of Man.
The ruler of this world is the adversary of the Son, but finds no accusation to bring against him (cf. 14:30). He is also the adversary of those who believe in the Son, but against his accusations they are to receive the powerful aid of the Paraclete, whose presence will be to them the evidence that “the ruler of this world has been judged” (16:11).
That ruler’s dethronement, then, is effected by the death and resurrection of the Son and confirmed by the coming of the Spirit (Rev 12:9).
It seems that the “if” connect this statement to 12:24 - the illustration about the seed, which also contains “if”.
There is also one more point of contact - “if the grain of wheat falls into the earth/ground” (12:24) and “if” Jesus is “lifted up from the earth”.
The term “lifted up” was used already in 3:14; 8:28. This lifted up goes beyond the cross (cf. Acts 2:33). It embraces the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension. See also Is 52:13 LXX - the Servant shall be exalted.
It captures the essence of the Gospel - in and through his humiliation Jesus is glorified (cf. Phil 2:9–11).
The verb “draw” was used in 6:44 - where the Father draws people to Jesus. Here Jesus draws “all people to” himself (cf. 10:16; 11:52). Again, we see the work of both the Father and the Son.
In a sense this is the answer to the the Greeks. The process of drawing “all people” shall begin after Jesus’ ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit through the mediation of the Church - the apostles.
The narrator points the reader again to the crucifixion - the “lifting up” of the Son of Man would occur by means of Roman crucifixion.
The crowd argues that according to the law - meaning the whole Hebrew Bible - the promised Messiah should always remain with his people (cf. Is 9:7; Ezek 37:35; Ps 72:17 - with the phrase “for ever”).
Apparently the crowd remained confused. Do they understand what is the meaning of being “lifted up”? They are asking about the identity of the Son of Man.
If we combine 12:23 - the Son of Man will be glorified - and 12:32 - “If I am lifted up from the earth”, we have clear indication that Jesus is the Son of man and that his glorification and lifting up refer to the same event - the cross. Moreover, the statement spoken by the crowd is similar to the statement that Jesus spoke to Nicodemus (3:14).
From our perspective, there are two questions: (1) Why must the Christ die? It was answered already in Isaiah 53:10–11. (2) What kind of messiah is the Son of Man? The answer is the suffering and crucified Messiah.
But, that is precisely the problem. The Jewish crowd, like many in today’s world cannot accept such a Messiah (cf. Mk 8:31–33).
We are sensing here the scandal of the cross (Luke 2:34–35).
12:35–36 - cf. John 1:4–9
“For a little longer the light is still among you” refers to Jesus and his public ministry (16:16–19).
He is the light (8:12; 9:1 ff; see also 1 John 1:5 ff).
It is by welcoming or avoiding this light that men show the quality of their lives and deeds (John3:19–21). Jesus warns his hearers to avail themselves of the light while they have the opportunity. Now is the opportunity to believe in him. If they do so, the will become the children of light (cf. 1 These 5:4–5; Eph 5:8). Without Christ, without the light, they cannot see the direction of their lives.
After inviting the crowd to believe in Jesus in order to become the “sons of the light”, Jesus departs and is “concealed from them” (see 8:59). It seems that in this case Jesus shows by his action what he preached by his words. He will be with them for a little longer and then he will be concealed from them.
The Evangelist offers a commentary on the response of the people (12:37–43).
These “signs” that Jesus performed have become a technical term in the Gospel for a miraculous work that points beyond itself to the true identity of Jesus being present among them.
From the beginning of signs in Cana (2:11) to the display of the glory of God in the raising of Lazarus (11:4, 40), Jesus revealed his identity and the fact that he was sent by the Father and does the works of the Father. But very few actually believed him (cf. 1:11).
This reluctance to come to the light, shown by the very people who had been prepared over the centuries for the coming of the light, is a problem which demands an explanation. John, like Paul (cf. Rom 10:16) finds explanation in OT prophecy.
Prophet Isaiah was also quoted at the beginning of the Gospel, now his quotes concludes Jesus’ public ministry. The quote comes from Is 53:1.
The second Isaiah (40–55) contains the famous songs of the servant of God (Is 42:1–9; 49:1–6; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12), whose ministry, including his apparent failure, had worldwide consequences.
Is 53:1 comes from the last song of the servant proceeded by Is 52:13, 15 that speaks about the exaltation of the servant and the surprise he will create among the nation and kings.
Is 53:1 points to the fact that although Israel “heard the message”, they refused to believe. Then, the prophet speaks about the “arm of the Lord” - the power of God that was so evident in Jesus’ performance of ‘so many signs’. “The arm of the Lord” aimed to lead the people to salvation (cf. Is 40:10; 48:14; 51:5; 52:10).
But the manner of this salvation, so unexpected and even shocking, is explain by Isaiah 53:2–12.
This statement connect faith and divine activity of God. We have here an example of human situation placed under the power and authority of God.
The Evangelist continues to explain that situation further.
This passage (Is 6:9) is also quoted in Mk 4:12 and Acts 28:26–27 (cf. also Rom 11:7–25).
The fundamental problem with humanity was hinted at from the very beginning of the Gospel (1:5, 10–11) and here it reaches its climax.
Their response to Jesus (12:39) is ultimately a judgement from God, allowing the darkness to which they belong to impose itself upon them (see Rom 1:21–24).
Most of the commentators explain this quote from Isaiah as a Hebraic fashion of expressing result as though it was a purpose. Whether that is the case, it is not convincing. The best way is to simply see it as mystery of divine human relationship.
In the context of Isaiah 6, the “glory” that Isaiah witnessed was the glory of the LORD (Is 6:1, 3), but here “his glory” refers to Christ (cf. 8:56, 58).
Thus, we have here deep relationship between “the Lord” of Isaiah 6:1, 3 and “the Son of Man” (Jesus) of John.
The “glory” revealed to Isaiah was made manifest to the world - especially to the Jews - by the “signs” of Jesus, and these signs were intended to reveal Jesus’ glory (John 2:11).
The narrator has just made a connection not only between the Father and the Son but also between the response of the people in Isaiah’s day and Jesus’ day.
Isaiah and Jesus proclaim the same message of God, now made known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one who finally and more fully reveals it (1:18).
In various places throughout his Gospel John speaks of believing in Jesus or believing in his name in a sense that falls short of full commitment (2:23–25; 8:31 ff).
Thus, after focusing on the divine action, the Evangelist turns to the human action of unbelief.
The statement of 12:41 is qualified in 12:42. There were actually many of the rulers who believed but they were not bold enough to confess ‘publicly’ their faith.
The excommunication from the synagogue [worship and fellowship] was mentioned already in 9:22, 34.
Here, we have a glimpse into the “tools” used to procure “blinding and hardening” - fear of being rejected (expelled).
The verb “loved” here means “chose” or “preferred”; “human glory” can mean “recognition” or “approval” as in 5:41, but “the glory of God” points us again to Is 6:3, 5 and the glory of the Son (12:23).
The “blindness and hardening” (12:40) of unbelievers is such a distortion of reality that they are drawn to their own sinful state of being (cf. 5:44) rather than to the healing and restoring power of God.
If only they would see themselves in light of the “glory of Christ” as Isaiah (Is 6:5) or Peter did (Luke 5:8)!
This serves as a conclusion to the public rejection of Jesus, offering a penetrating analysis of the human condition first introduced in 1:5.
But, how in this view should we see Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus (19:38–39)? [This will have to wait till the analysis of 19:38].
The final part of Jesus’ monologue sums up the main themes of Jesus’ ministry and it is also seen as “final” appeal to believe in him.
Everything Jesus has said and done he did as the representative of the Father - “the One who sent” Him.
He “cried out” (7:28, 37). It means that something important Jesus is going to say. The “cry” of Jesus here is the cry of the merciful and gracious God, calling the reader - the world - to repentance. Such a call matches the purpose of the entire Gospel (20:30–31).
The term believe is a central term in the Gospel (1:12). To believe in Jesus is to believe in the Father. Again, we have here the insight into the trinitarian mystery of our God (cf. Mt 10:40; Luke 9:48; 10:16).
To believe in the Son, then, is to believe in the Father who sent him.
Jesus is the ultimate expression of God (cf. John 14:9; Col 1:15), the visible manifestation and presence of God.
Jesus continues to summarise his teaching by declaring the purpose of his coming into the world, his mission from the Father.
The point is clear - those who do not believe in Jesus remain in the darkness. Only faith in Jesus, who is the Light of the world, ‘transfers us’ from darkness into light.
God’s love, not judgement, motivated the sending of the Son (3:16–17). But at the same time he came for judgement (cf. 9:39). The judgement means the reaction towards Jesus.
What is significant here is the statement that the believer both “hears” and “keeps” the words of Jesus (cf. Mt 7:24 ff; Luke 6:47 ff). The people ‘heard’ Jesus’ words but they did not keep them. The rejection of the words of Jesus is itself a form of judgement (cf. 12:48).
Jesus’ own words will render judgement “on the last day”, when the one who judges, God the Father, gives all judgement to the Son (5:22, 27; cf. Mt 25:31–46).
This is both paradox and tragedy of humanity. Deep in our hearts we long for the light, for freedom, but when the light comes, when the liberation comes, some of us prefer to remain in darkness and to remain permanent slaves. And yet, they think that they see and that they are free.
12:49 - cf. 5:19–30
Again, the stress is on the relationship between the Father and the Son. To pit Jesus against God is to misunderstand Jesus and to misunderstand God. Jesus has simply obeyed “the commandment” of his Father.
As the Father’s commandment is the message of eternal life, so the message of the Son is the message of eternal life. To obey the Father’s commandment, to believe the Son’s message, is to have eternal life; conversely, to disobey the Father’s commandment, to refuse credence to the Son’s message, is to forfeit life and enter into judgement. The light of life has as its counterpart the darkness of judgement.