Thursday, April 2, 2015

Thunder from Heaven

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.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:28-32)
The time of Jesus’ crucifixion was near, but he did not ask the Father to save him from it. Rather, he prayed, “Father, glorify your name.” That is what mattered to him more than anything else. (See Following Jesus Into Holy Week.)

Now came the answer, a voice from heaven: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” Some heard it as thunder. Others thought maybe an angel. But it was the voice of the Father, and it came not for Jesus’ sake but for all those who were gathered around him. So Jesus explained the significance of it. It concerned what was about to happen and was very powerful in its scope.

Now is the time for judgment on this world. At the crucifixion, the world system of political and religious leaders thought it was judging Christ, but in reality Christ was judging the world. The Light of the World was judging the darkness of the world. The righteousness of Christ was judging the injustice of the world. The faithfulness of Christ was judging the faithlessness of the world. The self-giving love of Christ was judging the self-seeking of the world. And the life of Christ, through death on the cross, was judging the death that plagued the world. The judgment of God through Jesus Christ did not come to destroy the world but to save the world and set things right.

Now the prince of this world will be driven out. The “prince of this world” is the devil. Christ came to break the power of the devil (Hebrews 2:14) and destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). This happened at the cross. Through the cross, the apostle Paul tells us, Jesus has disarmed and defeated the principalities and powers, the demonic spiritual forces behind kings and cultures, and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15). The devil thought to drive Christ out of the world by putting him on the cross, but it is the devil himself who is being driven out, for Christ not only won the victory over the cross but also triumphs over death and the devil through the cross.

When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself. Here, we come around to what was the occasion for Jesus’ declarations in this passage. In John 12:20-23, there were some Greeks who had come into Jerusalem to worship God during the festival of the Passover. Though they might possibly have been Hellenized Jews, it is more likely that they were ethnic Greeks who were “God-fearers.” That is, they honored and worshiped the God of the Jews even though they were not converts to Judaism. These Greeks had heard about Jesus and desired to meet him. Philip and Andrew, two of Jesus’ disciples, came and told him. It was in reply to this request that Jesus spoke of all these things, concluding with the statement that when Jesus was lifted up (a reference to the crucifixion), he would draw all people to himself. It was not just for the sake of Israel and the Jews but for all people everywhere, including the Greeks who desired to meet Jesus.