Mailed out for: Sunday, April 26th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Isa 53:1-6 ESV] 1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
New Testament reading:
[2Co 7:10-13 ESV] 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God. 13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
Gospel reading and sermon text:
[Jhn 12:27-36 ESV] 27 “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.
As we approach the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the account of John’s Gospel, we find this passage today that proves to us a very important point: the death of Christ is the plan of God.
That will be the third of three points in today’s sermon. The three points are:
1. Jesus Went to the Cross Willingly!
2. The Cross of Christ Brings Glory to God.
3. The Death of Christ is the Plan of God.
I. Jesus Went to the Cross Willingly!
Beginning the passage, we find Jesus saying:
27 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.
There is some debate on the best way to understand the language here. Greek doesn’t have question marks! And we so don’t know for sure if the phrase “Father, save me from this hour” is a question or a statement.
If Jesus asks a rhetorical question (as the ESV, NASB, NKJV, etc. have a question mark added), the answer is “no.” Shall I say ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ – No! Jesus knows that he has come for this purpose. Just as he comes into Jerusalem willingly, so he goes to the cross willingly!
The people don’t understand this, that Jesus goes to the cross willingly. When Jesus is on the cross, we hear in Luke’s Gospel that the people mocked him, challenging him to save himself. Luke writes:
[Luk 23:35-37 ESV] 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
But the people didn’t understand! Jesus went to his death willingly! For he loved his people and was sent for this purpose – to die for their sins.
If, as the King James Version has it, there is no question mark then Christ doesn’t ask but merely says, “Father, save me from this hour.” In that case, it would be like Christ’s prayer in the garden of gethsemane where he prays:
[Mat 26:39 ESV] “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
At Gethsemane Christ asks if there is some other way. He is not disobedient in doing so. But this shows the intensity of the dread that is upon him. No man ever faced or endured the kind of death that lay ahead of Jesus.
Because Jesus had a human soul and because he went through such agony in his soul, we can know that he is not without reference and understanding of our pains, he is not inexperienced when he says to us “let not your soul be troubled.” Jesus was a man of great sorrow.
Application: Jesus understands your sorrows, for he was a man of sorrow. Bring your prayers to him.
We read as our Old Testament reading from Isaiah this messianic prophecy. Jesus would not be a great conqueror, but coming in to Jerusalem even on the colt of a donkey, he would be “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” But praise be to God that Jesus has “surely borne our griefs and carried out sorrows” and “with his wounds we are healed.” Thus bring your prayers to him, for he understands your grief.
II. The Cross of Christ Brings Glory to God.
The greatest display of the glory of God is seen in the substitutionary death of Jesus upon the cross.
It is the glory of God that is uppermost in the mind of Christ when he goes to the cross. Jesus’ obedience unto death would bring glory to God.
After Jesus says “Father, glorify your name,” then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
God has glorified His name before and he will glorify it again. There is no specific reference to what the past glory was, though surely it is multifold. The Lord has glorified his name throughout history and especially throughout the life of Jesus. And, as to what the future glorification of God’s name will be, that also is not specified, but surely from the context it includes at least the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The cross of Christ brings glory to God.
The crowd, apparently not wanting to admit that Jesus is Lord, they said this voice from heaven must not be from God, but maybe it was thunder. Or, if we have to admit it was actually voice, they thought, maybe it was just the voice of an angel that has spoken to Jesus.
Jesus doesn’t retort saying that it indeed was the voice of God, but he does respond in saying that the purpose of the voice is not for himself to hear, but for the people to hear. Jesus already knows that his death will be for the glory of God. The people are the ones benefitted by the voice of God confirming that truth.
Jesus explains: 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.
In verse 31 there is a particularly interesting statement that “now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” Well, “the ruler of this world” is none other than Satan, the devil. So Jesus says that Satan will be cast out of this world, and Jesus say this happens “now.” Why this verse is of such interest to me (and to many others) is that it is paramount in clarifying what this same author – John the Apostle – means in chapter 20 of his Book of Revelation. There he says:
[Rev 20:1-3 ESV] 1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
There is much debate over the meaning of the thousand years in Revelation 20. When do the thousand years start? And are they literally 1000 years or is this just symbolic of “a long time?” But we see from John 12 that the “casting out” of Satan begins “now.” That is, it begins in that “hour” or “time” that Christ has now come to. Thus the millennial kingdom begins with Christ who said “the kingdom is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). John 12:31 best fits with the Amillennial interpretation – there will be no earthly literal one-thousand year reign of Christ at the end of the world, but rather the reign of Christ is already present as Satan is held back and the gospel goes out to the nations.
If Revelation 20 and John 12 are speaking of the same event, then the premillennial interpretation is to be rejected. Premillennialist John MacArthur realizes this and so argues that these two passages must be speaking of separate bindings of Satan. This seems unlikely as it would require Satan be brought back from his casting out only to be thrown back into the pit. Thus I take the Amillennial view. Satan is “cast out” and “bound” so that the Gospel will go forward. Lands that were once polytheistic then become Christian. Who could have ever imagined that the great Roman Empire would become Christian!
Jesus continues: 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.
Again, like last week, we understand “all people” to mean people of all nations, Jew, Greek, and all others. Jesus will draw ALL MEN to himself because Satan’s hold is broken. And he indeed DRAWS them. Note that Christ is the active one; man is being drawn. We cannot come to the Father unless we are drawn by Christ.
And the “kind of death” is equated with the being “lifted up.” Jesus was going to be lifted up on the cross and crucified. AND HE KNEW IT! Jesus knew how he was going to die. This furthers the point that he went willingly. He knew exactly what he was getting into and he did not try to avoid it. And he did it all for your sake, to the glory of God’s name.
III. The Death of Christ is the Plan of God
Coming then to the third point of today’s sermon, we see that the death of Christ is the plan of God.
Jesus went willingly to the cross, to the glory of God’s name, and it was all in the plan of God.
IT IS NOT THE BACKUP PLAN OF GOD! It was not something that surprised Jesus, for he went willingly. And it was not a time in which Satan god the better of God, but a time when God got the better of Satan, sin, and death for all time.
It was all in the plan of God. Even the death of his Son Jesus Christ.
In our passage, in the English translation, there are three “wills” meaning future tense. Each of these show God’s sure knowledge of what is going to happen.
1. Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I WILL glorify it again.”
2. Now WILL the ruler of this world be cast out
3. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, WILL draw all people to myself.
God WILL glorify his name. And He WILL do it by casting out the ruler of this world (Satan) and Jesus WILL draw all of his people to himself. This is the plan of God. And it is carried out! It is carried out exactly as God and Christ said that it would be!
But the people couldn’t believe that the death of Christ would be God’s plan. They thought he would reign in an earthly way forever. We find in verse 34:
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?”
The crowd new the Old Testament prophecies in regard’s to the messiah’s eternal reign. And indeed it is eternal. But it would not be an eternal physical reign on earth. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom.
These prophecies include the following:
Isaiah 9:7 – Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.
Ezekiel 37:25 – and David my servant shall be their prince forever.
Daniel 7:14 – his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
All of these are perfectively fulfilled in kingdom of God without it being a physical, literal, earthly kingdom. And Christ’s coming into Jerusalem on a donkey and not on a horse should have tipped the people off to this fact – Jesus does not seek earthly power.
[Jhn 18:36 KJV] 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
The death of Christ is the plan of God to usher in His spiritual kingdom, reigning in our hearts and lives through the Holy Spirit.
If the death of Christ—that terrible thing—is in the plan of God and used for such great purposes, surely we can trust that His plan will come through in these times, in our difficulties. For God has a plan in all things. He is in control. He is in control not only of the big things but the small things. He is in control of all things! Thus we are not to worry. But look to the cross to know that God loves us His people. He loved us then, He loves us now, and He will love us for all time for His Glory. Praise be to God. Amen.