Setting

Jesus has entered Jerusalem as the triumphant King of Israel. But His kingdom is not of this world, and thus His mission is not what the multitudes have in mind. As Jesus’ public ministry is coming to a close, He speaks to the people about His death and its glorious outcome. For the final time, He reveals Himself to the world as the light of the world, urges the people to put their faith in Him, and warns of the judgment on unbelievers.

Key Verse

(12:36)

Did You Know...?

1. Greeks (12:20): This term in the broader sense applied to all Gentiles who came under the influence of Greek culture. [ref]

2. Philip (12:21) and Andrew were the only two members of the Twelve with Greek names (with the possible exception of Thomas). [ref]

3. “The Christ remains forever” (12:34): The notion might have been based on passages such as Ps 89:35–37.

Outline

Keywords/Phrases

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General Analysis

  • 1.

    How is “the hour” a central idea in this passage?

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    The theme of “the hour” weaves through the passage. The Lord first announced that the hour had come that the Son of Man should be glorified (23). As He was speaking about His death, He expressed the anguish in His soul because of what this hour would bring. But at the same time He was determined to face this very hour for which He had come into the world (27, 28). This hour of glory was also the hour in which the world would be judged and the ruler of the world would be cast out (30, 31). For once the Son of Man was lifted up and glorified, He would draw all peoples to Himself (32). Since the hour had arrived, the Lord Jesus also urged the people to believe in the light while the light was still with them (35, 36).

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  • 2.

    What does this passage teach about judgment?

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    1. Jesus’ hour of glory was also the time of judgment (31). 2. Jesus did not judge unbelievers, for He did not come to judge but the save the world (47, 48). 3. The word that Jesus had spoken would judge unbelievers in the last day (48).

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Segment Analysis

  • 12:20–36

    1.

    How is the significance of the term “the Son of Man” fully expressed here (23, 34)?

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    Jesus used the term “Son of Man” to refer to Himself, although the identity of “the Son of Man” was veiled to the people, as can be seen in Jn 12:34. The term in the Bible is associated with two main ideas. The first is His humility and suffering (Mt 8:20, 12:40, 17:12, 22, 20:18, 28, 26:2, 24, 45; Mk 8:31, 9:12, 31, 10:33, 45, 14:21, 41; Lk 9:22, 44, 58, 18:31, 22:22, 24:7; Jn 3:14, 12:34). The second is His heavenly origin, glory, and authority (Mt 9:6, 10:23, 12:8, 13:41, 16:27, 28, 19:28, 24:30, 24:44, 25:31, 26:64; Mk 2:10, 2:28, 8:38, 13:26, 14:62; Lk 5:24, 6:5, 9:26, 12:8, 17:24, 21:27, 22:69; Jn 1:51, 3:13, 14, 5:27, 6:27, 53, 62, 8:28, 12:23, 13:31; Acts 7:56). These two ideas are closely related, for the suffering and death of the Son of Man would fully manifest His heavenly glory and power. The Gospel according to John unites these two ideas. As we can see in the present passage, the lifting up of the Son of Man signifies the kind of death that He would die (Jn 12:33). But it also meant His ascension (cf. Jn 6:62, 8:28), through which He would receive glory and power (Jn 12:23, 31, 32).

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  • 2.

    How did Jesus words relate to the Greeks who had come to see Him?

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    These Greeks were probably God-fearing Gentiles who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. Their request to see the Lord Jesus provided Jesus the occasion to speak about the universal nature of His atoning death and of the salvation that would be accomplished. Embedded in the analogy of the seed that dies and produces much grain is the idea that through His death, the Lord Jesus would draw all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike, to Himself (12:32; cf. 11:49–52).

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  • 3.

    How does Jesus expect us to serve Him?

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    In verse 25, which immediately precedes the statement about serving Him, Jesus teaches that serving Him involves hating one’s life in this world. This means that we need to deny ourselves, including our own desires, comfort, and will, as we obey Jesus’ commands and follow His example in our daily lives (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23, 57, 58).

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  • 4.

    In verses 27 and 28, how did Jesus exemplify what He expected of His followers?

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    “Soul” in verse 27 is the same word as the “life” that one either loves or hates in verse 25. While the teaching in verse 25 applies to followers of Jesus and not to Jesus Himself, Jesus’ anguish, denial of His own will, and laying down of His own life (Jn 10:17) certainly serves as the ultimate example for us to follow.

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  • 5a.

    Why did the hour in which the Son was glorified also glorify the Father’s name?

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    Jesus is God become flesh. Although He is the Son, He is one with the Father (Jn 10:30). As the One sent by the Father, everything He did and spoke fully represented what the Father did and said (Jn 5:19, 30, 7:16, 12:49). Therefore, the Father had already glorified His name through the works of Jesus on earth (Jn 12:28). Furthermore, He would also glorify it again when Jesus accomplished the Father’s purpose through His death and exaltation. In this sense, the glorification of the Son was also the glorification of the name of the Father (cf. Jn 13:31, 32). Therefore, we who have been redeemed give thanks and praise to our Father because of the salvation accomplished in Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:3–6; 1 Cor 15:57).

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  • 5b.

    Why is it also the hour of judgment?

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    Through His death and resurrection, Jesus conquered death and the prince of the world, the devil (1 Cor 15:45, 54–57; Heb 2:14). Therefore, the hour in which the Lord Jesus was glorified was also a judgment on the world and its prince (“the world” represents the unbelieving world that is under the influence of the devil; cf. Jn 1:10, 11, 15:18, 16:20).

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  • 6.

    How is Jesus able to draw all peoples to Himself by being lifted up?

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    The death of Jesus manifests God’s great love for the world (Jn 3:14–16; Rom 5:6–8). This incomparable love compels us to live for Him (2 Cor 5:14, 15). Furthermore, the death of Jesus broke down the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, thereby gathering together believers of all races under His name (Gal 3:26–29; Eph 2:11–18).

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  • 7.

    Explain Jesus’ appeal in verses 35 and 36.

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    Here, the Lord Jesus referred to Himself as the light, which was soon to depart from the world to return to the Father (cf. Jn 9:4, 5, 11:9, 10, 13:1, 3). He urged the people to believe Him while He was still in the world. But if they refuse to believe in Him, they would be consumed by the power of evil, stumble, and die in their sin (Jn 8:21). On the contrary, if they believe in the light, they would become sons of light. They would have the light of life in them, guiding them on the path of life so that they would not stumble (cf. Jn 11:9).

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  • 12:37–43

    8.

    According to this segment, why did the people not believe in Jesus?

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    They did not believe in Jesus because they could not believe (39). God had blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts (40). On its own, this statement may seem to make God solely responsible for man’s unbelief and absolve men of any guilt. But verse 42 speaks to the contrary with the word “nevertheless.” The fact that many rulers believed in Jesus despite the unbelief of the people in general tells us that men are not without a choice. Man does have the capacity to choose faith. That is why the Lord urged the people to believe in the light. But if a person forsakes the opportunity to believe, God gives them over to a debased mind (Rom 1:21–28). It appears, therefore, that the blinding and hardening of hearts is judgment of God upon those who choose to reject Jesus (cf. 2 Thess 1:9–12). Once thus blinded and hardened, the unbeliever loses even the capacity to believe.

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  • 9.

    In what sense did Isaiah see Jesus’ glory (41)?

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    Verse 40 quotes from Isaiah 6:10. In that passage, Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up (Isa 6:1). Therefore, the statement in John equates the Lord in Isaiah’s vision with Jesus. This means that Jesus is the eternal God who existed even before His incarnation. The glory that Isaiah saw was in fact the glory of Jesus. This is consistent with the teachings in the Bible concerning Jesus’ divinity (cf. Jn 8:56, 58).

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  • 10.

    What was lacking in the rulers who believed in Jesus?

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    Out of fear of the Pharisees, they did not confess Jesus despite their belief in Him (42). This was because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (43).

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  • 11.

    Have you ever been afraid to confess your beliefs? Why?

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  • 12:44–50

    12.

    Why does Jesus stress in this segment His unity with the One who sent Him?

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    Jesus’ oneness with the Father authenticates and gives weight to everything He had done and said. Accepting Him was accepting the Father, and coming to Him was coming to the Father. On the contrary, rejecting Jesus was rejecting the Father. Man cannot avoid coming face to face with the everlasting God when he makes a choice about Jesus.

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  • 13.

    What does Jesus teach us here about His words?

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    All of Jesus’ words came directly from the Father. Anyone rejecting Jesus’ words rejects the Father. That is why Jesus’ word itself would judge the unbeliever in the last day. On the other hand, through faith in Jesus’ word we may receive eternal life because His word is the Father’s command.

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