WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14
As the ‘prince of this world’ hears the announcement of his judgment, Jesus foretells that His death will draw all kinds of people to Him
|20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.||
20 “Greeks” – God-fearing Gentiles from a Greek-speaking area such as the ten towns of Galilee , or Greek-speaking converts to Judaism.
|21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”||21 Or rather, converse with Jesus. Perhaps they knew Philip, who had a Greek name.|
|22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.|
|23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.||23 Jesus had often said that His hour had not yet come. Now it had. Now, what must happen, is about to happen. Jesus’ death, and then His resurrection, were supreme demonstrations of the glory of His actions and the glory of who He was and is.|
|24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.||24 Jesus’ death results in an abundant harvest, 1 Cor. 15:36-38. The Greeks coming with Philip gave Jesus a picture of the harvest to come which would be a harvest of Gentiles as well as Jews.|
|25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.||25 “Anyone who loves… who hates their life” – this is an exaggeration for effect, a common Jewish figure of speech
25 The first word for “life” is more usually translated ‘soul’ and has the meaning of individual personality and achievement. The second is usually coupled with “eternal” as ‘eternal life’ or spiritual vitality in God’s presence.
|26 Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves Me.||26 Jesus is reflecting on, if not exactly quoting, God’s words spoken to Eli: “Those who honour Me I will honour, but those who despise Me will be disdained” (1 Samuel 2:30)|
|27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.||27 We are more familiar with Jesus’ anguish at Gethsemane which the narrative gospels relate, Matt 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:40-46. John shows us that Jesus had already shared His struggle with what his destiny demanded from Him at this earlier time.|
28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
28 This was the third time that God’s voice was heard audibly in connection with Jesus, each time affirming the authority of Jesus as His Son. People heard a booming sound but John is quite certain that this was God speaking, as he records.
For further study, see accounts of God speaking at Jesus’ baptism, Matt 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:21-22; and at the Transfiguration, Matt 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35.
29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to Him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.
|30 Another Jewish idiom of exaggeration, like v.25, meaning that it would be more enduringly for the disciples’ benefit as they struggled to make sense of the crucifixion and the events surrounding it.|
31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
31 Every revelation of Jesus is by its nature a judgment on those who deny who Jesus is, and a judgment on the devil’s attempts to influence the world and individuals. “The world” in John is often used as a shorthand for religious leaders antagonistic to Jesus.
31 Another aspect of the judgment on this world was what was becoming evident to people at this time (not the final judgment). The revelation of who Jesus is always compels a response, to honour Him or not, with consequences either way (v.26).
31 There are a three references to the ‘prince of this world’ in John’s gospel, John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; other descriptions in John are the devil (diabolos), Satan (satanas from Hebrew satan, adversary or accuser) and the evil one (ho poneros), John 8:44, 13:2, 13:27, 17:15.
32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.”
He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.
32 John uses elkyo, draw or pull, in the sense of drawing people to Him, 6:44; 12:32; and drawing in the net with the fish, John 21:6, 11.
32 Jesus’ death on the Cross would draw “all people” to Him. Clearly not all would believe. Of those, not all would trust Him and honour Him as their Lord. The sense is drawing all kinds of people, which he had spoken of before.
The context in which John is writing is another world entirely to our sense of multicultural enrichment. Jesus taught, John 10:16, about having other sheep “not of this sheep pen” who would be called to become one flock under one shepherd. However, Jesus drawing people to Him who were not like Him, like the Greek speakers, was a challenge for John and his readers to follow.
The greater the distance from Jerusalem, the more the culture was Greek-speaking and less distinctly Jewish. Jews routinely despised those who they thought were not like themselves – the tax collector at prayer, Matt. 18:10. Nevertheless, “to be a light to lighten the Gentiles” was always part of Israel’s mission, just as the Christian church exists for all those who are not part of it. In this passage John recounts Jesus teaching about living beyond ourselves and holding His own life lightly, in the hearing of Greek-speaking non-Jews.
Living for our own achievement is to lose the true meaning of life, which is to live beyond ourselves in the promise of eternal fellowship with God. Just as agape love is not self-seeking but has a sacrificial quality, so true life is able to die to its own ends, to produce an abundance beyond itself.
The prince of this world presides wherever the reign of selfishness and man’s opinion are valued more than the reign of Christ. Jesus is a confrontation to this worldview – and every revelation of Jesus, such as the audible voice of God, and every glorification of Jesus, on the cross or resurrected and on a heavenly throne, is a judgment on the world and its ‘prince’.
The Cross and Resurrection spell the driving out of the usurper of Jesus’ rule and reign. So the work is done? In one sense, but its all-important enforcement is a task which is now delegated to the continuing Body of Christ. We dare not renege on our responsibility by staying resolutely in our comfort zones.
For reflection or as a discussion starter
How free are you, or is your church, to reach out to those who are not like the regular congregation? What would help?
Wednesday, January 10
The first fishermen-disciples find Nathanael and he has an encounter with Jesus, who perceives exactly what he is thinking with prophetic insight.
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
- The first two disciples, Andrew (named) and John (not named, but probable) joined Jesus on the testimony of John the Baptist. Peter came because of his brother Andrew. Greek-named Philip, from the fishing village of Bethsaida and probably a fisherman, was chosen by Jesus Himself. Later, when Greeks in Jerusalem sought Jesus, it was Philip they approached, John 12:20-22. Jesus’ message spanned both cultures.
44-45 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
- His reference to “the one Moses wrote about in the Law” is an allusion to Deuteronomy 18:18 where the Lord says to Moses, ‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.’
- Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, but he was his legal father.
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
- Nathanael, probably the personal name of Bartholomew, is later referred to in John 21:1-3 as Nathanael of Cana when seven of the disciples were together and went fishing, but caught nothing. The account of Nathanael’s call in John is immediately followed by the story of the first miracle in Cana, John 2:1-11. There are about three locations where Cana might have been, 1-3 hours walk to the north of Nazareth. Perhaps Cana was bigger and looked down on Nazareth – or Nazareth just had a poor reputation, not helped by having a Roman detachment stationed there. To be a ‘Nazarene’ was a way of saying ‘despised’; Galilee as a whole was looked down on and it was said no prophet could come from there, John 7:52, although Jonah came from Gath-hepher, a little north of Nazareth. God is no respecter of persons – or locations, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
- “No deceit” – literally, in whom there is no guile, dolos. The father of Israelites, Jacob, used dolos to take his brother’s blessing dishonestly, Gen. 27:35. Jesus goes on to relate Jacob’s experience at Bethel, John 1:51. Perhaps Nathanael had been sitting and reading about Jacob’s experience, Genesis 28:1-17 and Jesus perceived this supernaturally by a word of knowledge.
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
- Jesus means He had a prophetic insight about Nathanael-Bartholomew joining Him. It was a sign to him (v.50).
- “Under the fig tree” was an expression meaning someone who studied the Law (or Scriptures).
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the king of Israel.”
- His earlier cynicism about anyone significant coming out such a small place as Nazareth (which is not mentioned in the O.T.) are overcome by Jesus’ word of knowledge and insight into his integrity.
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
Central to the passage is the story of Nathanael’s call. He was a well-read young man, perhaps a little too confident in his good values, who saw, initially, a tradesman carpenter-builder, from a neighbouring village which people looked down on because its main claim to fame was having a Roman detachment stationed there. Jesus shared a word of knowledge in which he had “seen” Nathanael and his character. This was transformational: The sceptical Nathanael now changes to address Jesus as “Rabbi” or Master and recognises Him as Messiah.
In the flesh we carry all sorts of prejudices about class and status and appearance which we are inclined to apply before we have sought the Holy Spirit’s insight. We don’t always receive such a dramatic word of knowledge, but as we know God looks on the heart; with the leading of the Holy Spirit we can see beyond the immediate presentation of a person or situation. Jesus was asking His Father who He was calling, and Nathanael was also open to what God would show Him, we can surmise. It is an object lesson for us.
When in your experience has initial prejudice been shown up by God, or its counterpart, initial favouritism, shown to have been misplaced?