The Pulpit Commentary

John 12:20-36 (John 12:20-36)

The interview of the Greeks with Christ.

This is the only incident recorded between the entry into Jerusalem and the institution of the Lord's Supper.

I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS INTERVIEW . "And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast."

1. They were not Gentiles, but-proselytes oft he gate, of Gentile extraction, who had been admitted to Jewish privileges . They came to the Passover as reverent and earnest worshippers.

2. They probably belonged to one of the Greek cities of Decapolis, which were full of Greeks. These cities were on the other side of the sea of Galilee. Thus we understand their application to Philip of Bethsaida in the first instance.

3. It is significant that Philip and Andrew were the only disciples whose names are of Greek origin .

4. The request of the Greeks was for a private conversation with Jesus on religious subjects . "We would see Jesus."

5. It is significant that these Greeks should bring our Lord into relation with the Gentile world at the end, as the Magi from the East did at the beginning .

6. It is still more significant that these proselytes of the Gentiles should be so anxious to see Jesus at a time when the Pharisees were taking steps for his destruction in a spirit of the deepest hate .

7. The interview was readily conceded, after the two disciples consulted cautiously with one another about the matter, as they must have remembered our Lord's words, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

II. OUR LORD 'S ANSWER TO THE APPLICATION OF THE GREEKS . It is, in substance, that the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles was conditioned by his death.

1. The presence of the Greeks suggests the thought of the scattered sheep for whose gathering the Shepherd must lay down his life . ( John 10:16-19 .) Jesus sees already "the other sheep" as ready to be gathered into the fold.

2. Jesus states the condition of his communicating blessing to the Gentiles . "Except a corn of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

(a) His death took him out of the loneliness of his unapproachable glory and connected him with the whole race of man. Through his death a new life went forth to millions.

(b) If he had not died, he would have been confined to one spot of earth, and the Spirit's influences would have been confined to his own Person. But by his death the Spirit became universally diffused.

(a) Sin isolates the sinner.

(b) But when he "dies unto sin and lives unto God," he is delivered from solitude. He is no longer alone. He is the member of a heavenly family.

3. Jesus asserts his own subjection to that fundamental law which he so often applied to his disciples . "He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it in life eternal."

4. The claims of discipleship .

5. Jesus is deeply moved at the prospect of his approaching sorrows . "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me out of this hour; but for this cause came I to this hour. Father, glorify thy Name."

6. The Father ' s approval of the Son ' s Consecration . "Then came there a voice from heaven: I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."

7. Jesus explains what is involved in the glorification of the Father ' s Name by himself . "This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes." It was designed to convince the people of the true purport of his mission.

(a) Satan is a usurper, and thus the "god of this world," "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience."

(b) It is natural that the judgment of the world should be followed by the casting out of its ruler.

(c) Christ, by his death, will deliver men from the dominion of Satan and the slavery of sin.

(a) He refers here to the manner of his death. He is to be lifted up on the cross; yet he points likewise to the ascension which is to follow his death. He will thus be freed from all earthly ties, and placed in immediate relation to the whole world of man, that he may become "Lord of all" ( Romans 10:12 ).

(b) The effect of his death and ascension. "I will draw all men unto me ."

( α ) He is himself the Center of the world's attraction.

( β ) He will attract, but not force, men into saving relationship with himself. The language implies that men are at a distance, and alienated from him. "Draw me, we will run after thee." There is a marvelous drawing power in the lifted-up Redeemer.

( γ ) He will draw all men unto himself. Not only Jews, but Gentiles.

The words cannot signify that all men will be saved, for there are many already lost, and there will be many at the last day to whom he will say, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity."

8. The popular misapprehension of our Lord ' s meaning . "The people answered him, We have heard out of the Law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?"

9. The last appeal of Jesus to the Jews . "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."

(a) Believers become like Christ by believing in him.

(b) They will become "light-bearers" ( Philippians 2:15 ) to the world in proportion as they receive of the light of life.

10. Our Lord ' s farewell . "These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them." Jesus had no other answer to give, and here closed his ministry to the Jews. "He then retired, and. did not reappear on the morrow. This time it was no mere cloud which obscured the sun, but the sun itself had set."

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John 12:1-50 (John 12:1-50)

III. CONSUMMATION OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY .

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John 12:31-36 (John 12:31-36)

5. The judgment of this world .

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John 12:31 (John 12:31)

Still more emphatically does Christ expound the heavenly voice, and vindicate for himself the most solemn position with reference to the world and its prince. The" world," or humanity evolving itself to the highest form of a complicated civilization, was present to him far more vividly than when the tempter showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Instead of holding them in royal fee of the devil, and of compelling them to do his bidding, he declares that his hour, which had come, was an hour of judicial condemnation for the world. The corruption of the world, the radical injury done to human nature, starts out on its beautiful and decorated front like the leprosy did on the face of Naaman. Now is a judgment of the world . Observe, not κρίσις . This is compatible with the statements of John 3:17-19 , and not inconsistent with the frequent references in John 5:1-47 . to the "last day." Because John gives prominence to the great principles of judgment, and implies that the books of remembrance and condemnation are written all over indelibly by the hand of the world itself, there is no proof that the Lord (in John) says nothing of the great catastrophic judgments of which the synoptic Gospels preserve the prophecy. Our Lord has rather revealed (according to John) the principles which make the judgment of the great day credible. What a man has become at any epoch of his existence, what a nation is about at any crisis of its history, whatsoever act represents the spirit of the whole world, is in each ease the judgment which God, by his providence, passes upon him or it. Still more impressively with a second, Now , he adds, shall the prince of this world be cast out . The phrase, "archon of this world," is a well-known later Hebraic phrase for "the ruler of the darkness of this world," the shir-olam of the rabbinical books, the angel of death, to whom was entrusted the rulership of the world outside of the sacred family. Christ declares that his own hour, in which the world and its prince would seem to be triumphant, would be the hour when he should be cast out of earth as he had been already cast out of heaven. This expulsion and destruction of the power and works of the devil was one great end assigned to the manifestation of the Son of God ( 1 John 3:8 ). It is important, however, to notice the difference of tenses. "Now is the judgment of this world,"—this is the immediate result of his death; "Now shall the prince of this world be east out" describes the gradual victory of truth, which is pursued more explicitly in the next verse.

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