The hour has come – John 12:20-33

What was the most important hour of your life? Was it your wedding or the birth of a child? Perhaps it was an important exam or the interview for a new job? Maybe it was an operation which saved your life or a miraculous escape from a car crash or a fire? Or was it your baptism as a believer? Or the occasion you first responded to the gospel in repentance and saving faith – the moment you were born again?
Jesus spent his whole life looking forward to just one hour.

Looking forward to the hour
Right at the start of Jesus’s ministry:
2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’
4 ‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’

John 7 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
6 Therefore Jesus told them, ‘My time is not yet here; for you any time will do.

…. John 7 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.’
As we have looked at the life of Jesus from John’s Gospel you may have noticed a number of occasions when the authorities tried to capture Jesus, but he slipped away from them. That happened in last week’s reading from John 10, but we find the same in John 7.
John 7 30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.
And the same in John 8.
John 8 19 … ‘You do not know me or my Father,’ Jesus replied. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.
Time and again the same words: his hour had not yet come, my hour has not yet come, the hour is coming. Every day Jesus was very conscious that his whole life would be fulfilled, or wasted, in one single hour. Just one hour would be the climax, or the anti-climax, of his life and the ministry of the Son of God.
It was Palm Sunday. Jesus had entered into Jerusalem in triumph. That evening we read,
John 12 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ 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.
The hour has arrived
The hour which Jesus had been anticipating every day of his life was getting very close indeed. It would be a vital hour not just for Jesus but for the whole world, the whole of humanity in every age.
John 12 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
The judgment of the whole world would hang on that one hour. That hour would bring hope to the world facing the judgment of God. It would be the hour when the devil was finally defeated and the grip of evil on the world would be broken.
But for Jesus it would be the hour of his departure – the hour Jesus had to leave the world.
John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
So for Jesus this would be the saddest hour, the hour he would be leaving – the hour his life would end – the hour the Son of God would give His life as a ransom for many – the hour Jesus would give up his life. The hour Jesus would show the full extent of His love by dying on the cross. The most important hour of Jesus’s life would not be all the times he spent with his disciples, but the hour he said goodbye to them. Jesus later compared it to an hour like childbirth.
John 16 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: now is your time of grief,
It would be a critical hour for the world. Like the hour of a new birth. The hour when a new era and a new age would spring into being. And afterwards there would be joy, but at the time during the birth there would be only suffering and pain and grief. This was the hour Jesus had been preparing for all through 33 years.
The hour to be lifted up
John 12 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
It is bad enough to anticipate a visit to the dentist or a hospital appointment, or an exam or an interview. Imagine spending 33 years looking forward to your death. And not just a quiet peaceful slipping away, but the terrible agony of being crucified. Being rejected by your own people, betrayed and deserted by all your friends, falsely accused, unjustly convicted, mocked and tormented and finally lifted up nailed on a cross to die.
Being lifted up reveals who Jesus is
John 8 28 So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
In a mysterious way, his death on the cross will reveal that Jesus really was who he claimed to be – the Son of God. “I and the Father are One.” The cross is the supreme demonstration of God’s love for the world. And that is why the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith. People are not drawn to Jesus by his words or his miracles alone, but especially by His death on the cross.
John 12:31 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’
Being lifted up brings salvation
Jesus said this to Nicodemus.
John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
Jesus was recalling events which happened to the Israelites as they were wandering in the wilderness.
Numbers 21 4 They travelled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go round Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’
6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The bronze snake was a symbol of salvation. People looked at it and trusted in God and they were healed. So for us the cross of Christ is the symbol of salvation. As we look to it and put our trust in all that Jesus accomplished by dying in our place, so we are saved.
John 3:14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’
Being lifted up was unexpected
People found it difficult to understand what Jesus was saying.
John 12 34 The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain for ever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up”? Who is this “Son of Man”?’
Nobody except Jesus expected that the Messiah, the Son of God, would have to die. Only Jesus knew that his death was both necessary and important to God’s masterplan of salvation. He had explained this to his disciples, but they had not understood. Only Jesus realised that it was essential for him to choose to go to the cross, willingly, to die. Because the hour to be lifted up was also,
The hour to be glorified
John 12:23 ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
The hour when the Son of man would be glorified would be the hour in which he died! Here was the principle we see in nature, the seed which dies in the ground in order to produce a harvest, the caterpillar which dies to become a butterfly, the “seed principle” that life only comes through death. That would be the hour in which Jesus would be glorified. The hour He died. Sometimes we think of the resurrection as the point at which Jesus was glorified. But it is the moment in which the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies which is the moment of glory. The death of the seed in the ground may not seem as beautiful as its life in the flower, But the death is essential if more seeds are to follow.
John 12:23 ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
John 12:27 ‘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. 28 Father, glorify your name!’
Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

It was in the hour of his death that Jesus would be glorified and that God would be glorified. That was the hour he had come for. Not for the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday. Not even in His glorious resurrection. But in His death. This may be hard for us to appreciate. For us Jesus’s suffering and death seem to be a total defeat. But Jesus is telling us that it is His DEATH which brings victory over the devil. It was Jesus’s DEATH which paid the penalty for sin and frees us from the powers of sin and death and the devil. Jesus’s death is his glorification.
Glory IN death brings glory THROUGH death in our lives too.
Jesus’s death taking the punishment for the sins of the world was unique. Only the sinless and holy Son of God could pay the penalty for sin. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) But Jesus’s sacrifice sets an example for us to follow. Jesus calls all his disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow him. We sometimes pray what is called the Prayer of Saint Francis, which reminds us that “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” All Christians are called to follow Jesus’s example.
John 12 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 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.
Jesus is reminding us that Christians are also called to glorify God by sharing in suffering, not by always escaping from it. After the resurrection Jesus had these words for Peter
John 21:19 Jesus said (to Peter), ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’
The apostle Peter glorified God in his death by being crucified upside down in Rome under the brutal persecution of the Emperor Nero. All the apostles apart from John were martyred. In the same way even we can glorify God as we share in Christ’s sufferings, if we are lifted up, mocked or afflicted or rejected. Jesus humbly accepted all His sufferings as part of God’s plan, and so should we. We can glorify God by the way we respond to illness or accident, and not just by being healed or by escaping such suffering. When His hour came, Jesus was obedient to the Father and revealed His loved for us. Jesus was lifted up and glorified on the cross for us in his “hour”, the most important hour of his life. We don’t know when our “hours” will come – those occasions in our lives which are most significant in cosmic and spiritual terms. But when they do, God calls us to show the same kind of love and obedience and sacrifice that Jesus did.
So as Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, let us all take opportunities this week to reflect on the last week of Jesus’s life. His hour had come.
John 12 23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. … 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’

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