26 March 2013

John 12:20-37

“Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’” (v. 23)


This passage is part of the Palm Sunday story in John's Gospel. Among those gathering to celebrate the Passover Festival in Jerusalem were a group of people who were not Jewish but were attending the festival. These are the people John's Gospel  refers to as "Greeks" (v. 20).

Their request to see Jesus was met with a shocking response - "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified". With the crowd's cries of "Hosanna" (John 20:13) still ringing in their ears, they heard Jesus make this huge declaration about what was going to happen next.

When Jesus used the word "glorified", he was speaking about his death, resurrection and ascension. Unless Jesus dies the story cannot move on and reach its climax. Part of the glory lies in humiliation, pain, rejection and death - possibly the very opposite of what these people expected to hear. After all, only yesterday the crowds had welcomed him into Jerusalem as a king, even though he was riding on a donkey!

More shocking perhaps for this group of people, is Jesus' conviction that the pain and the death are all part of God's plan for him (verse 27). However, nothing can compare with the shock of what happens next: "then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again'" (v. 28). This was absolute confirmation that what Jesus said was true. The voice came for the people's benefit, not for Jesus', he already knew. The crowd around Jesus heard the voice but they had no understanding of what was being said.

These verses call to mind Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane (John 17:1-26). From this point onwards the journey to the cross gathers momentum and even those who were closest to Jesus were unable to believe that the cross and all that led up to it, was inevitable.

To Ponder

  • The group of people John calls "Greeks" are on the edge of the Jewish community and yet Jesus shares a really important message. What do the people on the edge of your community have to say about Jesus? Are you listening?
  • Imagine you are reading this passage for the first time: what emotions are you experiencing as you read?

Bible notes author

The Revd Diane Clutterbuck

Diane is an ordained presbyter in the Methodist Church. She works as as a coach, supervisor and trainer mainly in the public and voluntary sectors with people and organisations who are committed to growth and development.