15 April 2014

John 12:20-36

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (v. 23)


The Pharisees had said that the whole world had gone after Jesus (John 12:19). It immediately becomes obvious that this is not just the Jewish world, but also Gentiles (non Jews). Some Greek-speaking Gentiles have come to worship in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, even though they will be excluded from the sacrifice itself. Yet in their search for God, they recognise that they need to see and know Jesus (verses 20-22). So they come and find one of Jesus' followers who has a Greek name, Philip, who goes and finds another, Andrew, and together Philip and Andrew take their request to Jesus.

Jesus recognises that this request means that "the hour has come". In John 4:21, 23 Jesus had said that the hour would soon come when Samaritans and Gentiles would worship God alongside Jews "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24), and that that fact was being anticipated in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-30). In our passage, Gentiles are coming to him. The hour is therefore near when God will be glorified by all. But in John's Gospel that hour is not so much at the resurrection but at the crucifixion of Jesus, when he defeats evil and draws all people to himself (verses 31-33). God has already glorified the name of Jesus (John 1:14; 2:11) and will glorify it again as he dies on the cross (verses 27-33).

So Jesus has to be ready to go to his death in order to bear fruit for others, and to be raised to live in different ways. So must his followers (verses 23-26). They must learn from him whilst he is with them. Like candles lit from a flaming torch, they must take his love and life into themselves so that when he is not physically with them, they can enlighten the world in his name (verses 35-36). So must we.

To Ponder

  • Does it make a difference to say that the glory of God is seen in the crucifixion of Jesus rather than the resurrection? Why?
  • Why do you think the Gentiles who approach Philip never get to see Jesus in this passage?

Bible notes author

Ken Howcroft

Ken Howcroft was designated by the Conference in 2013 to be the President of the 2014 Conference. He is currently a minister of the British Conference of the Methodist Church seconded to the Methodist Church in Italy to look after the English-language Methodist Church in Rome.