Tuesday

16 April 2019

John 12:20-36

‘I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.’ (v. 32 )

Psalm: Psalm 71:1-14

Background

This passage is virtually the end of Jesus’ public ministry in John’s gospel. From chapter 13 onwards he will concentrate on his disciples before his arrest and death. It is introduced by a request from some Gentiles to see Jesus. They have come to Jerusalem to observe the Passover festival and approach Philip, presumably because he has a Greek name and, being from Galilee which was more cosmopolitan than Judaea, is likely to be easier to converse with. Their presence is a signal that with the impending death and resurrection of Jesus, the worldwide mission is about to begin.

Verse 25 is challenging in the context of today’s debate about suicide and self-harm, but in the Bible the word ‘hate’ does not necessarily carry the sense of loathing that it has in everyday speech today. To love something is to put it absolutely first in one’s life. Correspondingly to hate something is to give it second place. There can be moments when a choice has to be made between them, as Christians under persecution have known since early days.

It applies to Jesus himself. The comparison in verse 24 is telling. Only by renouncing life itself and going to the cross (‘lifted up’, v. 32) can his ministry be fruitful (compare 3:14). So there is a choice for everyone, between light and darkness, self-denial and the loss of everything in the effort to hang on to it. The crowd’s response in verse 34 shows how little they understand the point he is making.

 

To Ponder:

  • Can you think of situations in life that illustrate the truth of verse 24?
  • Are ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ too dramatic a description of the moral choices we have to make?
  • Can you envisage a time when verse 32 will be fulfilled? If not, why not?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England.

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