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Elijah, Cross, and Moses. Cross Third Sunday

Season of Elijah-Cross-Moses

CROSS THIRD SUNDAY
JOHN 12:27-36
THE SON OF MAN WILL BE EXALTED

INTRODUCTION

Jesus was in anguish over the forthcoming passion he was about to face. He prayed aloud in public to the Father to save him from that hour of torture. Instantly, Jesus acknowledged his goal of incarnation as the redemption of humanity through his self-sacrifice. He surrendered himself for the glory of the Father’s name. The Father accepted the glorification as a voice from heaven. However, the bystanders differed in their understanding of the voice they heard from heaven. They considered it as a thunder or as a revelation through an angel. The heavenly voice was for the people present, Jesus said. He revealed his death on the cross by which he would drive out Satan from the world. Jesus promised he will draw all people to himself. However, the crowd questioned the death of the Messiah who, according to their knowledge, should rule forever. Jesus, realizing their misunderstanding of Christ, responded by presenting himself as the light that came in their spiritual darkness. He invited them to join his light to become the children of light.

BIBLE TEXT (JOHN 12:27-36)

The Son of Man will be Exalted

(Jn 12:27) Now my soul is in distress. What shall I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, I have come to this hour to face all this. (28) Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.” (29) People standing there heard it and said it was a thunder; but others said, “An angel was speaking to him.” (30) Then Jesus declared, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours; (31) now sentence is being passed on this world; now the ruler of this world is to be driven out. (32) And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw everyone to myself.” (33) With these words Jesus was referring to the kind of death he was to die. (34) The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man shall be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” (35) Jesus said to them, “The light is with you but only for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you. He who walks in the dark does not know where he goes. (36) While you have the light, believe in the light that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he withdrew and kept himself hidden from them.

INTERPRETATION

Background

Raising Lazarus on the fourth day after his burial intensified the popularity of Jesus (Jn 11:1-44). Because of this, more Jews believed in him. Hence the Sanhedrin met to decide on what to do with Jesus (Jn 11:45-47). Their concern was that if all their people believe in him, the Romans might invade their nation. So, they plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus (Jn 11:48-12:11). When Jesus went to the Temple for the Passover, the crowd welcomed him waving palm leaves and acclaiming, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, [even] the king of Israel” (Jn 12:13). That sparked the grudge of the Pharisees against Jesus. Meanwhile, the Greeks who came for the feast approached Jesus through Philip and Andrew. Jesus then spoke to the people on his hour of suffering and glorification (Jn 12:20-26).

The Son of Man will be Exalted

(Jn 12:27) Now my soul is in distress. What shall I say: ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, I have come to this hour to face all this.

Now my soul is in distress.

The synoptic gospels present the agony of Jesus as happened in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46; Mk 14:32-42; Lk 22:39-46). Instead, John presents the agony here. As the Son of God, Jesus knew the horror of the torture he was about to face. He had to overcome his human yearning to avoid the passion and crucifixion. His preparation for self-sacrifice became traumatic because he foresaw his misery. As a human, he experienced fear and the temptation to opt for an effortless way for the redemption of humanity. So, he verbalized his emotion to the Father in front of his disciples and others who stood around him.

When Jesus said, “my soul is in distress,” he meant his life or mind was in misery. His expression of agony resonates and fulfills Psalm 6:3-5. “Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak; heal me, LORD, for my bones are shuddering. My soul too is shuddering greatly - and you, LORD, how long? Turn back, LORD, rescue my soul; save me because of your mercy.” In facing the persecution, Jesus did not use his divine power for escaping, but suffered mentally and physically as a full human.

What shall I say:

Jesus expressed aloud his request to the Father. Though mentally troubled, Jesus was firm in accepting his mission. As a human, he had the internal conflict because of the foresight of his torment ahead. So, he verbalized his anxiety and confusion. This was a natural expression of anyone who willfully accept challenges.

‘Father, save me from this hour’?

Jesus used to say, his “hour” had not yet come (Jn 2:4; 7:6; 7:30; Mt 24:36). The hour of Jesus was the time for him, “to pass from this world to the Father” (Jn 13:1) by fulfilling his mission through his passion, death, and resurrection. Though it was his willful act, his enemies had to implement it. So, it was their hour, and “the time for the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53).

Though it would seem Jesus prayed to escape the terrible turmoil, it was more an expression of his anguish. As a human, he expressed his sentiment for relief. He did not complain or despise the Father but sought His support to fulfill the task successfully. Jesus knew he would be victorious in his mission for human salvation. Like a child pleading with his father, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” Then the Father strengthened him by sending an angel from heaven (Lk 22:42-43). Hence, Jesus gained the mental strength to assume his task. This was also his way of showing his disciples the right approach in their lives when they face persecution.

No, I have come to this hour to face all this.

Jesus reminded himself of the purpose of his coming to the world. The Father had designated him to offer himself as a ransom to regain forever the lost paradise of humanity. When Peter struck Malchus, the high priest’s slave, with a sword, Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” (Jn 18:10-11). So, Jesus was convinced that he was fulfilling the will of his Father. He wanted to teach his followers how they should gain the eternal reward by taking up their God-assigned cross and following the footsteps of Jesus.

Though divine, as a human, Jesus could evade the passion he had agreed with his Father. Unlike Adam, this new Adam faithfully obeyed the Father and overcame the temptation to run away from the turmoil. Jesus gained power through prayer to prevail over the test to misuse his divine power when he confronted the arrest and trial. He made up his firm decision to face any challenge ahead of him.

The first parents failed in their test by the Satan. Jesus succeeded in his temptations. As the disciples of Jesus, we will also face similar tests to enter through the gate that is “wide and the road broad that leads to destruction” (Mt 7:13). So, Jesus taught us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Mt 6:13). At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his disciples, “Pray that you may not undergo the test” (Lk 22:40).

(28) Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”

glorify

The literal meaning of glory is high renown for one’s notable achievements. A person will gain glory for his or her outstanding accomplishments in education, business, authority, invention, production, or philanthropy. For example, Michael Angelo gained universal acclaim for Pieta. St. Mother Teresa won international admiration for her service to the less fortunate. The parents gain glory when, through their effort, their children attain accomplishments.

God’s glory is in Himself and in His creation. Since there is no being equal to God, His glory is clear in Himself. His creations manifest his glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands” (Ps 19:2). “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the LORD’s glory, just as the water covers the sea” (Hab 2:14). God created the humans as the summit of all his creations for His greater glory. “All who are called by my name I created for my glory; I formed them, made them” (Isa 43:7).

The heavenly creatures continuously glorify God in heaven. In Isaiah’s vision of heaven, he saw the Lord seated on a lofty throne where the “Seraphim cried out to the other: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Isa 6:1-3). John saw four living creatures representing the universal creation exclaim day and night nonstop, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come” (Rev 4:8). They acclaim, “glory and honor and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever” (Rev 4:9). Twenty-four elders representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles fall down before the LORD and worship him. “They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming: ‘Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created’” (Rev 4:10-11).

The Israelites saw the glory of God as a cloud when they were in the wilderness (Ex 16:10). When the cloud covered the tent of meeting, they understood that the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34). The glory of the LORD had filled as a cloud in the Temple Solomon built (2 Chr 5:14). The goodness of the LORD show favor and grant mercy to whom He will. That also is the manifestation of God’s glory (Ex 33:18-19).

Jesus glorified his Father through his earthly ministry. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). When Jesus was born, the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in Bethlehem. Then “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). “And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Lk 2:13-14). Jesus is the refulgence of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3). He worked for the glory of the Father (Jn 14:13). Jesus shared the glory of the Father for eternity. Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus prayed to the Father: “I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began” (Jn 17:4-5). According to Paul, the gospel is also the glory of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6).

Father, glorify your name!

Though Jesus knew he would gain glory through this passion, death, and resurrection, he preferred to glorify the Father for his achievements. Jesus was accomplishing the mission his Father had entrusted him. It resembles a winner who gives credit for his or her success to the couch. Like Jesus, we also should glorify the Father, who is the source of all goodness we have.

Then a voice came from heaven

The other occasions when the voice came to Jesus from heaven were at his baptism (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22) and at the Transfiguration (Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35). The voice from heaven is the communication of God the Father to the humans in an understandable vocal language (Deut 4:12). It might accompany with thunder-like effect, or with the appearance of a cloud. Such a voice was the proclamation of the divine will or judgement. It differed from the prophetic communication where God addressed direct or through a vision to the prophet alone. In the voice from heaven, the bystanders could hear it regardless of their relationship with God. When Jesus called Saul, “a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him,” and he heard the voice of Jesus. “The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one” (Acts 9:3-7). Similarly, the people present with Jesus also could hear the voice because it was the Father’s witness of the Son intended for the bystanders so they would not get scandalized by the surrender of Jesus to his persecutors.

“I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”

God had glorified Jesus in his birth, public ministry, and miracles that came to a climax at raising Lazarus on the fourth day after his burial. When Jesus heard of the sickness of Lazarus, he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Jn 11:4). The Father assured Jesus and the people present there that He would continue glorifying Jesus through his death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at His right hand. During the Last Supper, Jesus revealed the betrayal of Judas. When he left to betray Jesus, he said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once” (Jn 13:31-32). Thus, even the passion and death prior to his resurrection and ascension were part of his glorification.

The church Jesus established will also glorify the Father. God sent the Holy Spirit on the apostles to continue his glory in the world through the church. The faithful followers of Jesus glorify the Father. Jesus said to the disciples, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8).

Jesus asked us to glorify God in our words and deeds. In the Lord’s prayer Jesus taught us to glorify God, saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Mt 6:9; Lk 11:2). During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16).

(29) People standing there heard it and said it was a thunder; but others said, “An angel was speaking to him.”

People standing there heard it and said it was a thunder

The people standing around Jesus could hear the voice from heaven. They felt it like a thunder as a natural phenomenon or as a divine intervention. The Israelites associated thunder with divine manifestation. During the theophany at Mount Sinai, “there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the shofar, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (Ex 19:16; 20:18). “His voice roars, his majestic voice thunders; he does not restrain them when his voice is heard. God thunders forth marvels with his voice; he does great things beyond our knowing” Job 37:4-5). There are other references to the majestic or thunderous voice of God (Job 40:9; Ps 29:3-4; 18:13). So, there might have been a thunder along with the voice. But it was unclear to those who understood it as a natural thunder.

others said, “An angel was speaking to him.”

When there was a divine voice from heaven, people doubted whether it could be the talking of an angel. There were Jews who believed that God speaks through angels and not directly to the humans (Heb 2:2; Gal 3:19). During Paul’s trial in the Sanhedrin, a dispute arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees. “A great uproar occurred, and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party stood up and sharply argued, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’” (Acts 23:9). Thus, they doubted Paul’s call from Jesus as a voice from a spirit or an angel. So, those who could not recognize the voice interpreted the event as a divine revelation through an angel.

The apostles who knew Jesus could recognize the voice of God in answer to Jesus’s prayer. But others did not understand the divine revelation. It is natural that people comprehend differently for the same event or communication. However, all realized a divine intervention had happened at that moment to support Jesus during his agony.

(30) Then Jesus declared, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours”

Then Jesus declared

The people discussed on what type of voice it was. Though that was clear to the disciples of Jesus, for others who were determined to underestimate him, considered it only as a thunder, a divine intervention, or the voice of an angel. Hence, Jesus clarified the purpose of the Father’s voice from heaven.

“This voice did not come for my sake”

Though the voice came from heaven in response to the agonizing prayer of Jesus, it did not intend to console Jesus because he already knew his future glory. He was already convinced of the purpose of his incarnation that he had voluntarily taken up. Jesus’ prayer before he raised Lazarus expressed the intention of his prayer was not for his own sake, but for the public. “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me” (Jn 11:41-42).

“but for yours”

In the present context, “yours” could mean the Greeks who approached Jesus through the mediation of Philip and Andrew. They lived outside Palestine and had only heard of Jesus and not witnessed any of his miracles (Jn 12:20-22). Hence, the agonizing prayer of Jesus in public and the Father’s loud response was primarily for the Greeks, and also for the disciples and others around Jesus. They needed to get a full picture of the passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus before their happening. The bystanders should understand Jesus as the Messiah, and there was victory and glory ahead of him. His followers should not get concerned about the apparent failure of Jesus in this world.

(31) Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the ruler of this world is to be driven out.

Now sentence is being passed on this world

Though “now” stands for the present moment, it was also a future that Jesus foresaw. Within a few days, he would be lifted from the dead and rise to heaven. Then he would draw his believers to himself (Jn 12:32). With that salvation in view, Jesus projected the liberation of the sinners that would come to its culmination at his second coming to judge the world and to destroy the Satan and the sinners. So, Jesus implied in the “now,” the immediate victory of his resurrection and the progression towards the completion of his triumph at his second coming.

Now sentence is being passed on this world

In the Biblical sense, judgment is implementing justice of reward or punishment based on the choice one makes for or against God. The salvific activity of Jesus involves judgement. Like the first parents who had the freedom of obeying or disobeying God, the people have the choice to accept or reject salvation gained by Jesus. So, the judgement happens based on one’s own choice of accepting the gospel of Jesus. He said, “I came into this world for judgment” (Jn 9:39). Those who accept him will gain an eternal reward in heaven, and those who reject him will end up in eternal punishment. However, the last judgement will happen only after his return from heaven in his glory. Jesus said, “if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day” (Jn 12:47-48).

The ruler of this world

Satan, who was successful in transgressing the first parents, could gain control over humanity. God said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers” (Gen 3:15). The conflict continues in the world. According to Jesus, Satan is the prince of the world, and he has no power over Jesus (Jn 14:30). At the third temptation of Jesus by the devil, he “took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, ‘All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.’” (Mt 4:8-9). Jesus did not object to the devil’s claim of ownership of the world. Instead, Jesus said, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve’” (Mt 4:10).

Paul presents Satan as god of this world (Eph 2:2). He wrote, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4).Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Eph 6:11-12).

Now the ruler of this world is to be driven out.

Jesus came to counteract for the sin of the first parents. Paul wrote, “Just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:18-19). With the ministry of Jesus, “the ruler of this world has been condemned” (Jn 16:11). Thus, he fulfilled the words of God to Satan: “They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15).

We need obedience to God’s Son to drive out the influence of the devil in our lives. When the seventy-two disciples returned after their village ministry, they rejoiced and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus replied, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky” (Lk 10:17-18). It will continue until the second coming of Christ. Paul wrote, “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:24-26). According to John’s vision, “Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. (This pool of fire is the second death.) Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire” (Rev 20:14-15).

(32) “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw everyone to myself.”

And when I am lifted up from the earth

When Moses lifted a bronze serpent in the desert, the snake-bitten people could approach it and rescue their lives. Jesus referred to it as the foreshadow of his crucifixion and revival of the spiritual lives of sinners who believed in him. Jesus had clarified this to Nicodemus. “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-15). Crucifixion was also a means to reveal the divinity of Jesus. “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM” (Jn 8:28). Hence, the cross became a symbol of salvation. Taking up the cross for Jesus became a means for our resurrection with Jesus and to inherit the lost paradise forever.

Though the symbolism of the installation of the bronze serpent represented the lifting of Jesus on the cross, it also implied his resurrection from the dead (Mt 28:7), and ascension to heaven (Acts 1:9). After that, the Father seated him “at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph 1:20-22). The faithful will exalt Jesus in their lives by their Christian witnessing in the world. Paul wrote, “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil 1:20-21).

I shall draw everyone to myself.

Though human cooperation is involved, salvation is a divine selection. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:44). By attracting all to himself, Jesus saves them through his teachings and presenting them to the Father.

I shall draw everyone to myself.

Everyone here means all humanity, including the Jews and the Gentiles in all nations. This was contrary to the Jewish concept of salvation. According to them, it was only for the chosen people of Israel. Jesus opened the gates of heaven to the chosen people in his church that would welcome all who will accept him as their redeemer.

(33) With these words Jesus was referring to the kind of death he was to die.

The evangelist here gives his interpretation of the significance of what Jesus had told above. He knew that his death would be on the cross as a sacrificial lamb that would happen at the feast of Passover. That would replace all animal sacrifices in the Temple. John had recorded Jesus’ words on his death on the cross in 3:14 and 8:28.

(34) The crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man shall be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” (35) Jesus said to them, “The light is with you but only for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you. He who walks in the dark does not know where he goes. (36) While you have the light, believe in the light that you may become children of light.” After Jesus had said this, he withdrew and kept himself hidden from them.

The crowd questioned the death of the Messiah who, according to their knowledge, should rule forever. Jesus, realizing their misunderstanding of the Messiah, responded by presenting himself as the light that came in their spiritual darkness. He invited them to join his light to become children of light.

MESSAGE

1. When Jesus was in a mental distress, he relied on God the Father. When we work for the church or for the God-assigned responsibilities in our lives, we also may get stressed out. However, let us seek relief in prayer rather than avoiding the hard path to the heavenly glory.

2. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He became an example for us to accept the will of the Father. Let us pray for fulfilling God’s will in our lives and families rather than projecting our self-interests.

3. Jesus sought the glory of God through his carrying of the cross. He never wished or worked for self-glory. He taught us to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” Let us glorify God for all our achievements and through our exemplary lives of prayer and charity.

3. While praying for relief, Jesus also expressed his willingness to accept the God-assigned hardships and sought the glory of God. The Father glorified him and exalted him above all creation in heaven. God will also elevate us in the afterlife if we follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

4. Though the Father’s voice from heaven was for the public gathered around Jesus, the people differed in their response. We experience similar varying reactions to the gospel even today. Jesus was never disappointed when people misunderstood him unintentionally or purposefully. Let us also do our part and let God yield the result. The setbacks in our Christian witnessing should not dishearten us.

5. Jesus turned the cross that symbolized failure, shame, extreme pain, and death to a sign of salvation and victory. The cross has become the universal symbol of Christianity. As Jesus promised, he draws all to himself for their relief and eternal salvation. Let us also seek hope and comfort on the cross.

6. Jesus foresaw his crucifixion as part of his mission in this world and voluntarily accepted it. Following his example, the missionaries risk their lives for evangelization. Let us pray for them and support them.

7. Jesus came as the light of the world and established the church to continue as light of the universe. Many who had gained light through baptism lost their light and returned to spiritual darkness. Let us pray for their regaining of spirituality.

8. Most part of the world is still in spiritual darkness. The members of the church have the responsibility to share the light of Jesus we have received with others so all can enjoy the eternal banquet Jesus promised for his faithful in heaven.