Burning daylight

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John 12:35-37

Joh 12:35 Jesus said to them, “The light is with you until only a brief time. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t catch up with you. The one walking in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going.
Joh 12:36 While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become children of light.” Jesus said these words, then went away and concealed himself from them.
Joh 12:37 Even though he had performed so many sign miracles in their presence, they did not believe in him.

Burning daylight

When we were hiking the Appalachian Trail, my wife and I usually woke up while it was still dark, so that we could get our breakfast, break down and pack up, and be ready at first light for the day’s hike. We understood the value of the those daylight hours. If we didn’t get up and go quickly, we would be burning daylight. We depended on our being able to see the trail clearly so that we could make progress on it.

The people in Jesus’ day stared fully into the brightness of God’s Messiah. The saw his miracles, heard his divine words, experienced his guidance. But most of them failed to commit themselves to walking according to the gospel he preached. In this passage, he warned them that he was about to go away. The light which they had taken for granted was limited, and they had failed to go in the direction he had revealed.

Get up and go, friends. We’re burning daylight.

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escape plan

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John 12:31-34

Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be expelled.

Joh 12:32 And me, when I am lifted up from the ground I will draw all people to myself.”

Joh 12:33 He said this indicating what kind of death he was about to die.

Joh 12:34 Then the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah will stay permanently. So how can you say, ‘The Son of Man has to be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”

escape plan

The cross was an unexpected event. The people were looking for the Messiah to stay permanently. They expected someone who had the power to raise the dead to overcome death himself. And Jesus did just that. But, first, he would have to die. Because he did not have to die for his own sins, he was the only one who could die for ours. God’s gospel plan was an escape plan. But in order for believers to escape permanent death, Jesus had to forego his right to permanent life.

Lord, thank you for making our escape possible.

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Why the voice came

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John 12:27-30

Joh 12:27 “Now my soul has been agitated. And what should I say– Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour.

Joh 12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from the sky: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

Joh 12:29 The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder that happened. Others said, “An angel had spoken to him.”

Joh 12:30 Jesus answered, and this is what he said, “This voice came, not for me, but for you.

Why the voice came

Understand this – my friend. You will have times like this. You will have times of deep soul agitation, and you will long expectantly for a response from God. All you will need is assurance from your creator that he has not forgotten you, and all this trouble is somehow part of his divine plan. Jesus cried out for God to glorify himself in the mess that was his life at that time. The voice came.

The Father reassured the Son that everything was happening according to the divine plan. The same God who parted the waters in Egypt was orchestrating the terrible events that would lead him to the cross. Both events would eventually be seen to glorify God.

But notice what Jesus said after that. When the people asked about the voice, he said it came not for him, but for them. For Jesus, the prayer alone would have sufficed. The child of God does not always need an audible answer. But it does help to make the request.

Lord, give us the wisdom to seek your presence daily, and to be satisfied with your presence, even if we don’t always get the answers to our questions.

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Soul hating

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John 12:23-26

Joh 12:23 Jesus answers them. This is what he says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Joh 12:24 I honestly tell you, unless a kernel of wheat after falling to the ground — dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.

Joh 12:25 The one who highly regards his soul destroys it, and the one who hates his soul in this world will preserve it for permanent life.

Joh 12:26 If anyone manages for me, he has to follow me. Where I am, there my manager also will be. If anyone manages for me, the Father will honor him.

Soul hating

Philip had been paid a huge complement by the Greeks, who had desired an audience with Jesus. They called him ‘Lord’ (12:21). I’m thinking that Philip’s ego was being stroked there. This made Jesus’ comments here so appropriate. To highly regard one’s soul is to let superfluous acclaim go to your head, and become prideful. That will wind up destroying your soul. But to hate your soul is to remain humble no matter what others think of you. Such an attitude will wind up preserving your soul for the future permanent life.

You might notice that I did not translate ψυχή (soul) as “life” in verse 25. To do so would be to lose the distinction between it and ζωή which appears in the same verse, and is the more normally translated “life.” I also translated διακονέω as “manage” rather than the usual “serve.” John had been using the term to indicate the process of managing. If Jesus had meant to emphasize mere serving, he would have probably used δουλεύω instead (Matthew 6:24; Luke 15:29). Also, if Jesus is addressing the issue of Philip’s pride, a better word to indicate the pride of someone who “ministers” for Jesus is διακονέω.

Lord, keep us from falling for the trap of getting prideful about serving you.

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When they call you ‘Lord’

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John 12:17-22

Joh 12:17 That was why the crowd (which had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead ones) was testifying.
Joh 12:18 This is the reason that the crowd met him, because they heard he had done this sign.
Joh 12:19 That was why the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you’re getting nowhere. Look, the world has gone after him!”
Joh 12:20 But some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival.
Joh 12:21 That was why they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and say to him, “Lord, we want to see Jesus.”
Joh 12:22 Philip goes and says it to Andrew; then Andrew and Philip go and say it to Jesus.

When they call you ‘Lord’

Philip finds himself serving as an emissary to Jesus here. The Greeks honor him with the designation Lord (κύριε) – the same title that they use for Jesus himself. John apparently provides this information to his readers for two reasons: it highlights what the Pharisees had complained about – that the whole world had gone after Jesus, and it establishes a context for Jesus’ teaching about self (soul) denial in vss. 23-26.

As children of God, followers of Jesus, we do have a certain status and serve as emissaries of Christ. It is right for those serving Jesus to honor us as his representatives. We don’t always receive that honor. Often those who reject Christ take out their animosity for him on us. That is all part of the job. We should be prepared for either reaction, and recognize that our connection to Christ may put us in the limelight, or send us to the cross.

Lord, whether they love us or hate us, may it be because of you.

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All a blur

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John 12:12-16

Joh 12:12 The next day, after hearing that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, the numerous crowd that had come to the festival

Joh 12:13 took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept screaming: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who is coming in the name of the Lord– the King of Israel!”

Joh 12:14 Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just like what is written:

Joh 12:15 Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion. Notice, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.1

Joh 12:16 His disciples did not understand these things at first. But when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and that these things were done to him.

All a blur

Usually we understand things when we experience them, and then they get blurry when we try to remember them. But for the disciples, the last days of Jesus in Jerusalem were the opposite. While they were experiencing Jesus’ final debates, trials and crucifixion, things were all a blur. Later, after his resurrection, when Jesus was glorified, the Holy Spirit lifted the fuzzy film from their consciousness, and helped them to understand exactly what had happened. I can think of two reasons for this. First, the disciples needed to allow Jesus to experience the cross without their interference. Secondly, they needed clarity after the resurrection in order to communicate the gospel and lead the church.

Lord, give us the wisdom to keep following you even when we do not clearly understand what is going on. But give us clarity when we need to share your gospel and lead your people.

1Zechariah 9:9.

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A display item

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John 12:9-11

Joh 12:9 That was why a large crowd of the Jews found out that he is there. They came not only on account of Jesus but also so they could see Lazarus, the one he had raised from the dead ones.

Joh 12:10 But the chief priests had resolved to also kill Lazarus,

Joh 12:11 because many of the Jews were deserting them and were believing in Jesus on account of him.

A display item

When I served as a missionary in the Philippines, I went to a few weddings. You never know exactly who is going to show up to a Filipino wedding. Lots of people are invited, but usually a lot more people show up. It can be a management nightmare. Such was probably the case for Martha. People were coming from all over Jerusalem because they wanted to see Jesus, and Lazarus.

Lazarus had gained celebrity status when Jesus raised him from the dead. He was now a display item in the museum of Jesus’ works.

Lord, change us so much by your Holy Spirit that we become display items, drawing people to you.

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two opportunities

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John 12:4-8

Joh 12:4 But Judas Iscariot – one of his disciples, (who was about to betray him), said,

Joh 12:5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?”

Joh 12:6 But he didn’t say this because he was concerned about the poor people, he said it because he was a thief instead. He carried the money-bag and had access to what was put in it.

Joh 12:7 That was why Jesus said, “Leave her alone; it was for the day of preparation for my burial that she has kept it.

Joh 12:8 Because the poor people you are always having among you, but me you are not always having.”

two opportunities

Jesus is not against being generous to poor people, and I am grateful for that. But I am also grateful for this story, because it validates times of extravagant worship. Sometimes we need to get together and just love on Christ. Until he comes again, we will always have needs that demand our attention. But we dare not let those needs crowd out the joy of his presence, or the opportunity to show our appreciation to him.

Judas saw an opportunity to capitalize on the business aspect of charity. Mary saw an opportunity to worship. It is no secret whom we should try to emulate.

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Two women who took charge

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John 12:1-3

Joh 12:1 That was why – six days before the Passover – Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead.

Joh 12:2 That was why they made a banquet for him there; Martha was managing it, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him.

Joh 12:3 That was why Mary took a litra1 of perfume, pure and expensive nard,2 anointed Jesus’s feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Two women who took charge

We had just met Mary and Martha in the previous chapter, as they first mourned the death of their brother, then celebrated his resurrection after Jesus arrived. Both women appear in this scene as well, and both are taking charge of the situation. Martha is doing more than merely serving at this banquet. The word διακονέω is sometimes used of administrative management, and we get the impression from the text that this banquet was of sufficient size to require many servants, who would need to be supervised.

Mary took charge by offering a very special gift: the anointing of Jesus’ feet. Jesus knew and later explained the reason for this gift: she was preparing him for burial. In this tense moment, Mary showed her appreciation for him and acknowledged what nobody else wanted to admit. His days were numbered.

Lord, thank you for those who step up and take charge. Thank you for the leaders in our lives.

1The Roman λίτρα, or pound, was a weight of 12 ounces in a Roman measure, about 325 grams.

2Oil from a fragrant plant native to India.

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Set apart for sacrifice

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John 11:54-57

Joh 11:54 That was why Jesus no longer walked publicly among the Jews but went away from there to the less populated area near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with the disciples.

Joh 11:55 Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the less populated area to set themselves apart before the Passover.

Joh 11:56 That was why they were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?”

Joh 11:57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he is, he should report it so that they could arrest him.

Set apart for sacrifice

Jesus’ bringing his friend back to life marked the point where the religious leaders in Jerusalem could no longer tolerate him. They had marked him for death, having already convinced themselves that it was for the good of their nation that he must die.

Interestingly, the Sanhedrin (or at least a group of influential members of it) had put the word out that everyone should look out for the appearance of Jesus in public in Jerusalem. The people wondered whether he would dare show his face in public again.

I was just reading a book about William Tyndale, the 16th century English scholar who dared to translate the Bible in English, and was pursued by the Catholic ecclesiastical hierarchy. Tyndale was able to avoid arrest for many years by fleeing from England, and doing his writing elsewhere.

But Jesus could not avoid his fate. It was in Jerusalem that he would die – in behalf of his nation, and in behalf of us. He set himself apart for that sacrifice.

Lord. Thank you for setting yourself apart for a sacrifice that sealed your fate, and bought forgiveness for us.

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