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John 12:27-33

27. Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I into this hour. 28. Father, glorify thy name. Then came a voice from heaven, I have both glorified and will glorify it again. 29. Therefore the multitude, who were there, and heard it, said that it thundered. Others said, An angel spoke to him. 30. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not for my sake, but for yours. 31. Now is the judgment of this world; now is the prince of this world cast out. 32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me. 33. Now this he said, intimating by what death he should die.

 

27. Now is my soul troubled. This statement appears at first to differ widely from the preceding discourse. He had displayed extraordinary courage and magnanimity by exhorting his disciples not only to suffer death, but willingly and cheerfully to desire it, whenever it is necessary; and now, by shrinking from death, he confesses his cowardice. Yet there is nothing in this passage that is not in perfect harmony, as every believer knows by his own experience. If scornful men laugh at it, we need not wonder; for it cannot be understood but by practice.

Besides, it was highly useful, and even necessary for our salvation, that the Son of God should have experience of such feelings, In his death we ought chiefly to consider his atonement, by which he appeased the wrath and curse of God, which he could not have done, without taking upon himself our guilt. The death which he underwent must therefore have been full of horror, because he could not render satisfaction for us, without feeling, in his own experience, the dreadful judgment of God; and hence we come to know more fully the enormity of sin, for which the Heavenly Father exacted so dreadful a punishment from his only-begotten Son. Let us therefore know, that death was not a sport and amusement to Christ, but that he endured the severest torments on our account.

Nor was it unsuitable that the Son of God should be troubled in this manner; for the Divine nature, being concealed, and not exerting its force, may be said to have reposed, in order to give an opportunity of making expiation. But Christ himself was clothed, not only with our flesh, but with human feelings. In him, no doubt, those feelings were voluntary; for he feared, not through constraint, but because he had, of his own accord, subjected himself to fear. And yet we ought to believe, that it was not in pretense, but in reality, that he feared; though he differed from other men in this respect, that he had all his feelings regulated in obedience to the righteousness of God, as we have said elsewhere.

There is also another advantage which it yields to us. If the dread of death had occasioned no uneasiness to the Son of God, 2525     “Le Fils die Dieu.” which of us would have thought that his example was applicable to our case? For it has not been given to us to die without, feeling of regret; but when we learn that He had not within him a hardness like stone or iron, 2626     “Une durete de pierre et de fer.” we summon courage to follow him, and the weakness of the flesh, which makes us tremble at death, does not hinder us from becoming the companions of our General in struggling with it.

And what shall I, say? Here we see, as it were, before our eyes, how much our salvation cost the Son of God, when he was reduced to such extremity of distress, that he found neither words to express the intensity of his sorrow, nor yet resolution as man. He betakes himself to prayer, which is his only remaining resource, and asks to be delivered from death. Again, perceiving also that, by the eternal purpose of God, he has been appointed to be a sacrifice for sins, he suddenly corrects that wish which his prodigious sorrow had wrung from him, and puts forth his hand, as it were, to pull himself back, that he may entirely acquiesce in the will of his Father.

In this passage we ought to observe five steps. For, first, there is the complaint, which breaks out from vehement sorrow. Secondly, he feels that he needs a remedy, and, in order that he may not be overwhelmed with fear, he puts the question to himself, what he ought to do. Thirdly, he goes to the Father, and entreats him to deliver him. Fourthly, he recalls the wish which he knows to be inconsistent with his calling, and chooses rather to suffer anything than not to fulfill what his Father has enjoined upon him. Lastly, he is satisfied with the glory of God alone, forgets all things else, and reckons them of no value.

But it may be thought, that it is unbecoming in the Son of God rashly to utter a wish which he must immediately retract, in order to obey his Father. I readily admit, that this is the folly of the cross, which gives offense to proud men; but the more the Lord of glory humbled himself, so much the more illustrious is the manifestation of his vast love to us. Besides, we ought to recollect what I have already stated, that the human feelings, from which Christ was not exempt, were in him pure and free from sin. The reason is, that they were guided and regulated in obedience to God; for there is nothing to prevent Christ from having a natural dread of death, and yet desiring to obey God. This holds true in various respects: and hence he corrects himself by saying,

For this cause came I into this hour. For though he may lawfully entertain a dread of death, yet, considering why he was sent, and what his office as Redeemer demands from him, he presents to his Father the dread which arose out of his natural disposition, in order that it may be subdued, or rather, having subdued it, he prepares freely and willingly to execute the command of God. Now, if the feelings of Christ, which were free from all sin, needed to be restrained in this manner, how earnestly ought we to apply to this object, since the numerous affections which spring from our flesh are so many enemies to God in us! Let the godly, therefore, persevere in doing violence to themselves, until they have denied themselves.

It must also be observed, that we ought to restrain not only those affections which are directly contrary to the will of God, but those which hinder the progress of our calling, though, in other respects, they are not wicked or sinful. To make this more fully evident, we ought to place in the first rank the will of God; in the second, the will of man pure and entire, such as God gave to Adam, and such as was in Christ: and, lastly, our own, which is infected by the contagion of sin. The will of God is the rule, to which every thing that is inferior ought to be subjected. Now, the pure will of nature will not of itself rebel against God; but man, though he were wholly formed to righteousness, would meet with many obstructions, unless he subject his affections to God. Christ, therefore, had but one battle to fight, which was, to cease to fear what he naturally feared, as soon as he perceived that the pleasure of God was otherwise. We, on the other hand, have a twofold battle; for we must struggle with the obstinacy of the flesh. The consequence is, that the most valiant combatants never vanquish without being wounded.

Father, save me. This is the order which ought to be maintained, whenever we are either distressed by fear, or oppressed with grief. Our hearts ought instantly to be raised up to God. For there is nothing worse, or more injurious, than to nourish inwardly what torments us; as we see a great part of the world consumed by hidden torments, and all who do not rise to God are justly punished for their indolence by never receiving any alleviation.

28. Father, glorify thy name. By these words he testifies, that he prefers the glory of the Father to all things else, and even neglects and disregards his own life. And the true regulation of all our desires is, to seek the glory of God in such a manner that all other things shall give way to it; for it ought to be reckoned by us an abundant recompense, leading us to endure patiently all that is vexatious or irksome.

I have both glorified it. It is as if he had said, I will finish what I have begun; for God never leaveth the work of his hands imperfect as it is said, Psalm 138:8. But as it is the purpose of God to prevent the offense of the cross, he not only promises that the death of Christ will be glorious, but also mentions with commendation the numerous ornaments with which he had already adorned it.

29. That it thundered. It was truly monstrous, that the assembled multitude were unmoved by so evident a miracle. Some are so deaf, that they hear as a confused sound what God had distinctly pronounced. Others are less dull of caring, but yet take away much from the majesty of the Divine voice, by pretending that it was an angel who spoke. But the same thing is practiced every day; for God speaks plainly enough in the Gospel, in which is also displayed the power and energy of the Spirit, which ought to shake heaven and earth; but many are as little affected by the doctrine, as if it only proceeded from a mortal man, and others consider the word of God to be confused and barbarous, as if it were nothing else than thunder.

But a question arises: Did that voice sound from heaven without any profit or advantage? I reply, what the Evangelist here ascribes to the multitude belongs only to a part of them; for there were some besides the Apostles who did not interpret it so badly. But the Evangelist intended to point out briefly what is commonly done in the world; and that is, that the greater part of men, while they hear God, do not hear him though he speak plainly and distinctly.

30. This voice came not for my sake. Had Christ no need of being strengthened, or did the Father care less for him than for us? But we must attend to this principle. As it was on our account that Christ clothed himself with flesh, so all the blessings which he received from the Father were bestowed on our account. Again, it is also true, that the voice came from heaven for the sake of the people; for he had no need of an outward miracle. Besides, there is here an indirect reproof, that the Jews are deaf like stones to the voice of God; for since God speaks for their sake, there can be no excuse for their ingratitude, when they do not lend their ears.

31. Now is the judgment of this world. The Lord now, as if he had already succeeded in the contest, boasts of having obtained a victory not only over fear, but over death; for he describes, in lofty terms, the advantage of his death, which might have struck his disciples with consternation. Some view the word, judgment (πρίσις) as denoting reformation, and others, as denoting condemnation. I rather agree with the former who explain it to mean, that the world must be restored to a proper order; for the Hebrew word משפט, mishpat, which is translated judgment, means a well-ordered state. Now we know, that out of Christ there is nothing but confusion in the world; and though Christ had already begun to erect the kingdom of God, yet his death was the commencement of a well-regulated condition, and the full restoration of the world.

Yet it must also be observed, that this proper arrangement cannot be established in the world, until the kingdom of Satan be first destroyed, until the flesh, and every thing opposed to the righteousness of God, be reduced to nothing. Lastly, the renovation of the world must be preceded by mortification. Accordingly, Christ declares:

Now shall the prince of this world be cast out; for the confusion and deformity arise from this, that while Satan usurps tyrannical dominion, iniquity everywhere abounds. When Satan has been cast out, therefore, the world is brought back from its revolt, and placed under obedience to the government of God. It may be asked, how was Satan cast out by the death of Christ, since he does not cease to make war continually? I reply, this casting out must not be limited to any short period of time, but is a description of that remarkable effect of the death of Christ which is daily manifested.

32. If I be lifted up. Next follows the method by which the judgment shall be conducted; namely, Christ, being lifted up on the cross, shall gather all men to himself, in order that he may raise them from earth to heaven. The Evangelist says, that Christ pointed out the manner of his death; and, therefore, the meaning undoubtedly is, that the cross will be, as it were, a chariot, by which he shall raise all men, along with himself, to his Father. It might have been thought, that at that time he was carried away from the earth, so as no longer to have any interests in common with men; but he declares, that he will go in a very different manner, so as to draw upwards to himself those who were fixed on the earth. Now, though he alludes to the form of his death, yet he means generally, that his death will not be a division to separate him from men, but that it will be an additional means of drawing earth upwards towards heaven.

I will draw all men to myself. The word all, which he employs, must be understood to refer to the children of God, who belong to his flock. Yet I agree with Chrysostom, who says that Christ used the universal term, all, because the Church was to be gathered equally from among Gentiles and Jews, according to that saying,

There shall be one shepherd, and one sheepfold,
(John 10:16.)

The old Latin translation has, I will draw all things to me; and Augustine maintains that we ought to read it in that manner; but the agreement of all the Greek manuscripts ought to have greater weight with us.


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