28 “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” – John 12:28-36 ESV
In four simple words, Jesus provides a succinct yet accurate summary of the attitude behind His entire earthly ministry. All He said or did was driven by His unwavering desire to bring glory to His Heavenly Father. And John has provided ample evidence of Jesus’ commitment to glorify God through His life.
“The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” – John 7:18 ESV
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” – John 8:28-29 ESV
“Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge.” – John 8:50 ESV
Matthew records the impassioned words of Jesus that He prayed to His Father in the garden on the night He was betrayed.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:39 ESV
Earlier, in one of His confrontations with the religious leaders, Jesus had boldly proclaimed His unity with the Father when He stated, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 ESV). Jesus was claiming equality with God. He had been at His Father’s side at the creation of the world and, as John wrote, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3 ESV).
And yet, though Jesus was the Son of God, the Co-Creator of the universe, and shared the same divine attributes of His Father, He was not out to make a name for Himself. In fact, Paul reminds us that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7 ESV). And it is in His human state that Jesus is desiring to glorify God. Adam and Eve were created by the Holy Trinity and placed in the garden that they might serve as stewards over the rest of creation. They were created in the image of God and given a divine mandate to care for every other living thing on the earth.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:2 ESV
But Adam and Eve failed to bring God glory because they failed to live in obedience to His commands. He had deemed one tree in the garden as off-limits, prohibiting them from eating its fruit. But they willfully disobeyed Him, choosing to listen to the lie of Satan instead. Blatantly contradicting the words of God, Satan told Eve that if she ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, rather than experience death, she would become like God. She would experience self-glorification and have the same divine capabilities as God, knowing good and evil.
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5 ESV
And Eve, enticed by the offer of glorification, ate of the fruit and shared it with her complacent and compliant husband. And the rest is history.
But Jesus, by taking on human flesh, was out to set the record straight and prove that a man could live according to the commands of God and glorify Him in the process. Jesus knew that the only way His life would bring glory to His Father would be to live in perfect obedience to His will, and that included suffering death on the cross. And Paul describes what this willful submission to the Father’s will looked like for Jesus.
[Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:7-8 ESV
And in his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul juxtaposes the disobedience of Adam with the obedience of Jesus. One’s attempt to glorify himself resulted in condemnation for all men, while the other’s commitment to glorify God resulted in justification and forgiveness for many.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. – Romans 5:18-19 ESV
In response to Jesus’ request that God be glorified through His life, His Father responded, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28 ESV). God was confirming that His Son’s entire life, up to that very moment, had been glorifying to Him. The incarnation of Jesus was God-glorifying because it the invisible God visible (Colossians 1:15). Every one of the miracles Jesus performed glorified the Father because He did them in keeping with the will of God and by the power of God. And the final and greatest act of glorification was coming. God would be glorified through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Every aspect of Jesus’ life brought glory to God because all that He did was in obedience to the will of God. He did nothing for His own glory. He never allowed His own human will to supersede the will of His heavenly Father. This is exactly what He meant when He prayed, “I want your will to be done, not mine” (Matthew 26:39 NLT).
The crowd surrounding Jesus heard the voice of God but were unaware of who it was or what it meant. But Jesus clarified what His Father had meant when He had said “I will glorify it again” (John 12:28 ESV).
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” – John 12:31-33 ESV
God was about to implement the final phase of His redemptive plan for mankind, and it would entail the death of His Son. By being “lifted up” on the cross, Jesus would “draw all people” to Himself. The cross would become the focal point of all human history. On the cross, the righteous wrath of God would be poured out on His sinless Son. But at the same time, the gracious love of God would be poured out in abundance on all who would lift their eyes to the broken and bloodied body of the Lamb of God and accept Him as the one who takes away the sins of the world.
After the death of Jesus, the cross, long a symbol of death in the Roman world, would become a symbol of life among believers. Because Jesus would faithfully fulfill the will of His Father, accepting His divine assignment to serve as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind, God would be glorified. His will would be done. And, as a result, God would glorify Jesus by raising Him from the dead, proving that His sacrifice had been acceptable and effective. The resurrection of Jesus would be followed by His ascension. The faithful Son would be glorified, returning to His rightful place at His Father’s side.
But as usual, the crowd was confused by all they heard. They seem to have understood that Jesus was discussing His coming death, but this did not gel with the concept of the Messiah. They were expecting a conquering king, not a suffering servant. Their confusion is clearly evident in the questions they posed to Jesus.
“We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?” – John 12:34 NLT
But rather than answer their questions, Jesus reiterated His warning that the light of His presence would not always be with them. He was going away.
“My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” – John 12:35-36 NLT
Like much of what Jesus said, these words were probably aimed at the ears of a small contingent of individuals, including His 12 disciples, and others like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who were His committed followers. Jesus is letting them know that the days ahead were going to become increasingly dark. The spiritual battle that had been taking place for years was going to intensify, and the full fury of the enemy was going to fall on Him. But regardless of all that was about to happen, Jesus wanted His followers to remain faithful and to continue to walk in the light of His word right up to the bitter end.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.