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The Greeks Trigger Jesus (12:20-50)

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The Greeks trigger Jesus. Present culture uses the word “trigger” or “triggered” in many various ways today. Of course, trigger likely suggests a gun or a firing mechanism of some sort. But also, in recent years, the term has been used when an event or words trigger an emotional response of some sort. Usually the words or event “trigger” thoughts or memories of a past traumatic event. In either occasion, some action occurred in the past and with a present trigger, additional actions occur, sometimes rather dramatically. In the case of a gun, the owner placed a bullet in a chamber sometime in the past, resulting in an explosion in the present when the trigger was pulled.
The Greeks trigger Jesus. Present culture uses the word “trigger” or “triggered” in many various ways today. Of course, trigger likely suggests a gun or a firing mechanism of some sort. But also, in recent years, the term has been used when an event or words trigger an emotional response of some sort. Usually the words or event “trigger” thoughts or memories of a past traumatic event. In either occasion, some action occurred in the past and with a present trigger, additional actions occur, sometimes rather dramatically. In the case of a gun, the owner placed a bullet in a chamber sometime in the past, resulting in an explosion in the present when the trigger was pulled.
The Greeks trigger Jesus. Present culture uses the word “trigger” or “triggered” in many various ways today. Of course, trigger likely suggests a gun or a firing mechanism of some sort. But also, in recent years, the term has been used when an event or words trigger an emotional response of some sort. Usually the words or event “trigger” thoughts or memories of a past traumatic event. In either occasion, some action occurred in the past and with a present trigger, additional actions occur, sometimes rather dramatically. In the case of a gun, the owner placed a bullet in a chamber sometime in the past, resulting in an explosion in the present when the trigger was pulled.
Let’s now draw our attention to and the coming of the Greeks. Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus evades capture by the religious leaders and acknowledges that his hour had not yet come. All of a sudden, Greeks come and say, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus,” and Jesus responds with “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In the past, God established a particular plan and purpose, a plan and purpose which required Jesus to die so that the world and the prince of the world would be defeated, and God’s people would be saved. In some way, the Greeks coming to Jesus play a pivotal role in this plan being put into effect.
Purpose statement. Everyone must believe in the necessary and sufficient death of Christ in order to possess eternal life, but belief is unnatural although possible.

Christ’s necessary death sufficiently paid for the sins of the world.

The Greeks come to Jesus (12:20-22). John begins this interaction by introducing a group of Greeks. Philip and Andrew bring the group to Jesus and Jesus responds with “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (). What an odd response! Does Jesus simply ignore these Greeks?
First, no he does not ignore the Greeks. In some way, these Greeks triggered Jesus final work. Up to this point, Jesus withdrew from overt hostility and declared that his “time had not yet come” (; ; ; , , ; , ; ; ). At the appearance of these Greeks, Jesus now determines that his time has come.
Kruse. These words contain the fourth of nine references to Jesus’ ‘hour/time’ (2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27 [2×]; 13:1; 16:32; 17:1), a significant theme in this Gospel. The first three references all say that Jesus’ hour had not yet come; this fourth reference is the first of the remaining references, all of which indicate that his hour had come. The trigger for this change was the coming of the Greeks.[1]
Why? Let’s jump ahead for just a moment. In a few verses, John informs the reader that the negative response to Jesus’ message was the fulfillment of prophetic statements by Isaiah. A couple other New Testament authors as well quote these same passages from Isaiah. However, each of them includes an additional statement of explanation following Isaiah’s quote. In Acts, Luke quotes this same passage from Isaiah but follows it up with, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (). As well, Paul offers the same quote from Isaiah, and in like manner follows the quote with, “through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous” ().
Somehow, the ongoing rejection of Jesus by the Jews and this acceptance of Jesus by the Greeks declared Jesus’ hour to have come. Jesus was now ready to pursue the purpose for which he had come.
The purpose of the hour (12:23-28). Verses 23-28 reveal the purpose of “the hour.” Jesus desired to be glorified and in being glorified, glorify the Father (12:23, 28). In verse 24, by means of a metaphor, Jesus declares both the purpose of “the hour” and how he will be glorified.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ().
Jesus would die and through his death he would produce much fruit. Through his death, Jesus would secure the salvation of the world. As John tells us in verses 31-32, Jesus, by his death, would (1) defeat the world and the ruler of the world as well as (2) draw all men to himself.
Christ’s death was necessary for man’s salvation. (1) Our sin deserves a punishment. Paul hammers this point home throughout his epistle to the Romans. Paul writes in of “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” In chapter 6:23, Paul writes, “the wages of sin is death” (cf. , “sin which leads to death” or 8:6, “to set the mind on the flesh is death”).
(2) Our death would be an insufficient payment for our sins. We were “dead in our trespasses” and our death required God making us alive. God brought about this life by canceling our debt and nailing it to the cross (). The Psalmist as well declares that “no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice ().
(3) Christ’s perfect life and death was that payment.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous ().
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified ().
Christ’s death was sufficient for the salvation of all (12:30-32). Two challenging statements present themselves in this passage. First, Jesus response to the Greeks seems odd. He appears to ignore them (12:23). Secondly, many struggle to understand what Jesus means when he states that he “will draw all people” to himself (12:32).
The Greeks attempt to come to Jesus. Jesus responds by admitting that his hour has come to die so that he is able to draw all people to himself. Jesus does respond to the Greeks. He goes and dies for them in order that they may be drawn to him.
I will draw all people to myself. Jesus statement has proven to be a source for great debate among theologians and lay people alike. Many different authors clarify this statement by clarifying “all” as “all people without distinction, not all people without exception.”[2]
Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. all without distinction; clearly, not all without exception, as this would be contrary both to fact and experience. . . . “all” means people of all sorts and conditions and nations and tongues, as distinguished from the one nation, Israel, which heretofore had been partaker of the Divine favour.[3]
NET Bible Notes. The word “all” refers not to all human beings without exception . . . but to all classes of human beings without distinction[4]
Canons of the Synod of Dort. This mystery of his will God discovered to but a small number under the Old Testament; under the New, he reveals himself to many, without any distinction of people.[5]
Jesus does not promise that he will draw every single individual to himself but that he will now draw all types and sorts of people to himself – not just the Jewish people.
Christ’s death impacts and affects every individual. While Christ death does not effectively pay for the sins of people who will never believe, Christ’s death has some impact, weight, or affect on every individual. John writes in his first epistle, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (). Similarly, Peter writes, “But false prophets also arose among the people . . . who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them . . . ().
Let’s wrap this up. In attempting to wrap up this point, let’s state that which we can know with certainty. (1) We have sinned and deserve death because of our sin. (2) Our own death would not be a sufficient payment for our own sins. (3) However, Christ’ perfect life and substitutionary death are the sufficient payment for our sins, but not ours only, also the sins of the whole world. Therefore, Christ’s death was sufficient for the salvation of every individual. (4) While Christ’s death was sufficient for every individual, his death was only effectively applied to the elect. Christ’s death would only save those who would place their faith in him. Christ’s death did not effectively secure (or apply) salvation for unbelievers.
Canons of the Synod of Dort. Art. III. The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.
Art. V. Moreover the promise of the gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of his good pleasure sends the gospel.
Art. VIII. For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father, that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of his Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation: that is, it was the will of God, that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby he confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation[6]

Belief is necessary for life but is naturally impossible.

Unbelief is not due to a lack of revelation (12:36-37). Let me draw your attention to verses 36-37. “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him” (). Christ had revealed himself to the people. The light of truth was in their presence, and even though Jesus showed them many signs, they still did not believe in him.
Paul acknowledges this same challenge in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans. God revealed himself to mankind. Through his creation, made plain to mankind his “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature.” But, mankind’s foolish hearts were darkened and they rejected God and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” and creatures” ().
Unbelief is due to blind eyes and hard hearts (12:38-40). John continues and explains why the Jews did not believe in Jesus. Jewish eyes were blind, and their hearts were hardened. John makes this declaration by means of quoting two different passages in Isaiah.
so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” [] Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” [] ().[7]
Earlier in the message we acknowledged that other New Testament authors acknowledged that this hardness and blindness were
All mankind is naturally blind and hardened. After having clearly established, through the first three chapters, that all mankind is sinful, Paul declares, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (). John offered a similar declaration earlier in his gospel. He writes, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (). “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” ().
Unbelief is often prolonged due to a fear of man (12:41-43). Mankind’s natural darkness and hardness of heart is only further complicated by the fact that we naturally fear man. Many who begin a path towards belief, fail to come to fully believe in Christ because they fear what others will do to them. John writes in verses 41-43, “many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” ().

Unbelief is overcome by the light of Christ.

Christ is our light (12:44-46). If belief is necessary but naturally impossible, how then do we ever believe? John writes, “And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (). Paul acknowledges this beautiful and divine work a number of times throughout his epistles. “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (). And again in Ephesians, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (, cf. , [8]).
Christ or Condemnation (12:47-50). Mankind can either come to the light of Christ or be condemned in their darkness. In the last few verses of this section, John declares that judgment is the alternative.
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” ().
[1] Kruse, John, 264–65.
[2] Apparently, this quote is so common that no one feels the need to footnote an original source. A simple google search for this statement brought up a host of sources, all of which made the statement as if it were their own. For instance, three authors all make the exact same quote with no source noted: Larry Helyer The Witness of Jesus, Paul, and John on page 249, John MacArthur in his Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, and an author of Tabletalk Magazine, in an article “John the Baptist Bears Witness to Christ.”
[2] Apparently, this quote is so common that no one feels the need to footnote an original source. A simple google search for this statement brought up a host of sources, all of which made the statement as if it were their own. For instance, three authors all make the exact same quote with no source noted: Larry Helyer The Witness of Jesus, Paul, and John on page 249, John MacArthur in his Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, and an author of Tabletalk Magazine, in an article “John the Baptist Bears Witness to Christ.”
[3] Ethelbert William Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London; New York: Eyre & Spottiswoode; E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1898), 616–617.
[3] Ethelbert William Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (London; New York: Eyre & Spottiswoode; E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1898), 616–617.
[4] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), .
[4] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), .
[5] Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1882), 589.
[5] Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom: With a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1882), 589.
[6] Schaff, 3:586–87.
[6] Schaff, 3:586–87.
[7] Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (). Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” ().
[7] Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (). Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” ().
[8] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ().
[8] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ().
At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. ().
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