John (Part 44): Hardening Hearts (ch 12)
In his discussion about glory, Jesus informs his disciples and the crowd that he must die. It is, in fact, his very death that manifests both his truth, goodness, and beauty and the truth, goodness, and beauty of God. He points to the analogy of wheat. The grain falls to the ground and dies just as the Father steps away allowing the Son to die. But the death of the seed causes the life of the stalk and the crop to come. Trying to hang on to life in this world (apart from Jesus) will result in losing that life because that life is tied to the broken (death) heritage in Adam. Only by dying to that—dying with Christ—are we able to truly lie in everlasting love relationship with God.
Jesus speaks out about his fear in verse 27. He doesn’t want the tearing apart rift of relationship with God that is required by—that is defined as—death. And yet, he understands that that is the very reason for his coming into the world and marching along as he has—in step with the Spirit’s direction—up to that point. The very crowd to which he is saying this—these people who had just been praising him as Messiah and King—will abandon him within just a couple more days. And we notice the beginnings of their doubts in him in just the next few verses—incredibly, just after God speaks from Heaven.
In resolution to lay down his life (his relationship with God), Jesus calls out for God to glorify his name. And God answers, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!” By the reference to the past and to this upcoming event, God solidifies the notion that this has been one plan of restoration, being revealed previously by the prophets for God’s glory and revealed now through the Word made flesh in the climax of redemption.
Jesus responds to the voice of God by telling the crowd it was for their sake, not his, that God spoke. Jesus understood himself to be the climax of God’s plan. It is these confused Jews who, still thinking the Messiah would come for their own national exaltation, needed the clarification.
Jesus goes on to indicate two major truths presented with this his hour. The first is that the “judgment of this world” has come. This word translated “judgment” is the Greek krisis, from which obviously we get our word crisis. The definition of crisis is a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined. We understand, then, what Jesus means as he calls this hour a point of krisis. By his vicarious sacrifice, he offers the world, who, because of their death heritage in Adam, are on trajectory for Godless eternity, the opportunity for rebirth—to participate with him in his death through faith and receive new life in relationship with God for eternity.
And this fact that all of history’s course will be altered by this hour is a deathblow to the one who has championed the death trajectory for all this time—Satan himself. Jesus highlights this point by saying, “Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” What exactly does that mean? There are no secret meanings in the Greek; so, we can figure this out simply be examining the English. Taken at face value, literally, we’d have to conclude that Satan is no longer in this world. He’s been cast out. But understanding it that way would force us to conclude that Peter is entirely mistaken when telling us that Satan prowls about as a roaring lion, looking for whom he can devour (I Pe 5:8). Is he in the world or cast out? If we understand Jesus’s words to mean something other than literally “cast out,” it opens up a whole boatload of expressions to review. And consistent to what we hear Jesus say (Satan cast out), followed by what Peter says (Satan prowls the earth), we find Satan thrown from Heaven at the beginning (Ez 28:17), and yet he marches right up to God’s throne in Job 1:6. So, what are we to understand from this?
The first thing we must understand is that when God speaks (through his Word) of action done to Satan, he is not speaking of literal physical action. It is a spiritual activity that is described for us using physical activity. After all, Satan is a spiritual being. He has no body that can be physically cast anywhere. Numerous passages talk about the hurting, falling, binding, and throwing done to Satan. Let’s review them.
At the beginning
Ezekiel 28:13-18 “I threw you down”
2 Peter 2:4 Threw disobedient angels down; kept in chains
During Jesus’s ministry
Luke 10:18 Watched Satan fall from heaven
Genesis 3:15 Strike head
Matthew 12:29 Bound
Hebrews 2:14 Destroyed
Revelation 12:9-10 Thrown
Revelation 20:2 Bound in chains
Luke 22:3 – Acts 1:18 Satan enters Judas who, as a result Jesus’ death, falls headfirst
John 16:11 Cast out
During current age
Romans 16:20 God will soon crush Satan under your feet
James 4:7 Will flee from you
At end of age
Isaiah 14:12-21 Thrown out
Revelation 20:10 Thrown into lake of fire
From this review, we find that every time a victory for God’s plan takes place, it is a fall or casting or binding of Satan. Although the Ezekiel and Isaiah passages speak about the kings of Tyre and Babylon, respectively, the language used gives symbolic reference to Satan and his original fall. Lucifer was given guardianship of the earth—the home God created for his image bearers. Lucifer’s first interaction with these image bearers was to try to influence them to trust him rather than God. This appears to be the point of time for Satan’s fall just as it was for Adam. Satan, in attempting to secure this “kingdom” for himself opposes God’s restoration plan at every turn (seen well in Revelation 12). But at every instance as God’s plan moves inexorably forward, Satan is thrust aside (he falls, is bound, is thrown, is hurt). Thus, these activities are not meant for us to follow the location of Satan. They are meant for us to see that God’s plan has irrepressible success at every step.
In our specific point in John, Jesus remarks that although Satan seemed to have the world to himself (God was interacting with only Israel), Jesus’s hour would bring revelation and salvation to the entire world. Thus, Satan, again, is defeated—cast out. Jesus explains just that in the next verse in saying that as he is lifted up (exalted but on a cross), all the world would be drawn to him.
The crowd’s reaction to Jesus’s statement is interesting. They seem not even to notice that Jesus is embracing the whole world while their messianic hope was to exalt only Israel. They move beyond that to the more shocking news that the Messiah was talking about his death. Again, their OT interpretation is confused. They see the Messiah promised as someone who would live forever. Somehow they overlook the passages describing the suffering servant.