Why Did Jesus Think His Time Had Come?

Why Did Jesus Think His Time Had Come?

READ JOHN 12: 20-32

There are two words in the Greek language that could be translated as Greeks – Hellenistoi and Hellenes. Both refer to Greek affiliation. John uses here the latter word. The difference between the words is usually understood as the following: Hellenistoi is used for Greek-behaving people, like Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenized Jews); while the second word refers to ethnic Greeks (in this case probably the Greek God-fearers that we meet in the book of Acts). However, in John’s Gospel, we are faced with an interesting dilemma. John does not seem to use hoi Ioudaioi (usually translated as the Jews) as others use it. He has his own use that is particular to his Gospel, given his unique audience and situation. (The use of hoi Ioudaioi meant something to his audience that it does not mean to others).

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Thinking along the same lines it is entirely possible that John has his own use of Hellenes as well. Whereas others use the term Hellenes for ethnic Greeks, John may be using it in a different way. But this of course is only a possibility. The burden of proof is upon those who would like to argue that these were Hellenized Jews and not God-fearing Greeks. We must however think of both possibilities with the first still being the most probable one.

Whether Hellenized Jews are in view or Greeks God-fearers (probable version), who were seeking out Jewish religious leader for a meeting, Jesus’ following had reached the farthest corner of Jewish influence! (If one looks at the Israelite umbrella of various Jewish movements, the Gentile God-fearers who had not fully joined Jewish community, but in many ways affiliated themselves, can be viewed as occupying the furthest corner of Jewish communal influence.) Now that Jesus has followers not only in Judea, Galilee, Samaria, but also in the Diaspora he declares that the time for the Son of Man to be glorified has finally come (something that he denied number of times before).

24 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. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

What is very intriguing here is that the Gospel does not tell us if Jesus actually met with the Greeks. Instead the author switches his emphasis to the words of Jesus where he spoke of his coming death and sacrifice. It is likely that Greeks were invited in; and what comes in the following verses may constitute a summary of that conversation. Jesus’ point is simple. Unless he dies, his ministry will not bear much fruit. Those who sanctify God’s name might also be required to die with him, but his Father will honor them.

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“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.”

The words of Jesus speak deeply of his full humanity. It is not natural for a human being to want to suffer and die. Jesus, understanding the core of his mission, is willing to do so.

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.

The connection between God’s voice and thunder is important here. We read in Ex.19:16-19: “16 On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. 19 And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.” The voice of God in speaking of the glorification of Jesus is, therefore, set in the same glorious context.

31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

As I discussed in the previous section, while it is traditional to assume that the ruler of this world is Satan, the enemy of God’s purposes on this earth, it is also possible (though this is only a possibility) that a particular evil leader of the hoi Ioudaioi in fact was in view instead.

The Qumran community speaks of a wicked priest as a towering evil figure in the Qumranic imagination. While one cannot simply draw quick conclusions, we are justified however in entertaining the possibility of such a figure. It is noteworthy that every known case of persecution against Jesus and the Jerusalem believers in Jesus, especially their leaders, “was taken when the reigning high priest was one of those who belonged to the powerful Sadducean family of Annas.” Caiaphas, Annas’ son-in-law condemned both Jesus and Stephen. James the Son of Zebedee was executed and Peter was arrested by Agrippa I; while Matthias, son of Annas, was probably a priest.

In Acts 12:3 we are told that the king was motivated to gain the favor with “the Jews,” that is to “placate the high priest Mathias and his family” since some time before Agrippa had humiliated Annas’ family by deposing Theophilus, brother of Mathias. Another son of Annas, Ananus II, put James to death taking advantage of being Roman Emperor’s before the appointment of the next leader of the Empire. The above shows that we are justified to speak of a case of family vendetta against “the followers of a man whose movement Caiphas (as a member of Annas priestly family) had expected to but failed to stamp out”.[1]

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.

It was clear to Jesus that he would be crucified and would be lifted up on the Roman cross for criminals. When this dying/sowing of the seed happens, it would produce much fruit and all men (in this nearer sense, Israel, though certainly not only) would be drawn to him.

[1] See Bauckham, R. 2007. James and the Jerusalem Community. In Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Edited by O. Skarsaune and R. Hvalvik. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 75.

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