27“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Contemporary theologian Will Willimon tells of a pastor friend who, during a Lenten season, put up three crosses draped in black in the front lawn of the church he pastored and then received numerous complaints that the crosses made the neighborhood look bad. Willimon writes, “Christ’s, or humanity’s, suffering, it seems, is something unpleasant that happens to other people, more annoying than ennobling, something to be eradicated by the latest wonder drug or meditative technique.”
For many people today, Jesus hanging on the cross of Calvary, beaten, bloodied, suffering, and dying doesn’t exactly convey a picture of Jesus in all his glory. Instead it seems an image of weakness, despair, and defeat. Surely not one of magnificent victory!
But isn’t that the difficulty? Truly understanding “the relationship of the cross to our salvation, the connection between the suffering of Christ and human suffering, the need for God to become physically entangled in the world’s evil and pain … is too great a mystery that is beyond our intellectual comprehension,” in the words of Willimon.
But here in John 12, the cross was exactly where Jesus was headed. He was headed there because the cross was not a place of despair and defeat for Jesus. Instead, the cross was the place where his glory was on display most beautifully and magnificently.
For it was there on the cross that Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” so he could “draw all people to [himself]” (v. 32) by paying for the sins of everyone. For a few days later, it was on that cross that Jesus’s glory was on beautiful and magnificent display, saving us from our sins so that by faith in him we will live with him in glory forever.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for glorifying your Son through his sacrifice on the cross—for us! Draw us to him today that we might live with you forever in glory. Amen.
Mark Vellinga serves as the pastor of Mescalero Reformed Church in Mescalero, New Mexico. Along with his wife, Miriam, he strives to serve the Native American community in a way that honors their Native American heritage and demonstrates how that heritage shapes their faith.