For my Bible study, my church is going through John’s Gospel: Wisdom from Ephesus, with Michael Card. What I want to talk about in this blog post is an event in John 12. Greeks are in Jerusalem to worship at the festival, and some of them want to see Jesus. When Jesus is told about this, he says:
“The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” (John 12:23-28 KJV)
I have two questions, as well as questions accompanying the two questions:
1. Why did hearing that Greeks wanted to see Jesus make Jesus realize that his death was imminent? What is the relationship between Greeks wanting to see Jesus and Jesus’ death being near? Was it because the Greeks wanting to see him reminded him that he would draw all people to himself when he was lifted up from the earth? Was Jesus recalling that his crucifixion and resurrection would lead to the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s people, and the fact that Greeks wanted to see him was an indication that the harvest was ripe—-that his role in including the Gentiles was about to be realized? Was it because the Greeks’ acceptance of him highlighted in his mind that there were prominent people within his own nation who were seeking to kill him, even as outsiders were accepting him?
Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown say about v 23: “[The Greeks] would see Jesus, would they? Yet a little moment, and they shall see Him so as now they dream not of. The middle wall of partition that keeps them out from the commonwealth of Israel is on the eve of breaking down, ‘and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men unto Me’…”
2. Jesus’ statement that “The hour is come” intrigues me, on account of John 2:4, in which Jesus is reluctant to change the water into wine because his hour has not yet come. If Jesus’ “hour” is the time of his crucifixion and resurrection (see also John 7:30 and 8:20), what would his crucifixion and resurrection have to do with his reluctance to change water into wine? “I don’t want to change water into wine right now, for my time to be crucified and resurrected has not come yet.” That doesn’t make much sense, does it?
There are a number of interpreters who just say that Jesus in John 2:4 means that his hour to do miracles has not yet come. That sounds logical, but Jesus’ “hour” in John so often refers to his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, that I have a hard time saying that it means something different in John 2:4.
Of the commentaries that I read, John Gill and John MacArthur try to factor Jesus’ passion and resurrection into John 2:4. John Gill speculates that “it was not proper for him to work miracles as yet, lest it should provoke his enemies to seek his life before his time…” Maybe. Perhaps Jesus in John’s Gospel realized that the performance of his work was a delicate task: that he had to do things just right to get his message out. Jumping the gun by publicly turning the water into wine might puzzle or anger people prematurely, and thus he wouldn’t be able to say what he needed to say, when he needed to say it. Why, then, did Jesus turn the water into wine? Because he did so in a private, low-key manner, which would not attract premature attention.
John MacArthur states: “My hour has not yet come. The phrase constantly refers to Jesus’ death and exaltation (7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1). He was on a divine schedule decreed by God before the foundation of the world. Since the prophets characterized the messianic age as a time when wine would flow liberally (Jer. 31:12; Hos. 14:7; Amos 9:13, 14), Jesus was likely referring to the fact that the necessity of the cross must come before the blessings of the millennial age.”
I’m not overly convinced by this explanation, to tell you the truth. I don’t think that Jesus had to die and rise again before Israel could enjoy the blessings of the messianic age, for such blessings were evident in Jesus’ ministry, before he died and rose again. In Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22, Jesus says that John the Baptist should have known that Jesus was the Messiah on account of the healings that Jesus was performing. Jesus in these passages may have had in mind such scriptures as Isaiah 35:6: “Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.” But, if you only want to consider what’s in John’s Gospel in interpreting John’s Gospel, even John’s Gospel implies that the blessings of the messianic age are occurring during Jesus’ ministry. In John 6:45, for example, Jesus applies the prophecy that “they shall be all taught of God” to the people who were believing in him.
And yet, there is a sense in John’s Gospel that certain prophecies in the Hebrew Bible could not be fulfilled until after Jesus died and rose again. In John 7:38-39, we read (in the KJV): “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”