“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 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.” (John 12:27-36 ESV)
Down for the Count
Last week, we talked about how we can be spiritually deaf and misunderstand the biblical concept of judgment. We often fall for and even promote the cultural idea of “don’t judge me.” However, remember that a biblical view of Matthew 7:1 (the ‘Judge not’ passage that most people reference) is really about being hypocritical in our judgment of others and NOT about letting people do whatever they want. This week, we are going to take a look at the second half of this judgment passage and how Jesus’ death brings judgment on Satan and his deceptions.
God declared that His name had been glorified and would be glorified again through Jesus’ obedience and the resulting judgment. As we saw last week, our sinful actions are judged by Jesus’ obedience, but his actions also bring justice. Justice we so desperately desire and need. This week, we want to take a closer look at one additional aspect of that judgment and justice… the judgment of the deceiver. Jesus declares that judgment of “the ruler of this world” has come. If you’ll remember, he said that God’s voice came for our benefit. One of the benefits is confirmation and affirmation of Jesus’ actions and words. When God spoke, He affirmed what Jesus had been doing and saying.
One of the ways Jesus’ words are being affirmed is judgment on the “rule” of evil in this world. We often look at what happens around us and ask, why? Why would God let this happen. If God is truly full of love and goodness then why do we see so much evil and suffering in our world? If God really exists, then how can evil exist? While it would take an entire sermon series to adequately address that question, let me take a moment to give you a few things to consider.
First, scripture tells us that the origins of evil are in the goodness of God, in the freedom of His creation. God desires a people who would truly love Him and love forced is not love at all. His love coerces us to love him in return. To give us the freedom to love unforced is to give us the freedom of rejecting him and his love. To reject true love, or God-love, is to embrace false love, or self-love. So, for us to love truly we must also be able to not love or to have the freedom to reject God’s love. When true love is absent, false self-love easily takes over and hatred of others quickly follows. Every form of outrageous human evil is simply self-love “on steroids.”
Next, some point out that there are forms of evil that seem to exist outside of human nature. For example, we see natural disasters, storms, earthquakes, volcanoes and accidents that are evil and destroy our lives. Again, scripture tells us that when we rebelled against God’s love and disobeyed his commands then our rebellion impacted creation causing a significant disruption in God’s design and Satan became the ruler of our world. That’s why we look at life on this planet and say, there’s something wrong, deeply wrong. Things aren’t the way they were meant to be. Satan’s desire is to destroy the goodness of God’s creation and to deceive us into continuous rebellion against God’s love. His desire is to ruin the goodness of what God created.
Now notice the second half of Jesus statement regarding judgment, “now WILL the ruler of this world be cast out!” Because of Jesus love and sacrifice, Satan’s rule over this world will be broken. Consider this…
“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:1-7 ESV)
A Real Inheritance
Because of Jesus you no longer have to be a slave to Satan, or the elementary (or basic) principles of this world, but are given the opportunity to become sons in the house of God! In other words, God has broken the chains of your slavery to sin, your hatred of God and love of self, to give you the freedom to choose life and truly love Him and become a son in the house of God. I can’t think of a better place to be…
“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2-3 ESV) (Big, big house)
John then tells us that Jesus clearly identifies his crucifixion with this promise, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.” Then John says, he said this to show the “kind” of death he would die. Yet, the crowd questions this claim by citing a reference from the Old Testament about the Christ or Messiah. There are several Old Testament passages that reference the eternal nature of the Messiah and his kingdom or reign (Ps 110:4; Is 9:7; Ez 37:25; Dan 7:14), but the crowd simply misunderstands the references to mean an earthly reign or existence.
In a similar fashion, we also question or doubt Jesus’ rule and authority because we want and expect it to be physical or material. Yet, we are promised that God will change our lives from the inside out. To address our problems God doesn’t change our circumstances as much as he changes our perspective. We begin to see that the things of real value are not those things the world pursues; that’s one of the deceiver’s lies. Those things of true value are those very things you can’t buy, touch or collect.
The epitome of their doubts are expressed in the question, “who is this ‘Son of Man?'” They question Jesus role in God’s purpose and plan. The term ‘Son of Man’ is usually affiliated with Jesus’ humanity in contrast to his divinity. But, the term really came from Daniel’s vision, and represents the promise of the Messiah and His kingdom:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)
How can the promise of a Messiah with an eternal kingdom, like the one Daniel saw, be fulfilled by a ‘Son of Man’ who dies the death of a convicted criminal? How can God’s promise be fulfilled in ways that don’t fit our expectations? Why would God do things this way? It makes no sense!
Walk While You Have Light…
Jesus uses an analogy to help the crowd, and us, make sense of the situation. He says we should walk during the day while we have light because the light is going away and people stumble and fall when they try and walk in the dark of night. In other words, they could clearly see and recognize the evidence of his words, actions and miraculous power over life (the light of day), but night was coming when it would be more difficult to see, understand and believe. They needed to act on their faith now and not wait.
“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe… Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-25, 27-29 ESV)
Is it more difficult to believe today? Absolutely! Not only are we 2,000 years removed from the eyewitness accounts, but we are stumbling around in the darkness, tripping over our own achievements, intelligence and understanding. We have become so puffed up and arrogant by our own “scientific knowledge” that we reject the very evidence that exists all around us. How can God exist if we can’t prove his existence scientifically? Yet, how can we look at something as simple as wooden mallet and see intelligent design, but look at something as complex as life and not see it?
Just as the crowd, in our passage above, heard the very voice of God and questioned its source, we also hear his voice in the various ways He has revealed himself throughout creation and question its source. It is, and always will be, a matter of faith… do you believe? Walk, while you have the light.