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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Jesus Stays on the Road to his Death
Text:John 12:27-33 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's Suffering

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 89:1 ,3                                                                                             

Ps 145:1,2  [after Apostles’ Creed]

Reading – John 12:12-36

Hy 25:1,3,7

Sermon – John 12:27-33

Hy 35:1,2,4

Hy 80:1,2,5,6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation, in some prisons in America there is an area known as Death Row. It’s where those who have been sentenced to die go to wait for the time of their execution. Every day on Death Row is a day closer to death. So for a prisoner, after five or ten years, there might be only 30 days left. Then only 20. Then 5 days. Suddenly it’s down to 24 hours. He wonders, “Is this my last meal? Will I be granted a reprieve?” Until the hour comes, and it’s time to go.

Jesus didn’t sit on Death Row. Yet his life was always moving toward that certain and terrible end: He’d be killed on the cross. He knew this, because the Scriptures pointed to it. He knew this, and He predicted it himself more than once during his ministry—He told his disciples very plainly what was going to happen at Jerusalem.

So it has been a long countdown, and the countdown has come to this, the last few days. In John’s Gospel we notice the seconds ticking away. For example, at the close of John 11, the leaders get together to plot his murder. Then in chapter 12, Jesus is anointed with expensive perfume—and Jesus says that it’s an anointing for his burial! Then on Palm Sunday He is received with praise, which makes his haters only more angry.

With the growing tension, there is no mistake that the moment is near, the countdown to death is almost at zero. Notice how Jesus keeps saying “now” in our text: “Now my soul is troubled… Now is the judgment of this world… Now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (vv 27, 31). Christ will soon be betrayed and arrested, judged and sentenced to death. So if our Saviour could run at this moment, would He? If He could find a different way, would He have done it? This is what we see in John 12,


In his final hours, Jesus stays on the road to death. It means:

  1. great suffering for Jesus
  2. more glory for the Father
  3. full salvation for sinners


1) great suffering for Jesus: As the Lord stood on the edge of his deepest suffering, He understood what was about to happen. Sometimes people portray Jesus as if He stepped blindly into a trap, got caught up in something He never intended. But Jesus knew what lay around the corner. And it caused him deep suffering.

Now my soul is troubled,” He declares (v 27). Here is the first “now” of our text. The full meaning of his mission is striking home: “Now my soul is troubled.” Of course, Jesus had been troubled before. He suffered all throughout his ministry. He endured the frailties of being human. He was troubled when people misunderstood why He’d come. There’d always been trouble. But now all that pain was getting worse.

Jesus had just spoken of what was going to happen to him: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (v 24). You might wonder, “Why is Jesus talking about farming at a time like this?” But this is a principle—very simply—of life coming through death.

Some of us enjoy gardening, planting seeds, cultivating and nurturing. And whenever we put seeds into the ground, in a sense those seeds need to die. It’s only if a seed gets buried in the ground that it can begin the process of growth—only by burial does there come a new plant and more life. Jesus found this lesson in the world of horticulture, a lesson which was just as true for him and his calling on earth. He, one man, had to die and be buried. And through this event, many people could begin to live for God.

But He had to die. And looking his death in the face, Jesus says, “My soul is troubled” (v 27). What Jesus is facing is no small obstacle, but something that affects him to the centre of his being. He’s no superhero, pain-free and iron-clad. He was human, like any of us, so the thought of his execution was a heavy weight in his heart. Only three days now… Now two…

And the death He was waiting for was a death like no other. Think about how there were two other men sitting in prison somewhere in Jerusalem—those two criminals who were to be executed alongside Jesus. As they sat on their own Death Row, probably they too had troubled hearts, worried and anxious. They too, might’ve felt sick to the stomach as they thought about the agony of being crucified. This wasn’t a quick way to die, not like the hangings they used to do at Fremantle Prison.

But Jesus’s suffering would be even more that most realized. It would go beyond what can be done to a body with thorns and nails. The cruel torture of Jesus might be depicted in paintings or in films with gallons of blood and close-ups of lacerated flesh, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For unlike those other two who’d be crucified, unlike any other man, Christ would suffer right to the depths of his being. The body of Jesus was about to go through hell. But even more terribly, his soul would be ripped apart.       

So as we listen to Jesus speak, we’re not surprised to hear a hint of his struggle: “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?” (v 27). Jesus pauses a moment. Seeing the cross on the horizon, He wonders how He can do it, “What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?” (v 27). “Father, can I say, please, let me not have to do this?”

You know that we have four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, and each one is different in its own way. In his account, John doesn’t tell us about the garden of Gethsemane. Recall what happened in that garden, how on this same night Jesus agonizes intensely. According to Mark 14:34, Jesus cries out: “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.” And in the garden He wrestles in prayer with the Father’s will, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” We don’t hear these words in John’s Gospel.

But now already before the Last Supper, before going to Gethsemane, Jesus struggles in a similar way. Could He ask his Father to relent? Could He plead with his Father to remove him from the road He was on? Was this really the only way?

When He prayed later in Gethsemane, you know how Jesus came to submit to God’s purpose, when He prayed, “Father, your will be done.” And here too, He is able to accept the burden. It wouldn’t be easy—He’d go back and forth a few times yet.

But no sooner does Jesus ask the question than He answers it. Even before He has said it, He knows the path He’s going to take: “‘Save me from this hour’?” No! “Should I back out?” No, Jesus will not back out of his mission! “For this purpose I came to this hour” (v 27). Despite the pain ahead, Jesus doesn’t ask for a pardon. He will continue on to the goal. For this hour He was born! This was his whole purpose, his reason to live—that He would die!

What kept Jesus going, made him so determined? Sometimes when a person has shown incredible toughness, people want to know how it was possible. Maybe someone survives being stranded out in the wilderness, or drifts alone at sea on a raft for many months. People ask: “What kept you going? How did you hold on for so long?” And the person might say, “I just kept thinking about my family.” Or, “I just wanted to get back home.”

How could Jesus be so determined as his death approached? We can say there’s two things that kept Jesus on this road. The first was his amazing love for sinners, for us! Though we don’t deserve his love, Christ loves us with an amazing love.

Though we’re often unfaithful to him, He is faithful to us. Though we didn’t ask him to do it, and though we still forget or even deny him, Jesus was willing, and able, absolutely devoted to dying for us—all so that we might live! He walked to the gallows, our penalty on his shoulders. And even when his shoulders stooped, and his feet dragged, and his heart trembled, Jesus kept on going.

This is how great is Christ’s love for you, for me, for all who trust in him! It is such a steadfast mercy, a mercy you can always count on. In your daily prayers, in your troubles, in your guilt and shame, and also in your joy and blessing, you can be sure of the love of Christ. By what He did in John 12 and the following days, He showed his love beyond any doubt. So be sure of his love. Beloved, be sure that there’s nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from the love of God in Christ!

There’s a second big thing that kept Jesus on the road to death: his desire to bring glory to the Father. At this hour, Jesus accepted that his mission wasn’t about his own comfort or reputation. Jesus wants to bring glory to the Father.


2) more glory for the Father: In this moment of crisis, Jesus pauses. He briefly ponders that question, but amazingly, the question turns into a prayer for the Father’s glory. From saying, “Father, save me from this hour,” Jesus moves to a petition, forceful and direct. “Give in? Never!” says Christ; “Father, glorify your name!” (v 28).

This can sound very strange. How could there be any glory for the Father in the deep suffering of the Son? Some people even find it repulsive, that God would find any delight in his Son’s death. They’ve called it ‘divine child abuse.’

But his prayer receives an immediate answer. A voice comes from heaven, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (v 28). This is an important moment, because there’s only two other occasions when we hear a voice from heaven speak about the Son. Think of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, when He was baptized. Then the Father announced: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

The next time was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter had just confessed Jesus as Christ, and Jesus had just announced for the first time that He was going to suffer and die. Then they went up the mountain, and with Jesus clothed in glory, the Father again declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

At these key moments, the Father gives his endorsement of Jesus, saying that Jesus was the promised Christ and anointed Saviour. And the voice in our text comes at another critical hour. Jesus has accepted his calling, so the Father affirms that his work won’t be in vain. He answers Jesus: “I have glorified my Name, and I’ll do so again.”

Jesus has already brought much glory to the Father. In the last three years, He had performed many signs, turning water into wine, mending the paralyzed, even raising the dead. John writes in chapter 1, as he looks back on these miracles, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father” (v 14).

Every sign showed the Son’s glory, but all along Jesus was pointing to the one who sent him. For it was always God’s glory, shining through Christ! In Christ they could see that God is faithful to his promise, powerful in his work, gracious toward sinners. How glorious God was seen to be in the life of Christ! As the Father declares, “I have glorified my name!”

Yet more glory was about to shine through. The Father now says: “[I] will glorify [my name] again.” To some, Jesus’ death on the cross would look like a failure. But in God’s plan, the crucifixion was a gateway to even more glory for God! The cross means great suffering for Jesus, and great honour for the Father. Because in the cross, we see more clearly than ever just how great is our God. The cross is undeniable evidence of God’s majesty and splendour!

For God was perfectly wise in preparing our salvation, and perfectly just in dealing with our sin. Because of Jesus, we give glory to God for his overflowing love. We give glory to God for his rich patience toward sinners. In Jesus, God shows us who He is, so that we may know him, delight in him, and honour him.

We need this reminder, because it’s the purpose of our own lives here on earth. The whole purpose of our life is expressed in the prayer of Jesus, “Father, glorify your name.” That needs to be our prayer too. “Father, show yourself to be great and good and holy, through me. Father, may your will be done, not my own.”

We tend to think that we’re here for ourselves. It’s what we give so much of our time and attention to. We’re always fighting for our own honour, always wanting to enlarge our reputation, to inflate our status with our friends and colleagues and community. It’s so often about our glory, us in the starring role. But Christ didn’t save us to live for ourselves. He saved us for God, to live for the Lord’s glory.

If you haven’t accepted that your purpose is to live for God, then pray that you can. Or pray that you can recommit yourself to it. And then praise Him! In prayer. Through service and love. Glorify God by doing not your own will, but by happily doing his will. For his will is always good.

John tells us that the crowd doesn’t understand the Father’s voice. They hear the voice, but they don’t have ears to really hear: Was it passing thunder? Was it an angel speaking to Jesus in the language of heaven? Today it still happens, that so many people don’t understand. Sometimes we don’t understand. How is there glory in Christ’s suffering? How can his death do so much for us? 


3) full salvation for sinners: After the people show their ignorance, Jesus makes everything clear, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (v 31). Here are the second and third “nows” of our text. They’re closely connected to the first: “Now my heart is troubled.” For not just any death lay ahead, but a death of massive importance. In Jesus’s death, the world was going to be judged.

We know that a person gets judged if there’s been an offense, or if there’s been an accusation and charge. Then a person has to go to court. This is what the whole world needs to undergo: judgment. All peoples of mankind have to give an account before God who made them.

And it doesn’t look good for the world. This world is full of people who hate God and their neighbor. And we’re among them! In God’s judgment, the death penalty isn’t only for those who commit murder in the first degree. It’s for all sinners, for those who are greedy and who steal and who lie. The death penalty is for those who are disrespectful to their parents, for those are impure in their desires, for those who hurt other people with their angry and bitter words. The death penalty is for everyone who rejects the will of God and puts anything before the LORD. Death Row should be very crowded, filled with people like you and me!

But now Jesus says that judgment is handled in another way. Through his suffering, the penalty of sinners gets paid. Through his execution, free pardon is given to all who believe! In the cross of Christ we are judged, and in his cross we are set free.

“Now is the judgment of the world.” Those are words full of hope, and words full of fear. We have hope if we trust in the Lord Jesus. We have hope if our sins have been covered by him, if we’ve trusted that his precious blood is the one thing we need. For those who believe, there’s no fear in judgment. Perfect love casts out fear!

But what if you don’t believe? What if you’re indifferent to the Lord? What if you go your whole life without accepting the Saviour? Or what if you die before you can? Jesus’s own words give a hint of the fear that sinners should face before God if they stand there all alone: “My soul is troubled. My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. I’m about to die for my sin.” Beloved, is that a judgment that you can face: the severe judgment of God on your sins? You cannot, not without Jesus as Lord.

Jesus makes another announcement: “Now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (v 32). Who is the ruler of the world? Jesus means Satan, the great Adversary who has put mankind under his power. From the very first temptation, the devil has done everything he can to drive us from the safety and blessing of fellowship with God.

But Jesus announces that Satan is already on his way out. After Jesus is done his saving work, Satan will not be allowed in God’s throne room any longer. He won’t be allowed ever again to accuse one of God’s children. Because the cross has destroyed the devil’s authority. The cross has shown that what the devil offers is only a lie. The ruler of this world is cast out!

This is a rich source of strength when we are daily struggling with sin. In the constant struggle against our pride or anger or greed or idolatry, we often fail. And sometimes we think there’s a temptation that is simply too powerful, or a weakness that’s too deeply established, and we can’t ever do better. But in Christ we have help, a supernatural strength! Because the ruler of this world has been driven out, and the King is on the throne.

And finally, Jesus says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself” (v 33). Jesus is going to be lifted up—lifted up on the cross in torture and pain. But God will make that terrible end into something glorious. For Christ will also be lifted up, like a beacon of light shining in a dark world. The cross radiates God’s love for sinners. The cross welcomes us into the glory of its good news. For sinners, there is forgiveness. For the hopeless, there is hope. For the weak, there is strength. For the dead, there is life. So go to him, and find your refuge in him!

Even in the last hours, our Lord was faithful to his task. Today we remember how He kept walking, from Death Row to the gallows. Today we give thanks that He didn’t run away, but He kept going, even to his own death. He did it for the Father. And He did it for us.

And if that’s what Christ did back then, think of what He will do today! If that’s how faithful Jesus was on that dark day, then He won’t ever forsake us now! Now that He’s sovereign over all things and seated in the heavens, He keeps drawing us with his love. He keeps lifting our weary heads and pointing us to the rest we can have in him.

For all this grace, we can only say, “Thank you, Lord. Now help me to glorify your name. Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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