The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 12:20-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 10, 2018

20 Now there were certain Gentiles among them, who came up to adore on the festival day.

Certain Gentiles.” In Greek, “certain Hellenists, or Greeks.” The Greek language was the most extensively used among the Gentiles. Hence, the word “Greeks,” was commonly used by the Jews to designate all the Pagan nations; as most of the Pagans, whom they knew, spoke the Greek language. The Apostle (St. Paul), commonly uses the word, when speaking of the Gentile or Pagan world, as contra-distinguished from the Jews. (Rom. 1:16; 11:9), etc. The Evangelist appropriately introduces this, when describing the rage and envy of the Pharisees, to signify, that both Jews and Gentiles were to join in receiving and believing in our Lord.

Who these Gentiles were, cannot be easily determined. Some say, they were Jews who spoke the Greek language, and dwelt in some of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, where they had their Synagogues. Others say, they were Proselytes, from among the Gentiles. Others, Gentiles and idolaters, who came to bring offerings to the God of Israel and worship Him. These holding, that there was one God, and seeing Him adored, with such majesty, by the Jews in the glorious Temple of Jerusalem, came to join in his worship, and present their gifts. The Temple was greatly venerated by Pagan Monarchs, who bestowed on it the richest gifts. Cyrus (1 Esdras; Darius Hystaspes, c. 6), and other Kings of Asia. (2 Machabees 3.) The neighbouring Pagans frequently attended the great feasts of the Jews. Hence, the outer Court of the Temple was called, the Court of the Gentiles.

21 These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying: Sir, we would see Jesus.

They came to Philip, either because he was the first of our Lord’s disciples they met: or, because they knew him before. Some say, the mention of his native place, “Bethsaida of Galilee,” would show that these dwelt in the neighbourhood of Galilee; and hence, knew Philip, who was a Galilean. This is not likely; as among the disciples, there were other Galileans also.

Besides, knowing that the Jews would not wish to hold converse with Gentiles, the Gentiles in question had the deepest feelings of reverence for our Lord, and would not presume to approach Him in person. Hence, they employ Philip as an intermediary. “We wish to see,” that is, converse with “Jesus,” For, as regards “seeing,” all could see Him, as He was preaching. It means, therefore, to converse with Him.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Again Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

Philip declined the task of introducing them, and had recourse to Andrew, his countryman, for the purpose. Andrew, it seems, enjoyed greater influence with our Lord, being His oldest disciple. It was he introduced Peter, his brother (1:40). Likely, Philip’s hesitation may have resulted from our Lord’s command, “in viam Gentium, ne abieritis.” Before exposing themselves to transgress, in any way, our Lord’s wish in this matter, they both lay the matter before our Lord.

23 But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.

Jesus answered them.” Likely, the Gentiles, too, were near, and within hearing, as we find no other answer made to Philip’s appeal, which would seem not to be unacceptable to our Lord. Whether He admitted them to conversation with Him is not stated. He, however, granted them more than was asked (v. 23–28).

The hour is come,” the appointed time for His death, which was to be followed by His Resurrection, Ascension, “is come,” so near at hand, that it may be said to have come, “that the Son of Man,” whose name the Pharisees would fain blot out from the minds of mankind and utterly obliterate.

Should be glorified,” made known to the Gentile world, of whom these are the first fruits; and after His Glorious Resurrection, Ascension, and sending down of the Holy Ghost, joined with the preaching of the Gospel, throughout the world, he would be acknowledged, adored and proclaimed by the entire earth, Jew and Gentile, as the Eternal Son of God. Our Lord frequently employs this epithet, “the Son of Man,” rather than the “Son of God,” as denoting His union with human nature, which He so honoured, denoting also His humble lowliness, in which through His humiliation, He was to receive the honours due to the Messiah; glory being exchanged, as its reward, for humiliation. (Philip. 2.)

Some Expositors (among whom Patrizzi), say, the “hour,” refers to the present day, on which He was so honoured, by the multitude, and on which a glorious testimony was soon to be borne to Him by His Father (v. 28), in the hearing of so many; the day whereon He was approaching Jerusalem, to enter on that course of suffering so often predicted by Him (Matthew 20:17–19; Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31–34), as the prelude to His glory.

Most likely, it refers to the testimony rendered to Him by His Father, in His Resurrection, Ascension, preaching of the Gospel, which would make known to all, the economy of Redemption, founded chiefly on His humiliation and death.

24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die,

As His glorification was the fruit and reward of His humiliation and death (Philip. 2), which was now at hand, He illustrates the subject by a familiar similitude, and thus removes any grounds of offence or scandal which it might create in their minds. This being an important and solemn utterance, He prefaces it, with “Amen, amen,” usual with Him in such cases. His death would purchase a vast harvest of worshippers from all nations and peoples and tongues, etc. (Apoc. 7). For this, His death was necessary, just as it was necessary, in order that from a grain of corn, a crop or harvest would proceed, that the grain should first die and be dissolved, after being committed to the bosom of the earth. Unless it dies, it produces no fruit. It remains sterile and alone. But, if it dies, it produces much fruit When, after I die, I am committed to the earth, an uncommon harvest of faithful followers shall rise up, who are, in some limited sense, to partake of My nature, by a communication of My choicest graces, as the harvest is of the same nature with the seed. These shall proclaim My glory throughout the world.

25 Itself remaineth 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 keepeth it unto life eternal.

He wishes to fortify them against the sufferings and persecutions in store for His followers who are destined to tread the same path that He has trodden. Sufferings and trials and mortification are the only means of securing eternal happiness.

He that loveth his life,” with an inordinate, sensual love, at the expense of the law of God, which he hesitates not to violate in order to save His life, “shall lose it,” shall lose his soul in the world to come. It is clear from the following clause, that to this clause, “he that loveth his life” should be added (in this world) shall lose it in the world to come.

And he that hateth,” etc. (See Matthew 10:39; 16:25, Commentary on.) This was a favourite principle or kind of axiom with our Lord. It is the compendium of a Christian life.

26 If any man minister to me, let him follow me: and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.

Our Lord insinuates, that He Himself would lose His life in this world; that the triumphs He was now enjoying would not last; that sufferings and death were near; and, then, He exhorts His followers to follow His example and walk in His footsteps.

If any man minister to Me,” etc., or, would wish to show himself My minister and true disciple, “let him follow Me,” imitate Me, in My disregard for temporal life, in order to secure life eternal (Matthew 10:38). By following Me, he shall not lose His life in the world to come. He shall be sharer with Me in everlasting happiness. “Where I am,” being now, as to My Divinity, in heaven; and sure to ascend there shortly, in My human nature, “there also shall My minister be,” sharing with Me, the ineffable joys of heaven.

This true minister and faithful persevering follower in humiliation, sorrows and death, here, shall be exalted and honoured hereafter by My Father in heaven, before the angels and the blessed, by rendering him a partaker of the glory, which shall be the reward of My humiliation, sufferings and death.

I am,” clearly shows our Lord was then in heaven. This, of course, refers to His Divine nature; at a future day, He will ascend there, in His glorified humanity.

27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour.

Now is My soul troubled,” etc. The reference to the grain, which dies in the earth, to which He compared Himself, brought before our Lord’s mind, the horrors of His approaching death, its tortures and gloomy accompaniments. Thus, in order to show that He Himself endured what He encouraged others to endure after Him; and also, to prove His human nature, and point out what we are to do, when terrified by death, impending evils, viz., to have recourse to God; He voluntarily permits His human nature and inferior faculties to be disturbed; to shrink from the contemplation of His impending Passion, and to endure in some measure beforehand, the agony He endured in the garden. (See Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:42–44, Commentary on.)

Likely this “man of sorrows,” often during life, voluntarily permitted the inferior faculties of His human nature to be troubled at the foresight and anticipation of His Passion and final suffering on earth

And what shall I say?” Expresses His doubts, fears and perplexity, as if deliberating within Himself, if He could endure this torture; or, if the work of Redemption should be given up, and He should call on God to rescue Him (Luke 22:42).

Father, save Me from this hour.” These words, in this Indicative form, contain a petition to save Him (Matthew 26:39), in which He at once checks Himself. Some read them, as the Greek admits, interrogatively, “Shall I say, Father, save Me?” Shall I ask of God to rescue Me? Or, shall I submit to these tortures? The former reading is preferable, as it better expresses the parallelism between these words and His prayer in the garden.

From this hour,” from this agony which awaits Me, at the time fixed in the Divine decrees.

But, for this cause,” as if correcting His inferior appetite, which naturally shrank from death, He, at once, absolutely wishes, in His superior faculties, will and intellect, that the desires of His inferior appetite should not be complied with; and that He would go forward to certain death. Similar are His words and feelings (Matthew 26.)—“Non mea, sed tua voluntas fiat.” “Transeat a me calix iste.” Here it is, “Nunc turbata est anima mea.” In the garden, He prayed, “transfer calicem istum.” Here, “Pater, Salvifica me ex hac hora.” In the garden, He subjected His natural desire of life to His Father’s will, “Non sicut ego volo, sed sicut tu.” Here, “clarifica nomen tuum.”

But for this cause,” for the purpose of dying to save mankind, have I reached this hour of agony and suffering.

28 Father, glorify thy name. A voice therefore came from heaven: I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.

. “Father, glorify Thy name,” by My death, which is to be cheerfully undergone in obedience to Thy will. By it, Thy name shall be celebrated all over the earth. The words convey the same signification as, “Nevertheless, not My will; but, Thine be done.”

Then came a voice from heaven: I have both glorified it,” by My testimony at your Baptism. “This is My beloved Son,” etc., by the stupendous miracles wrought through you, by your preaching, doctrines, etc.

And I shall glorify it again,” by Thy death and the wonders that shall take place thereat; by thy subsequent glory and exaltation, in thy Resurrection and Ascension. By our Lord’s death and exaltation, the faith and worship of God was propagated among Jews and Gentiles, and His name thus glorified. As an angel from heaven was sent by the Heavenly Father to strengthen our Lord in His agony in the garden; so here too, was a voice sent from above to sustain Him, in His troubles.

29 The multitude therefore that stood and heard said that it thundered. Others said: An angel spoke to him.

Very likely this trumpet voice from heaven was distinctly heard by all, uttering an articulate sound. For, “it was for their sakes it came” (v. 30). Some of them, on account of its loudness, pronounced it to be thunder; and possibly, said so out of envy, not wishing to attend to the testimony it bore. Hence, they would wish to regard it, as a natural phenomenon. Others, better disposed, regarded it as uttered by the trumpet voice of an angel. The Evangelist conveys, that all heard it, as it sounded so loud and clear.

30 Jesus answered and said: This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

Not for Me,” as if I needed to be assured that My Father hears Me. For, I know that He always hears me (11:42).

But for your sakes,” that you may learn from it and believe, that I am sent from God the Father, and that the same glory is common to us both.

31 Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

He points out the mode in which His Father is to glorify Him.

Now is the judgment of the world.” “Now,” at My approaching death, a judgment of condemnation shall be passed on those obstinate unbelievers, who reject Me, and after so many splendid proofs, refuse to believe in Me; nay, go so far as to put Me unjustly to death. The signal vengeance of God, shall, therefore, be justly visited on them.

Now shall the Prince of this world,” that is, Satan, who exercised unbounded sway over mankind, by holding them captive in the chains of sin, shall now be dislodged, by the powerful grace merited by My death, from the hearts of men, as from a citadel in which he ruled. Others, understand it of a judgment or sentence of remission or absolution, thus: now shall a sentence of remission be pronounced in favour of men who hitherto were kept bound in the chains of sin. This remission shall be obtained by My death; whereby, I ransom them, pay their debt, and set them free from the tyranny of sin and Satan, who shall himself be dethroned and dislodged from the citadel and stronghold he possessed in the souls of men. Thus shall the name of God be glorified; His Attributes, Mercy, Power, etc., proclaimed throughout the world. The devil is often called in SS. Scripture, “the Prince of the Power of this air,” etc., on account of the dominion he exercises over the children of unbelief. His dominion was destroyed by the death of Christ, on whom, though innocent, the punishment of sin was inflicted (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14), and although Satan still exercises power over men; still, it is owing to their own fault. So far as the liberation through Christ is concerned, it embraces all, who do not obstinately resist the influences of Divine grace. Now, that the Liberator and Saviour of the human race has appeared, the effusion of grace is universal.

Formerly, in regard to the just of old, it was only partial; and that, in virtue of the future merits of Christ now purchased by the blood of the cross.

And,” the same as, for, “if,” (whereas),—“I be lifted up from the earth,” raised aloft on the tree of the cross (John 3:14; 8:28), which is clearly referred to, next verse. He shows how the devil is to be cast out and stripped of his power, viz., by His death.

I shall draw all things to Myself.” “All things,” all men, of every description, from every clime and country, Jews and Gentiles. The neuter form, “all things,” “omnia,” is a more emphatic way of expressing universal subjection to Christ. “Shall draw,” voluntarily, as regards man; forcibly, as regards the demon snatching forcibly his prey from His hands. “Draw,” expresses the resistance of the devil and the superior power of the grace of Christ, forcibly wresting men from the tyrannical grasp and dominion of Satan.

33 (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.)

The word of this verse are not the words of our Lord; but, of the Evangelist, and should be enclosed in a parenthesis, and interpreted as such

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