(079) The Gospel of John 24_Upside-down Glory

Notes & Transcripts

The Gospel of John XXIV:

Upside-Down Glory

John 12:20-33

July 12, 2009

Main Point(s) of sermon:

·         God’s idea of glory is so different than ours – Jesus is gloried in the humiliation of the incarnation and the cross. This is the “foolishness of the cross” (1 Cor 1:18-25)

·         In Jesus’ agony (12:27) we see his humanity and take comfort even in the midst of the world’s suffering – he experiences it along side us.

·         “Hating the world” means to live with the things of this world as a distant second to the glory of God, that we live “not engrossed in them” (1 Cor 7:31). This is harder for us because the world has become so comfortable.

Objectives of sermon:

·         Inspire us to follow Jesus example and live to and for God’s glory as our highest joy, not distracted by the little joys nor the false joys.



·         035, 080, Piper’s, leftovers, Last outline point (for closing)

·         Weight of Glory, p. 31ff

·         Phil. 2:6-11; 1 Cor. 1:18ff; Rev 1:12-17

Scripture reading: John 12:20-33


In Sunday School, I sang “Lift Jesus higher...” Anyone catch the irony? That’s like singing “Cru-ci-fy Jesus...” Biblically accurate, but a little gruesome.

·         But it also captures how much we misunderstand God’s modus operendi, we think of “lifting up” as worship, he meant death. 

The main things I’ll show you: 1) A picture of the glory of God in sharp contrast to the glory of man, and 2) an understanding that hating this world means desiring the glory of God as infinitely better than the glory of man.


We are bound to the perspective of this world by our own limitations as humans, but even more so by sin that corrupts our vision and brings our focus on ourselves.

Time for glory

A key theme in John is “my time has not come,” they wanted to arrest him several times, but it wasn’t his time. The point is nothing happened to Jesus, he directed it. But now it is time.

NIV John 12:23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. [going to jump around]

I am sure the disciples are thinking “Yes!” Remember this is just after the “Triumphal Entry,” so they had high messianic hopes. But once again Jesus pulls the rug out:

NIV John 12:24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

“Dang it, he’s talking about dying again!” How can Jesus talk about dying as being glorified (vrs. 24 shows that the dying is part of the glorification, not the just the resurrection)?

For two reasons: 1) because his idea of glory is way different than ours (more on that in a moment) and 2) the exponential effects of his death.

·         Jesus gives a simple analogy to show that his death will bring greater life, like a seed.

A tormented soul

As much as Jesus death “makes sense” this is no small sacrifice. John is careful to point out the agony of what is coming (for from his divine perspective, he knew exactly what was coming):

John 12:27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?

The phrase here is “my soul is deeply troubled.” We worry about going to the dentist in a week, but he knew he’d be crucified.

·         As I look at all the suffering in the world, sometimes the only answer I can find is to remember that Jesus suffered too.

Like many of us in the midst of great agony, he doesn’t know what to say. When words come, his first response is to ask God to take it away (there are no question marks in Greek, it is an interpretive choice).

·         Before we move on, think about that.

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Back to the main point; look at how Jesus steadied himself by reminding himself of his purpose: 

John 12:27 No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Jesus’ Purpose-Driven Life: to God’s glory

Q   Why did Jesus come to earth?

It was not to die on the cross, which was a means to the end: It was to bring glory to the Father.

Q   Am I the only one who has cringed at that?

The Bible frequently speaks of God seeking his own glory; isn’t that just yucky? The more time I spend studying the subject, I realize that I misunderstand “glorify.”

We have a sinful, human perspective: When we seek our own glory, it means we act in a way that may or may not be true to our nature in order to get praise that we probably don’t deserve.

·         Human glory is all about looking good and seeking my best.

When God seeks his glory is means that he is acting in full accord with his nature and naturally receives praise as we see how great he is and cannot help but glorify him.

·         Said a different way: The glory of God is the radiance of his character, his goodness, love, kindness and JUSTICE.

Exodus 33:18-19; 34:5-8   18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”  19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. [one’s name is the another way of referring to the person]...

 34:5 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD.  6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,  7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”  8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.

When Jesus says, “Glorify your name,” it’s not “be a big show off,” but “demonstrate your overwhelming love and faithfulness by steadying me for the task of saving your children.”   

·         John Piper makes the point that when God is glorified, it is a very good thing for us.

God’s glory vrs. man’s glory

The difference in God’s glory from ours is seen in his response:

John 12:28 Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

God will be glorified by Christ’s death and was glorified by the incarnation, the act of God becoming a man and dwelling with us. His glory is found in humiliation for the sake of the beloved.

·         Born in a stable and dying on a cross – God’s idea of glory is indeed different than mine.

The foolishness of God

The death on a cross is an important point: History and mythology is filled with glorious and honorable deaths, but Jesus’ is nothing of the sort, a death of a criminal. Paul calls it “the foolishness of the cross”:

1 Corinthians 1:22-24   22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,  23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The glory of God is upside-down and foolishness to the world. Rather than domination, God comes and serves, creator dies for creation, a God who does not consider his divinity as something to be exploited (contra “Bruce Almighty”).

·         Though it is “upside-down” and contrary to my own desires for glory, I fall in love with this God of this glory.

It is so strange to our tastes (so used to trinkets), yet in Christ’s death is a glory beyond compare, for it reveals a servant king, a God who love us.

In contrast to the glory of God, the weak, self-serving glory of man is like a pornographic picture, setting itself up against a loving, passionate relationship with my wife.

I’m not being crass – it’s a true comparison, for porn holds our attention, appeals to our gut, yet is a worthless trade, bearing only a slight and corrupted resemblance to the true glory.

The full radiance of God’s glory

We know with our head that God’s glory is the true glory, the only thing worth pursuing, but don’t show with our actions. Yet, as we pursue it we will learn that this is the only true glory.

·         The veil that corrupts our vision will be removed and we will see this world’s glory for the sham it is.

·         And one day we will see God’s glory in full radiance.   

When Jesus said that he would be lifted up, it had a double meaning: 1) his crucifixion, but also 2) the glorification (the radiance of his goodness) that would come.

·         Remember that this John who was Jesus best friend would later fall “as dead” before the glorified Lord (Rev. 1:12-17).

Whose glory?

The choice put before us is if we’ll chose God’s glory or man’s:

NIV John 12:42-43 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved praise [Grk: doxa] from men more than praise from God.

As Jesus said, if he is our master, then we should act like him:

John 12:26   26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.

Just as Jesus’ mission in life was “glorify your name,” so it is with us, just as he taught us to pray: “Holy be your name.”

Hating the world

How do we do choose God’s glory over the world? By hating it:

NIV John 12:25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world [key phrase here used 5x] will keep it for eternal life.

What does that mean? It means we are to find the glory of God as infinitely more valuable than anything this world has to offer. The Semitic world loved strong contrasts (e.g. cut hand off).

In many ways, this is harder for us than Jesus’ disciples or many modern Christians who live in persecution.

·         We are both fortunate and unfortunate that our suffering is mild in comparison to that of other Christians.

It is fortunate as we don’t like to suffer. It is unfortunate as it makes it harder for us to hate the world. When Jesus spoke of the world as evil, his disciples felt it. Our world is far more comfortable.

·         We have the luxury of many “little joys” (some that are good), but we’re easily deceived into believing they’re real Joy.

Lewis: “Almost the entire education process [and media] is designed to tell us that the good of man can be found on earth...” (Weight of Glory p. 31)

·         It is easy for us to “waste our life” on trinkets, but don’t be fooled, true Good and glory can’t be found here.

Not engrossed

So what is there for us to do? “Sell everything, give it to the poor,” and move into the desert? Perhaps for some, such as St. Francis, but for better or worse, this is our context, and we are called to “engage our culture.”

·         Paul’s advice still rings very true:

1 Corinthians 7:29-31   29 What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none;  30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep;  31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

None of these things Paul mentions are bad, in fact some are very good, so long as we are not engrossed in them.

·         Engrossed means “to be fully occupied by,” just as my dad would be engrossed in his book, dead to the world.

The only One worthy of fully occupying us is God. These other “little joys” are fine within their place (and when God is acknowledged as their source), but God must be our highest joy.

·         We engage our culture by the spectacle of not being engrossed by the things of this world, much less the world’s glory.

·         We show that God is worth infinitely more.

Q & A


In worship, ask God to help you see and seek his glory, not to be misled by the glitter that surrounds us. Examine yourself and how engrossed you are in the things of this world.

See the rest →
See the rest →