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An Exegesis of John 12:20-36

Drew Dixon Intro to Exegesis BIBL 420 Dr. Curt Niccum November 23, 2010

I attest that this assignment is my own. I have neither offered nor been offered help by another. Drew Dixon 1

Introduction
The Gospel of John is a well-crafted narrative with unifying themes and motifs as well as highly intentional structure. When the author wrote that Jesus did many more things than were written in the book (20:30), he implies that the things which have been written were chosen with purpose. The narrative progresses to 12:20-36, which is a crucial passage not only for the progress of the book's narrative, but also for the development of Jesus' character. It functions as a hinge that pivots the focus from Jesus' miraculous presence to his glorious departure.

Contextual Analysis
As highlighted in this paper's introduction, the Gospel of John is a magnificent composition of literature. Like any other literary work, many themes emerge as the narrative progresses. A recurring theme in the Gospel of John is the use of dualism.1 Many instances of dualism occur in John, but three particular kinds pertain to our passage. Photic dualism distinguishes light and darkness and is sprinkled throughout John from beginning to end. The book begins describing Jesus as the light [which] shines in the darkness (1:5) and ends describing the darkness of Easter morning and the brightness of the angels who bring good news (20:1,12). In chapter 8 Jesus describes himself as the light of the world (8:12) and in our passage followers of Jesus are called sons of light (12:36). Spacial dualism contrasts things above and things below and is scattered throughout John. 1:17 compares Jesus with Moses as one who has come down (Moses from Sinai, Jesus from heaven) and in 20:17 Jesus speaks of ascending to the father. Our passage uses this kind of dualism to describe Jesus' death.
1 Judith Kovacs, 'Now Shall the Ruler of This World Be Driven Out': Jesus' Death as Cosmic Battle in John 12:20-36. Journal of Biblical Literature 114 (1995): 233

Spiritual dualism is yet another dualism found in John which pits things of this world against that which is not of this world. The book begins with this type of dualism (1:9-10) and closes with a reference to the world (21:25). Our passage depicts a grand spiritual battle in which the ruler of this world is cast out. Each of these dualistic themes, common in the Gospel of John, play a significant role in our passage.

Formal Analysis
The form of John 12:20-36 is significant for understanding the passage. A common literary form is parallelism. It is found throughout the Bible both in poetry and in prose. Our passage has two smaller pericopes which parallel one another (12:20-26, 27-36).2 These two smaller passages interpret one another and, when read together, bring greater clarity to each one's meaning. The parallelism can be seen as follows: a1) 20-22 People speak to Jesus b1) 23-24 Jesus describes his death c1) 25-26 Jesus applies his death a2) 27-30 Jesus speaks to God b2) 31-34 Jesus describes his death c2) 35-36 Jesus applies his death This parallelism will be further explored in the following detailed analysis.

J Michaels, New International Biblical Commentary (vol 4; Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 1989), 224.

Detailed Analysis3
vv 20-22 These verses tell of some Greeks beginning to seek Jesus. When Andrew and Philip tell Jesus this his response in vv 23-24 seems puzzling at first. What does a seed have anything to do with the Greeks? It is likely when the Greeks begin seeking him that Jesus realizes how the Jews have rejected him (1:11). Until now, Jesus has been pursuing his own people in order to be their Messiah, but he knows that in order to be the savior of all mankind he must face this hour the cross. It is this knowledge that elicits Jesus' odd response: He must fall into the earth in order to bear much fruit (vs 24); he must be lifted up from the earth in order to draw [them] to [himself] (vs 32). vv 27-30 As Jesus dwells on this his soul becomes troubled and he turns to his Father in prayer. Many commentators refer to this passage as the Johannine Gethsemane.4 This is an accurate reference because this scene is thematically linked with the Synoptic scenes of Gethsemane. However, John portrays Jesus quite differently; Jesus appears to have much more confidence in John than in any of the other gospels. While the other gospels have Jesus asking God to let this cup pass from him (Mt 26:39; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42), John only has Jesus consider asking to be saved from it (12:27). In John, Jesus immediately answers his question by stating the purpose of the coming hour. When the voice sounds from heaven in vs 28, Jesus says that the voice was not for his sake, but for the crowd's (vs 30). John depicts Jesus as confident in his calling; he does not need assurance from the voice but has it despite his troubled soul. The content of this voice is compelling. When Jesus declares, Father, glorify your
3 In order to emphasize the parallelism, the detailed analysis will not proceed in the order of the verses, but rather in the order of the parallels. 4 Colin Kruse, Tyndale NT Commentaries (vol 4; Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 2003), 270.

name, the voice answers, I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again. First, it must be noted that a person's name represents his entire being in the ancient world, so when it says the Father's name is glorified it is a way of saying that the Father is glorified.5 The two glorifications both refer to Jesus.6 The first to what he has done in life, and the second to what he will do in death.7 After this voice speaks, the crowd responds though they are more fascinated by its thunderous volume than by the content of its message. Because of this, Jesus explains that the voice was not for his sake but for the crowd's. Just as the voice addressed the crowd, Jesus then turns to address the crowd. vv 23-24 / 31-34 In these parallel pericopes, Jesus describes his coming death and what it will accomplish. In the first pericope, Jesus describes his death as a grain of wheat falling down into the earth (vs 24). This is clearly contrasted with the second pericope, which describes his death as being lifted up from the earth (vs 31). This is where spacial dualism plays its role in our passage. Like the seed, Jesus has come down to the earth in order to die, yet his mode of death is to be lifted up on a cross. It is pertinent to note that the word (to lift up) is intentionally ambiguous.8 This word can refer both to a literal lifting up (as on a cross) or to a figurative lifting up (as in exaltation).9 When John uses this word he perfectly describes Jesus' victory and exaltation in the cross! After describing his death, Jesus continues to explain what results from it. In the first
5 6 7 8 9 Colin Kruse, Tyndale NT Commentaries (vol. 4; Grand Rapids: Eerdman's, 2003), 270. Gail O'Day, New Interpreter's Bible (vol. 9 Nashville: Abingdon, 1995), 712. Michaels, New International Biblical Commentary vol 4. 226. Michaels, New International Biblical Commentary vol 4. 225 James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.; Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

periocope, the dying of the seed leads to bearing much fruit which corresponds to the second periocope's assertion that all will be drawn to Jesus when he is lifted up. Another accomplishment is the glorification of the Son of Man (vs 23). The meaning of this phrase, Son of Man, is highly speculated. Some, like Parker, contend that it carries no special meaning at all, but rather merely refers to a human being. Others, like Ford, contend that it is a euphemism which carries significant meaning. Neither extreme view should be taken, but rather a balanced view which considers authorial intent. Parker makes a convincing argument for Son of Man referring to the humanity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.10 However, Ford has made a very convincing argument that the phrase carries a great deal of weight in the Gospel of John.11 Therefore, it can be concluded that when John uses this phrase he is referring to Jesus as the Messiah. While vs 23 states that the Son of Man will be glorified, the parallel pericope states that the ruler of this world will be cast out (vs 31). These two compliment one another because once the ruler of the world is cast from the throne, Jesus will take his seat upon it in glory. As the ruler is cast out, Jesus is lifted up. vv 25-26 / 35-36 In the final portion of these parallel passages, Jesus takes what he has said about his death and draws application out of it for the crowd who listens. The first pericope described the cross as a dying seed. Therefore, Jesus' application of this is for those who hear to lose their life (vs 25). As Jesus is headed to the cross, he tells all who listen that anyone who serves [him] must follow [him]. The crowd does not understand the full implications of this, but a person reading the gospel should know that this means following Jesus

10 Pierson Parker. The Meaning of 'Son of Man' Journal of Biblical Literature 60 (1941): 154. 11 J. Ford. 'The Son of Man': A Euphemisn? Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968): 262

to the cross (which the model disciple does, 19:26). The second pericope paints the cross in the light of exaltation and therefore the application is not to follow Jesus to the cross, but to walk in the light (vs 35). Comparing these parallels shows that one who follows Jesus to the humiliation of the cross will also share in the exaltation of his glory (cf. Romans 6:5). Both pericopes close with a note of encouragement. In the first Jesus states that someone who follows him will be honored by God (vs 26); in the second, it is said that one who walks in the light will be called a son of light (vs 36).

Synthesis
Like the Gospel of John, there is surely much more to be written concerning this passage, even only from the perspective of parallelism. However, hopefully with what has been explored it can be seen that this passage is crucial to the Gospel of John in the way it shifts focus to the impending death of Jesus unlike any prior portion of this gospel. This passage not only highlights Jesus' death, but also shows it to be necessary to bear fruit and draw mankind to himself.

Reflection
Any teacher or preacher can learn much from Jesus. O how I would love to have witnessed Jesus speaking to these people about the gospel! There are at least three things a pastor can learn from Jesus in this passage. Jesus spoke with passion. It is undeniable, in this passage, that Jesus was filled with passion as he spoke with these people. He paused to bring his passion before God declaring that his soul was troubled. I imagine that when Jesus spoke the words in this passage he had tears in his eyes and a heaviness upon his heart. A pastor must be genuine when he speaks to his people 7

and must always bring his heart before God in prayer as Jesus did. Jesus spoke the truth. Though the words Jesus spoke were difficult, pertaining to death and sacrifice, he spoke them because they were true. Jesus does not shy away from difficult truth, but boldly proclaims out of the conviction of his heart before God what is true. Far too many pastors today preach only what a congregation wants to hear and stray from hard truths that the congregation needs to hear. Jesus spoke practically. As seen in the formal and detailed analysis, Jesus does not stop at declaring the truth but continues to beckon his audience into action. The gospel is not only true, but is extremely practical, for it affects every area of life. A pastor must speak truth, but not in a lofty way that transcends real life. He must speak practically so that his congregation knows what to do with what they have just heard.

Word Count: 1985

Bibliography Ford, J. 'The Son of Man': A Euphemisn? Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968): 257-266 Kovacs, Judith. 'Now Shall the Ruler of This World Be Driven Out': Jesus' Death as Cosmic Battle in John 12:20-36. Journal of Biblical Literature 114 (1995): 227-247. Kruse, Colin. Pages 270-273 in Tyndale NT Commentaries 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdman, 2003 Michaels, J. Pages 224-230 in New International Biblical Commentary 4 vols. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1989 O'Day, Gail. Pages 712-15 in New Interpreter's Bible. 9 vols. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995. Parker, Pierson. The Meaning of 'Son of Man' Journal of Biblical Literature 60 (1941): 151157. Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.; Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Checklist for Exegesis


Please ll out this checklist and turn it in with your exegesis.

Research ____ I read at least ve critical commentaries. ____ I read at least four scholarly journal articles. ____ I traced at least one important theme from my passage with a concordance. ____ I examined the other gospels for parallel accounts to identify signicant changes. ____ I show evidence of my use of the Greek NT or Greek Synopsis ____ I show evidence of my research Content ____ I describe how my passage ts in the literary context of the Gospel. ____ I examine historical and cultural items that impact the meaning of the passage. ____ I do more than describe, paraphrase, or restate the passage; I analyze the text. ____ I do more than list the ndings of others; my own contribution is clear. ____ I can state what the Gospel would lose if my passage were omitted. ____ I have a thesis that connects my paper together. ____ I give evidence for my claims. Form ____ I composed my paper based on proper style. ____ I avoid the use of rst person in all but the Reection ____ I avoid the use of contractions. ____ I avoid the use of passive voice. ____ I avoid relying too heavily on weak verbs. ____ I have page numbers on each page. ____ I have proofread the paper. ____ I have submitted my paper to www.grammarly.com and made corrections. ____ Working from the JBL Manual of Style and examples provided in class or on Blackboard, I have used the proper forms for footnotes and bibliography entries. ____ I did not include Bibles or concordances in the bibliography. ____ I only placed in the bibliography those works mentioned in the paper. ____ My paper is double-spaced. ____ The text of the paper is in a 12 point font with the footnotes in the same but smaller (10 point) font. ____ I indent and single space quotations extending beyond three full lines. ____ I put breathing marks on the Greek I cite or place macrons over long vowels in transcription. ____ I include the cheating disclaimer on the title page and a word count (minus footnote text) on the last page of text.

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