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“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.” (John 12:31-33)
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). — This is never more clearly and extraordinarily demonstrated to be the truth than by these statements which fell from the lips of our Savior. It is a great marvel to me that God should, in his infinite wisdom, choose to judge the world, destroy the devil, and save his elect by sending his Son to become a man that he might suffer and die upon the cursed tree! Oh, mystery of mysteries, — “God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Oh, the height of God’s love! Oh, the depth of his mercy! Oh, the breadth of his wisdom! Indeed, his ways and his thoughts are beyond us, as high as the heavens are above the earth.
In this 12th chapter of John our Lord Jesus rehearsed his sin-atoning death with his disciples before it actually took place. He saw those Greeks who came to Philip, and whom Philip and Andrew brought to him; and his heart was filled with joy. This, he knew was to be the result of his death, that the Gentiles would be gathered to him. That thought reminded him of his approaching crucifixion. It was now very near. Only a few days were to pass; and then he would die upon the cursed tree.
Our Troubled Savior
In anticipation of Calvary, his soul was full of trouble. It was not that he feared death; but his death was to be a very peculiar one. Death is the penalty of sin; but he had done no sin. Death was due to the sons of Adam; but he is the Son of God. He was to die the Just for the unjust. He was to bear our sins in his own body upon the cursed tree. Is it any wonder that his pure and holy soul should shrink from contact with sin, let alone from being made sin? To stand in the sinner’s place, to hang before his holy Father as a horrid mass of iniquity, to endure the Father’s wrath as a guilty man deserving his wrath were thoughts astonishing to him. He was, as a man, very faint of heart, and cried, — “What shall I say? Father save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name.” Here we see the Savior of the world, the eternal Son of God troubled and disturbed in mind. We see him, who could heal diseases with his touch, cast out demons with a word, command the waves to obey him, and call the dead to life, in great agony and conflict. Nothing can ever explain our Lord’s agony here, and later in Gethsemane, except that he felt the great burden of all the sins of his people pressing him down. Without any repining at his Father’s will, he saw how terrible that will was; and he shuddered at what it included. Here the God-man was sipping that bitter cup which he was to drink until he could cry, “It is finished,” and give up the ghost.
When our blessed Savior was in this great distress of mind in anticipation of the terrible sufferings he was about to endure, his Father spoke to him out of heaven saying, — “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” How beautifully this shows that the intimate relation and union of God the Father and God the Son was unbroken during the whole course of the Savior’s pilgrimage. This was also a testimony to those who stood by that God the Father completely approved of his eternal Son as the Messiah, the Redeemer, and the Savior of men.
Child of God, here is a word of encouragement for you when you are in distress. In your hour of trial God will speak to you, as he did to his Son. If you are his child, when the weakness of your flesh seems to prevail over your spirit, you, too, shall have the reassuring voice from heaven.
The Savior seems to have recovered himself at once; and bracing himself up, he once again indulged his heart with the vision of the glorious results of his death. Here he assured his disciples, and assures us that by his death upon the cross he would seal every purpose of God for the world, the devil, and his elect.
Success in Death
You will recall that on the Mount of Transfiguration Moses and Elijah spoke to our Redeemer about “the death he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Here, in verses 31-32, our Savior tells us about that which he would accomplished (that which he did accomplish) in his death as our sin-atoning Substitute. First, the Lord Jesus declared the sure and certain success of his death (vv. 31-32).
“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.”
As the Son of God anticipated his sufferings and death, he spoke as though they were already accomplished, and sums up the consequences in these three points:
- “Now is the judgment of this world.”
- “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
- “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.”
Judgment of the World
First, the death of Christ was the judgment of this world. What does that mean? The word translated “judgment” is the Greek word from which our English word “crisis” is derived. — So our Lord’s words might be accurately translated, — “Now is the crisis of this world.”
Indeed, the death of Christ was the crisis of the world. The cross of Jesus Christ was the turning point, the hinge of the world’s history. The death of Christ was the death of sin, the crushing of the serpent’s head, and victory over death. And by his death upon the cursed tree, our blessed Savior secured the regeneration of the earth (Revelation 21:5).
The death of Christ was also the judgment of the world. The world was convicted of guilt (Acts 2:23; John 1:4-5, 10-11). The world hated perfect love and perfect righteousness, and murdered the Son of God! The world would pull God off his throne and slay him, if they had it in their power. The world is not good, but guilty. — How dare we embrace the world!
The world was sentenced to death when it put to death the Lord of Glory. The death of Christ is the clearest possible display of the heinousness of sin; and the death of Christ is the clearest possible display of divine justice. If the Lord Jesus, God’s darling Son, escaped not the Father’s wrath in bringing many sons to glory, when sin was found upon him, if sin is found on you, surely you must die! God must be just. That means that if you die without Christ, there is no hope. If you have no propitiation by the blood of Jesus, God must slay you.
By the cross you are judged; and by the cross you shall be judged! By the cross God judged the world. By the cross, let us judge the world: its’ religion, its’ favor, its’ frowns, its’ fame, and its’ friendship (1 John 2:15-17; Galatians 6:14).
It is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ “by which the world is crucified unto me” (Galatians 6:14). Faith in Christ, the assurance of redemption by Christ, caused the Apostle Paul to look upon the world as a thing crucified. He knew that he had no more reason to fear his most implacable enemies in this world than a man would have reason to fear someone crucified and dead. Happy are those who learn this. Because our Lord Jesus Christ, by his death upon the cross as our Substitute and Redeemer, has overcome the world, conquered Satan (the prince of this world) and cast him out, and vanquished death, hell, and the grave, since he has put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, we are more than conquerors in him (Romans 8:32-39). We have nothing to fear in this world or from this world. As the children of Israel looked upon Pharaoh and the Egyptian army slain by God in the Red Sea, and sang praise to him, so we ought to look upon all that opposes us in this world as dead, and sing praise to God our Savior who has “triumphed gloriously.” Let us neither love the world, nor the things that are in the world, but look upon them as dead things. The gospel of the grace of God experienced in the soul teaches us to despise the riches, honors, and applause of the world. The profits, pleasures, and praises of dead men are as worthless as dung. That is exactly how they are to be looked upon and counted by all who seek Christ (Philippians 3:7-15).
But, as Paul uses the term “world” here in the book of Galatians, he is specifically referring to “the weak and beggarly elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3-9), the carnal ordinances and ceremonies of the law. He is declaring that since “Christ is the end of the law” (Romans 10:4), the law’s sabbath days, sacrifices, and services are to be looked upon by us as dead things (Romans 6:15; 7:4; Galatians 2:19-20). Our all-glorious Redeemer took “the handwriting of the ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14).
“The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” — As the world had no more attraction for Paul than a dead corpse, so he had no attraction for the world, but was despised by it for Christ’s sake. So it shall ever be with those who follow Christ. As the law was dead to him and had no power over him, so he was dead to the law by the sacrifice of Christ. He had nothing to do with those weak and beggarly elements of bondage.
Satan Cast Out
The second result of Christ’s death is this: — The prince of this world is cast out. It is certain that by crucifying the Lord of Glory, men by their wicked hands cast out Christ, the only true Prince of this world. They cast out the Creator! But, here our Savior is describing his accomplishments, not the imagined accomplishments of his foes. He is telling us that he, the woman’s Seed, has crushed the serpent’s head.
Christ has answered Satan’s accusations against the believer (Revelation 12:7-10). The Lord Jesus Christ, by his cross, spoils Satan of his universal monarchy. He casts Satan out of the hearts of believers. Yes, Satan still roars as a lion; but his power is crippled. We are no longer under his dominion. Christ Jesus will bruise Satan under your heels shortly (Romans 16:20). Our Savior will, one day soon, thoroughly destroy our enemy. Thank God for the bruising of the Savior’s heel, for it was the crushing of the serpent’s head!
The Great Attraction
The third result of the Savior’s death is this: — The cross has become the center of attraction. — “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all[men] unto me!” That by which sinners are attracted to the Savior is the preaching of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:2). Not only is the preaching of the cross the centerpiece of all true Christianity, the revelation of the gospel, and the center of attraction in God’s Church, by the death of Christ upon the cursed tree, the scope of God’s mercy was manifestly widened to include Gentiles. This is the grand display of God’s amazing, infinite love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:16, 4:9). Through the cross, by the death of Christ as our sin-atoning Substitute, we have all blessings of grace: Forgiveness and Justification, Sanctification and Reconciliation, Acceptance and Preservation, Eternal Life and Heavenly Glory.
“In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear;
Till a new object struck my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agonies and blood;
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.
Sure never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look
It seemed to charge me with his death,
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned by guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins, His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.
Alas! I knew not what I did,
But now my tears are vain;
Where shall my trembling soul be hid?
For I the Lord have slain.
A second look He gave, which said,
‘I freely all forgive,
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I died that thou mayst live.’
Thus while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue;
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.
With pleasing grief and mournful joy,
My spirit now is filled;
That I should such a life destroy
Yet live by his I killed!”
Second, consider briefly the significance of our Savior’s declaration — “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (vv. 32-33). Our Lord Jesus Christ went to his death with a clear view of what it was. He fully knew what it meant. He went to his cross knowing that his cross was the means of his exaltation (Philippians 2:8-11; John 17:2). And our blessed Savior knew that his cross would supply our every need.
From the cross, the Lord Jesus draws sinners like a magnet draws steel. He draws sinners who cannot come to him. He draws sinners who will not come to him. He draws sinners; and he draws them to himself. The preaching of the cross attracts sinners to the Savior. We need no other attraction. The preaching of the cross is God’s means of saving sinners (Romans 1:15-16; 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
The Lord Jesus knew that he would live again to exercise his dominion as Lord (Psalm 16:9-10; Isaiah 53:10-12). He knew that one day he would be surrounded by a mighty company, who would overcome by his cross. Lift your eyes yonder to Glory, and behold the power of the preached cross (Revelation 7:9-17).
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). — By the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, the world is judged, Satan is vanquished, sinners are drawn to the Savior, and Christ our Lord is exalted. Let us live by the cross for…
“The way of the cross leads home!
There’s no other way but this.
I shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light,
If the way of the cross I miss.”
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