MY THREE SONS
— John 12:27-36, ESV
When I was a kid there were triplets who lived next door: Harold, Derrell, and Jerald. I am not making up the names. The really odd thing about them was that Harold and Darrell were identical, but Jerold looked completely different. As a matter of fact, he looked exactly, I mean exactly, like the character Ernie on the long-running sitcom My Three Sons.
I had not thought about them for a long time until I started examining this text for a sermon thread. Then, there it was, my, three sons. The first is the Son of God. The second, same as the first, is the Son of Man. The third is many, sons of light. If you accept the first two as one, you can be one of the many thirds.
Remember John writes in recurring themes. Jesus the Son of God, God incarnate, Lord. Jesus is the Son of Man, the promised Messiah, Savior. Saving faith is the goal of the Gospel (ref. 20:21). All three themes roll over into this narrative of Jesus’ final public address recorded by John, before His retreat to the upper room, the garden, and the tomb.
The Son of God
To point to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son simply speaks to God the Father. God the Father promptly speaks back. This is the third and final such public demonstration, the first at the beginning of Christ’s ministry at His baptism, the second in the middle of the ministry at the transfiguration, and this near the end. The holy dialogue is an open conversation meant to be overheard by the overflow crowd. It reveals the mysterious truth of the Trinity, displays the doctrine of the deity of Christ, and proves Jesus is the Son of God.
When the supreme Son speaks to the supreme Father, He is supremely honest. “Now is my soul troubled.” This is John’s Gethsemane, that moment of anguish and pain when the perfect, honest, and perfectly honest Son says to the Father that He does not want to do it. Who would? Would you like to be bitten on the hand by those you fed, betrayed by your best friend, wrongly arrested, falsely charged, corruptly convicted, and brutally executed?
When the supreme Son speaks to the supreme Father, He is supremely sacrificial. Though He would rather avoid the “hour” altogether, Jesus plunges headlong because this “hour” is the reason He became “the only begotten Son,” and the “glory” of God is at stake.
“Glory” is an extremely important matter to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We remind ourselves of this each Lord’s Day when we sing “The Doxology,” entitled by the Greek word for glory. All blessings indeed flow from God, especially the supreme blessing of salvation. But for salvation to come from God the Father, whereby we may know, love, follow, and glorify the Lord, it has to be accomplished by the Son.
So says God’s word through Isaiah the prophet. God’s Son had to come to earth through the miracle of virgin birth (ref. Isaiah 7:14). God’s Son had to be God (ref. Isaiah 9:6). God’s Son had to suffer for sinners, die as an atonement for sin, and rise again to vindicated His deity (ref. Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
Jesus is the Son of God! Jesus is Lord!
The Son of Man
Jesus is the Son of Man. Jesus is Savior!
For the divine Son of God to glorify God by accomplishing salvation, He had to take on human flesh and become the Son of Man, a messianic title Jesus liked to use in order to identify Himself. It had obviously caught on by the end of His ministry, even among skeptics. As the Son of Man, God in human flesh, the Messiah, Jesus carried out the word of God and accomplished the will of God, which is news both good and bad.
The bad news is that the world stands under the judgement of God. Human beings are not neutral, we are sinful. We all have joined in the cosmic rebellion against God because “the ruler of this world,” has set up systems to tempt us into sin and turn us away from God. We are all guilty of valuing money, sex, power, and pride more than God. God has sent the Savior because each one of us is a sinner. Because of the holiness of God, judgment looms.
Because of the love of God, salvation comes. The bad news is the world is under the judgment go God; but, the good news is that the world can be saved by God, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, who came to us in the flesh. This is why the Son of God became the Son of Man, and why He must be “lifted up from the earth,” on the cross, to be punished and put to “death,” to draw God’s people from all over the world.
Are you one of God’s people? Yes, if you have “lifted up” Jesus literally and spiritually. But lifting up the Lord requires “light.”
Sons (and Daughters) of Light
Jesus is Lord, He is the Son of God. Jesus is Savior, He is the Son of Man, the Messiah. And, Jesus is the “Light of the World” (ref. 8:12), “God from God, light from light, true God from true God” (Nicene Creed). He has promised we, too, can be light (ref. Matthew 5:14), or “sons [and daughters] of light” (vs. 36), if we come to the light of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Light also refers to revelation, the specific revelation of salvation God gives to the people He has chosen for Himself. God’s Spirit and God’s word light the path to God’s Son and Savior, Jesus Christ. Have you seen the light? Let’s go back to Jesus’ profound statement about being “lifted up.” Have you been enlightened to know what this means, literally and spiritually?
Literally, Jesus was executed upon a cross, planted in the ground on a hill outside Jerusalem, “lifted up” for all the world to see. This was necessary to satisfy the justice of God, to impute the sins of the elect upon the Son of God and Son of Man on the cross. If you admit your sins put Him there, if you desire to have those sins forgiven, and if you repent of your sins and believe in the “light” of the gospel, you will be among the “sons [and daughters] of light.” Jesus is Savior. And your new life, spiritually, will prove it.
Spiritually, “lifted up” means “exalted.” The light of the gospel shines on Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Lord. He must be exalted, given preeminence, first place, in the lives and loves of those who truly believe. There is no such thing as a second class Christian, and there is no such thing as a Christian who puts Christ in second place. People for whom Christ was lifted up life Him up in their lives.
People, then and now, just don’t get it. They profess Jesus Christ with their lips, but walk in darkness with their lives. Some see Him as Lord, but deny the need for personal forgiveness and salvation. Some claim Him as Savior, but do not submit to His Lordship over their lives. That is not light, that is lostness.
By the way, the character Ernie, who had a doppelgänger in my next-door-neighbor Jerald, was adopted. He was not naturally one of the three sons. He was chosen by the father and adopted into the family as a son. Would you like to be adopted into God’s family? Come to Jesus as the Son of God, Lord. Come to Jesus as the Son of Man, Savior. Come to the light of the gospel in full repentance and faith, and you will be one of the many sons, or daughters, of God.