Concerned about the popularity of Jesus in Jerusalem, the Pharisees remarked that the “world” had come after our Lord (John 12:12–19). These religious leaders were actually saying more than they realized, for the world—as in, the peoples of the world—would indeed come to Christ for salvation. As we have seen, shortly after the Pharisees’ complaint, gentiles came looking for Jesus, and Jesus responded that His death would bear much fruit. They, as well as believing Jews, would trust in His atonement and be saved, persevering even through death unto eternal life (vv. 20–26).
But Jesus did not make these comments about His impending death stoically, as we see in today’s passage. Our Lord mentions that He is troubled in His soul. Why? John Calvin answers in his commentary on this text: “In [Christ’s] death we ought chiefly to consider his atonement, by which he appeased the wrath and curse of God. . . . The death which he underwent must therefore have been full of horror, because he could not render satisfaction for us, without feeling, in his own experience, the dreadful judgment of God.”
Jesus, troubled by His awareness that He will soon bear the wrath of God, deliberates on whether He should ask the Father to preserve Him from death. But He chooses not to demand rescue, for He recognizes that He has come to die and purposes to go through with the ordeal (John 12:27). This anticipates His later prayer in Gethsemane in which He does not demand to escape the cross but rather humbly asks whether it might be possible for the cup of suffering to pass Him by before He resolves to do His Father’s will (Mark 14:36).
Christ, recognizing His purpose in coming to die and that the glorification of His Father’s name is tied to His own obedience, then prays for the Father to be glorified. The Father then responds audibly that He will glorify His name (John 12:28). He is speaking of His Son’s atoning death. The Father will be glorified because the Son has sought His glory (7:18), and in turn, the Son will be glorified by the Father for doing the Father’s will (8:50, 54). Jesus tells the crowd that the voice is for their benefit (12:29–30). When God speaks from heaven, it signals a new movement in the history of salvation; for example, He spoke from heaven at Sinai to inaugurate the old covenant (Ex. 19:1–20:21; Heb. 12:18–21). Speaking again just before the crucifixion, God reveals that the cross will mark a new era in His dealings with His people, assuring them of their salvation.