The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 33


(John 12:31-37)


1.     One of my favorite hymns is, “Hallelujah, What a Saviour!” written by P. P. Bliss.  The fourth stanza says:

Lifted up was he to die,

“It is finished,” was His cry;

Now in heaven exalted high;

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

2.     The phrase “Lifted up was He to die” is taken from our Lord’s words in John 12:32.  John adds in verse 33, “This He said, signifying what death He should die.”

3.     This was not the first time our Lord referred to His being lifted up (cf. John 8:28).  In John 8 our Lord made it very clear that the religious leaders were going to crucify Him – “When ye have lifted up the Son of man…” (John 8:28; cf. 8:37-40).

4.     In John 3:14, our Lord not only referred to His being “lifted up,” He also compared the cross to Moses lifting up the brass serpent in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:5-9).  This is a vivid illustration of salvation.

5.     Here we see the simplicity of the Gospel.  “Any man” (Num. 21:9) who would look up at the fiery serpent would live.  Those who would not look died (cf. John 3:14-21).

6.     This reminds me of another great Gospel song, “Look and Live.”

I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!
The message unto you I’ll give;
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you “look and live.”


Look and live, O sinner, live,
Look to Jesus now and live;
’Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.

7.     My wife and I were reading our Bibles the other day and she asked me about Isaiah 45:22.  I told her that was the text God used to save Spurgeon.

“I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed; but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was, — 

‘LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.’ He did not even pronounce the word rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: — ‘My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, “Look.” Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pains. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, “Look.” Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, Look unto Me.” Ay! said he, in broad Essex, ‘many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, “Look unto Me.” Some says, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.” You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, “Look unto Me.”’ 

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: —

‘Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!’ 

When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, ‘Young man, you look very miserable.’ Well, I did,; but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right at home. He continued, ‘and you always will be miserable — miserable in life, and miserable in death, — if you don’t obey my text; But if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.’ Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do, ‘Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.’ 

I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said, - I did not take notice of it, - I was so possessed with that one thought. Like when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, ‘Look!’ what a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood or Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, ‘Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.’... 

It is not everyone who can remember the very day and hour of his deliverance; but, as Richard Knill said, ‘At such a time of day, clang went every harp in Heaven, for Richard Knill was born again,’ it was e’en so with me. The clock of mercy struck in Heaven the hour and moment of my emancipation, for the time had come. Between half-past ten o’clock, when I entered that chapel, and half-past twelve o’clock, when I was back home again, what a change had taken place in me! I had passed from darkness into marvelous light, from death to life. Simply by looking to Jesus, I had been delivered from despair, and I was brought into such a joyous state of mind that, when they saw me at home, they said to me, ‘Something wonderful has happened to you;’ and I was eager to tell them all about it... 

8.     The cross of Christ is the central event in the history of mankind.  On one side of the cross there is darkness, hatred, sin, unbelief, and judgment.  On the other side of the cross there is light, love, glory, faith, and salvation.

9.     Lord willing I will preach on the cross tonight (John 12:32).






I.                  THE JUDGMENT OF THE CROSS (12:31-33).

1.     The Greek word, translated here as “judgment” (12:31) is krisis.  Our Lord was saying that His death was the “crisis of this world.”  The word means a separating, i.e., the cross separates those who believe from those who do not believe (12:36, 37).

2.     Which side of the cross are you on? (cf. John 3:17-21).

3.     The cross also separates the old dispensation from the new dispensation, the old covenant from the new covenant, and BC from AD.

4.     The judgment of this world was expressed in the cross of Christ. The world showed their contempt by nailing our Lord to that cruel cross.  They shouted, “We don’t want Him!  We don’t believe in Him!” We don’t need Him!”

5.     They shouted, “We have no king but Caesar!  Crucify Him!  Give us Barabbas!”

6.     In this they brought judgment upon themselves, and the whole world has been under judgment ever since.  Look at the results – war, death, disease, famine, heartache, and misery.

7.     “Now is the judgment of this world…” (John 12:31).  This world is under the judgment of God.  Today God is calling men and women to separate from this sin-cursed world, and flee from the wrath that is to come.

8.     He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

9.     God has already judged this wicked world but in His grace and mercy He is holding back His wrath and He is giving sinners time to repent.

10.The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9).

11.The Lord associated the judgment of the cross with the judgment of Satan, “the prince of this world” (12:31; cf. 14:30; 16:11).

12.Have you ever wondered how the devil became the prince of this world? 

13.Satan is a usurper.  God gave authority and dominion over this world to Adam and Eve (Genesis 1:26-31).  God gave them only one restriction (Gen. 2:16, 17).

14.But along came the devil, who deceived Eve, and she in turn persuaded Adam to disobey God, and their sin brought God’s judgment upon this world (cf. Romans 5:12).

15.Ever since that day, Satan has been the prince of this world.  He inspired Cain to kill his brother Abel, and he has been inspiring his followers to hate Christians ever since (cf. I John 3:11-13).

16.When we think of the fall of man we usually think of the problem of original sin and the curse that God put on this earth. But there is far more than that.  Since the fall, Satan has been the prince of this world.

17.Satan is the undisputed prince of this world.  In II Cor. 4:4, the apostle Paul refers to Satan as “the god of this world.”

18.Do you remember when Satan took our Lord up on that exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them (Matt. 4:8)? 

19.Satan said to our Lord, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:9).  The Lord did not tell Satan that he had no authority to make such an offer.  Rather our Lord said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:9).

20.Our Lord refused Satan’s offer but throughout history many men and women have taken his offer and they are suffering in hell right now.   Was it worth it?

21.We need to remember that Satan is a vanquished foe.  He was defeated at the cross.  Today he is trying to destroy people and he is very successful.  The Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).

22.Soon all lost sinners will bow down and worship him (Rev. 13:4).  But his days are numbered (Rev. 12:12). 

23.The sentence of judgment has been passed upon this sin-loving world, and the prince of this world has also been judged.  In due time he will be cast out and thrown into the lake of fire.



1.     Jesus said He “will draw all men” unto Him.

2.     I like the way the hymn writer put it, “O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.”

3.     So how does God draw sinners unto Himself (John 12:32)?   Whenever the Gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, sinners are drawn to Christ.

4.     The great evangelist D. L. Moody said this, “I say Christ is drawing men.  He is drawing men, but they will not come.  God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and drawing men into Him.  That drawing is going on now, but many a heart is fighting against the strivings of the Spirit. God is drawing men heavenward, and the devil is drawing them hellward.

5.     This drawing now is being exerted on all the world – in accordance with the Lord’s prophecy (John 12:32) and His command to, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15, 16).

6.     The cross of Christ divides this world.  According to the Bible, you are either saved or you are lost.  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 18:10).

7.     The cross divides mankind.  Remember up on Mount Calvary, there were two thieves.  On one side of the cross there was a repentant thief.  He went to heaven that day. 

8.     But on the other side of the cross was the impenitent thief.  He died and went to hell.  The cross divides this world.  Which side are you on?

9.     Some have taught that Christ was drawing the repentant thief, but He was not drawing the impenitent thief.  But Jesus said, “I…will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).  He was drawing both thieves.  One repented and was saved; the other would not repent and was lost forever. We see the same word “draw” in John 6:44.

10.God the Father is willing to draw all who are willing to be drawn!  The word “draw” does not mean “drag” or “force.”

11.“Irresistible grace” may be preached by certain preachers, but it is not a Bible doctrine.  God does not force sinners to come to Him (cf. John 5:40).  But any sinner who believes in Christ will be saved (John 6:47).



1.     Even in this great nation, which was built upon Biblical principles, there is a tremendous ignorance of the Gospel (12:34).

2.     Our Lord’s response was that He was the light and if they wanted to walk in the light all they had to do was to believe in Him (12:35, 36).

3.     The Jews could not understand the cross.  They did not understand that the cross had to come before the crown.  They refused the light. This is a great theme running through the Gospel of John (1:5; 3:19-21; 8:12, 13; 9:5; 12:46).

4.     Note John 12:36 – “These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them.”  This was our Lord’s last appeal. This is the last time we see our Lord preaching to the Jews.  They refused to listen to Him.  They refused to believe in Him. So He withdrew from them.

5.     Verses 37-50 is a summary of their unbelief.  First they would not believe, then they could not believe (12:37-39).

6.     Some of the Jewish leaders knew Jesus was the Messiah but would not say so publicly because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (12:42, 43).

7.     To reject God the Son means to reject God the Father (12:44, 49, 50).

8.     The Jews will not accept Christ but He warned them that they will receive the antichrist (5:43).



1.     Our Lord’s matchless wisdom could not persuade them.  His mighty miracles could not change their hard hearts (12:37). 

2.     Jesus came into the world to save the world, not to judge the world (12:47). 

3.     But those who will not believe will be judged by the Word of God (12:48).

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