Lesson 5: Grace That Goes Before

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me. It was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of thee.

– United Methodist Hymnal, #341

Devotion: Read John 12:20-36. Jesus makes a powerful statement about the results of his crucifixion and resurrection. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (12:32). There are some Christians who feel the most powerful aspect of the crucifixion is the way humanity is persuaded to respond positively to God because of the love exhibited in Jesus’ willingness to sacrifice himself for us. You can read more about this “Moral Persuasion” theory of atonement in Appendix B. Most cultures pass on stories of brave and/or loving people who sacrificed themselves for someone or an ideal. What examples of such stories can you recall? Ponder Jesus’ crucifixion. What thoughts and emotions are stirred within you by that scene? What are the positives and negatives of a church placing a crucifix (a cross with Jesus’ body on it) at the center of its worship space? What are the positive and negative of having a resurrection cross (one without the body) as the focal point?

Personal Worship Option: Read Ephesians 5:6-20. What are some ways you still live in darkness, performing actions you should not? How might those actions prevent you from experiencing the life God desires for you? Spend time in prayer and confession.

Dig A Little Deeper:

12:20 The presence of Greeks indicates Jesus’ message is spreading to the gentile community. Many believe this growing scope of the good news convinces Jesus to turn his sights toward the cross (Mt 15:24; Rom 1:16). Why might interest from Gentiles indicate “the hour has come”(12:23)? Others assume Jesus’ words refer to the beginning of his passion week (13:1) and is not directly related to the Greek’s presence. If this is the case, John recounts their presence to emphasize how Jesus “will draw all people” to himself (12:32).

12:24 Jesus understands his death to be necessary to advance his ministry. He then relates his upcoming death to the call for his followers to die to self. In a typically rabbinic comment, Jesus says people must “hate their life,” meaning “love it less than.” Why is it necessary to die to attachments to the things of this world, and even stop clinging to life itself, to fully follow Jesus? How difficult is it for you to appreciate the gift of life and yet, not cling to it?

12:26 How do we serve Jesus? Can someone who has not “died to self” serve Jesus?”

12:27 Jesus has a “troubled” soul, anguish over the pain that lies ahead. To be troubled is not a sin or an expression of doubt. We are not called to ignore our emotional reactions to situations. However, we are called to not allow those emotional reactions to determine our actions.

12:28 How would you respond to the idea that, as we see here in God’s communication with Jesus, only the person being addressed can hear the voice of God. If this is true, how does this change our view of prayer and leadership? Can you present evidence this is not true?

12:31 Jesus’ defines his death as judgment on human sin and the defeat of Satan. What are the implications of the title “ruler of this world?” Satan will not be destroyed, but he is “driven out” in that the power of evil is ultimately broken. Humans now can choose a different path.

12:32 Jesus’ death and resurrection draws us to him. What does his death mean to you? How is our attraction to Jesus related to God’s grace that goes before us?

12:35 In response to reasonable questions about his words, Jesus instructs the crowd to acknowledge, walk, and believe in the light. By taking these steps, we become children of light (Jn 1:1-13), those who believe and embrace the good news. Following this teaching, Jesus’ public ministry ends.

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