The Radical Determination of Jesus
I want to speak to you today about the radical determination of Jesus. By radical is meant something deep rooted. Determination refers to being determined in mind, firm in commitment and resolute in intention. The radical determination of Jesus is His firm resolve to glorify God in saving sinners. There many passages that could be cited in this connection. We are going to discuss the passages in two ways: by first viewing how this determination marked His whole life (I must be about my Fathers business; I must be baptized by John; I have a baptism of fire to undergo; the son of man must be delivered up to death and resurrection; my food and drink is to do the Fathers will and to drink the cup of His wrath) and how this determination is powerfully expressed in the shadow of the cross (father save me but thy will be done; glorify thy name).
1A. Radical determination as a way of life
This first set of passages will show an overall mindset that characterized the thinking and the doing of the Lord Jesus. We begin with the only recorded look into the childhood of Christ in Luke 2:49. Remember how Mary and Joseph unknowingly left Jesus behind in Jerusalem (Lk. 2:43-44). We have the interesting fact given to us by Luke that He was not simply left behind: He stayed behind (v. 43). This fact tells us that Jesus, though a boy, had a mind of His own. We might say this about any young person but there is something unique about His mind set as shown in v. 49: "Didnt you know I had to be in my Fathers house?" The word "house" is supplied by the translators. We literally have: "Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be in that of my Father?" Therefore, the King James Version translators had the right idea when they supplied the words "about my Fathers business." It is not simply that Jesus had to be in the Fathers house on this particular occasion, perpetually, or even intermittently. Jesus speaks of a necessity that He be about that which concerned the Father. The true temple, we will soon learn, is the body of Christ, His very flesh and blood. And His church will be the temple of the living God. The Fathers concern, the Fathers work, the Fathers business was not limited to that house in Jerusalem though it was a focal point for a time. My point in bringing our attention to this text is to see the inner driving force of necessity that moved the Lord Jesus in His actions from His very youth. This is necessary for me. I must be about that which is laid out for me by my Father in heaven. I must be active in a deep rooted way. From deep within me, I am moved by a divine must. This translates into determination or determined resolve.
In another text, at the Jordan, Jesus persisted in overcoming Johns hesitancy to baptize Him (Matt. 3:13-15). He argued that "it was fitting to fulfill all righteousness" (v. 15). What is Jesus doing? He is serving the Father and the Father is pleased as indicated by the voice from heaven (vs. 16-17). Now it should haunt us as to why John resists and Jesus persists. John resists because his is a baptism of repentance to which people come "confessing their sins" (Matt. 3:6; cf. Lk. 3:3). John says in effect: "How can this be done by you, how can I baptize you; I need your baptism of me: I acknowledge my sin and my need. I need the cleansing from sin that this symbol of baptism pictures, but not you!." Jesus persists because it is His determined will to own our sins as His own, to confess them here in the baptism at Jordan, and to point the way ahead to the baptism of fire that He has to undergo. This greater baptism is the fire of Gods judgment against sin. He will be baptized in the place of sinners. He is radically determined in mind and heart to this end. This is the Fathers business. This resolve on the part of the Lord Jesus is pleasing to the Father. Jesus is the obedient son of God.
This brings us to some texts in the Gospel of John. He is always doing the will of the one who sent Him (Jn. 8:28-29). His very food and drink is to do the Fathers will. The determined will of the Lord Jesus to do the Fathers will in the saving of sinners is something for which He hungered; doing the work of saving sinners was His daily nourishment. It was (and is) this nourishment of soul and inner drive that made His determination radical and powerful and saving! He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He died on the cross as the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep (Jn. 10:1). It is the radical determination of Jesus that comes to expression in the divine must of John 10:16 where Jesus speaks of bringing sinners out from Israel and out from the nations and thus through the gate into salvation (v. 9). The sheep are the people given to Christ by the Father. He tells us that in v. 29. The determination of Jesus to bring them is rooted in the Fathers authority and command (vs. 17-18). Thus, Jesus determination to save is rooted deeply in the sovereignty of the Father. Determination characterized His life.
2A. But there is also radical determination in the shadow of death.
Now I want to direct your attention to John 12:27-28 where Jesus speaks of His exceeding trouble of soul as the cross of Calvary draws closer and closer. Lets see if the determination of Jesus stands in the shadow of His death as it did in each phase of His life. For clarification we should note that the answer, "no," does not adequately reflect His tension of soul. To get the full impact of this text we need to clarify a matter of translation. The NIV has two question marks in verse 27 whereas the KJV has only one. The NIV has "what shall I say?" as one question and it has "Father, save me from this hour?" as a second. In other words, it has Jesus saying, "in light of the nearness of the cross: 1) what shall I say? and 2) shall I say, Father, save me from this hour? And the answer in the NIV is "of course not." The KJV has only the one question, "what shall I say?" It then reports Jesus as giving two answers: 1) save me from this hour and 2) glorify thy name. To clarify, let me give a reason for adopting the KJV rendering. It is simply this, that if you accept a second question here then you must also accept a third. What do I mean? Simply, if you read the sentence that begins with the address to the Father as a question in v 27, to be consistent, you must also do so in v. 28 where the Father is also addressed. Then we would have: "What shall I say? Father, shall I say, save me from this hour? Father, shall I say glorify your name?" [the last two could be questions if the answer to both is yes]. But three questions here overloads the text. Here are some problems with this reading. 1) There is no question mark after "father, glorify thy name" in v. 28a. 2) Jesus does ask that the cup be avoided if it is the Fathers will. That is what Matthew records in language very similar to this text (Matt. 26:39). There is no reason for the "no" of the NIV reading; it is out of contextual flow. Therefore, the two addresses to the Father are best taken as giving two answers to the opening question in John 12:27. We should read the text as the KJV with only one question.
Now consider the impact of this passage. When we read the text with only one question, it turns out to be one of the most emotion filled expressions of the entire Bible. Jesus speaks to two deep passions of his heart and life and mission on earth. On the one hand, he reveals his true humanity and his instinctive desire for self-preservation. On the other hand, he reveals his great purpose for coming into the world as the Son of God become the incarnate Son of man. Listen to the Lord in the hour of the cross as he prays in this Johannine Gethsemane:
Now is my soul exceedingly troubled and what shall I say? With every ounce of self-preservation in my being I must say, Father save me from this hour! Father save me from this bitter cup of your almighty wrath.
But I came for this purpose, I have come unto this hour for this reason, so, with every ounce of determination in my being I must say, Father glorify thy name at the cross where humiliation will reach its greatest depths and where glory will soar to the heights of heaven!
He is so radically determined to glorify the Father by doing His will in securing the salvation of sinners that He despises the horror and the pain of the cross. Believer do you hear this precious old, old story: back there at Calvary, Jesus took your sins with Him to the tree. There you died with Him. There He endured the refiners fire and was purged of sin, of your sin that you may walk in newness of life as a forgiven one.
Some applications leap out to us from reflection on the radical determination of Jesus. First, we are given the true meaning of the coming of Christ. Why, did Jesus come into the world? It was to fulfill a calling He had on the authority and command of the Father. It was to do the will of God and above all else to glorify the Fathers name in saving sinners. This is why Jesus came. This is why he was baptized. This is why he preached, healed and taught the gospel of the kingdom. This is why he went to the hour of the cross. "Father, glorify thy Name! and do so in the saving of sinners."
Second, we have an anchor of comfort beyond comparison. This is reassuring for time and eternity: I am saved by the radical determination of Jesus Christ the Lord of glory. Loving me, seeking me, finding me, keeping me. Glory, Im saved by the blood of the crucified one.
Third, we are given an example to follow. In loving us he is glorifying the Father. In glorifying the Father, he is loving us. In love to him we must aim at that which was most important to our Savior. We must have one great and consuming goal before us in everything we do; in every thought, in every area of our living; and that is to glorify God! This ought to sustain us as it sustained our Lord in his time of greatest suffering. This ought to be our prayer as it was His. "Father, in me, in this and that, every day, in tranquility and in suffering, glorify thy name!
Fourth, you and I can thank Him and live our thanks. So, church family partake with gratitude of this Eucharist, this thanksgiving meal. Study to this end, pray to this end, use God's law to this end, make this your great vision of life: to please the Father through Christ the Son; to thankfully glorify God in all you think, say, and do. Thank you Jesus, Amen!