THE GLORY OF GOD WAS REVEALED MOST FULLY IN THE SUFFERING AND death of Jesus the Christ. The marks of his scourging, the dull thumping of the mallet on the nails driven through his wrists, and the trickle of blood from his side are palpable ways that crucifixion brings the transcendent glory of God into the realm of human experience. During his ministry, Jesus manifested divine glory in acts of power like turning water into wine and raising the dead (2:11; 11:40), and these signs point ahead to his final glorification in death. Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry by a crowd bearing palm branches and acclaiming him king of Israel, but he told them the Son of Man would be glorified in the manner of a grain of wheat, which must fall into the earth and die (12:23–24). Troubled by the menacing shadow of death, Jesus prayed that God’s name would be glorified in the hour of his death, and a voice from heaven replied, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (12:27–28).
The crowds failed to comprehend the heavenly voice, and Jesus uttered the cryptic remark: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (12:32). The bystanders rightly understood that this foreshadowed his death but immediately objected, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” (12:34). With their incredulous question, Jesus’ public ministry drew to a close. The crowd’s understanding of messiahship was apparently based on the biblical promises concerning the everlasting rule of David’s “seed” (Ps 89:36 KJV), and from their perspective crucifixion would mean that Jesus could not be the Messiah, since by dying he would not remain forever. The Gospel writer faced the formidable challenge of showing that it was precisely by dying that Jesus would reveal the power of God and reign forever as the Christ.