John 12:27 – “My Soul is Troubled”

Jesus praying in the gardenIn John 12:27 Jesus says his “soul is troubled,” yet he will not ask the Father to save him from “this hour.”  In the Synoptic Gospels this prayer made in the privacy of the Garden of Gethsemane, after the Last Supper. In John’s Gospel the prayer is similar, but it is in public. John also makes a connection to a theophany which may suggest a different context, perhaps in the Temple courts. Since the witnesses are described as a “crowd” it does not seem likely that this Peter, James and John in the Garden.

While Jesus is deeply troubled, he knows that the reason he came into the world to be rejected, executed and buried.   Jesus may be alluding to Psalm 6:3 or 42:5, 11. The words are closest to Psa 6:3 (LXX 6:4), the verb is a perfect passive in John rather than the aorist passive of the LXX, and the adverb σφόδρα (“greatly”) is not used in John. Nevertheless, there is enough verbal similarity to say that John intended an allusion to Psalm 6:3 when he chose these particular words.

If this is an intentional allusion to Psalm 6:3, it is possible that Jesus (or John) means to evoke the context of the whole Psalm. The first two verses of the Psalm are therefore important.  The writer is calling out to God to not rebuke and discipline him, to not pour out his wrath and anger on him. The writer says that his is languishing, that his “bones are troubled” (v. 2), that he is weary from weeping, his “eyes are wasting away” because of his grief (v.  6-7).

Psalmist asked the Lord to deliver him and save him because in death he will no longer praise God (6:4). Perhaps this is the point of the allusion as well as the rhetorical question in John 12:27.  The allusion to Psalm 6 therefore emphasizes the inevitability of the suffering of Jesus which is about to occur. Jesus knows that his suffering will lead to death, but also that his death will not result in the silence of Sheol. Unlike the psalmist, Jesus knows that his death will result in vindication when God “raises him up” (John 12:32).

Unlike the writer of Psalm 6, Jesus is suffering willingly.  In fact, it is for “this very hour” that Jesus came into the world. The phrase “this hour” is always significant in John’s gospel, referring to the time of Jesus’s crucifixion. The writer of the Psalm asks “how long” until he is vindicated, while Jesus says that he cannot possibly ask to be saved from the hour.  If he is in fact the obedient Son sent by the Father, Jesus must endure the suffering of the Cross.

Similar to his baptism or the transfiguration in the Synoptic Gospels, a voice from heaven responds to Jesus’s prayer. The voice is not identified as God’s, but on the analogy of the baptism and the transfiguration it seems likely that this is the voice of the father responding to the Son.

The crowd is divided with respect to the origin of this voice. Was it thunder or was it an angel? While this seems like two very different things, there are other examples of angelic voices sounding like thunder (Revelation). When the resurrected Jesus appears to Paul on the road to Damascus, his companions did not hear the voice either.

It is possible this is an allusion to Sinai. In Exodus 19:16-19 God’s glory at Sinai is manifest with thunder and lightning. If this is an allusion to the wilderness period, then it may be part of the rejection theme of this whole conclusion to the first part of John’s gospel. The generation in the wilderness saw great signs and wonders, including the voice of God from heaven, yet they rejected those signs in the wilderness and refused to obey God as he led them into the Promised Land.

Whatever the allusion, once again there is a clear revelation of who Jesus is followed by a misunderstanding from the audience. John continues to reveal who Jesus is, he is the the one sent by God to suffer willingly on the cross.

3 thoughts on “John 12:27 – “My Soul is Troubled”

  1. Whether Jesus is alluding to the Psalms or not he is quite clear that he is deeply troubled in his soul by what he is about to face. I cannot imagine preparing my whole life for one thing that one thing being my death. Jesus only lived a short time on this earth but the whole time he did live on this earth he was preparing the world for his death. This was all so that they might understand the significance of what would take place after his death and also what his death symbolized. The crowd and many of his disciples just simply did not get what he was trying to explain to them. Wherever Jesus went it seemed like confusion followed him. The crowds and even his own disciples had no idea what was coming and what it would mean to the world. Jesus was hurting when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane and yet even with all the soulful pain he was experiencing he wanted and did go through with it. He was obedient to his father even though it meant he would be separated from his father bearing the weight of the world’s sin for three days and then washing them away.

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  2. Jesus was fully God yet he was fully human. Of course Jesus is going to cry out to his Father hours before he would be nailed to a cross. No human being would ever want to do that, no human being would want to experience the full weight of all sin in the world, past, present and future and no human being would want to experience the wrath of God and the absence of God. Jesus was ready to die, but he also showed us that his human nature was not ready. We cannot even imagine the position that Jesus was in at this hour and what he was feeling. Being the savior of the world, about to take on the most important tasks of all of history has got to be a feeling only God knows about.

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  3. I like how the article starts with showing that Jesus was troubled with the task that was at hand. It is clear that he understood the importance of his death, but he was still human and death is something that every human doesn’t look forward to. Granted, the suffering that Jesus went through was far worse than we can ever imagine. God turned away from Jesus completely and Jesus knew that this had to happen for him to take upon himself the sin of mankind. He loves us so much that he was willing to experience separation from God. A point that Kostenberger points out with John 12:24 is that with Jesus’s death, more people will come to Christ and have the bridge to God. Jesus knows that his death is not a permanent state and that through his resurrection he is restoring mankind to God. Turing this now to the connection that Jesus’s prayer seems to correlate with Psalm 6. This is another example of how the Old Testament foreshadows the events in the New Testament pointing towards Christ. Just like the Psalm alludes to the New Testament, so the voice of heaven points back to the Old Testament. I’d never thought about the possible connection between the voice from heaven responding to Jesus’s prayer and Mount Sinai. Both are examples of God’s glory and the rejection that it received from the people who witnessed it. The connection between the two events makes sense then as they are quite similar. Even if they are not connected, they both show the amazing glory of God and gives us more evidence of his existence and mercy.

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