27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
The Metaphysics of This World
Our passage today is a real accounting of a real historical event in which a voice from heaven speaks to be heard on the earth. This of course is not the only time that this has happened in the Bible. But there are things in this passage that teach us about the metaphysics of voices from heaven, or the metaphysics of this world. That is to say it teaches us about how the world runs or how it is set up. This is important because the more we understand about the metaphysical nature of the world we live in, the more we can better understand our place in it and our sufferings in this world. This is also important because when people rebel against God, they not only rebel against God’s moral order, but also against the metaphysics of this world. They rebel against the nuts and bolts of the way the universe is set up. I’ll give you an example after I give you my first point on this.
Heaven is above, all on earth is before heaven
The first thing to notice about the metaphysics of this world, or of voices from heaven is that heaven is above the earth and the earth is under heaven. Now this seems quite simple enough. Yet there are many people who rebel against this point. Take for example the official worship anthem of today’s secularists, the song “Imagine” by John Lennon, where some of the lyrics say, “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky…” This is a song that this year celebrities have made videos of themselves singing online, and that was sung during a vigil for Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is everywhere in unbelieving secular culture. It is humanism’s worship song. It is a song of ethical and metaphysical rebellion against the one true God. Denying that there is a heaven above and hell below is like denying that there are stars in the sky and dirt under the grass. It’s a denial of science, to turn the humanists language back on themselves. There is not only sky above us. When God created the world he made a great expanse between the waters on the earth and the waters in the heavens (the clouds). There is water above us and below us. But the water above us is also a portal to another dimension – it is a portal more symbolically rather than literally. Here’s what I mean: in Ezekiel chapter 1, the prophet Ezekiel has a vision where he sees the throne of God in heaven. From Ezekiel’s perspective, he is below heaven looking up. The skies are opened so he can look up into heaven. He looks up when the skies are opened he sees these creatures, which are angels, and above angels there is a sea of glass that looks like crystal, and above that see of glass is the throne of God. The apostle John, who also wrote the book of Revelation, has a vision of the throne of God in heaven. But from his perspective he is in heaven looking down, and he describes this same sea of crystal glass as being under the throne. What is this crystal sea? Symbolically it is the water above us that separates heaven from earth. That’s why the sky is blue. That’s the sea. So there is the throne of God, a sea of glass, angels in the skies (guarding heaven), and us on earth.
Heaven is not just locationally above the earth, but all on the earth is laid before heaven, all on earth is lived before the eyes and ears of heaven. Heaven is over the earth and therefore, heaven can always look into what is going on in the earth and intervene. That is why the separation between heaven and earth is described as glass – it’s a window from heaven to earth. But it’s not a two way window unless it is opened from heaven. We don’t get to look into heaven and see what’s going on, except when heaven reveals itself to us, which we get windows into namely in the Bible, God’s revelation to us, like in Revelation and Ezekiel. We live under the eye and ear of heaven. The humanists don’t like that because they don’t like the fact that they are creatures who will have to give an accounting for every word and deed done on the earth. However, Christians really like this setup because it means that heaven can see, hear, and respond to us on earth, and will get to more of that in a moment. But for someone who is a rebel against God, you can see that since they are a rebel against God, they are also going to be a rebel against the metaphysics of this world.
Since this is the setup, this also means that this world is not strictly a natural world. It is supernatural. In fact, as Christians, we should prefer the word “creation” over the word “nature.” I think we should try and start using the word “creation” more instead of “nature.” Not that it is always wrong to use the term “nature,” just that “creation” says a lot more. So because this is a supernatural world, this means that thunder is not simply a result of the workings of nature. Notice that when the voice speaks from heaven, verse 29 tells that some of the crowd that heard it said that it was thunder. Some there mistook the voice from heaven as thunder. You can hear them now, “What was that noise? It sounded like a voice, but there’s no way a voice could speak from heaven, so it must have been thunder. It was thunder. Believe the scientists.” Some of the people thought it was an angel speaking, which is a really good close guess. But you see one of the things this passage is showing is the spiritual blindness of some of these people to not be able to hear a voice from heaven. And when we think about the metaphysics of voices from heaven, it is only the spiritually blind or dim that fail to see that thunder is the voice of God. One of the voices John heard in Revelation was a voice in heaven like that of loud thunder. This is to say that thunder is from heaven; it is from God.
This means that when we hear thunder, we should recognize that thunder is the speech of God. When it is thundering, God is speaking thunder. In 1505 great would be reformer, Martin Luther was travelling and was caught in a violent thunderstorm, and he thought that God was unleashing heaven upon him to kill him, so, a Roman Catholic he cries out to Saint Anne and promises God that if He spared his life he would become a monk. Of course, Luther kept his word, and through his studies of the Scripture while a monk, Luther became a Christian and the rest is history. But you see, that thunder was from God. Because sometimes God has to shake us with mighty thunder to get our attention, either literally or metaphorically. Maybe some of you have things that have happened in your life, that was clearly God shaking you to get your attention. Sometimes God employs His own creation to do this. That’s what Jesus says about this thundering voice from heaven in John 12, that it was “for your sake this voice came, not mine.”
The Liturgy of the Cosmos
Furthermore, I want us to note the liturgy of the cosmos, if we can call it that. What is liturgy? Liturgy is a structure of worship where there is Word and response. We have some light liturgical practices in our worship (we’d like to have more), like our catechism, or our response to the reading of God’s Word. Or even our praying and God’s hearing is liturgy, or preaching and hearing is liturgy. Everyone has a liturgy, even those traditions that do not like liturgy, because God made a liturgical world – a world filled with word and response. So, some of the cosmic liturgy that we see is that when we pray, our words go up to heaven (and when we pray rightly, there are the Holy Spirit’s words), and heaven’s response comes down to earth. Simply put, God responds to our prayers. Jesus’ prayer to heaven is, “Father, glorify your name.” Heaven hears this prayer, and responds to earth, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” We also know that God not only hears and responds to the prayers of His people but He also sees and hears the deeds and word done and spoken by all men on earth, even the ungodly, and he even responds in judgments to them. But this is the liturgy of cosmos, if you will. This is even part of the structure of the book Revelation. Revelation is liturgical. In Revelation we see prayers from the saints under the altar, we see elders worshipping, we sing scores of people singing, and God responds by sending down judgments and salvation on the earth below. The liturgical worship of heaven results in God’s actions on earth. This is how our world works. It is not just sky above us. There is a creational liturgy between heaven and earth.
Glory and Good
This structural liturgy is for the purpose of extending the glory of His name on the earth, as well as being for our sake – either our good in Christ, or our condemnation if we are rebels. Jesus prays for the Father to glorify his name, the voice from heaven says that He has and He will, and Jesus says to the crowds that this voice came for your sake. God speaks for His glory and our sake. This is God’s Word.
Notice as well that Jesus mediates this event. God speaks from heaven in response to the prayer of Jesus. And Jesus mediates this voice to the crowd. Jesus explains this voice came for your sake. This is the only true and right liturgical worship – a liturgy and worship mediated through Jesus. Jesus is why we can pray and sing to God. Jesus is why God hears and responds to us. Jesus mediates God’s glory to us, as we are told in 2 Corinthians 4:6 that God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
A Troubled Soul
As mediated liturgy, when we look at the face of Jesus Christ, in Scripture, we see the glory of God. When we look at Jesus in passage today, we see that Jesus is troubled in His soul. How can it be that the Son of God, sent from Heaven is troubled in this world? He says, “Now is my soul troubled.” What has troubled His soul? Looking at the previous verses, He is now troubled because the Greeks came seeking to see Jesus, which indicated to Jesus that His hour of glorification has now come. In other words, the time of His suffering is now here. And this troubles His soul. This shows us the incredible weight of the cross. This shows us the incredible agony Jesus knew He would undergo in His death. This suffering, planned from all eternity, was experienced in time and history by Jesus, and there were sorrows that He did not experience until the time came upon Him. The prospect of the pure one becoming sin and drinking down the wrath of God is an incredible weight to bear, that we can’t even begin to understand. This is what is before Jesus.
Prayer in the Hour of Trouble
I love how Jesus deals with this great trouble in His soul. He is troubled but says, “what am I going to say? ‘Father, save me?’” It’s a rhetorical “no” for Jesus says, “for this purpose I have come to this hour.” This is the very purpose for Jesus coming. This trouble was the purpose for which Jesus came. He is not going to abort the mission. Jesus rests His trouble in the divine will of God. Jesus essentially says, “there’s no reason to be troubled about my trouble. The trouble is the point of my coming.” What a lesson to learn there for us. There is no reason to be troubled about your trouble. It’s the point of this moment in your life.
Jesus rests His trouble in the divine plan of God, and then He prays. In our time of trouble, whatever it may be, we should do these two things: rest in the divine plan of God, and pray. We may find it much easier to worry and to fret, but that also makes it much easier to not have peace or courage and to sin in our hour of trial. When we rest our trouble in God’s divine plan and then pray to our God in heaven, as Jesus did, it will help us not to sin, in our time of trouble.
It is also insightful to see how Jesus prays in His time of trouble. How does Jesus pray in His trouble? We really learn how Jesus prays by how He doesn’t pray. When we are in trouble, it is very typical for us to pray and ask God to remove the trouble, or to remove us from the trouble. “Lord, make it stop,” we so often pray. But that is not how Jesus prays. In fact, Jesus directly rejects the opportunity to pray that type of prayer. Jesus does not pray for deliverance from His trouble. He does not pray that God would save Him from what He had to face. He does not pray for escape. He could have, at any moment, called down a thousand angels to rescue and serve Him, but He does not. What courage and what bravery this is.
Having said this, this is not to say that we should always do exactly what Jesus does here. There is definitely a major category for Christians to pray that God would deliver them from their enemies or their trouble, or that God would remove the trouble from them. That is a legitimate line of prayer that we see in many places throughout the Psalms. We recognize that Jesus had a specific mission and purpose that did not include being rescued from His suffering. And He knew exactly what that was, so He knew not to pray for that. So, while we are exhorted to pray for salvation from our God, we should also have a category of prayer wherein we do not simply reduce all our prayers to asking God to rescue us from all our troubles. Now we don’t know the plan of God, whether he wants to deliver us from our troubles, or let us remain a while longer in them. It is not our duty or our place to peer into the secret plans of God for our lives. So maybe our praying could look as simple as saying, “Lord, would you deliver me from this trouble? But if you desire that I stay here longer, teach me what I need to learn, dry near to me, and glorify yourself in my trouble.” That’s difficult to pray, because our flesh just wants the suffering and trouble to be done and over with. But faith sees a greater purpose in our discomfort, and leans on God in such a time.
But of course, notice what Jesus does pray for. “Father, glorify your name.” He prayed for God’s glory. Jesus did not pray for God to save Him from His trouble, but that God would be glorified in His trouble. And God responded with a loud “Yes.” This prayer should ever be on our lips in whatever shadow or valley we are in: “Father, glorify your name.”
Purpose in the Hour of Trouble
Notice this purpose in the hour of trouble. Jesus doesn’t pray for rescue because He knows the purpose for which He came. His purpose was for this hour. No matter what trouble or suffering comes upon us, we can rest in knowing that it is not without purpose. God will glorify Himself in it and He has created us for this purpose. Your hour of suffering is God’s purpose for you, given to you since before time began that you should walk in it for the glory of God. This is why there is a category of prayer wherein we do not pray for deliverance; because God created us for this very trial.
Notice that Jesus goes straight into this trouble. No avoidance, no escape, He goes right for it. It’s important to remember here that this trouble was not just suffering and sorrow. It was battle and conflict. It was war. We will see in our passage next week that Christ’s lifting up on the cross was the tossing out of the ruler of this world. It was battle and conflict that Jesus went right for. He knew He had to fight. He knew the conflict was necessary. He knew that it could not and indeed should not be avoided. He knew that it was a righteous cause. Sometimes fighting is a righteous cause. Sometimes battle is godly. Without this battle and conflict we are not saved.
Likewise, sometimes, we should go straight into trouble. Sometimes being a Christian means we go knowingly into righteous conflict. Sometimes the fight is necessary. We cannot have reformation and revival without conflict. So this means as Christians we go knowingly into holy war.
Glory in the Hour of Trouble
Not only is there to be prayer and purpose in our hour of suffering, there is also glory in our hour of trouble. This makes the battle worth the fight. Think of soldiers who go to battle and fight to defend their kingdom for glory. Glory is a good thing that makes trouble worth it. And we are working for a glory greater than ours, we are working for the glory of God and His Kingdom.
In ourselves, we have fallen short of the glory of God. We have rebelled against it. We have preferred our own glory which is rubbish. We cannot attain to or measure up to the glory of God. But this is why Jesus came. He came and stared death down in the face and saw through it to glory. The trouble that was laid upon Jesus’ soul is a trouble that we will never know, because Jesus took on our trouble for us. He took on the face of death, the treachery of sin, and the wrath of God on His soul, so we would not have to suffer in that way, so that we would not have to bear a load of trouble that we could not bear. So whatever little troubles we face, we face them in light of the fact that our greatest trouble was taken from us, and put upon Jesus Christ. He took our trouble upon Himself. And this glorifies God. And if that glorifies God, we should be glad that God would also glorify Himself in our little troubles.