Embedded in the text of John’s gospel is a statement that is repeated to move the narrative forward to the culmination of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Sometimes it is spoken by Jesus, and sometimes by the apostle as he writes about Jesus. Several times the phrase “his hour had not yet come” (John 8:30) appears, until the time of his death, when he prayed, “Father, the hour has come” (John 17:1).
When, at a wedding feast, his mother hinted strongly that he do something when the wine ran out, Jesus replied, “Woman, why do you involve me?” His relationship to her had now changed. He had been publicly anointed for the work the Father had commissioned him to do and the hour of this death and glorification had “not yet come” (John 2:4). When he did respond to her request, it was because her appeal was less as a mother than as a believer. His answer showed her that their natural human relationship was subordinate to the will of God for him.
The same thing governed his answer to his brothers who suggested that he “leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret” (John 7:4). He refused to go as they suggested, seeking notoriety, because “My time is not yet here” (John 7:6, 8). When he did go to Jerusalem for the festival, it was for different reasons, and it was according to God’s timetable
When his religious detractors wanted to seize him by force and have him arrested for blasphemy, “no one laid a hand on him because his hour had not yet come” (John 7:30, 8:20). They were powerless against him until the time came for him to give up his life.
When he went up to Jerusalem for the Passover at the beginning of the week he died, he predicted his death by saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds” (John 12:23-24). This brings us to the final stage of John’s gospel and the mission of Jesus. “The hour” is filled with significance: Jesus’ death will lead to his glorification (Philippians 2:6-11)!
Then we hear the Lord Jesus praying with a troubled heart, reminding us of his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane. John recalls the Lord asking, “What shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28). What was it that prompted this prayer? No doubt it had to do with the weight of the world’s sin which would be laid upon him at Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When the Lord gathered his disciples in the upper room just before the observance of Passover festival, “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father” (John 13:1). The repetition of this theme in John’s gospel has been building to this climactic moment. Jesus now will prepare his disciples for life after he is gone from them. In John 13-16 he teaches them to serve one another, to love one another, and to rely on the coming Holy Spirit.
In the gospels there are twenty-one recorded prayers of Jesus. There is none more precious and beautiful than the prayer he prayed for his disciples in John 17. In all of them but one (Matthew 27:46), he addresses God as his “Father” and he does so here: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you” (John 17:1-2). His deepest concern is for the Father’s will to be done and that God may be glorified (“hallowed be thy name”). In saying “the hour has come” he is yielding to the will of the Father by dying on the cross for the sins of the world.
This key phrase, repeated in the gospel of John, is a foretelling of the purpose for which Jesus came: to fulfill the Father’s plan of salvation by dying and rising from the dead. Paul’s words prove true: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).
Pastor Randy Faulkner