Joh 12:20-29 | What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Say

Text: John 12

I want you to open your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 12. We will begin our reading with verse 20 and read through verse 29.

Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast: These therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, Sir, we wish to see Jesus. Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself: but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If any one serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant also be: if any one serves me, the Father will honor him. Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify thy name. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The multitude therefore, who stood by, and heard it, were saying that it had thundered: others were saying, An angel has spoken to him.

I want to read again verse 27: Now my soul is troubled; and what shall I say? I want to talk to you tonight for a few minutes on what to say when you don’t know what to say.

I sat with a couple not long ago—a pastor and his wife. They had requested some time to talk some things out. They needed an objective third party, one that would be gone in a few days and couldn’t blackmail them with anything that was said. They just needed to unload like we all do at times. The only problem is sometimes after we have unloaded to people, we wish we hadn’t because we somehow get the idea that now they think less of us. If we really confess what we are and what we feel, we sometimes diminish ourselves in the eyes of others, and later on are filled with regret and say, I could kick myself for ever having admitted weakness. But there are times when we all need to sit down with somebody that we can rest with and say, listen this is the way it is; this is the way I feel. So I sat with this couple. They said it had been the worst year of their lives, one battle after another. The pastor said it had been harder on his wife than on him. I said, yes, I can imagine that. I’ve noticed through the years that always the first thing I look for when I go into a church is the pastor’s wife. I want to see her face, her countenance. It seems that everything that happens in the life of the church comes to rest in the countenance of the pastor’s wife. You can tell a great deal about what is going on in the church by whether or not the pastor’s wife is smiling, whether or not she is happy, whether or not there is a look of peace. She began to weep and said, I don’t know what to pray anymore. I’ve prayed, and prayed and prayed. She said, I am so confused. I’ll be honest with you. I am too weary to trust, too weary to pray. I don’t know what to say. I simply said to her, well, you are in good company. There has been someone else along the way who was in your same position. They were so deeply troubled, distraught, confused, so unsettled, and their heart was at such unrest, they didn’t know what to say. She asked who it was. I said, it was the Lord Jesus. I noticed the surprise on her face.

It’s interesting how we read some of these verses so many times, and yet they never really sink in. There is a verse that has given me a great deal of encouragement and comfort in the past. It is this statement that our Lord makes in verse 27 when he says, now is my soul troubled. I wouldn’t be surprised at that coming from anybody else, from some lesser mortal, from some person who had inherited Adam’s sin. But here is the Master of all worlds, here is the Supreme among the angels adored at the Father’s right hand, and yet he confesses, now is my soul troubled and I don’t know what to say. You mean Jesus himself is at a loss for words? Do you mean he who knew the Father’s will? Do you mean that same one who spoke the worlds into existence and holds them in their course tonight? Do you remember that one who knows from the beginning to the end, and everything inbetween? He comes to a point where he says, I don’t know what to say. I am in such deep distress. My soul is torn. The tenses of this verb indicate that this wasn’t a passing thing. Our translation reads now is my soul troubled as though all of a sudden Jesus became troubled. But the idea is that here is a continuing state and condition that our Lord was in. It is a revelation to us about Jesus because we see him in his early ministry as he moves along with such swiftness and with such success and smoothness, and there seems to be such a peace about him, and yet this verse reveals that all the while there is turbulence underneath the calm. He is not simply saying that all of a sudden my soul has become troubled. He is saying my soul has been troubled all along. For he says I know why I have come into this world. I have come into this world for one cause. It was the appearance of the Greeks that reminded him of it.

What is happening to our Lord is that there is a conflict of emotions. These Greeks, these Gentiles, come and say, we want to see Jesus. That’s the first indication that these Gentiles are going to be grafted in. That is the first indication that salvation is going to be world-wide. For the Lord Jesus Christ, it is a good sign–these Greeks wanting to see Jesus. Yet, when they come, mixed with the joy of these Greeks desiring to see Jesus, Jesus realizes that the only way they can ever come to see him is if he dies for them.

So there is a collision of differing emotions. There is the emotion of joy because here are men who want to see him. But there is the emotion of dread, and fear if you please, because Jesus knows that their fulfillment of that desire can only be accomplished if he is willing to die. So he says, now is my soul torn in different directions. And what shall I say?

Now, if we understand this as it applies to our Lord, then we can understand it as it applies to ourselves. The truth of the matter is that there is not one among us who has not sometime in our Christian experience, if we were honest enough, that has said, my soul is troubled, and I don’t know what to say. It may be because some child is out yonder in the wayfaring way, and you don’t know what has happened to them. You’ve prayed all the prayers you know to pray, and you say, I don’t know what to say. It may be that your wife or husband has announced that there is somebody else and wants to end your marriage. You’ve prayed all the prayers you know to pray, and you’ve done all the books say to do. You don’t know what else to say, or what to pray anymore. It may be that the doctor has told you that there is nothing more he can do for you, and you have done everything you know to do. You’ve read all the books, and you’ve listened to all the preachers, and you’ve gone through all the rituals, and yet the sickness has not abated. There is only one course; you are dying, and that’s all there is to it. You say, I don’t know what to say, nor what to pray. My soul is troubled . . .

I think we become more vulnerable than ever at those points because we are liable to say something later on we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes in the ministry we say, my soul is troubled; and I don’t know what to say. I know what I’ll say. I’ll say, I quit. That’s what I’ll say. Sometimes at those moments, if we aren’t careful, we’ll say the wrong thing.

I want to talk to you tonight about what to say when you don’t know what to say. Jesus said, now my soul has become troubled and what shall I say. Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour: but for this purpose I came to this hour. There is always–whatever the situation, whatever the turmoil, whatever the confusion in your heart and life–something that you can rest assured is proper and fitting to say. This is it: Father, glorify thy name. That’s what to say when you don’t know what to say. When no other prayer seems to work, and you have tried all the other prayers, and you’ve read all the how-to books, and you’ve gone through all the steps, and nothing seems to be changed, and you are facing an uncertain future, and there is nothing but darkness in your heart, you don’t know what to ask God. If God were to say, I’ll give you anything you ask for, you’d say, I don’t know what to ask. I don’t know what is right, what is fitting and proper to say. What can I honestly say that I’ll never regret. This is always right; this is always fitting; this is always proper: Father, glorify thy name. Now let me just point out three things about this kind of prayer.

1. It immediately brings to us a sense of security.

It is a prayer that offers security. Notice that Jesus says, what shall I say? Father, glorify thy name. Notice the first word, Father. This prayer has in it security and reassurance. He doesn’t say God. He doesn’t say impersonal faith. He doesn’t say the stars. He says, Father, glorify thy name.

I am afraid in our day that we have forgotten a very important person. We say so much about Jesus, and well we should. And we say so much about the Holy Spirit. But I am afraid we have forgotten the Father. Yet, it is for this purpose that Jesus came into the world: to reveal to us that God is a father. That was the unique revelation that God brought–to reveal to us that this God who created all things, this God who is a God of such terrible judgment that he will destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, yet is a father. That is the great revelation. It is a revelation that means that we put our destiny into the hands of one who cares.

I have never gotten into horoscopes. I was on a plane some years ago, and a lady sat down next to me. After we had been traveling for awhile, she turned to me and said, what are you? Well, I didn’t figure she meant animal, mineral or vegetable. It was pretty obvious what I was. I said, well, I’m a minister and I’m on my way to Denver to preach. She said, no, what are you? What sign were you born under? Well, as far as I knew, I wasn’t born under any sign, unless it was emergency room or something like that. She said, no, when is your birthday? I said, it’s October 24. She said, oh, you’re a Scorpio. She said, I’m Pisces. I thought maybe I should applaud or something—like that was some great thing. I run into people who won’t go outside the door until they read their horoscope every morning. That seems to me a terrible bondage.

I know there are forces in this universe, and forces in this world. But I know that my life is not in the hands of some impersonal fate, or the position of the stars and the planets but it is in the hands of a heavenly Father who knows me and loves me. I shouldn’t be afraid to say, Father, glorify thy name. I am not afraid of my Father.

I have two children. God being my witness, I wouldn’t do anything in the world to hurt them. I would lay down my life for them. I trust my father with my life. My father is still alive. I trust him with my life. I don’t need to be afraid of my father.

When I don’t know which way to turn, and I don’t know what to say, I can always say, Father, glorify thy name. There is a sense of security in that prayer because it is a Father who cares, but it is also a Father who is in control. The trouble with we earthly fathers is that we may want to care for our children, but sometimes they get out of our control, and there is nothing we can do for them. But we have a heavenly Father who not only cares but is also in control. What we are to say is: Father, glorify thy name. There is security in that statement.

Secondly, there is submission in this statement: Father, glorify thy name. Go back to verse 27, and notice what Jesus says, now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say? Well, I could say, Father, save me from this hour. That’s what I’d say. Jesus is tempted at that moment because the thing that is troubling him, causing the turmoil and unrest in his heart, is that he knows he has to face Gethsemane. What we have here before us is really the Gethsemane before Gethsemane. So, he says, what shall I say? The first thing that comes to his mind, and I think here you see the humanness of our Lord as perhaps no other place, as it would come to my mind. This is one thing I could say, Father, deliver me from this hour. That’s what I’d really like.

I can remember a time a few years ago when we were going through some terrific struggles and battles in our life. I do believe in spiritual warfare because we were engaged in it. It is as real to me tonight as you are real to me. It is as if the devil came to me one day and said, I’ll tell you what, preacher, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll leave you alone if you’ll leave me alone. You know something? I was tempted to take him up on it. I believe the devil is in the bargaining business; he is always ready for a deal if I’ll compromise, if I’ll lower the standard, if I’ll fudge just a little bit here and say, it doesn’t really matter if the Father’s will is done. He can get somebody else to do it. I’ll make you a deal, devil. I’ll give up this part if you’ll leave me alone. I am tempted at times to say, Father, deliver me from this hour.

When I say, Father, glorify thy name, there is submission in it because it means there is a conflict, a struggle that has been waged, and I have come to the end of it and submitted myself. Rather than ask God to deliver me from this hour, I will say, no, for this very purpose came I into the world. May I say to you that it is the same with us? For this very purpose we came into the world. The purpose for which God has saved us is that we might glorify his name.

I talked with a pastor about this the other day. He said, you go around a lot of places. What do you think is happening? I said, I think what is happening is that the devil is very successfully detracting us from the purpose for which we have all been saved. This is just my opinion, which I greatly respect, but I’ve got news for you. I don’t think the devil cares one whit whether we are charismatic, or whether we are a Baptist, or whether a liberal, or a modernist as long as we do not glorify the name of the Father. I think he couldn’t care less what we are or what we do as long as we don’t do the main thing. Sometimes we need to be reminded that for this purpose came I into the world.

Listen, I didn’t come into the world to escape. I did not come into the world so that God could give me with all sorts of comfort. I ran across an old hymn in England sometime ago, and it has never made it over here. I can understand why. It is a little one-sided in its theology. It asks a question and answers it. It says, and what if I find Him, and what if I follow Him, what reward awaits me here? The answer comes back: many a labor, many a sorrow, many a tear. No wonder that’s never made it over to our side of the sea. I know that is one-sided, and I wouldn’t by any stretch of the imagination have you to think that the only thing that awaits a follower of Jesus is many a labor, many a sorrow, many a tear. I do know this: we at times need to be reminded that the purpose for which we came into the world is to glorify the name of the Father—whatever that involves.

I was in England this past September and heard a pastor who had come out of Romania. . He was telling about the time when he was under house arrest, and they were threatening his life. This Communist officer said, don’t you know that I can kill you? And this pastor said, oh, yes, I know that you can. Your greatest weapon is killing; my greatest weapon is dying. You think about that for a minute. He said, you are trying to stamp out my message, but if you kill me and force me to die for my message, and it will be multiplied a thousand times over. Everyone will know then that I wasn’t just preaching; I meant it.

For this cause came we into the world. The reason God saved you, my dear friend, is not so that you can escape; it is so that you can exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a prayer of submission. Father, glorify thy name. God has to keep bringing us back to this because there are so many other things of interest, so many other things that wear spiritual and religious tags that entangle me. The devil is sitting off to one side, filled with glee because he has sidetracked us onto secondary issues.

Father, glorify thy name. The interesting thing is that when Jesus said that, he knew what it meant. When you and I say it, we don’t know what it means. When I come to the Father and say, the desire of my heart in this situation in my church, in my family, in this problem right now is that your name be glorified. I just want your name to come out looking good, grand, and glorious. I don’t know what that involves, what that means, what path God is going to lead me down. The difference is that Jesus knew exactly what that meant—that meant the cross, suffering, death. Yet, he said it. So he stands tonight to us as an example as a prayer of submission. Whatever it takes, whatever course is required, whatever path I must travel, this is my prayer: Father, glorify thy name. For Jesus, it meant passion, suffering and death.

I read something I just have to throw in. A fellow was writing about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. You remember this at the beginning of Passion Week. There you have the grand setting for the Passion of our Lord and the redemption of the world. Do you know what this fellow came up with? He came up with the doctrine of prosperity. He said, right there when Jesus rode that donkey into Jerusalem, he was enunciating the doctrine of prosperity. He said riding a donkey was the same as today driving a luxurious limousine. Of course, he failed to mention that the donkey was borrowed. I think if our Lord was enunciating any doctrine, it was the doctrine of rent a car.

Not only is there security in this, and not only is there submission in this. There is also significance in it. It adds significance to my life, to every detail of my life. There are two words that are not there, but they are implied. Jesus says, Father, glorify thy name in me. Now, they are not recorded, but that is what he means. Father, glorify thy name in me. When you and I pray that same prayer, that is what we mean: Father, glorify thy name in me. That somehow adds meaning to what is happening to me. If I happen to be flat on my back in a hospital bed, and somehow out of that I say, Father, glorify thy name, suddenly there is significance to that. If the stock market crashes, and my investments go sour, I can say, Father, glorify thy name. I don’t have to relegate what happened to a miscalculation by my broker or a miscalculation on my part. There is significance to that. Father, glorify thy name.

It takes my life out of the everyday, out of the ordinary. It means there is nothing that is either incidental nor accidental in my life. Every fabric of my daily life is being woven into a beautiful tapestry of the glory of the Father’s name. It gives significance to the lowliest —–

Now, I want you to notice two things in closing. First of all, notice the misunderstanding of the people. In verse 28, the Father answered, and there came therefore a voice out of heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The multitude therefore, who stood by, and heard it, were saying that it had thundered: others were saying, an angel has spoken to him. Anytime you put your life on the line and say that all you want is for the Father to be glorified, you rest assured that there are times God will take you down certain paths that will cause others to misunderstand–even when the Father does glorify.

You see, the problem is with definition. God doesn’t use the same dictionary we use. And God doesn’t always define glory the way we define it. There are some who when they see the Father glorifying or attesting to us, they will misunderstand. They are the materialists who say, well, that’s just thunder. Then you even have the more spiritually inclined who say, well, that’s an angel. That’s close–but not close enough.

Notice the assurance when Jesus prays this. He says, Father, glorify thy name, and there came therefore a voice out of heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. You say, I have never had a prayer answered. Friend, this one prayer I promise you that God will answer. I can guarantee that you can walk out of here knowing that one prayer you offer is going to be answered.

I was thinking about this this afternoon, and I thought what better theme for the year, for the life: Father, glorify thy name. I don’t know what paths what God will take me down this year. I hope there are some better paths than he took me down last year. But I want to say tonight that this is my prayer: Father, glorify thy name. Whatever it involves, whatever it takes. We ought to say that to one another and encourage one another. In the darkness of the night that we move through, we should call out one to another, Father, glorify your name. Reach out and touch one another in the darkness and sorrow, Father, glorify thy name. And when the morning comes, and we find ourselves standing on the shores of the sea of glass, we will sing with the host of all the redeemed, worthy and honor and blessings and power and glory to him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever. Father, glorify thy name. That’s what to say when you don’t know what to say.

© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2006

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