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The Great Cosmic Exorcism

by Brant Pitre June 10, 2021 0 Comments

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Dr. Brant Pitre discusses the "hour" of Jesus in John 12 and describes it as a great cosmic exorcism.  This was taken from the Mass Readings Explained.  Subscribers can find the full video here:


Alright then, so in the next verses we come to the hour of Jesus. And this is an interesting section here because it almost reminds you of the Garden of Gethsemane, except the emphasis is different. What he’s saying here is my hour has come and I'm not going to say father save me from this hour, I’m going to say father glorify your name, right. So on the cusp of his passion here, he is declaring that he's not going to avoid the hour, he’s going to accept it and in that act of pronouncing his acceptance of the hour, God does something really unique in the gospels, he speaks. This is something he only does three times, as I mentioned earlier. And so he says these words, ‘I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.’ Now what does that mean? What is God the Father referring to here? He doesn’t say a lot in the Gospels. This is my beloved son, in whom I’m well pleased. This is my beloved Son, listen to him. But what does this mean? I have glorified it and I will glorify it again. Well remember what I said about glorification in the Gospel of John. Glorification is always a technical term for giving glory to God, especially through the passion and death of Christ. So what most scholars think is that this is an allusion to the two most important moments in salvation history: the incarnation and the passion. Kind of like the two pillars of the creed, Jesus’ birth and his death, Christmas and Easter, in other words. Because if you go back to the beginning of the Gospel of John, when it's reflecting on the mystery of Christmas, it says 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we had beheld his glory’, right. So there’s glory in the fact that the Son of God, the eternal Son of God, has become a man and dwelt among us on Earth. But the other element of glory is going to be that the same Son of God is going to lay down his life. He’s going to lay down the human body that he's taken up in the incarnation, and he’s going to allow himself to be put to death, so that he might be raised up and so that he might give us the gift of everlasting life. So it’s kinda neat here, well I guess it’s more than neat, its profound, right, that the Father refers to the mystery of Christmas and the mystery of Easter as these two moments of his glorification, where God is revealing his glory to us through these great mysteries.

And I love here how the crowd, you know, the voice comes from heaven and obviously some of them it's audible to them, they can hear it but they don’t understand it. They think oh well it must have thundered or something right, they can't interpret it. And others are saying, oh no, no, no, an angel’s talking to him. So there’s some kind of audible dimension to this voice but not everybody understands exactly what's happened. So Jesus here kind of goes further to say, ‘look the voice, the sound, this has come for your sake.’ In other words, this isn’t news to him, he knows what his mission is. But the voice has come for the sake of the people around him so that they might know this, and this is a really powerful verse, that now is the judgment of this world and now shall the ruler of this world be cast out.

Now this is really significant. What does Jesus mean by now the ruler of this world, or some translations have it, the prince of this world shall be cast out? Well this is another aspect in John that's distinctive. If you compare the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke to John, one of the differences you’ll notice is where as Jesus is constantly performing exorcisms in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, he never performs a single exorcism in the Gospel of John, except for one and that is the exorcism of the cross, right. So in John's gospel Jesus is revealing to us that the cross isn't just a sacrifice like the Passover or the day of atonement, it's also a kind of great exorcism. Because by laying down his life he's going to take the power of death away from the devil and thereby cast out the devil, in a sense, take away his power, as he says here, ‘the prince of this world’s going to be cast out.’ And when Jesus refers to the prince of this world he's talking about the fact that after the fall in Genesis 2 and 3, Satan has a certain dominion over the sons of men, over human beings, and over the world as a whole. And so by going to the cross, one of the aspects of the cross, the mystery of the cross is that Jesus robs Satan of that power. He takes the curse of sin and death upon himself and thereby, in a sense, disarms the devil, right. So I think one of those classic examples of how John's doing the same thing as the synoptic Gospels, but in his own way he's giving us teachings of Jesus that are distinctive, that are unique. And in this case he's revealing to us that Jesus himself saw his cross as like the great cosmic exorcism of the world. It’s a powerful way to think about it.

Alright, then finally, one last point here. We've seen the imagery of exaltation of Jesus being lifted up earlier in the gospel, in John 3, when Jesus used the image of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness as a kind of type or prefiguration of his crucifixion. Well Jesus takes that same terminology of being lifted up to describe his death in John 12 when he says, ‘when I am lifted up from the Earth I will draw all men to myself.’ Now that's a fascinating image because as I just mentioned a few minutes ago, the prophets, over and over again, they proclaim that one day Jerusalem, the city, would draw all men to itself. The Gentiles would pilgrimage from all around the world to come to this glorious city of Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem with its new temple, and to worship God in that way. But now what Jesus does is he takes the image of everyone pilgrimaging to the temple, to the new temple, and he puts himself at the center of that image. And he says, ‘when I'm lifted up I'm going to draw all human beings, all people, all things to myself.’ What is he doing by saying this? Well he’s revealing, yet again, he is the true temple, he is the true dwelling place of God. And the mysterious thing about this is that, the temple that he’s talking about is the temple of his body crucified. In other words, it’s the cross that is going to become the mechanism of salvation, not just for the Jews, but for the Greeks, for the Gentiles, who’ve begun to seek after him on this last day of his public ministry. So very powerful image there. A very powerful passage in John that really is just rich with all kinds of insights into the paschal mystery of his death and his resurrection.

Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


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