John 12: 20 – 28
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, 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. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
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The passage right before the verses above described for us the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds proclaimed that their Messiah, their King, who had come from the royal line of King David, had just entered into Jerusalem. They were all ready to proclaim Jesus as their Royal King of Israel.
No doubt this caused a great stir among the people, for the local residents of Jerusalem as well as those who were visiting there to celebrate the Great Feast of Passover. Our passage here starts out then with some foreigners, some Greek-speaking men who had come in from some outlying area or some distant land and they hear reports about Jesus.
They wanted to meet Jesus, but notice who they approached first? They went to Philip, who probably came from a Greek culture background himself since he had a Greek name. So these men took the path that made the most sense to be able to gain an audience with Jesus – they approached Philip who would be sympathetic to their request to meet this very famous man – the Man who could do the miraculous.
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Jesus’ response though did not line up with this desire of the people who wanted Him to become their new King on earth. He does declare in verse 23 that it is finally the time for people to know who He is exactly. His favorite term for Himself “The Son of Man” contains both the idea that He is God’s Son, and also the idea that He is truly a man who had come to live among us.
And now He says that the time had come for Him “to be glorified”. It is always hard to translate the word “glory”, but each time we do, we learn more about what it means. Within this context, Jesus was saying that it was going to be revealed just how “wonderful” and “glorious” the true nature of Jesus really was.
The surprise comes is in the next sentence. We should expect that someone who is the Majestic Son of God, who had just been publicly acclaimed to be the King of Israel, and who will now at this point reveal the true identity of Himself to the people, we would expect Him to ascend the throne in Jerusalem.
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Instead, we see Jesus speaking out one more time in metaphorical language. He states that a seed by itself is nothing. To be something of great value, it must be dropped into the ground where the seed will figuratively “die” as it breaks into small pieces. But from these broken pieces, many roots can shoot out of this one seed and actually bear much food for the people.
You see, Jesus’ path forward required Him not to go forth in a victory march towards a throne, but to walk the road of shame and suffering, and to die on the Cross, in order to win people back to God. Jesus recognized that those who would follow Him, must be ready to fully give up their lives and souls to God, and count the things of this life as being of such low worth compared to the promise of eternal life with God.
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This is not to say that it was an easy thing for Jesus to make the decision to give up His life on our behalf. We see Him in verse 27 wrestling with this decision. If it was possible to fulfill the will of God without having to actually die on the cross, I believe Jesus would have chosen that path. But He has barely asked this question of God when He also states the answer – He knows that this was the path that He must walk.
And so Jesus asked God for something else: He asked for God to reveal His true and glorious nature. And God’s voice answered back that He already had and will again do just that. What was He referring to? I believe it refers to how God showed His awesome power in resurrecting Lazarus (from John 11) and how He would raise Jesus from the dead (John 20).
The promise and the challenge for us are in verse 26. If we truly want to serve Jesus as the Lord of our lives, we are to follow in His footsteps. So we must also be ready to lay down our lives for God. That is the challenge. The promise is that we will be with Him where He goes. And where will that be? By the side of God in Heaven for all eternity. Praise God! Praise the Lord!