John 12: 20 – 36 Jesus predicts his death
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.
‘Now my soul is troubled, and 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!’
Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain for ever, so how can you say, “The Son of Man must be lifted up”? Who is this “Son of Man”?’
Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.’ When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
There are things that puzzle me about this story.
Some Greeks approach Philip because they want to see Jesus. Well, that makes sense. Don’t interrupt the rabbi; approach one of his disciples who will know when would be the best time for them to meet Jesus. That’s both sensible and polite. But Philip seems taken aback, and goes to see Andrew.
Perhaps Andrew was closer to Jesus than Philip; that would account for it. Andrew and Philip go together to Jesus. OK. Not extraordinary. But what puzzles me is why include such a trivial detail as the way the approach was made? At the time he completed his gospel, St John had been mulling over the spiritual significance of Jesus’ ministry for perhaps 60 years. What’s the significance of this? And while I’m in a mood to question, does St John really remember such a tiny detail?
Then, when Philip and Andrew go to Jesus to tell him about the request of the Greeks, Jesus responds with a prophecy of his death. Isn’t that a non-sequitur?
I’m sorry, but I have no answers for these questions today. Besides which, there are some very important truths to be confronted in this passage.
Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
The primary meaning of this is that Jesus is going to die, and that his death will bring life to many. Will this metaphor of the seed dying extend further, I wonder? The seed dies in this world. The many seeds produced by its death live in this world. God’s plan (insofar as we can guess at it) includes this world. Is Jesus’ death and resurrection primarily to demonstrate that no matter how great the suffering and injustice, God’s plan is victorious even in this sinful world?
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
This sounds odd. I mean what a lot of God-given gifts you would hate if you ‘hated your life in this world’. I understand that the Hebrews of Jesus’ day used a figure of speech to express a strong preference. In modern speech, maybe to ‘love your life’ means to neglect the spiritual life; to ‘hate your life in this world’ means to consistently act to strengthen the spiritual in preference to striving for human delights.
But actually, it’s stronger than that, because doing the right thing, following Jesus, will challenge us profoundly, as we see in the next sentence.
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.
Where is Jesus?
Right where he was in Palestine in the first century AD. He’s with the poor; with the sick; with the lepers; on the cross.
So where do I need to be?
That’s right. With the poor; with the sick; with social outcasts; and, if it comes to it, ready to die for Jesus.
I fall a long way short of that.
My Father will honour the one who serves me.
I feel very challenged by today’s study. I know I fall far short of what is needed, and I am sorry for that. Please help me to do better.
In Jesus name, Amen