“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “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 alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:20-26)
As we continue our study in John 12, the setting remains the anticipated celebration of the annual Jewish Feast called Passover. While admittedly a Jewish feast, it attracted non-Jews as well as today’s text testifies.
There were some Greeks who came to worship at the feast. Most likely these were converts to the Jewish religion. They would be known as proselytes. These Greek converts want to see Jesus. Ironically, this is in contrast to the Jewish religious leaders who want to kill Jesus. These Greeks illustrate and embody the Pharisees’ concern that the world was going after Jesus (John 12:19).
It is interesting that they came to Phillip in making their request. Perhaps it is because Phillip, as John notes, was from Bethsaida of Galilee. This may be an indication that these Greeks were from the same region. Phillip then approached Andrew who also was from Bethsaida (John 1:44). When Phillip and Andrew approached Jesus on behalf of the Greeks, Jesus told His disciples three significant truths.
First, Jesus said, ““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 alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus spoke particularly of His impending death, burial, resurrection and exaltation (John 13:1; 17:1). Prior to this statement, Jesus’ hour had always been future (John 2:4; 4:21-23; 7:30; 8:20). Jesus used the illustration of a dead grain of wheat which when planted brings forth a rich harvest. Consequently, the Jesus’ etc. will bring about a rich harvest of souls.
Second, Jesus said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Not only is the principle of death and resurrection applicable to Jesus, but also to His followers. Jesus called for a self-renouncing faith with a trust, commitment, dependence and worship of Him alone. Such a faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is the instrument by which sinners would be saved from the penalty, power and presence of sin.
Third, Jesus said, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” Saving faith results in a serving faith. In other words, justification by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone results in sanctification, which is a life lived for the glory and honor of Christ alone. As James explained it, faith without works would be a dead faith (James 2:14-26).
Dr. John Walvoord comments: “They would see Jesus, would they? Yet a little moment, and they shall see Him so as now they dream not of. The middle wall of partition that keeps them out from the commonwealth of Israel is on the eve of breaking down,—a glorious event that will be for the Son of man, by which this is to be brought about. It is His death He thus sublimely and delicately alluded to. Lost in the scenes of triumph which this desire of the Greeks to see Him called up before His view, He gives no direct answer to their petition for an interview, but sees the cross which was to bring them gilded with glory.”
All too often believers in Christ fixate their attention upon the glorious return of Christ while forgetting the humiliating substitutionary death of Christ on our behalf which makes His glorious return so welcome. Let us never forget the cross and the impact such a work must have upon our lives as followers of Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!