As we transition from Jesus’ Triumphal Entry to verse 20 there are two things you need to keep in mind. First, the remainder of John’s Gospel will focus on the events surrounding Jesus’ Week of Passion. Secondly, verses 20-50 will mark the end of Jesus’ public ministry. Beginning in chapter 13 everything John records will take place in a private setting.
John 12:20-22, “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.”
Again, since John does not write using a strict chronology, it’s difficult to determine whether this meeting occurred Sunday evening after Jesus’ Triumphal Entry or at some later point that week. John simply states, “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.” This reference of “certain Greeks” can have a few meanings.
Most simply, this word “Hellēn” can refer to men and women who are actually ethnic Greeks. In a more general sense, John could be referring to a group of people who simply weren’t Jewish, but Gentile. Or this could have been a group of Hellenistic Jews — these were ethnic Jews who had adopted a more modern, secular, Grecian lifestyle.
Regardless, we do know that since they had “come up to worship at the feast” they were religious. Note: If they were Hellenistic Jews, they’d been given full access to the Temple. If they were Gentile proselytizes, they would have been restricted to the outer courtyard.
Whether it had been the buzz about Jesus that had stirred their interest or potentially even the fact Jesus cleansed the outer courtyard of the money changers early Monday morning, a delegation of these “Greeks” come to “Philip” desiring a sit down with Jesus. Not sure what to do with this request “Philip came and told Andrew” and they both brought word to Jesus.
John 12:23-24, “But Jesus answered them (I should add that in the flow of the narrative it seems as though Jesus is replying to Philip and Andrew; however, later in the dialogue it will become evident He’s addressing the Greeks as well), saying, ‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”
On at least two occasions thus far in the Gospel of John Jesus has commented that “His hour had not yet come.” And yet, now that the week of Passover had arrived, His tone has clearly changed. Jesus says, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”
In the Greek this word “should be glorified” described the act of rendering high esteem. What makes this statement interesting is that we know Jesus is speaking of His coming crucifixion. An act of total savagery will be used by God to render Jesus incredible glory and praise.
To explain how this would even be possible Jesus articulates an idea using this analogy of “a grain of wheat.” He says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” As His audience would know, for an individual grain to become anything more than it is, a process of life to death to life again is required.
Pertaining to the process by which He would be glorified Jesus is saying His death would be necessary. Without His death on a cross the glories of an empty tomb could never have been realized. The resurrection life He affords demanded Jesus die for the sins of the world.
In the flow of the text these Greeks requested to “see Jesus.” His reply… “If you really want to see Me for who I am, just wait until what happens following My coming death!”
Jesus continues with a powerful exhortation… John 12:25, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
First, because many twist this verse to mean what it simply doesn’t, it needs to be stated that Jesus is not saying we should hate this life or the enjoyments found in living!
The truth is — while many aspects of our existence have been marred by sin — there is a lot about life in this fallen world we can and should enjoy. Delicious food and drink, friendships, marriage and kids, sunrises and sunsets, mountain peaks and sandy beaches, cool cars and good reads… You see Christians are not called to a monastic lifestyle where we must avoid all pleasures in order to be Spiritual. This is not what Jesus is saying.
Instead, in this passage, Jesus is speaking of one’s core longing… What kind of life are we ultimately pursuing? The subject matter is not living, but the life you’re living for!
The key to this perspective is to define the two different Greek words Jesus uses in this verse for “life.” When Jesus says, “He who loves his LIFE will lose it, and he who hates his LIFE in the world will keep it” He’s using the word “psychē” or literally the natural life.
In contrast, when Jesus mentions “eternal LIFE” at the close of the verse He’s using a much different Greek word translated as “zōē aiōnios.” This phrase refers to the living soul which never ceases to live. Simply put Jesus is contrasting the natural life of this temporal material existence with the eternal spiritual life not tethered to this physical world.
Again, Jesus’ point centers on which life you’re living for — the one in this world or the one which lasts? It’s a decision of love and hate — which of the two matters most in the end? Do you care more about your soul’s eternal existence or your life’s temporal enjoyments?
Building off the idea of the importance of one’s core longings, Jesus adds… John 12:26, “If anyone serves Me (literally ministers to Me), let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”
This idea of “serving Jesus” and “following Him” as being the prerequisite of being “honored” by “His Father” intended to emphasize the importance of a continual communion and fellowship with Jesus. Most gloriously, Jesus said “My Father will honor” or attribute value and worth to anyone who continually serves and follows Him.
John 12:27-28a, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.’”
What an astounding statement made by Jesus! This phrase “My soul is troubled” can be translated as “My soul is in the process of being troubled.” In the Greek the word “troubled” literally means to be agitated, to stir up, or to render one anxious and distressed.
Keep in mind knowing His betrayal and vicious scourging and crucifixion were days away — realizing His death and humiliation was absolutely essential for you and I to be saved from sin and have access to eternal life — understanding what all that this would require of Him physically and spiritually… In His humanity, Jesus admits a restlessness within His soul!
How fascinating that in this particular moment of realness Jesus gives you and I an insight into how He handled this inward anxiety! To this point notice Jesus immediately checked His fears and trepidations within the larger context of His situation. Jesus said, “What shall I say” about the way I feel? “For this purpose I came to this hour!”
Understand, Jesus found incredible resolve to endure His present anxiety by checking it with His larger purpose! This word “purpose” refers to the grounds or reason by which something is done. “I’m anxious, but I will not allow this to deter me from my purpose.”
Also notice that such a perspective then influenced the subject of His prayer. Instead of praying, “Father, save Me from this hour” He prayed, “Father, glorify Your name!” Instead of escape from the trial before Him, Jesus asked that His Father would be glorified through it! How often we pray, “Save me from” when we should pray, “Help me through!”
What’s incredible about this prayer is how quick the Father answered… John 12:28b, “Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’”
For the student of Scripture you should note this is the third time we have the audible “voice” of God the Father coming from heaven during Jesus’ earthly ministry. The first time was following Jesus’ baptism… Mark 1:9-11, “Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”
The second time this happened was during His Transfiguration… Matthew 17, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While Peter was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.”
Now in direct response to a prayer whereby Jesus was surrendering His anxiety, the Father spoke “from heaven” and answered Him, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”
John 12:29-30, “Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered (this word “thundered” is a terrible translation and quite misleading — the Greek word simply describes something that comes quickly and unexpectedly. In no other places is this word translated as “thundered”.). Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.’”
What is most interesting about this moment is that — while there is no question the Father was responding to Jesus’ specific prayer — the audible nature of the “voice” was “for their sake.” Keep in mind, the Father didn’t need to speak out loud for Jesus to hear Him; and yet, for the crowd to hear the Father’s response to Jesus’ prayer it had to be audible.
Here’s why this was so important and why Jesus said it happened “for your sake”… If this morning you are facing something that is creating an anxiety in your life… If your “soul” is “troubled” like Jesus… You should know that if you immolate His example by placing these things into the larger context of God’s purpose and will for your life and surrender those fears to Him in prayer… God will never hesitate in His response! He always answers.
Now that is not to say you’ll like His answer or that the anxiety itself will magically go away. It’s worth pointing out this will not be the last time this very week that Jesus will wrestle with this restlessness. According to Matthew 26, on the very night He was betrayed and arrested, Jesus will go with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We read…
“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee (James and John), and Jesus began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’
Then Jesus came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, a second time, Jesus went away and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So Jesus left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.”
John 12:31-33, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’ (John then adds…) “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.”
In order to understand all that Jesus is articulating John makes it clear the subject centered on His coming death. Jesus said He would be “lifted up from the earth” which would result in Him “drawing all peoples to Himself.” In the Geek this singular word translated as “lifted up” can have two meanings: (1) To raise up off the ground, or (2) To be exalted. In the context of His crucifixion we can see how both interpretations are applicable.
I find this statement that Jesus would “draw all peoples to Himself” through His crucifixion to be deeply fascinating. Notice Jesus “draws people” He doesn’t drive them. Pastor Joe Focht aptly said, “Cattle are driven, but sheep are lead.” I love that!
Also Jesus says He “draws all people to Himself.” This act of “drawing” or in a more modern twist “wooing” occurs without any distinction. This act wasn’t only for Israel. Jesus is telling this group of Greeks He would die to “draw all people to Himself.” Never forget… “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son!” While we know not all men will respond to this “drawing” there is no doubt Jesus desires that “all men might be saved!”
In light of His coming crucifixion when He would be “lifted up” Jesus says His death would bring about “the judgment of this world!” What Jesus means is that on the cross He would judge sin! This evil unleashed on mankind in Eden would finally meet its match.
Through His sacrifice taking upon Himself the sin of the world and thereby satisfying its penalty of death, Jesus created a way by which you and I might be saved from judgment. “The judgment of this world” occurred when Jesus was judged for our transgressions.
Jesus also says in His death “the ruler of this world will be cast out” or more specifically be deprived of his current power and influence. When Jesus mentions “this world” He’s speaking of any culture that stands in opposition to Himself. What makes this even more interesting is that Jesus affirms the fact “this world” has a present “ruler” setting the agenda.
Scripture tells us this “ruler” was originally a glorious angel charged with leading the worship of God among the angelic hosts of heaven. Known in places as Lucifer, Satan, or simply the Devil we know his heart was filled with pride and he led a rebellion against God.
According to Ezekiel 28, as a result of this rebellion, Lucifer and a contingency of angels that followed him were “cast out” of heaven and the earth became their domain. Though as the “accuser of the brethren” Lucifer currently maintains access to the throne room of God, in Revelation 12 this access will finally be removed entirely.
Then in Revelation 20, following the Battle of Armageddon and close of the Tribulational period, Satan will be cast into the abyss where he’ll be held in chains for 1000 years only to be ultimately cast into the Lake of Fire for the rest of eternity after one final rebellion.
It would seem through Jesus’ work on the cross and most importantly His resurrection that followed, Satan lost a measure of influence and power. No longer was the fate of sinful man sealed. Jesus had conquered death and created an alternate destiny — everlasting life!
In light of the things Jesus was saying… John 12:34, “The people answered Him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?’”
Please note this question was far from an objection — Instead, it was an honest question based in legitimate theology. You see most viewed the Messiah as establishing a Kingdom and living forever — and there was an abundance of Scripture to substantiate this position.
And yet, the problem and confusion arose because their theology concerning the Messiah was incomplete. Most failed to consider important passages like Psalms 22 or Isaiah 53 that presented the Messiah as a Suffering Servant before becoming the Triumphant King.
John 12:35-36a, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’”
Don’t forget Jesus is about to retreat from the public and spend His final few days privately teaching His disciples. It’s amazing at this point He even took an audience, yet alone a group of Gentile seekers. In closing up His argument Jesus returns to this analogy of the light and darkness. And His core lesson simple… While He (“the light”) was in their midst, they had a perfect opportunity to “believe” and “become sons of light.”
John 12:36b, “These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.”
This phrase “was hidden” is interesting because it describes something done to Jesus and not something He specifically did. While “Jesus spoke and departed” from the crowds, the fact He “was hidden from them” implies something supernatural took place.
Well, in leu of the things, John takes a moment and again adds some commentary for us… John 12:37, “But although Jesus had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him…” Basically, John wants to address the grand question as to how so many of the eyewitnesses to Jesus and His miraculous works still refused to “believe in Him.”
To answer this question, John wisely takes us to the Old Testament Scriptures for an explanation — specifically Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:9-10. John 12:38-41, “…that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm (literally the activity) of the LORD been revealed?’
Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.”
Again the grand debate on a passage like this is the what came first conundrum. Could they not believe because God wouldn’t allow them (which seems bizarrely out of character for a loving God) or did God harden their resolve because they already decided not to believe?
Either way the overarching lesson is clear regardless… If you find yourself in a situation whereby Jesus is revealing Himself to you, do not reject Him and choose to believe! Today is the day of salvation, because you have no idea what tomorrow might bring!
John 12:42-43, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Coming directly off this statement that some “could not believe” John adds something interesting. He records that “even among the rulers many did believe in Him!” Historically, we’ll come to know included in this group of closet believers would be Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and according to Acts 6:7 likely “many of the priests!”
The sad reality though is that many of these men who “believed” failed to go public because they were afraid of the power of the “Pharisees” and the repercussions of being “put out of the synagogue.” Simply stated, they “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Always consider who’s opinion really matters more: mortal men or the God of the universe?
In the remaining seven verses of John 12 we have recorded Jesus’ last public words to the crowd as presented in John’s Gospel. Note: Jesus reiterates many of the same themes that spoke of His deity, His core mission, the importance of everlasting life, etc.
John 12:44-50, “Then Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.
And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.’”
In closing I want to again reiterate this statement that Jesus “did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” While the implications of such an idea should not be lost on any sinful man — Jesus came to save! And while Jesus’ mission should seek to challenge the way we (Christians) interact with the world around us — Judging sinners doesn’t reflect Christ…
I want you to think about the implications this statement had for Jesus’ life. For fun consider how much easier judgment would have been for Jesus. If His core mission was to judge the world of sin, there would have been no need for Him to come to earth as a man. Jesus could have easily fulfilled this task from the comforts of His throne in heaven. Judgment would have required so much less from Jesus!
And yet, Jesus’ heart was to “save the world” not judge her! You see to accomplish this aim required so much more of Him. In order to save Jesus had to leave heaven and come to this dust bowl as a human being. Beyond that, an unjust death by the hands of blood thirsty men was also an essential component to this mission. While judgment would have been so much easier, Jesus chose the more difficult path for one reason — He loved you!
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