Chapter 12:20-36 (ESV) - 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.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
Question to consider: What did Jesus mean that the hour had come for Him to be glorified?
Having Greeks show up to Jerusalem to the Passover feast implies that they were Gentile proselytes. Maybe they were also from Bethsaida and recognized Philip? John doesn’t really give a reason why he mentioned Philip’s home town, but Andrew was also from the region, and at this point, they were probably pretty careful about who they let in to see Jesus since there was a plot to kill Him.
Jesus didn’t stop them, for He knew that the time was getting closer for Him to be glorified. When we think of Jesus being glorified, we tend to think of after the Resurrection when He ascended into heaven. However, the glory of Christ being lifted up here was a reference to His crucifixion. He compared His death to a seed of wheat that dies in order to be transformed into a plant.
Of course, Jesus was not just talking about His own death, but that of everyone who would follow Him. Often when someone declares themselves to be a “follower of Christ”, they mean a follower of His teachings or a follower of the church. However, when Jesus spoke of followers in this passage, He meant those who would follow Him into death. Those who follow Christ do so with a cross, forsaking the things of this world and giving their lives in service to Him.
The hope of finding new and everlasting life in Christ is what motivated Job. Job lost everything in this world and concluded that if God was truly merciful and just, He would raise Job from the dead and vindicate him with true and eternal life because of a Redeemer who could make his case before God.
When we think of giving up our lives to follow Christ, it’s possible it could mean our physical death, but it is also the idea of dying to sin. Paul wrote, "How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:2-4) Jesus, however, was speaking of His own physical death. His purpose for coming to earth was to be lifted up on a cross. Drawing all people to Himself included these Greeks. People from every tribe and nation are drawn to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
This was difficult for people to understand because the promise of the Messiah was that He would reign forever. How could someone die if they were to reign forever? As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23) They stumble because the idea of their Messiah being cursed by God by being hung on a tree seems to contradict the idea of reigning forever. But the curse Christ bore was our own, and the death He died was swallowed up in victory over sin and death.
Dear Lord, may Your reign be evident to all who come to Your table and gather with the angels and the saints from every generation. May Your reign be evident when we receive Your word and encourage one another with it. May Your reign be evident when we proclaim it to everyone we meet so that Your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.