By Ji Yun
20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 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. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves 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 is the Word of our Lord.
I believe it is best to begin today’s reading from verse 19: “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, ‘You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!’”
“The world has gone after Him.”
Religious leaders such as the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and even the Sanhedrin (Jewish Legal Counsel), saw Jesus as the greatest threat to their existence. History tells us about all the corruption, power struggles between the Jewish sects, and even the credibility of the high priest. The existence of Christ was no longer a small matter but became an existential problem for these religious sects.
John’s wordplay is essential, by placing “now” at the beginning of the verse, he connects today’s text with the previous text. As the world has gone after Jesus, as told by the Pharisees, it is followed by certain Greeks inquiring about Jesus.
It might seem contradictory to Jesus’ previous statements regarding the non-Jewish/gentiles. This was because His main concern was to minister to the Jews. In Matthew 15:24 Jesus said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” What has changed? Did Jesus get it wrong? This is why this simple word “Now” is critical when we are reading today’s text.
When we examine all four gospels, there are clear distinctions between Jesus’ ministry. The first is Him ministering to those who are in need, healing of the sick, cleansing of the leper, feeding the multitude, and the poor receiving the good news. The second is Jesus going to the Cross. We know that Jesus’ first three years of ministry were for the lost sheep of Israel, but His second is for the world.
Let’s think of this word “Now” in this context. I would read this word as “Now is the time!” Now is the time for the Son of Man to become the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for the world. Throughout John’s gospel, some signs that indicate Jesus’ intent for the world. What is unique about today’s reading is that this is where the switch is made.
Jesus’ statement in verse 23, confirms His intent for the world when He responds, “The hour has come.” The hour has come for Jesus to fulfill John the Baptist’s prophetic utterance in John 1:29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” The Lamb of God as the ultimate sacrifice foretells Jesus on the Cross. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke the word “glorified”.
Death is Life
Jesus uses the parable of the wheat to describe not only foretelling of what would be His end, but also the mystery of Christian living. The secrets to the Christian life is in “death to self”. We die to ourselves so that God can resurrect us, and we receive the life that can only be discovered in Him. Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew 16:24-25:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his Cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Jesus willingly died on the Cross, so that we receive the promise of eternal life. Death is not the end, but only the beginning of a new life. Let us embrace death to self so that God will resurrect us for His purpose.