The city of Jerusalem is jam-packed with pilgrims from all over the world who have come to celebrate the Feast of Passover. In the previous post, we learned about what is called Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into the city, when all sorts of people are clamoring to get near him. In John 12, verses 20-22, we read,
“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 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.”
Who are these “Greeks”? We don’t know, and in fact, after these brief verses, these people aren’t mentioned again. It seems they have traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, and they probably heard lots of talk about this Jesus. His miracles, his preaching, his parables. Of course they want to meet Jesus.
Interestingly, we hear nothing further about the Greeks, or if they ever met with Jesus. Instead, it seems that the Greeks’ request launches Jesus into an important teaching, which starts in verse 23.
“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
That’s a cryptic sentence. That’s just not the kind of thing people say. We say things like, “It’s time to go.” “It’s time to wake up.” “It’s time to eat.” But “It’s time to be glorified”? No.
What is Jesus talking about?
“Glory” is a word that has appeared numerous times in the Gospel of John. All the way back in chapter 2, verse 11, right after he has performed the miracle of changing the water into wine, we read that Jesus revealed his glory to his disciples. (See post here.) His miracles revealed his glory because they pointed to the reality that Jesus was more than a mere human. He was God in the flesh.
Now in chapter 12, verse 23, Jesus tells the crowd that something is about to happen that is even more substantial than his miracles, something more consequential. He is not just slightly showing them his glory. It’s not just a glimpse. No, this time he says he will be glorified. A change is coming. What change? Look at verse 24.
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Jesus is symbolically talking about a change that will involve his death. But not just his death. In verses 25-26, he teaches a principle that applies to all of his followers:
“The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his 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 honor the one who serves me.”
That’s a tongue-twister, but I think we can grasp it.
Jesus is not saying that we should not love our lives, or that it is wrong to be thankful for our lives. He is not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy life. Jesus in John 10:10 taught that he came to give us abundant life. There is so much about life that is wonderful. Life is truly a blessing from the Lord. What Jesus means when he says, “If you love your life you’ll lose it,” is that there is a line you can cross in how we think about life. There is a healthy way to love life, and there is an unhealthy way. What is the unhealthy way?
We can be too consumed with our comfort, our satisfaction, our ease. We can indulge our desires, to the point where we neglect God and other people. When we are selfish with life, Jesus is saying that we love our idea of life too much, and the ironic byproduct is that we will lose our life. We will not experience the abundant life he wants us to experience.
Therefore, we need a healthy view of life. He is saying that if we want to experience the life that is truly life, we give ourselves to serve God and others. When we live that way, we will keep our lives. Jesus calls this eternal life. This is the joyful abundant life he mentioned.
Jesus says that this kind of life is marked by serving him and following him. This is discipleship. A disciple is one who learns from Jesus, going where Jesus goes, and doing what Jesus does. A disciple is a person seeks to learn how God is at work in the world around us, in our communities, and then we join him in his work. A disciple is a person who seeks what the Spirit is doing, and then joins the Spirit. A disciple welcome holy disruption into their life. One way to learn this is to observe the kinds of people Jesus spent time with, the places he went, the things he did. Then we go and do likewise. That is the person, Jesus says, who has eternal life.
What Jesus is getting at is a practice of faith in him that lives his Good News in both word and deed, and that person does so in a self-sacrificial way. Self-sacrifice is his whole point here. He invites holy disruption into his life as he will sacrifice himself. He refers to this when he says a seed dies first before it multiplies. He himself is about to die, and then his life will multiply through the lives of his followers. He then calls his followers to die to themselves, meaning that they will not indulge their selfish desires. Instead they welcome holy disruption by giving their lives like he did, inviting many others to enter the way of Jesus, so that more and more people will become Jesus’ followers who will experience what it means to have God the Father honor them.
This statement of Jesus’ mission and our part in it is wonderful. Think about it. We get to join Jesus in his mission! What a privilege. But remember that a major part of his mission is death, so it is no surprise that in verses 27-28 Jesus becomes introspective. We’ll learn how in the next post.
Photo by the blowup on Unsplash
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