There’s a phrase within my eyesight every time I work on sermons, blogs, or books.

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It’s in our passage today.  It is a reminder of what people truly need.  It may not be what they think they need, but it is all they need.  The phrase is John 12:21:“…we would like to see Jesus.”

It’s the time of Passover, one of the most significant religious festivals in Judaism.  Jesus came riding in on a donkey’s colt to a king’s coronation (last week).  But this also represented a strategic turning point in Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus wasn’t there to razzle-dazzle.  He was there to show them the Father’s love through His impending sacrifice.

We continue the story in John 12:20-36.

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 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.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, 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. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their 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.

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.  

John 12:20-36
New International Version

The “Greeks” referenced in verse 20 were most likely the God-fearing gentiles friendly towards Judaism but had not wholly committed to it.  There’s not a whole lot we know about them, but we see a remarkable amount of interest from them.  They want to see Jesus.

Jesus asserts in verse 23 “the hour has come for” Him “to be glorified.”  We know, from our study in John, that this means the crucifixion and resurrection.  The alarm clock on the Lord’s cosmic timetable was sounding and there would be no hitting the snooze.  Instead of trumpet blasts announcing the King of Glory’s power and worth, it is the drone of a funeral dirge resounding of His power and worth.

Jesus reminds His audience the kernel’s job is to be put into the ground to die.  Only in His death will “many seeds” be produced when that harvest has sprouted, including seeds that will sprout to Gentiles.

Underscoring this, He tells them in verse 25, “anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Images from Adobe Stock and final graphic by author

Like the missionary Jim Elliot wrote in his journal on October 28, 1949:  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  Jesus’ life was not His own; it belonged to the Father and in a sense, it belonged to us because His life bought our freedom from sin.  It bought YOUR freedom from sin and shame.

This kind of dedication eludes the unbelieving masses—then and now.  Until the light of Christ shines into our dark hearts, we don’t understand that our lives, finances, children, possessions, energy, and talents are not ours but are His for His use in His Kingdom.

Did you get that?  Our lives, finances, children, possessions, energy, and talents are HIS and we serve HIM with what HE has given us.  Our deep focus on ourselves must be displaced with a deeper focus on Jesus.

As if the crowd wasn’t perplexed enough, Jesus asserted the reason for His arrival on Earth in the first place was for His death and resurrection (verses 27-28a).

In the face of the cross and the subsequent action of becoming sin when He Himself knew no sin, the imminent separation from the Father must have been daunting.  Yet, no sooner is this thought on the lips of our Precious Savior than it is abandoned.  “This very reason” for His arrival was “this hour.” 

To this end, Jesus prays the Father would glorify His name.  The answer is immediate and undeniable in the latter part of verse 28.  The thundering voice of God who shook the earth from Mount Sinai rumbled again for the crowd to hear—at least, for those who had the ears to hear it. The Apostle John, under the Spirit’s inspiration, knew it was the voice of God the Father.

The light of Christ would soon be extinguished as a new phase of His ministry to the world would begin.  Until now, the Passion event was the future.  Now, it is beginning.

With this, the judgment on this world in which the Prince of Darkness will be defeated is nearing.  Jesus, the Champion of Heaven, begins withdrawing from the public eye.  The next time all the crowds see Him is the day before Passover—what we now call “Good Friday.”

Just like those God-fearing gentiles, we need to see Jesus.  We need to see Him as He is.  We need to see humanity and holiness.  We need to see the great depths He had to stoop to lift us to Him.