Reader: “Now the time has come”
Response: “for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.”
Scripture: John 12:20-36
Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.
Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.
“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.”
Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.
Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die.
The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”
Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”
After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
In this pericope, we have reached the pivotal point in this whole gospel. Let’s take a look as to why. There are three references to “time” in this passage of Scripture: first, “the time has come to enter into glory;” second, when Jesus refers to the “time for judgment” and third, “put your trust in the light while there is still time.” The first refers to Jesus’ mission to the world; the second, to the reason for the mission and the third, the challenge to trust in the Son of Man of the mission while there is still time. The appointment with death and the upcoming sacrifice of his life is but days away. The public ministry has come to an end. (Note the last sentence of this passage. It’s important to note that John does not always relate encounters with Jesus in chronological order.)
What is the significance of Greeks coming to Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover? Up to this time, Jesus and his disciples had preached and reached out to the Jews. (By now his fame had spread beyond Jewish circles which is also what troubled the Pharisees and other Jewish leadership, hence their plan to kill him.) Philip and Andrew were Greek names, so that may be why the Greeks came to them. The Greek inquisitor’s words were, “Sir, we want to see Jesus,” by which they meant, “Since you guys are disciples, can you set up an appointment for us to meet with him?” Interestingly, Jesus answered their question in a much broader way. In this passage, the reference to the “Greeks” actually means to all the gentiles, in other words, everyone in the world, a revolutionary point.
Jesus, after having said numerous times to this point in the gospel, “My time has not yet come,” now responds with the pivotal phrase in the whole gospel. “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory.” Whenever you read the phrase, “I tell you the truth,” or “truly, truly” in some translations, that is another way of saying, “What I’m about to say is extremely important and of great significance, so pay close attention!” Jesus was saying that he was about to complete what he came to do and return in glory back to heaven. Those listening didn’t get it. So he gives a parable.
Growing up on the farm, I remember walking out into the field with dad a week or so after the corn was planted, and watching him dig in the ground to see if the seeds had sprouted. The corn was truly buried in the earth. It was a special joy when a few days later the tender shoots popped up through the ground! In fact, that one seed produced a stalk with at least one ear of corn containing 700-800 kernels! The “burial” of that seed did indeed produce a plentiful harvest.
Jesus’ point was that his coming burial would produce a plentiful harvest of “new,” redeemed eternal lives of all who put their trust in him. This new life would not be without cost. Following Jesus meant “being where he is.” Did you notice that Jesus’ comments move us out of the biblical moment in which he spoke? His words are present tense, meaning they apply as you read this. Where is Jesus working in your world now? What is he doing? We are to be with him in the midst of his work. That’s where you are supposed to be following him. Have you sprouted?
We move next to being reminded of the humanity of Jesus as he speaks of his personal angst. Remember his weeping at Lazarus’ death, his thirst at the well, his attack on the money changers in the Temple, or his care for his mother at his crucifixion? Jesus was not a passionless gnostic figure. In his words regarding the state of his soul, we are given insight into the inside of Jesus’ mind and heart. The question everyone faces in the midst of a trauma is, “What shall I do? What shall I say?” or simply, “Now what?” We really see Jesus’ thought process and love for us in his words. In effect, “Father, should I ask you to save me from what lies ahead at this point? I know you can, but I can’t do that. Dying for these people is the whole reason I came to earth. I’m going through with it as it will bring glory to your name.”
The Father spoke words of affirmation from heaven as we mentioned a few days ago. Interestingly, Jesus commented that the speaking was for the people’s benefit, not for his! The determination of his “troubled soul” is evidenced by his forthright statement of the defeat of Satan and judgment of this world. The day of reckoning had come. His words, “I will draw everyone to myself” is not a universalist comment in which everyone on earth will be saved but rather a statement focusing on the cross. With such a pronouncement, he is calling people to embrace his person as Savior. He is not calling people to follow his teachings or his example of living. He is calling all of us to follow him. His atoning death draws people to the person of Jesus Christ, the only hope of salvation.
The people still struggled with the idea that a Messiah should die. How does the Son of Man fit in with that idea? Jesus concludes this section and his public ministry with another reference to “light,” alluding to the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, words they would have known. His challenge then and now is to trust in the light now while you have time. Final judgment is coming! At that point Jesus appeared no more in public as the final days of his life on earth unfolded.
What do we draw from this passage? Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He embraced his mission out of love. He was immovable. He sought the glory of the Father above all else. He warned the people of coming judgment. He destroyed forever the ruler of this world, Satan. His forgiveness is extended to all peoples and nations. And most incredibly, we have a marvelous Savior who invites us to be where he is.
Music: “He Was Wounded for Our Transgressions” Gramophone Chorus Ghana
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNvIRc-7c9o from Messiah
Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, you have said that you are the way, the truth, and the life. Suffer us not to stray from you, who are the way, nor to distrust you, who are the truth, nor to rest in anything other than you, who are the life. ―Erasmus, 1469-1536 Please plan to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services somewhere if your church does not have them. It will change your Easter Sunday morning!