John 12:20 Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip *came and *told Andrew; Andrew and Philip *came and *told Jesus. 23 And Jesus *answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
Jesus Foretells His Death
27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
I.) The Inquiry (20-22)
A.) Identity of “The Greeks”
In vs. 19 the Pharisee’s lament that “the world has gone after him.” In vs. 20 we meet some of those who part of that throng who were going after Christ.
There is some debate among the commentariat on who exactly these Greeks are. It seems likely that these Greeks were what we call proselytes. They were non-Jews who had converted to the monotheistic religion of Judaism. It may be that these are some of those whom Jesus spoke of when he said earlier that,
10:16 Other sheep I have also, which are not of this fold: them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice: and there shall be one sheepfold, and one shepherd.
If these Greeks are non Jews then John may be hinting here at the missional purpose of the Gospel. This is especially so as the request for an audience with the Lord Christ is immediately connected to the idea of Christ’s death and the fruit such a death will bring forth (23f).
These Greeks go to a disciple with a Greek name (Philip) a person whom Jesus had called near the start of his earthly ministry (1:43). Philip contacts Andrew and together they attempt to make “Introduction,” and so arrange audience between Jesus and the Greeks.
Doubtless, they had heard about the recent raising of Lazarus from the dead. And as seeing is believing in John’s Gospel (6:14, 30; 19:35; 20:27), when the Greeks ask to see Jesus, they are, perhaps, expressing their desire in matters pertaining to salvation.
B.) Philip & Andrew’s role
Whatever there intent was in desiring to “see Jesus” the request from the Greeks channeled through Philip and Andrew brings a response on Christ that focuses on the matter of the Greeks, and mankind’s salvation.
II.) The Response
It seems the desire of an audience with Christ by the Greeks triggers a connection in Christ’s thought. There is something about this request that the Lord Christ associates with His death. Could the appearance of the Greeks be themselves the fruit of His death that He speaks of now? Isaiah spoke of the connection between the offering up of the Messiah with the fact that such offering for sin would mean that the Messiah shall see his seed (Isaiah 53:10). In the request of the Greeks Jesus perhaps sees His seed — that is His numerous spiritual posterity and so speaks of His death.
A.) The Glorification of the Son is Identified w/ His Death
It sounds odd, should we pause to think about it, that Christ’s connects the idea of His Glory with His death. And yet that is exactly what He does. Christ is to be glorified in His Death because in His death there is the salvation of His people. Of course, what lay on the other side of the humiliation is the exaltation of Christ. The glorification of Christ thus is both His humiliation and His exaltation but never the exaltation apart from the humiliation.
The centrality of Christ’s death is something we must never move from the center of our understanding of our Faith. It is true that the life of Christ is, in many ways, one to be emulated and followed. But Christ’s primary purpose in coming was not to set an example (though He certainly does that). Christ’s primary purpose in coming was to be lifted up in humiliation and then Exaltation. When we reinterpret Christianity from Christ as our bloody substitute to Christ the great moral example we have shifted the meaning of Christianity from Christ’s performance for us to our performance for Christ. The Cross and Christ’s work must always be at the center of our thinking just as it was at the center of Christ’s thinking here in John 12:20f.
In vs. 28 we see the glorification of the Son is at the same time the glorification of the Father. In the death of Christ the Father is glorified. We might ask ourselves how this is so?
And the answer is that in the glorification of the Son the Father is glorified because in that death of Christ, whereby the demand of God’s law for death for sin and sinner, as they fall short of God’s glory, is kept, the Father is seen as Holy and as Just as He never ceases to be. God’s honor and glory is kept. No accusation can be brought against His character as “liar” or “unjust” for not giving to Sin what Sin deserves in the death of His Son as substitute. No accusation can be brought against the Father’s glory as “unloving” or “un-merciful” for not providing a means by which men can sue for Peace with God.
In the Cross all the potentially contradictory attributes of the Father are harmonized and reconciled. Love and Justice Kiss. The tenderness of Mercy and the demands of Holiness find agreement in the Cross of Christ. God’s Faithfulness to Himself in upholding His law-Word and to His Son in rewarding Him with a people, and to sinners in providing a means of redemption are all present in the Lifting up of the Lord Christ.
B.) The repeated usage of “Hour” in John’s Gospel
- Jesus, to his mother, at the Wedding at Cana:
2:4 – “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.”
- Jesus, to the Samaritan at the well:
4:21 – “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.”
4:23 – “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.”
- Jesus, to the Jews:
5:25 – “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”
5:28 – “Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice.”
- Jesus, to the Jews (using the word “kairos”):
John 7:6 – Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.”
John 7:8 – “Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.”
- The Evangelist/Narrator:
7:30 – Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.
8:20 – He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
- Jesus, to his disciples, after Andrew and Philip tell him that some Greeks wanted to see him:
12:23 – “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
12:27 – “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.”
- The Evangelist/narrator, beginning the “Book of Signs”; introducing the Washing of the Feet:
13:1 – Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
- Jesus, praying to his Father, at the end of the Last Supper Discourses:
17:1 – After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.”
What might we learn from this usage?
Well, clearly there is underneath all of this the sense of God’s predestinating Sovereign hand. A hour is coming that can neither be hastened nor delayed. One gets the sense from this overview that “the hour” spoken of is a certainty and a divine appointment that can not be altered, and further one gets the sense from the passage that the Lord Christ is fully cognizant concerning the timing of “the hour.”
All of this should be comforting to us. Our lives are not lived in a haphazard patch-worked series of uncertainties. Our lives are designed and determined by the sovereign creator of the Universe. We live in the context that God holds all of our “hours” in His hands. There is no divine appointment that we will fail to keep. No opportunity that we will miss. No instance where we will wonder if God somehow fell asleep. He holds all our Hours just as He held that significant “Hour” of the Lord Christ.
III.) The Consequences of Christ’s Death
A.) The bearing of much fruit
B.) Judgment upon the World
This idea of Judgment is associated with condemnation. Because of the death of Christ the “world” is condemned.
But how we to understand the word “world” here? Is it the physical world that is condemned?
John uses the word “world” in ten different ways in his Gospel.
1. The Entire Universe – John 1:10; 1:3; 17:5
2. The Physical Earth – John 13:1; 16:33; 21:25
3. The World System – John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 (see also similar usage in Gal 1:4 — Paul)
World in this usage has to do with the realm or sphere that is actuated and moves in terms of evil and the evil one. It is mankind as alienated and hostile from and to God. It is the City of Man as opposed to the City of God.
23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath, I am from above: ye are of this world, I am not of this world.
30 Hereafter will I not speak many things unto you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nought in me,
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, `A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.
11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
John 18:36 — Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would surely fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
In John 12:31f then we take “world” to mean the operating systems of men that has Satan at its head and finds his agents in the the Jewish people who rejected him, their leaders who instigated the Jewish zombies against him, Judas who betrayed Christ, Pilate who sentenced Christ for political gain, and the Roman soldiers who crucified Him.
4. All humanity minus believers – John 7:7; 15:18
5. A Big Group but less than all people everywhere – John 12:19
6. The Elect Only – John 3:17
7. The Non-Elect Only – John 17:9
8. The Realm of Mankind – John 1:10;
9. Jews and Gentiles (not just Israel but many Gentiles too) – John 4:42
10. The General Public (as distinguished from a private group) â€“ not those in small private groups – John 7:4
One simply cannot read John’s Gospel aright unless one understands the different connotations and denotations of the word “world” in John’s Gospel. As just one example, when we read John 18:36 (“My Kingdom is not of this world”) as if it means “My Kingdom is not in this world” we end up developing theologies that insist that the Kingdom of God does not intersect or bring leverage upon the institutions, social orders, and public squares in which we live.
C.) Casting Out of Satan
In the crucifixion Satan wins the battle but loses the War.
D.) Drawing of all men
IV.) Christ’s Dying and Ours (25-26)
Now as much as there is here about the Son’s glorification and the Father’s glorification there is some here that deals with the characterization of the Disciple. He must lose his life.
Christ alone dies as the substitute and in that substitutionary death there is the bearing of much fruit that will abide.
Still, when God calls men to Christ He bids them to come and die.
So … for Christ, if there is to be fruit He must die
And for the followers of Christ there must be a willingness to die for the cause of Christ.
Throughout the Gospel Christ gives this call to prioritize Him above all else one holds dear including their own life.
Luke 17:32, 38
We die to all else but Christ.
Practically speaking, for us, I think this means dying to our desire to be popular… dying to our desire for “fun” as those outside of Christ count “fun.” It means standing up for Christ and His authoritative word even when to do so invites the sure to come scorn and ostracization of others.
We are surrounded by those today who refuse to prioritize Christ over other high loves. Recently one of the Presidents of Bob Jones University (B. J. III) apologized for agreeing with Scripture in 1980. However, there have been those who have surrendered all to not be ashamed of Christ.
The Proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On hearing that he was, he tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying, “Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and say, ‘Down with the Atheists!’” Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium, and gesturing towards them, he said, “Down with the Atheists!” “Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
“I have wild animals here,” the Proconsul said. “I will throw you to them if you do not repent.” “Call them,” Polycarp replied. “It is unthinkable for me to repent from what is good to turn to what is evil. I will be glad though to be changed from evil to righteousness.” “If you despise the animals, I will have you burned.” “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”