John 12 contains very rich and beautiful accounts of significant happenings in the last days of Jesus’s earthly ministry. Among these are Mary’s anointing of His feet with an expensive perfume, and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey.
The event in this chapter I want to focus on is Jesus’ surprising response to the invitation from a group of Greeks who wanted to meet with Him. In verse 23, His first response to their request was “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”; which at first seems to be a little inappropriate and abrupt answer to a serious request.
But I believe Jesus was simply voicing a startling fact that His time for teaching and healing and helping people in need was up, and the end was truly in sight. “I just don’t have any more time” was His answer.
Given the fact that His ‘hour had come,” and He was out of time for any earthly ministry, you know that the next words out of His mouth are going to be extremely important and weighty. And indeed they are; but no one could have expected the words that He spoke next. And as was His practice, what He says will require much thought and prayer to fully understand, “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.”
This is pretty easy to understand at its outset; a grain of wheat, or a seed that is planted in the ground, to all outward appearances is dead, and is of no use to anyone. But a seed, once it is buried and watered will sprout and grow into a plant that will bear fruit.
Though it was probably not clear to the disciples, we can see from the things that happened later that Jesus is speaking of Himself. That although He will die and be buried, He will be resurrected, and His transformed and glorified body will bring life to all who believe in Him… “will bear much fruit” (v 24).
Today, those of us who know Him have no problem comprehending the truth He was teaching. But for those who heard Him say this, it was incomprehensible; to die was the end, they had little understanding of “life after death,” and much less of that life-bearing fruit.
However His statement does not end here, and He continues by saying “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life…” This is another of Jesus’ hard statements, that requires a little more thought and mediation. It is helpful to compare this thought to other instances in the New Testament where He made similar comments.
In Mark 8 Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (vv 34-36)
In these passages, Jesus is introducing an important principle that His followers must understand and live by: We have an important life choice to make between loving our old lives outside of Christ, controlled by our fleshly desires and love for the things of the world, or to deny those desires and live under the control of the Holy Spirit, and love the things that bring glory to God.
In Romans 6:11, Paul expounds this vital principle, “So you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
When we accepted Christ as Savior, the first step was repenting of sin, which we understand is “turning away” from it. The principle of “dying to sin” is in a sense a continuing repentance of sin, turning my back to it, or “considering myself dead” to its allure. It is not giving sin (whatever specific sin it may be) any thought or consideration because I find my life with Christ far more valuable, and to go there would take away my joy in Him.
So, when Jesus says “..whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life,” He is telling us not to love sin and its pleasures, but to despise it, die to it, because its purpose is to take us away from loving and serving God.
In this passage, Jesus is stating such an important principle for Christians to live by, but at that moment He was not able to expound on it, because His time was so short. This truth is so vital that we need to be sure we fully understand. And there is not time or space here to do that now. Let me encourage you to study Romans 8, in which Paul has taken on the task of unfolding the marvelous truth that we are to die to our flesh (sinful desires) and live to Christ; and that we cannot do that in our own strength. It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that we can find the strength to die to sin’s power, and have the Life of Christ living in and through us! May you see that as reality in your own life.
“Father, thank you that Jesus loved me so much that He gave His life to forgive and pay the penalty for my sins. I pray that by your Holy Spirit you will help me to love you so much that I will hate my sins that Jesus paid the ultimate price for. Please help me live in a way that shows that I love you more than anything the world has to offer. Amen!”
What did Jesus mean when He said “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”?
Do you think that makes his next statement important, and if so, why?
What do you think Jesus meant when He said to “hate life in this world”?