If It Dies
One of the characteristics of our era is the absence or lack of hope. According to the New Testament, hope is found in a relationship with Jesus. New Testament hope is more than a wish. In the New Testament, hope is a reality for followers of Christ.
The Jewish Passover celebrated God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from the land of Egypt. A large crowd celebrated Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem during Passover season. His raising of Lazarus elicited two different responses among those present.
The crowd “which had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify” (John 12:17). The Pharisees complained that “the world has gone after Him” (John 12:19). John 12:20 illustrates this claim as it shares that some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the feast. John then immediately tells of Greeks (either Gentile God-fearers or converts to Judaism) who requested to see Jesus. Philip, one of the first disciples (John 1:43–44), and Andrew informed Jesus.
Jesus’ response is shocking. He noted that the hour had arrived for His glorification. Jesus demonstrated His glory through undergoing the horror of death on the cross. John 13:31–32 communicates Jesus’ understanding of glory. When Judas had gone out, Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man, saying, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself and will glorify Him at once.” The cross of Christ is foolishness to humans, but the cross reveals Christ’s glory.
Jesus’ words in John 12:24 compare His death with the death of a grain of wheat. The seed must die to produce life. Likewise, Jesus must die to bring about eternal life. Jesus described the condition of Christian service as well as the result. Service in the name of Christ requires one to follow Jesus. God will honor those who serve the Messiah.
Jesus did not embrace the cross as a martyr. His soul experienced trouble at the prospect of death, especially a horrendous method of death. His emotional response was prompted by His death on the cross as He lay down His life for the sheep (John 10:15). He asked that His horrendous death on the cross would glorify God’s name and reputation. Believers should desire to honor God’s reputation through our life and death.
God responded to Jesus’ prayer request with a voice from heaven. Three times in the Gospels a voice from heaven spoke: at Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:17), at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:7) and in this passage when God spoke for the benefit of the crowd regarding the judgment of the world and defeat of Satan.
The defeat of Satan occurred when Jesus was lifted up on the cross and died. As He died on the cross, He experienced great pain. The Romans used crucifixion as a punishment to humiliate the one crucified. Jesus’ humiliation on the cross would and does draw people to Him. In verse 32, the word “all” likely refers to all kinds of people — people from different ethnic groups, different economic levels of society and a variety of religious backgrounds.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida