The Grain Must Fall and Die
John 12: 20 — 33
Bishop Charles John Ellicott 1819 — 1905
Some Notes On The Text
This incident occurred early in the last week of Jesus' ministry. It is interesting that these people of Gentile origin want to meet Jesus, unlike the Jewish authorities who want to see the end of him.
Perhaps they approached Phillip because of his Greek name. It is interesting to note this would have taken place in the Court of Gentiles which Jesus had "cleansed" at the beginning of his ministry (2 — 3 years earlier).
The intention of the Greeks is obvious: they wanted to meet and talk with Jesus, who was not present.
The response of Jesus is a little strange and unexpected, but his mind is on the cross. When Jesus says, "The hour has come", he is referring to his death and exaltation. In other words, it will soon happen: the true glory of the Son of Man will be revealed. In other words, they will soon see more than they could have imagined.
Then follows the powerful analogy from nature. In a beautiful way, Jesus begins to explain the mystery of his atoning death. If it be thought strange that he must die in order to bring life, let it be remembered that this paradox already exists in nature. The grain of wheat left to itself produces nothing; only when it appears to have died and has been buried does it bring forth fruit, in far greater abundance than itself.
Jesus goes on, in verse 25, to make what it seems a most difficult (even unreasonable) demand. This sentence can be a real challenge to us. First we should understand that the contrast between love and hate is a Semitic manner of speaking. Here, to "hate" means to consider something as less desirable than what is "loved". In other words, to "love it less". To love one's own life could be taken to mean: to live just for one's self. By way of contrast, to hate one's own life could be expressed: living for others. So Jesus is contrasting the person who keeps holding onto their own life with the one who lets go of it; who is not preoccupied with serving their own interests, or hanging onto their own way of life. Clearly Jesus warns that selfishness ends in self-destruction.
So the principle of sacrifice (which is the explanation of Jesus' own life) also holds for anyone who will count themselves a true follower of our Lord. Jesus is being clear and very open: he is on his way to death and the route his servant must follow is also that of death.
The honour that the Father shows to the believer is a reward for their faithful service to Jesus. At the same time it suggests that a mutual relationship exists between the Father and the believer in a way similar to that which exists between the Father and the Son.
In Verse 27 we see Jesus quoting Psalm phrases. The words "my heart is troubled" come from Ps 42: 6 or Ps 6: 3. The phrase "save me" comes from Ps 6: 4.
When Jesus says "glorify your name" he might also have said, "reveal how glorious you are" or "show people how wonderful you are".
In reply, the Father means that he has already revealed himself in the works and signs of Jesus, also meaning that these all point to a greater glory to come.
Verse 29 shows there were three reactions to the heavenly voice. Some heard a noise like thunder, which shows they were not well attuned to receive a revelation. Others distinguished some kind of a communication but thought of nothing higher than the angels.
Jesus alone recognised the voice as being for the sake of the hearers.
Our Lord brings the discourse to an end with a strong reference to a universal call to salvation, and another hint as to the way he was going to die.
Advice From A Great Preacher
J. H. Newman. (19th Century England.)
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