20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”
35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
(John 12:20-36 NIV)
After Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the other three Gospel accounts document Jesus’ second temple cleansing. John, writing much later than the other three accounts, assumes the readers already know that story. John takes a divergent path and records an important turning point in Jesus’ ministry – the Greeks’ request to meet Jesus.
John does not say if Jesus met with the Greeks or not. John does record something much more important – another critical turning point in Jesus’ ministry. Could the Pharisees’ hyperbole truly be a prophetic word (v. 19)? With the Greeks asking to meet Jesus, could the whole world now be at Jesus’ doorstep, ready to hear Jesus’ Good News?
Notice Jesus’ reply: “The hour has come…”. The request of the Greeks was Jesus’ sign that the end of His earthly presence was near. Up to this point, John either records Jesus as saying that His hour had not yet come, or John adds commentary that Jesus’ time had not yet arrived. That is no longer the case. Jesus’ time is now.
In verses 24 – 27, Jesus expresses His struggle to go through this time. He knows what is ahead of Him. The fight between flesh and spirit has intensified. Jesus chooses the spirit over the flesh by worshipping (v. 28). God the Father responds audibly. The crowds misunderstand and say it was thunder or an angel. In verse 30, Jesus tells those nearby that the voice was for their benefit (that they might believe He is Messiah), not His.
Verse 32 is often taken out of context and used as a reference to worship. John, likely having been asked that very question, answers with verse 33. Jesus used a common phrase in His day – “lifted up” meant crucifixion.
In verse 34, Jesus is once again misunderstood. The crowds refer to Psalm 89:27-29, 35-37 but forget the other prophecies about Messiah’s death for their sins. Jesus warns them to come to Him in faith while He is still on the earth, using the metaphor of His life as the light of the world (vv. 35-36).
So what is our faith lesson, our takeaway from today’s passage? Verse 26 is key: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” In this single verse, we see Jesus’ call for our commitment to Him regardless of the cost, and His promise to accept us as we follow Him.
May we give nothing less than our all, and by faith, lay hold of God’s promise of life in everlasting community with Him as our reward.