Following Jesus is Life and Death and Eternal Life
Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. “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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted-up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. [NRSA: John 12:20-33]
From the time Jesus turned around in Samaria and was heading back toward Jerusalem, he had tried to prepare the disciples for what was going to happen when they arrived. This passage begins as the Passover was soon to begin and the people of Israel were making journeys and pilgrimages to the Holy City from around the world. Just as Christmas is ultimately a religious holiday of Christians there are others, of different faiths and cultures, who adopt the celebrations, so there are non-Jewish persons from Greece that were in town and were asking where to find Jesus.
So think about what Jesus has accomplished at this point. He has selected and equipped disciples; He has begun teaching and preaching, as well as healing and restoring individuals and families. Jesus has drawn great crowds and performed divine miracles. He has threatened the establishment and confronted evil and sin. Jerusalem, at Passover, is the pinnacle moment.
As I side note, recall how one of Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry tells this moment. The temptation that was atop the Temple and he was tempted to use that moment to become Israel’s earthly king, the long-awaited, political savior. And here Jesus is in Jerusalem with the pinnacle moment at hand.
The Tipping Point
While Jesus is trying to talk to his disciples about death and namely Jesus’s death, there comes word, from visiting people from Greece, who want to visit with Jesus. When Jesus hears that those who are non-Jewish believers have come seeking Jesus, it reflects how far the message and power of the Gospel had reached. When the unbelievers come asking in belief, Jesus knew the mission to be accomplished. It was bigger than Jesus as a person. It was more than the faithful efforts of the disciples; it was going to become worldwide.
This assurance was a tempting moment. Do we build a stronger base? Do we overturn the temple AND the Romans and take over the world as the leader of the World? In the Wilderness it was a theory in his mind, today it is a vibrant and attractive reality. His following words and actions reveal his spiritual choice.
What we hear in this passage is Jesus’s struggling with the options. Look I am famous. Look how far my influence has reached in such a short time. I’ve gone platinum!! Why do am I faced with temptation at the very moment all the pieces are coming together? Can’t I enjoy a few parades and perks first? (Have the cake and eat it too?) (Free Israel from slavery, make it through the wilderness, AND taste the fruit of the Promised Land?] Is God being mean, teasing us to test us?
What Type of King is Jesus?
What Type of Followers of Jesus Are We?
There is the reason we know this moment was a pinnacle moment is shown as God speaks to Jesus and to the world. Most misunderstand the words as thunder, some only comprehend the voice of an angel, but the voice of God that spoke at Jesus’s baptism, the voice that spoke at the Mountain of Transfiguration, is the Voice speaking in Jerusalem.
This is my Son, listen to him. He Will Reveal my Glory. It is time for Grace to pour out. It is time for the sacrifice of “THE Passover Lamb” for the whole world, Jew and Greek.
The heart of the lesson
Our decision to follow Jesus is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is the all-day, every-day, relationship of trust and faith, lived out if we have days to live and breath to breathe. Our own journey is not complete. For when we find our way to Christ, we are called to bring others to him as well.
Following Jesus’s Lead
As disciples today, we learn from Jesus that God has our hearts and our back. Nothing can stop the love of God, therefore trust the eternal source of Good, Love, Grace, Strength, Hope, Power, Peace, Truth, Wholeness, Creation, Life, and Meaning — and place everything else into perspective.
Jesus gives the powerful grain of wheat illustration, the one life we have becomes the root, the seed, the foundation for a hundred others.
Who are the people coming to you asking about Christ? Asking about God? Asking about the Holy Spirit? Asking about the work and witness of the church? If folks aren’t asking then maybe you are not advertising. Maybe you and need the reality that other people listen to us, watch us, follow and friend us, and they are learning something about us.
If there is any question about our witness drawing others to Christ, then we know where our temptation is almost heaven, and where to seek God’s help the most.