Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, 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. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. 27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
It’s hard to believe how fast this year is going. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, then Easter, and Resurrection Sunday April 4. So, next week we cover Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the empty tomb the following week. The events of this morning’s passage takes place between those two. Jesus’ return to Jerusalem the final week of His earthly ministry and His resurrection. Here, John captures a portion of Jesus’ last words to lost people.
In his record of Jesus’ final days, the Lord moves from what’s before us this morning to spending His time exclusively with the disciples. Now, we know that the Lord speaks to Pilate and from the cross, but those aren’t calls for the lost to follow Him like what’s here. This is a unique encounter for several reasons we’ll explore. It’s important for it’s plain and direct appeal to a group seeking Jesus. The significance for us is that we have a blueprint for relating to people who are far from God, but looking for answers, so, let’s pray and get into the text.
The People (20-22)
Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus.
Again, this encounter happens on the heels of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
20:12-13, On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.”
If you recall from two weeks ago, I described Jerusalem during Passover when Jesus cleansed the Temple.
- Righteous Anger
That was near the beginning of His public ministry and this Passover is at the end. What was characteristic of both celebrations is the overcrowded conditions of the city. As well as the people coming from outside Jerusalem to make their temple pilgrimage. Verse 20 identifies a gathering of such people. My version reads Greeks others use Gentiles. The point being that this is a group of non-Jews who’ve devoted themselves to Judaism.
- Converted from paganism to Judaism
- Switched one religion for another
I want to be sensitive here while, at the same time, staying true to the text. The group Jesus targets for His final public address are converts to Judaism. The title of this message is Last Words to Lost People. I want to be clear, I’m not saying those proselytes are not saved; not right with God. That’s what Jesus said. This is the underlying condition He addresses with the call to serve Him, to follow Him. We’ll get into this a bit deeper in a minute.
But make no mistake, Jesus does not believe their conversion to Judaism is a conversion to salvation. The fact that He’s calling them to Himself is a beautiful and hopeful act of grace. Jesus tells them the truth. He’s saying to them that their paganism couldn’t save them, and their new faith can’t save them, but that the Father will honor them for following Him. The exclusivity of the Gospel offends many people then and now. His declarations here are as narrow as John 14:6…
- I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Fatherbut through me.
Jesus’ offer to follow Him is also extremely broad. Broad enough to include these gentiles of Greek descent.
- Narrow and broad
I want you to see something. Verse 21, These then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” John points out that Philip is from Bethsaida of Galilee because that was the area of Galilee mostly populated by gentiles. Philip was probably a gentile disciple of Jesus, so, the Greeks would figure he’s the one to bring them to Jesus.
- They have something in common…
- They’re not Jewish
- Philip is the connector between the Greeks and Jesus
Philip wants to check with another disciple, Andrew, to see if their request is, for lack of a better word-kosher. Then Andrew, Philip, with the Greeks following comfortably behind, come and tell Jesus. I love the boldness and sincerity of those seekers.
- “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
They weren’t satisfied by what they’d heard about Him. Or with their own thoughts. They wanted brought to the Lord and weren’t afraid to ask someone that knew Him personally. I don’t want to push this too far, so, I’ll just say,be prepared when you’re asked you to bring them to Jesus; be ready to show them the way.
The Prediction (23-24)
And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, 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.”
Once we understand who Jesus is talking to, His teaching makes more sense to us. It probably didn’t make sense to those gentiles unless they heard His cries from the cross, or the news of His crucifixion. Jesus predicts His looming death when He says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…” The gentile hearers would be prone to believe Jesus was predicting His miraculous ascension to the heights of government power.
- Typical perceived Messianic outcome
But Jesus foretells His more glorious ascension, to the right hand of the Father. But, first He will be like a grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies; Isn’t it interesting that believers die, then enter glory. Jesus came from the glory of heaven to die. And by His death and burial would produce the fruit of resurrection, His own, and all those who follow Him. Jesus wants what’s more glorious for you than this world offers. He wants you to share in His glory.
- His eternal glory
His brilliant glory, His pure and powerful glory. Too many of us are willing to settle for earthly glory. The accolades of others and the sensationalism of the flesh. Do you know that’s not what you were made for? The Tempter will do everything he can to get you to accept less. Well, you don’t have to. There is something you need to do. First, you must die, we must die to sin and self. Which brings us to verses 25-26.
[The People, The Prediction]
The Priority (25-26)
He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
I said earlier that Jesus is addressing the underlying condition of this band of Greek temple-goers.
- Their lost condition
Imagine the astonishment when Jesus tells them that the way to be honored (accepted) by the Father is to follow and serve Himself. This is a radical departure from what they’d been told…why they moved from worshiping many gods to the one true God. To this point they’d believed their Temple sacrifices and loyalty to the Mosaic Law is what’s needed to gain the Father’s favor. Now they’re told it’s only possible by making Jesus their priority. There’s so much of modern Christianity reflected in their dilemma. Because it’s so much easier to follow a set of religious rules than to follow Jesus, Ruler of all. Following religious rules brings no risk to the adherents. The worst that could happen is they double-up on the ones they missed. Following Jesus was, and is, full of unknowns.
Will all my bills get paid if I tithe? How will my friends act toward me if I stop doing what they like because it dishonors the Lord? What will it mean to my family if I go to church when they don’t? How’s my supervisor going to react if I ask for Sunday’s off? Jesus’ statement turns up-side-down the way most people live their faith. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. The typical practice reads, and where I am My Lord will be also. Where I choose to go, what I want to do, how I decide to live, My Lord will be there also.
Right, didn’t He say, “Lo, I am with you even to the end of the age?” Yes, but what’s the context?
- As we make disciples
- Matt. 28:19-20
Not as we do as we want. We make decisions, and if we’re really spiritual we remember to ask Jesus to bless them. Or we assume He does and raise a quick prayer of thanks. Jesus’ last words to the lost crowd speak volumes to saved people too. Following Jesus is risky, it’s full of unknowns because it’s about where He is and what He’s doing. This is what it means to hate your life. Jesus isn’t telling His listeners they must be disgusted with themselves, but they’re to hate the idea of living apart from Him; not following Him. Think of someone you love with all of your heart. You know you love them that much because you can’t imagine living without them in your life. You’d hate it. That’s the kind of love Jesus wants us to have for Him. He calls us to prioritize our love for Him by losing our love for ourselves. That’s a decision; a choice.
[The People, Prediction, Priority]
The Purpose (27-30)
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose, I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.
The weight of His approaching death is very heavy on Jesus at this point. He only has a few days to live,. One reason for the burden is He knows that just one word, one thought of escape and the Father would rescue Him. Jesus is also deeply aware that the eternal life of every sinner past, present and future hinges on Him fulfilling His purpose. To cancel the debt of their sins by being the perfect atoning sacrifice. Again, Jesus faces temptation. The lure of avoiding death, but He knows the price humanity pays if He doesn’t absorb the pain of crucifixion. Then we have the last words to lost people by the Father in verse 28.
- Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
Did you hear it? The ultimate purpose of the Son is to glorify the Father. To make His name great among lost. And the Father, with His last words to lost people affirms His Son’s purpose. Do you see? Jesus’ purpose for coming and dying on the cross was to glorify the Father. The Father would glorify the Son. Showing Him as the Son of God, as God, to the lost, by saving lost sinners. Because only God could do that. Only He can save us. And it’s because of this we have the same purpose.
- To make His name great among the lost
- To glorify Jesus before them
Do you know this is your grand purpose? The reason He saved you. This doesn’t look the same for everyone. Jesus doesn’t save people so they can go to heaven. He saves them so they can go to heaven and glorify Him; eternally. Because He is worthy of their everlasting praise. So, start glorifying His name here and now. Get used to glorifying Him…you’ll be doing it for a long time.
[The People, Prediction, Priority, Purpose]
The Power (31-33)
Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die.
Immense power is required to save sinners because the power of sin is so great. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t stop sinning, it’s because the power of sin is stronger than your self-determination not to sin. This doesn’t mean our only option is to give up, to give in. We can depend on the power that overpowered sin; Jesus’ power. He has the power to cast out the ruler of sin and death; Satan. He has the power to judge the world. And He has the power to draw all men to Himself. This is resurrection power. What did He say?
- Truly, 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.
Jesus draws all people to himself, and all will come. Either by faith in this life or by fear in the next.
Philippians 2:9-11, For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
All of us whether believer or not, one day, will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We will do it saved or lost. Don’t let His last words to you be, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”