Countdown to Calvary: Humility, We See Jesus – Dying to Bear Much Fruit. Lessons in our Living John 12:20 – 26

Today, I want to try to tell you a short story about two men and their wheat.

One man had a grain of wheat and he loved it very much. He spent the majority of his time and energies on securing the best possible container for his wheat.  

When it came to moving his wheat from one place to another, he spared no expense. He loved his wheat, so he bought the best. He made sure his grain of wheat stayed out of harm’s way; if wheat gets wet you know it will quickly spoil.

So, he was very careful to be sure to always do what the wheat experts told him to do in order to see his grain of wheat stay strong even into old age. This man was sold out for his wheat, and it showed. Then the man died.

The other man also had a grain of wheat but what he did was very different. 

He went out into the backyard, dug a hole, threw his wheat in to it, covered it with dirt, and poured water all over it thus completely ruining the wheat. 

Then the man died.

Sometime after both men were dead and buried a news reporter got wind of these two unusual men and their wheat. The reporter decided to do a follow up. 

Where the first man had lived the grain of wheat was easily spotted surrounded by the best. But when the lid was removed, and the cameras pulled in close the sight was saddening; that grain of wheat though greatly prized and protected had been ruined. Stuck away in the dark of selfishness that wheat had spoiled

The reporter got back in her car and assumed she was about to go from bad to worse. If the first man had done everything to protect his wheat and it had all been for nothing, then what would there be to show for the other man who just threw his in the ground and wasted it?

As she drove closer, she noticed these tall and vibrant green plants along the side of the road; very strange. As she pulled into the driveway the entire yard of the second man was covered in three-foot-tall green grass. Now filled with curiosity the reporter asked the neighbor, “What are all these plants.” And he responded, “It’s this man’s wheat”

One man protected his wheat and lost it all. 

The other man threw his wheat into the ground, and it produced much fruit. 

Christ’s life is that single grain of wheat. He is glorious and he has done many glorious things. But if he doesn’t die there is no salvation for you or for me. If Jesus is not the suffering Servant/Savior of Isaiah 53, then he is no savior at all. 

But if he did come to die and if he did die and rise again, then he will produce much fruit. There will be lives changed. There will be a great harvest of joy-filled Christ-followers. Jesus came to die, and he died so to bear much fruit.

John 12:20-26 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Jesus Predicts His Crucifixion

20 Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24 “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. [a] 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I. Eternal life requires more than fearing God and being interested in Jesus (20-23)

As we look into these verses from John, we need to realize that we are at a turning point in salvation history. God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself through the seed of the woman is about to advance at a rapid pace.  

Here’s the point

A.  The glorification of Jesus Christ is required for the salvation of the nations.

The Pharisees in verse 19 make the observation that, “the world has gone after [Jesus].” In the triumphal entry and in the people’s loud praises the Pharisees see the popularity of Jesus. That confession in verse 19 leads us to the account of “some Greeks” in verses 20-22.

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Literally the people and nations are coming to Jesus. They want to see him. Now this phrase means more than look at him. These Greeks want to talk with Jesus.

They are hesitant. Possibly because they have just witnessed Jesus clean out the court of the Gentiles when he cleansed the temple; that’s a bit intimidating. So, they instead go to Philip who probably spoke Greek and asked for an audience with Jesus. The people and the nations are mightily curious coming to Christ.

And Jesus responds with a surprising and an unexpected word, verse 23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Up to this point in the life of Christ when Jesus has spoken of “his hour” it has always been in the future tense.

In John 2:4 he told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”

In John 7:30 we read, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”

In John 8:20 we read, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” 

From here on, from the coming of the Greeks on, Jesus will emphasize the fact that his hour is here.

In John 12:27, “Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose, I am come to this hour.”

Using the language of the time to glorify the Son Jesus says in John 13:31, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”

It is possible that Jesus is only 4 days from the cross. Jesus is fully aware that his death his required for the salvation of the people and the nations.

And Jesus is fully aware that now is the appointed time of his glorification. He must be glorified in order for these Greeks to be saved. He must be glorified in order for you, me to be saved. No one from Adam to the last of God’s children will see eternal life if Jesus does not fulfill the Father’s plan of redemption.

Let’s drive this point home

B.  Your salvation depends upon Jesus’ glorification

Let’s bring in some of the terminology from verse 23. Unless Jesus is glorified, unless the grain of wheat is put into the ground, he will not bear fruit.  Unless Jesus be glorified no one will be saved.

That’s how crucial the cross is. That’s how important this hour is; salvation depends on it.

We should expect the theme of glory to be central from here on in John and it is. We’ll unpack this more, Lord willing, I just want you to see what glorification is.

Look down to verses 28-33.

‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again… verse 31…’Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

The glorification of God is displayed through the judgment of sin when God’s wrath for poured out on Jesus. The glorification of God is displayed through the defeat of Satan when his power is broken through the resurrection of Jesus.

The glory of God is about to be displayed through Jesus’ finished work on the cross, resurrection from the grave, ascension back to God’s glorious right hand, and the salvation of the people and the nations who come to Him.

Our salvation and the salvation of the nations, depends on the Son of man being glorified.  The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus do not just show us something they secure something.  The glorious work of Jesus Christ on your behalf secures your salvation. 

If this hour doesn’t ever come, then we are lost and hopeless but if Jesus has been glorified then we are saved and we are all born again into a living hope.

These Greeks in John 12 were God-fearers who were willing to submit to God’s laws. They were interested in meeting and learning from Jesus.

But that’s not what is required for salvation. We must be connected by faith, by hope and by love, to the glorified Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended.

Where are you today? Does our religion consist only of some rule keeping and occasional interest in Jesus?

If so, you and I would do well to fear that we are missing salvation all together (Hebrews 4:1).  Salvation depends on you being connected to the glorified Jesus.

By faith you and I are joined to him. And with him we are as righteous as God and have power over the grave. Jesus has been glorified. There is salvation and eternal life for you. But you and I must absolutely be connected to him by faith.

Salvation is a promise because salvation depends on the completed work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death is a necessity. – The Single Seed must Be Planted!

II. Nature proves that a harvest requires death (24)

A.  Jesus illustrates the necessity of his death by pointing to the planting and harvesting of wheat. Verse 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.

We grow vast fields of wheat to make bread.

Here is what a grain of wheat looks like. 

If you do nothing with this single wheat, then as a whole, it is 100% worthless.

But if you plant that wheat there comes a miracle. By continual harvesting and sowing, one grain of wheat can produce millions of grains of wheat. But what is required to make that harvest happen? You absolutely have to plant the wheat.

You must make it for the moment ruined. Once that grain of wheat is put in the ground and watered you cannot dig it up, grind it up, and make bread out of it. 

But when it dies it bears much fruit.

Jesus obviously isn’t giving us instructions for our gardens.

He’s giving us hope for our souls.

If Jesus skips the cross, if he does not die, then there is no salvation.

But since Jesus endured the cross dying in our place then there is salvation.

Just as millions of grains of wheat come from the death of one grain so the salvation of the people, the nations, comes from the death of the only Son of God.  Eternal life depends on the death of Jesus Christ.

All of the Realm of Nature illustrates this clearly.

Here’s our third point that comes out of Jesus’ death on our behalf.

III. You are the fruit (24-25)

A.  God, The Father is the Lord of the harvest, Jesus the Son is the single grain which starts the harvest, and all that we are and do is a part of the harvest

You and I must fight to keep the call of verses 25 and26 grounded in the work of Christ explained in verse 23 and 24. You and I will live life rightly, enjoy eternal life, serve Jesus, follow Jesus, be with Jesus, and be honored by God as we cling to the glorified Jesus.

All that we are as a Christian is a direct product of all that Jesus has done. God doesn’t demand our death for your salvation. God saves only those who have the glorification of Jesus credited to their souls.

B.  I was quite surprised! Verse 25 is not what I expect

I thought verse 25 should read, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world bears much fruit.

But the teaching here is not that you and I should die to bear fruit.

That is true and Jesus is going to teach us all about that in John 15.

But before we get to chapter 15, we need to get this point. 

Our redeemed life, our experience of eternal life this very moment, is the produce of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

If we get our place wrong when you think about God’s will for all of creation, then we’ll get our life wrong, and we’ll be frustrated by a lack of fruit bearing.

Let’s lay a foundation and hold fast to it.  Our salvation and the salvation of others realized through our good works is ultimately the result of Jesus’ work. 

Since Jesus is the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, and since Jesus bears much fruit, we are saved and so are others.  Eternal life today is the result of the glorification of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

C.  Your Christian Life is “found” not by protecting yourself but in your gaining the Life of Jesus Christ

Look at John 12:25, Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

When we read the bible there is a repetition of someone loving a person and hating another person.

Romans 9:13 reiterates the facts that God loved Jacob and hated Esau.

Now let us read and study and pray over Genesis 29:30 – 32

30 So Jacob…loved Rachel more than Leah and served Laban for another seven years. 31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.

Hate is not necessarily the emotional disgust that we feel when we say we hate something. Love and hate in this context have more to do with priorities.

Think about it this way, “Whoever focuses on his life loses it, and whoever forgets his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Have you and I ever been so focused on one thing that we completely forget everything else? That’s the idea. If you focus on your life, your wants, your plans, and yourself then you will also forget, lose your focus on Christ. 

But as we focus on Christ, his wants, his plans, and his self then we will forget our life.

Look at God’s promised product: if we love our life, we will destroy our life.

We are like Lennie from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Our thinking is off and so we end up destroying the thing we love the most. 

By protecting ourselves and looking out for ourselves and taking care of numeral uno we ultimately end up destroying ourselves. That is warning.

But here is the promise of John chapter 12: whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

I believe it’s important that the verbs loving, loses, hating, and keeping are present active indicatives. That means they keep right on happening.

These are not one-time events but characteristics, a way of living.

A life primarily focused on Christ will necessarily be a life which neglects self.

You can’t love yourself and Christ. You will love the one and hate the other.

Please do not be fooled into thinking there is a healthy balance between loving self and loving Jesus. There is no such place as a “middle ground.” To attempt to be there is to be disgusting. Jesus promises to vomit you out of his mouth.

We love Jesus.

So, here’s how to pursue this self-hating Christ loving life: follow Christ. 

We must never set out to hate or neglect our lives.

What we must set out to do is focus on, prioritize, and follow Christ. 

This is the connection between verses 25 and 26. It leads to our final point.

IV. Following Christ entails serving now, and gaining heaven and honor then (26)

A.  Following Christ is forgetting self

You can’t protect yourself and follow Christ because going after Christ means following the One who came to die.

Look at verse 26, “If anyone serves me; he must follow me.” 

This is Christianity: finding life not in yourself but in the glorified Jesus.

Adopt his plans as your plans.

Do the things he did. Care about the things he cared about.

Christianity is not keeping the rules and being somewhat interested in Jesus. 

Please notice something.

Twice the word ‘serve’ is repeated in these two verses.

Christians are those people who see the glorified Jesus and serve him.

We are those who are changed by the work of Christ so that we give ourselves to the work of Christ.

Christians work the works God sent Jesus to do.

Christians serve Christ and follow Christ by joining in the grain harvest. Serving and following Jesus demand our everything.

This is why in a similar passage Jesus tells us to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

Notice, eternal life is not something we get after we die because of a decision we made as a kid with little consequence for the time in between. 

Eternal life is the time span in which we will enjoy the life Christ has given us.

When we forget ourselves and follow Christ, we will gain a life that is worth living and enjoying for all of eternity. Our self-centered lives would make for a miserable eternity. God’s Christ-centered life makes for an amazing eternity.

Here’s the promise of heaven, verse 26, “and where I am, there will my servant be also.” 

Jesus said in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” 

The promise of heaven, everlasting life and joy in the presence of God, is held out to both you and to me today. 

Follow Christ. 

Serve Christ. 

Ground yourself in the glorification of the only Son. 

Heaven is for you.

Plant your hopes in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

You will not be disappointed.

There’s more.

Verse 26, Jesus promises, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” 

Jesus knows nothing of bait-and-switch. Hating your life is not going to turn out to be a bad idea. If you trust Christ and let him shape your desires and your direction, then look what you’ll get.

Do you see it in verse 26? God himself will honor you. 

Every honor bestowed on man by man goes no farther than this earth and our graves and that appointed day we are all laid therein – never to be seen again.

But every honor bestowed on the servants of Christ is eternal and unceasing.

The honor given by God to you because of Christ cannot be taken away, revoked, or destroyed. There is a meaningful substantial life for you and for me,

and it all depends on Jesus.

V. Imagine with me that your lunch plans have changed and instead of what you had planned you’re going to sit down with Jesus on a public park bench and review your life

Would it become evident that the reason you do what you do and have a family and come to worship and live where you live is so that you can get something for yourself?

Or would it become evident that the reason for everything you do is because you are caught up in the great harvest that depends on the glorified Jesus?

Do you do what you do because of you?

Or do you do what you do because Jesus has been glorified?

Jesus has been glorified. Your salvation, your life, and your future can be secure but only if you give your life over to him. Turn from your sin and insufficiency and utterly trust in the Jesus who makes you pure and is himself Sufficiency.

There is an amazing harvest going on all over this globe and in our community. 

We are a people who have faith in the work of Jesus and will get engaged in his works.  Because Jesus is glorified giving us eternal life we serve him, follow him, and look forward to the honor of eternal life. 

Look around your neighborhood and your work and the grocery store. the fields are indescribably vast and white for harvest. Let’s plant the seed of Jesus! Let’s praise the Lord of the harvest and go from this place to be a part of the harvest.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for Your amazing plan of redemption and that the Lord Jesus was ready and willing to forgo all human glory and praise and be led as a lamb to the Cross, so that His death could pay the price for my sin and the sin of the whole world.

Thank You that Jesus lived a perfect life, foregoing any honor, in order to be made sin on my account and died a cruel death on Calvary’s Cross so that by faith in Him I might be forgiven of my sin and receive life everlasting. Praise Your Holy Name, and thank You, Lord Jesus, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.

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