John 12:20-50 (NKJV)
20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
27 “Now My soul is 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 from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 Now is the judgment of 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 peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
34 The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.
37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:
“Lord, who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,
Lest they should see with their eyes,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”
41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”
John records for us what certain Greeks said: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” That is something to be posted inside every pulpit in the world, addressed to the pastors: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” That is a nice reminder to us all that Jesus is what it’s all about. Next, in the lesson, Jesus then teaches us what it’s all about: “Unless a grain of wheat dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (24).
Jesus is in the death-and-resurrection business. Meanwhile we keep trying various fixer-upper programs on ourselves. What we fail to realize is that, in and of ourselves, we are spiritually dead. So, we keep trying to make ourselves look alive to God. “Works righteousness!”—That is what Luther calls all these attempts to make ourselves acceptable to God.
The truth is that we are dead as doornails before God in our feeble attempts to make our ourselves and our religion appear “meet, right, and salutary.” We are dead as doornails before God in our feeble attempts at parroting a particular set of confessions or rituals, and equating that with true belief and following of Christ.
Jesus had no time and truly little patience for sightseers, tire-kickers, and window shoppers. Instead, He calls us to follow Him into death and a new transformed life. The message of His Gospel is that we come before God with empty hands. We come before God and confess freely that we are dead as doornails by ourselves and by any of our outward showings of religiosity. Jesus calls us to His unique death-and-resurrection transforming power so that we are remade from the inside out. Then, and only then, that grain of wheat that died, can “produce much grain” in Him.
Let us pray: O almighty God, mercifully look on Your people, and by Your great goodness govern us in body and preserve us in soul; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.