It goes without saying Jesus was under great pressure after His triumphant ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. The Lord knew death by crucifixion awaited Him in a few more days. In fact, the whole city was astir and emotions were swirling. Lots of whispering was going on.
“Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus” (John 12:20).
A divine timeline runs through history from Adam to Calvary, and Jesus actually thought and talked about that timeline as it related to His “hour” (Matthew 26:45; Mark 14:41; John 12:23-27). The Lord was concerned about timing for good reason. Jesus knew He had to stay in control of His timeline to the point that His death would be in sync with the lamb slain that year at the Feast of Passover. Jesus’ death could not come before the Feast, or after the Feast. Jesus’ crucifixion had to occur at the time of the slaughter of the Passover lamb because Jesus Himself was the perfect and final Passover sacrifice. In addition, all of the prophetic Scriptures about Jesus had to be fulfilled.
Jesus’ mission as the Christ, the Messiah, first came into focus in recorded history with the lamb slain in Eden to cover Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness. Out of that sacrifice also came the very first promise of a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15, 21). From there the trail of blood curved and twisted its flow from Adam to Golgotha, culminating in what Jesus described as “the hour” (Matthew 26:45; Mark 14:41; John 12:23).
Jerusalem was very tense throughout Passion Week. The Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas, had put out an all-points bulletin for Jesus’ arrest, and ordered that anyone who knew Jesus’ whereabouts must report Him (John 11:57). A black cloud of hatred and jealousy thick enough to cut with a knife hung over the Holy City.
Jewish religion never developed a strong doctrine of evangelism with a goal to share the invitation of Jehovah to all peoples worldwide. Foreigners had to “knock the door down” to get to God in Judaism. Even so, many Gentiles felt the nagging emptiness of worshiping and sacrificing to man-made idols of wood and stone. They were attracted instead to the Jewish worship of one God. Lots of these foreigners did convert to Judaism and were known as proselytes. Others who were attracted to Judaism but would not agree to circumcision became known as God fearers. These Gentiles often made their way to Jerusalem to participate in the worship on the great feast days. Passover held high attraction for them.
In this very razor edged environment in Jerusalem, a group of Greeks participating in the Feast came to Philip, one of the Lord’s disciples. Theirs was a simple request, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus” (John 12:20 TLB).
Philip told Andrew, and together these two disciples brought these Greeks to Jesus. It is simply captivating what the Lord told them:
12:23 "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, 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. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.
These Greeks perceived Jesus’ arms were open to them and His invitation warmly included them. They believed Jesus’ “whoever” meant them too.
Jesus’ use of “the hour” here is generic, in the sense that all of the events of Passion Week are part of His hour. The visit of these Greeks to Jesus meant His hour was at hand, and the remaining countdown to Calvary was now in its final few days. Very soon resurrection would follow crucifixion, and glorification would follow humiliation.
While visiting with these Greeks, Jesus illustrated His vision of the future with a grain of wheat. If wheat seeds are not planted in the ground they remain only seed. When a grain is planted in good soil, however, the seed “dies” and actually begins to decay. Then, because God has vested life in a seed something amazing happens. What has “died” sprouts back to life; it’s like a resurrection and “it produces many seed.”
"Now my heart 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. Father, glorify Your Name!"
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to Him” (John 12:27-29).
When the audible voice of God boomed out of heaven, it must have been an unnerving, thunderous moment for these visiting Greeks. But the message was far more exciting than the shock of the thunder. Jesus would make no effort to escape His “hour;” in fact, Calvary was the very reason He came to this earth in an incarnation.
Jesus’ successful ministry was the glory of His heavenly Father!
While the cross ahead was very troubling to Jesus, this must have been an ecstatic moment. He was already looking past Golgotha to His worldwide harvest that was sure to follow: “’When I am lifted up [on the cross], I will draw everyone to Me.’ He said this to indicate how He was going to die” (John 12:30-33 TLB).
These Gentiles went home with a spectacular story to tell and they probably kept sharing it for as long as they lived. Perhaps their testimony went like this: It might sound far-fetched to you, but I’m telling you we got to visit with Jesus, the man Himself, and while we were with Him we heard the voice of God speak out of heaven! The voice sounded like the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard!
The application is obvious: inherent in Jesus is life itself; raising Lazarus from the dead proved that (John 1:4; 11:25; 14:6). When Jesus died on the cross, the seed of eternal life was in Him too, and it sprouted into resurrection life on the third day.
Jesus offered Himself and became the ultimate illustration of this law of the seed. The Lord did not love His life so much that He tried to escape death (John 12:25). Instead, He knew God had planted resurrection life in Him as the Son of Man (John 10:17-18).
The law of the seed was a great motivator to Jesus as He faced Calvary at His zero hour (1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 3:9). His would be a resurrection unto immortality that would result in His exaltation to God’s right hand (Acts 2:33; 5:31; Philippians 2:9; Hebrews 7:26).
THINK ABOUT IT: The application is obvious: it only makes sense that the attempt to save one’s life with self-effort is a losing struggle. It is so much better to give one’s life, trusting in the Divine power of resurrection life that is illustrated in the principle of the seed.
What did it all mean? Millions around the world like these Gentiles would hear Jesus’ message and want to meet Him too. They would respond to Jesus’ big heart and the Gospel call, and accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior. They were all grains of wheat ready to be planted.
God has vested eternal life in the spirit of every human being (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Even though dead, that seed fertilized and watered, and empowered by the divine nature will one day sprout up to resurrection life, eternal life, for all who repent and accept Jesus as the Son of God. Each will have a glorified body like Jesus enjoyed at His resurrection.
THINK ABOUT IT: So here is the great lesson of the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus. A person anywhere in the world who understands the power of the seed of life will cheerfully want to commit all to Jesus. That individual’s greatest desire is to be in sync with Jesus, as His servant, obediently walking in His steps. And Jesus promised His arms are indeed wide open. His invitation is genuine and carries great reward. “My Father,” He said, “will honor anyone who serves Me” (10:26 NLT).
Is there a person in your world, perhaps even a foreigner, whom you could introduce to Jesus this Easter season?
Seize the moment!