John 12:20-26, NIV
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to
worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from
Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would
like to see Jesus." 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and
Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be
glorified. 24 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.

25 "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. 26 Whoever
serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will
be. My Father will honor the one who serves me."


November 9, 2011
On first reading this text doesn't hang together. The request and the
response don't seem related to each other. The Greeks were either
Greek-speaking Jews or they were Gentiles who were attracted to
some aspects of the Jewish faith but didn't convert to the point of
accepting the Jewish lifestyle. Either way they were from somewhere
else, enlightened in the ways of the world outside Judea.

Definitely a minority group who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate
the Jewish Passover. Phillip is a Greek-sounding name, so they
approached him. Phillip sought out his partner Andrew and together
they went to Jesus to see if he would speak with them.

They had come to "see" Jesus, which means more than look at him.
They wanted to meet him personally, sit down and have a conversation.
It doesn't say what they had in mind to talk about, so we must use our
imaginations. What would people steeped in the Greek culture have
to say to Jesus in the Jewish capital city of Jerusalem?

What did Jesus want to say to them? It sounds like Jesus told them the
time is too late for the conversation they wanted to have. So he cut to
the crux of the matter. They had to dive right in to the end of the story,
they could pick up on the beginning at a later date if they chose to do so.

Jesus described his death in terms of a grain of wheat, a seed that is
buried in the ground and dies in order to sprout anew. When the spring
rains come it will grow and complete the cycle of life by producing
seeds for next year's crop. The seed dies in order to produce new life.
It lives to die. And in the spiritual sense, dies in order to live.

There's more. The person who believes in Jesus must hate their own
life! Must follow wherever Jesus leads. Even to the point of giving up
their life for the benefit of others. What is the reward for doing this?
The Father in heaven will honor such a person.

Come and die with me, Jesus told them. That's an invitation to full
time, wholehearted, self-sacrificing discipleship. Probably not what they
wanted to hear. I wonder if hating one's life could mean disregarding
one's own self interests. Similar to a phrase Jesus would shortly use
in an agonizing prayer, "Not my will, but thine." It's not likely Jesus
could win any new converts with talk of dying, and we hear nothing
more about the Greeks.

I looked up how these verses read in The Message. Here it is:
24-25"Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground,
dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it
is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the
same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life.
But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you'll have it forever, real and
eternal. 26 If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you'll
be where I am, ready to serve at a moment's notice. The Father will
honor and reward anyone who serves me."

 

                                            John 12:27-28, NIV
27 "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. 28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from
heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."


November 10, 2011
Jesus was troubled. Even he didn't like the sound of his own words.
But what could he do. This was "his hour." This is the reason for his
existence. In his gut he agonized over what lay ahead of him in the
immediate future. Mentality, he knew it would be ridiculous for him to
pray to his Father in heaven to save him now. Yet he must have thought
about doing so or he wouldn't have mentioned it. His heart was breaking,
but his head and speech were confident. He would stick to his mission;
he would bring glory and honor to his Father's name. As soon as he
declared this intent, a voice from heaven confirmed it.

"Father, glorify your name" is an interesting phrase. God glorifies his
own name. There's history to this idea. One example--Moses was very
concerned about God's name, and what the Egyptians would think
about God based on the experience of the Israelites as they traveled
from Egypt to their Promised Land.

When God was angry with the children of Israel and wanted to destroy
them, Moses reminded God that the Egyptians would ascribe evil
intentions to such an act. Moses convinced God not to do such a thing.
God must act in a way that brings honor to God's name!

From the vantage point of heaven, the crucifixion of Jesus was the
ultimate of bringing honor to God's name. How? The gospel writer
already explained it in John 3:16--For God so loved the world that he
gave his only beloved Son that whoever believes in him, shall not
perish but have eternal life. God is the mighty one who saves. Evil
destroys; God saves. The voice from heaven proclaimed, "I have
glorified my name in the past; I will glorify it again." 

 

                                           John 12:29-33, NIV
29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered;
others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, "This
voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for
judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be
driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw
all men to myself." 33 He said this to show the kind of death he
was going to die.


The voice sounded like different things to different people. Jesus
declared he didn't need the voice and that it was for the people's
benefit. Wouldn't it be great to have confirmation from above when
we make a right decision!

What time is it? Time for the "prince of this world" to be defeated.
Since this is the Bible we know the prince of this world refers to the
devil, the evil one, the tempter, the father of lies. It is time for evil
to be overcome.

How was Jesus going to accomplish this? He was going to be lifted
up symbolically, and literally in crucifixion. And in the process draw
all people to himself.

I often wonder about all this. What did Jesus actually accomplish on
the cross? Evil is still very much present in our world. So why did
Jesus say the evil one would be driven out? Lots of people are not
drawn to Jesus, so why did Jesus associate this phrase with his
crucifixion?

Like many of the promises in the Bible, they are framed in future tense,
off beyond some distant horizon. Even when there is no evidence, we
are asked to believe them, and trust the promise keeper. In the
beginning, we read that God spoke and it was so. We know the stories
of the heroes of the Bible and it sounds so clear that what God said,
has happened.

And now I sit and look at these words of Jesus about driving out the
prince of darkness and about Jesus drawing all people to himself, and
I'm supposed to believe what he said. Some people call it believing in
Easter while living in a Good Friday world. How long, O Lord, are we to
keep on believing! Yes, wouldn't it be great to hear a little confirmation
from above!

 

                                            John 12:34-36, NIV
34 The crowd spoke up, "We have heard from the Law that the
Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man
must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?" 35 Then Jesus told
them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer.
Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you.
The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.
36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may
become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left
and hid himself from them.


November 11, 2011
The people who crowded around Jesus had questions, too. Jesus,
you're supposed to be king forever. So why are you talking about going
away, about being "lifted up"? They seem to be quoting scripture to
Jesus, and they are wondering about the name he gave to himself,
Son of Man?

Again, Jesus does not answer their questions directly. Instead he tries
to prepare them with this instruction: Walk in the light while it is still light;
trust the light and you will become little lights, so that darkness will not
overtake you.

That's the answer they received to their questions. So put that in your
pipe and smoke it, real slow, for awhile.

Trust in the light while you have the light,
so that you may become children of light.
         --prepare for the future today
         --prepare for living in the darkness while you still have light
         --store up for yourselves treasures of faith and inspiration while
            I am near, then bring out these treasures and feed on them
            during times of distancing.
         --the Kingdom of God is like piling up wood for the winter,
                   like squirrels storing nuts,
                   like canning fruits and veggies, drying or smoking meats,
                   like studying in preparation for a test.

After saying these things, Jesus left the crowd and went to a place
where he would not be found.

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