6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Jesus publically announces his upcoming death. He uses the opportunity to explain what his death will produce along with highlighting the same principle for his followers in dying to self.


John 12:20-36

1) Looking for Jesus (20-22). Interesting-the religious leaders wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They were going out of their way to get him out of the way. But here we see some foreigners going out of their way to get close to Jesus. These Greeks were willing to go to this Jewish religious celebration. They would’ve been allowed into the gentile court of the temple area but no further. The fact that they would’ve been considered unclean gentiles didn’t stop them from pursuing Jesus and boldly asking one of his disciples for access to him. That’s what we need. Are we willing to do whatever it takes to get close to Jesus? Do we have a burning desire to get as close to Jesus as we possibly can. What’s getting in the way of us getting closer to Jesus? What’s preventing us from being sold-out for Jesus? Are we willing to get it out of the way? People still have that desire today-they want see Jesus. They are supposed to see him in us. When people are looking for Jesus will they find him in me?

2) Die to live (23-26). (24): It’s interesting that although many seeds get planted every spring, only some of them actually sprout and grow. That’s due to the seed’s coat called the testa: the harder the coat of the seed, the longer the germination process. Seeds with harder coatings may take a longer time to germinate simply because that hard coating of the seed can prevent expansion of the embryo inside of it. That hard coating may block the entrance of water. That hard coating may impede gas exchange causing a lack of oxygen to the embryos. And many of us come of the Lord with hard coatings. What is the hard coating we have that is preventing us from dying to self? Is there hardness surrounding our heart that is preventing the germination process? What negative “seeds” still need to die? Seeds of pride, anger, lust, greed? These need to die in order for there to be a harvest of positive seeds. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, author of Cost of Discipleship, said, “When Christ calls someone; He bids them to come and die.” Jesus died so that we could live. We need to die to self so that he can live through us. We need to start dying so that we can start living. A seed looks a certain way, just an ordinary, simple seed. But, once it dies, what it produces is something beautiful like a flower or something useful like wheat. Unless we die to self we will remain unfulfilled in purpose. However, if we bid ourselves to come and die what will result from that will be something more beautiful and useful than we could ever imagine. (25): Jesus is using hyperbole here. He is not telling us to literally hate our own lives-that wouldn’t make sense. In Hebrew thought, there is no separate word for ‘prefer less’. So Jesus would have to use the word ‘sane’, which is translated into the Greek and English as ‘hate’. Actually the Hebrew word ’sane’ covers a whole range of negative emotions. The Hebrew word ‘sane’ also means, “abandon, leave aside, quit, relinquish” and it is this nuance that seems to be present here. In order to live in the Spirit we must be willing to die to the flesh. Luke 9:23-25, “Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” ‘Loses his life for me’. We’re not conditioned to want to give away; to let go of. We are conditioned to get; to grab hold of. Even at church. A typical mindset would be to come to get fed more than to feed. Come to be served more than to serve. But in life we need to seek to become losers. We need to adopt the premise of becoming the ‘biggest loser’. The TV show turned what would normally be negative into something sought after. The contestants in the show have one goal-to lose weight. What benefit is there for them to be losers? If they lose weight they will overcome health problems, feel better, look better, improve their quality of life and live longer. They become a whole different person inside and out. And they put themselves through rigorous training and food disciplines in order to achieve their goals. We too have a lot to gain by being willing to lose. If we lose our devotion to pleasing self we will shed off the weight of sin and ungodliness. We will feel better, look better (because we’ll look more like Jesus), we will improve our quality of life and we will live longer too. And we too will become a whole different person inside and out. (26): Jesus had a big audience. He had just made his triumphal entry and he was in the courtyard of the temple and he had something to say to those who wanted to be near him. It’s like Jesus is saying, “You come here looking for me but are you ready to follow me”. Many people are ‘looking’ for Jesus but why? If I’m looking for Jesus to get something from him then I won’t follow him. If I’m looking for Jesus for salvation alone I won’t follow him. I’ll only care about escaping the flames of hell and being with Jesus in the next life not serving him in this one. We have been saved to serve. Jesus said in Matt. 20:28 that he did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus came to serve in practical ways and in extreme ways. Can the same be said of us? Can we say, “I have been saved to serve”? “Where I am my servant also will be”. This is generally thought of to refer to the futuristic dwelling that Jesus’ followers will share with him in the next life. Although that’s true, I also see in this Jesus saying that wherever he leads we must follow and be where he is. This is encouraging because wherever he leads, he will be there with us. He said in Matt. 28:20 that he is with us always. We don’t have to be afraid to go where he leads because he’s going there with us. He isn’t leaving us somewhere to fend for ourselves, to figure things out on our own. He is with us every step of the way. “My Father will honor the one who serves me.” It is rewarding to be a servant of the King of kings. There are many blessings to be had. Our service isn’t a waste of time. Prov. 27:18, “He who tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who looks after his master will be honored.” In dying to self and serving the Lord there is much effort and sacrifice involved but with that comes the blessing of being able to eat the sweet fruit from our labors. Think of what can be gained when we are willing to follow him as his sold out servant. If we want to live in a cocoon, if we want to live in our comfort zone, unwilling to venture out and give of ourselves for the cause of Christ then we will remain a single, unused seed. However, if we are willing to be planted, if we are willing to be placed in the dirt, if we are willing to get rained on, what will happen is we will produce many plants with many seeds and the multiplication process happens and those plants produce a valuable resource for countless recipients. Jesus gave the ultimate sacrifice for the greatest reward. We can’t match what he did but he showed us what will happen when we are willing to die to self. How honoring is it to know that we’ve pleased Jesus? How special is it when we know we’ve helped someone? How satisfying is it to know that you’ve made a difference? How precious is it to know you played a part in someone becoming born again? We can choose to be selfish; we can choose to stay in our comfort zone; we can choose to be takers rather than contributors but what reward is there in that? What joy is there in that? In living for self I see only depression because in that way of living you’re not living at all, you merely exist. But for those who are willing to die to that self-driven lifestyle and serve Jesus what awaits is the enjoyment that comes from living a fulfilled life.

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