Summary: Self-denial is to be lifted with Jesus—and the first ten feet of his ascent is on the Cross. You cannot reach for Jesus without letting go of the things you’re holding onto. Make it your passion to go the first ten feet with Jesus.
"When I am lifted-up," Jesus said, "I will draw all people to myself." And just in case you are tempted to interpret this up-lifted status to mean something glitzy, John sticks in a little commentary in verse 33 to make clear that the "lifting up" Jesus had in mind was the cross. Ultimately Jesus would get lifted-up in the ascension into heaven, but the first ten feet of the ascension came by way of a cross. Jesus' upward journey started when the Roman soldiers hoisted him up skyward at the Place of the Skull.
So, if you want to fly off into glory with Jesus, you've got to be part of the first ten feet of the trip as well. You can't prop up a stepladder on the side of the cross, climb it, and then meet Jesus at the top for the balance of the journey to glory. You've got to be crucified with him. You must be the kernel who gets buried into death with him. "Where I am, my servant will also be." But as a servant, it is not up to you to pick and choose the times and places you want to be with Jesus. You are with him always and everywhere or you are with him never and nowhere.
Chapter 12 of John’s gospel initiates the conclusion of Jesus’ public ministry and the beginning of “the Passion”; the final week that Jesus spends with his disciples. The Evangelist brilliantly captures the events of Passion Week; his account represents some of the most beautiful writing in the entire NT.
II. THE SETTING
1. Jesus arrives at Bethany six days before the Passover, and attends a dinner held in his honor. Mary, Martha and Lazarus are there. Martha serves; Lazarus joins Jesus and the other men in the meal. Mary anoints Jesus, pouring expensive perfume on his feet and wiping them with her hair.
2. The next day, Jesus makes his way to Jerusalem. Many making the pilgrimage to the Passover have heard and seen Jesus before, and take this opportunity to proclaim him publicly as the Messiah (triumphal entry).
3. Those who witnessed His raising of Lazarus from the dead have been spreading the word, and those who heard now come to see him. The crowds around Jesus grow. The Pharisees are furious, afraid they will forfeit their prominence to Jesus.
III. THE HOUR HAS COME
1. Enter some Greeks, who come to Philip with a request; “We want to see Jesus”. Greeks symbolize “the world” (Gentiles), and their coming to Jesus triggers his announcement of the “hour” (his pending death). Jesus comes first to the Jews, who reject him as Messiah, and now reveals himself to the Gentiles.
2. Rather than answer their request, Jesus declares that he must die to bring life to the world and fulfill his Father’s will. He must deny himself—his own wishes and desires, and submit completely to the Father’s will.
3. As he reveals his destiny, he challenges those around him to follow theirs. It is A CALL TO SELF-DENIAL.
4. As followers of Jesus Christ, we too must deny ourselves. We must surrender our desires to fulfill the life to which God calls us. The benefits of self-denial far outweigh the commitment we make.
[Self-denial is to be lifted with Jesus—and the first ten feet of his ascent is on the Cross. You cannot reach for Jesus without letting go of the things you’re holding onto.]
IV. FIVE BENEFITS OF SELF-DENIAL (12:20-36)
1. We produce many seeds (24)
A. When we live for ourselves, we die by ourselves. When we put God’s desire before our own, we serve him. Jesus’ glorification is tied to his refusal to seek his own glory. Like the seed whose death leads to life for a great crop, Jesus’ death generates a plentiful harvest.
2. We will be with Jesus (26)
A. What an awesome promise! By separating ourselves from this world, we connect ourselves eternally with Jesus! In the scope of eternity, our lives are fleeting – a “blip” on the radar screen. Imagine never being apart from Christ!
3. God will honor us (26)
A. More than self-denial: it is an absolute focus on Christ. Remember, Jesus said we would be together on his way to the cross!
B. When our priority is Christ, we have died with him and to him, and will one day be glorified because of him.
4. Jesus will draw us unto himself (32)
A. You can always tell when you are in his will. Your fellowship improves, you feel closer to him, and your prayer life strengthens. That is the effect of Jesus drawing you to himself. As we focus on him, he draws us closer; but he will only pull as we push.