Summary: Jesus teaches that real life only comes after death and all His servants will follow Him and be honored by the Father!
The overall context and purpose of John’s gospel is pretty straightforward: “These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jn. 20:31). He raised Lazarus from the dead and proved that He has power over death. Shortly after He was anointed by Mary in the presence of Lazarus to prove He was aware and prepared for His own death. Following that He rode into Jerusalem, not only to fulfill the prophecies, but also to show that He was in control of all the events surrounding His crucifixion. He knew what awaited around every corner and went willingly.
Now we come to the third section of chapter twelve where He has a conversation with some Greeks. It seems so insignificant, but when we realize it’s one of the last few things we’re told about before His death, we know it must be extremely important.
The Gentiles Come to Christ signifying the end of His earthly ministry
And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. 22Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
There are some Greeks who want to meet Jesus. They’ve come to worship and it seems they believe enough about Him that they at least think He’s worth meeting. For some reason they can’t get to Him so they ask one of His disciples who in turn asks another. We’re not told why Philip didn’t take them straight away, but He didn’t. What’s most important here is what Jesus says: “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.”
What does He mean by this?
John’s gospel has been building up to this point. Several times He’s said the hour is not yet. The Jews wanted to kill Him but it wasn’t time yet. Now these Greeks come looking for Him and Jesus knows the hour is at hand. Take note that immediately following this conversation Jesus He takes His disciples into the upper room for what He knows will be the last supper. The hour is come to die so that He can be raised glorified:
The purpose of Christ’s death illustrated in nature
24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
A spiritual principle is illustrated by nature. If you take one kernel of wheat and bury it in the ground you’ll find something amazing: inside that kernel is everything needed to produce much fruit! It dies but it has life within that’s set free at death!
Paul preached this same thing regarding the resurrection:
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: 37And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: 38But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body (I Cor. 15:35-38).
The spiritual application of the illustration
25He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
Keep going with the illustration: if you don’t put the kernel in the ground it won’t produce. In the same way, if you want to hang on to this life at all costs then you don’t have the eternal life that comes after. Jesus gave us an example: let this life perish in faith knowing that something far greater comes after to those who believe.
That’s why He says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt. 16:24-25).
Paul says we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:17-18).
The point is that this life an all the things in it are secondary to the future promise of glory in Christ. But what does it mean? How does it affect the way we live?