Summary: An evangelistic call to die to self

April 2, 2006

Fifth Sunday in the Season of Lent

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

John 12:20-33 (NRSVA)

A paradox, according to Funk & Wagnall’s dictionary, is a statement seemingly absurd or contradictory, yet in fact true. We don’t understand something – yet it works anyway. A man sitting in his office late one evening nede some help. He went to the corridor and yelled, Is anyone out there? A voice came back, I’m here.

The man asked, How do you spell ‘simultaneous’? After a long pause the voice answered as if fading in the night, There’s nobody out here!

The gospel itself is a paradox – it seems absurd that God would die for His creation. The gospel is full of paradoxes; and we are called to live LIFE IN PARADOX!

The Greeks came to the disciple of Jesus and said they needed a conference with the Master. That is our desire this morning; we wish to see the God-Man of paradox. We may be like the disciples, willing to see what we want, ignoring the point He wants us to see. Jesus had just entered town and cleaned house at the temple. The crowds saw a “Son of Man”, a conqueror of men. The Greeks were noted for their thirst for knowing…they wanted to see this ruler.

Palm Sunday was a triumph, and Jesus was a hot commodity. Had the kingdom of God really come to Jerusalem? This is the picture of paradox…the disciples expected a crown; the rabbi from Nazareth kept talking about a cross. Our text is a continuation of the terms of Jesus’ paradox – absurd statements that are absolutely true.


Jesus talks about wheat dying. The illustration of wheat is more than an agricultural lesson; it is the basis for spiritual life. The fact is that wheat is ineffective when it is stored-up in a barn somewhere. It must be planted in order to bring forth a crop.

The story is told of a man who claimed to have “gotten religion”. An old drinking buddy called him up and said, Hear you got religion. Sure have, was the reply.

I suppose you’ll be goin’ to church every Sunday now.

That’s right; started 5 weeks ago…ain’t missed a Sunday.

And I suppose you’re going to stop drinkin’, smokin’ & cussin’ now.

That’s for sure…good man cain’t do that.

Remembering how much money the new convert had borrowed from him several years prior, he jabbed,

And I suppose since you got religion you’ll be a-payin’ yer debts.

Now wait a minute, we was talkin’ bout religion, not business!

The principle is LIFE ONLY COMES THROUGH DEATH. The application, spiritually-speaking is that new life in Christ comes when we fully bury our personal control over life. The word “fall” is applied to the wheat in Jesus’ statement. It carries the meaning in Greek of being prostrate, flat out on your face before God. If we want eternal life there must be an eternal death of the pride of life. We must admit our need of a Savior.

How do you have a death experience with Christ? You hand yourself over to Him; it is a choice of free will. It is similar to banking. You have some money and wish to open a bank account. You decide on a local bank. You look it over, study its financial statement and security measures. You check the references of its board and officers. Up to this point you have been operating on reason and intellect. But, then you take the plunge; you hand your money over to the teller, and she receives it from you. It took faith in that bank to hand over the cash!

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