19 August 2014John 12:20-50
“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (v. 25)
The scene is set. Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the build-up to the Passover festival: a time when the city's population would swell to several times the usual number with pilgrims from Jewish communities all over the Roman Empire. In this passage there is a lot going on and John's Gospel weaves the message it wants to share about Jesus with story it wants to tell.
First, there is the story of Greeks wanting to meet Jesus. This becomes the cue for Jesus to talk about the paradox of giving himself up to death and yet being the glorified "Son of Man". The way to real, lasting life is through giving yourself up. What looks like losing is really winning. That foreigners (the implication is that these are Gentiles rather than Greek-speaking Jews) are looking for Jesus is a fulfilment of the traditional Jewish expectation that at the last the nations would be drawn to God through Israel.
Then there is the element of struggle. John's Gospel doesn't give us the precise story of Jesus wrestling in Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42), but something similar is happening here. Jesus' prayer is answered by a heavenly voice that confirms that this is indeed the time for Jesus to be glorified.
Through all this there is discussion and argument. Members of the crowd keep asking questions; they aren't sure what to make of it all. I imagine that the author of John's Gospel uses the crowd in the story to ask the kind of questions that might be asked of the new Christian churches by those who found their beliefs and way of life bewildering. So the words of Jesus addressed the crowd ("…believe in the light so that you may become children of light" (v. 36)) are also intended for the readers of the Gospel.
But, of course, there are many who do not see Jesus as the light - in his own time, in the time of John and in our own time. John's Gospel uses Old Testament quotes from Isaiah (chapters 53 and 6) to show that this is because of spiritual blindness. But the Gospel makes it clear that this is not a sign of the failure of Jesus' ministry; on the contrary, it is all part of God's plan. And, in God's good time, all will become clear.
- Think of examples of people who have given their lives as 'grains of wheat' falling to earth.
- What difficult questions about Jesus do you ask, or find other people asking of you?
- Where do you think the world as it is now needs to have the light of Christ?
Bible notes author