As Jesus’ time on earth is growing short, He is intent on alerting people that their time is short. Now is the time to believe in Him; and now is the time for those who do believe in Him to openly confess Him and follow Him.
As we track along with the Lord on this final week of His ministry, we are still at Monday, and Jesus is still in Jerusalem. We are in John chapter 12 now, and as the crucifixion draws ever nearer, the Lord speaks openly about it and what it means for the whole world.
We are told here, beginning in verse 20, that some Greeks show up and want to see Jesus. These are Gentiles who have adopted Judaism to some degree, and they worship Israel’s God. Philip and Andrew tell Jesus that these men want to meet with Him.
The text does not tell us if Jesus actually meets with them, though we can probably assume that He did. What He says here, though, is more than likely spoken in their presence:
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (verses 23-24)
Jesus’ death is going to be like seed planted in the ground that grows and bears much fruit. And a lot of that fruit, beloved, happens to be Gentile believers from all around the world.
Jesus continues in verses 25-26:
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
The Lord already has stated this principle repeatedly in the Gospels (See Matthew 10:27-39; 16:24-25; Luke 9:23-24; 14:26-27). This is really the only way to live. You truly begin to live when you die to self; and in dying to yourself, you find a life worth living.
Now you might notice that Jesus keeps referring here to “whoever” and “anyone.” In other words, the gospel invitation is open to whomever believes. The King James Version says in Revelation 22:17, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
I like the way D. L. Moody used to put it, when he preached back in the 1800s. He would say something like, “There are only two kinds of people in the world today; the whosoever wills and the whosoever wont’s.” Which one are you today, my friend?
Now Jesus admits here in verse 27 that His soul is “troubled,” or agitated, over what is immediately ahead for Him. But even still, His prayer is not, “Father, get me out of this” but “Father, glorify your name.” This was His purpose for coming into the world—to glorify His Father—to honor His Father in this great plan of salvation.
And all of a sudden, Jesus’ desire to see the Father glorified is given divine approval here in verse 28: “Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him” (verse 29).
Imagine hearing a voice thundering from heaven. This is the same voice that had thundered three years earlier, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This is the voice of God the Father, who affirmed the Lord Jesus as deity, as a representative of the Godhead—fully God, though fully man.
Jesus then says to the stunned crowd in verse 31, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.” In other words, Jesus is proclaiming victory over Satan through His own coming death and resurrection.
Even more than that, the Lord says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (verse 32). John adds in verse 33 that Jesus is indicating “what kind of death he was going to die.” He is going to be lifted up on a cross.
This lifting up will draw “all people” to Him. This does not mean that everybody will be saved. After all, Jesus has already spoken about the judgment of the unbeliever (See, for example, John 5:28-29). What Jesus means is that His death will be an invitation for all the world to believe. Beloved, the cross will become a lighthouse whose beacon will eventually reach around the world.
Even as the clock ticks down toward His crucifixion, Jesus is focused on His mission to seek and to save those who are lost.
Now with that, John’s Gospel account makes two observations. First, John writes in verse 37, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.” You might think that miracles like raising the dead and giving sight to the blind—and now hearing a voice thundering from heaven—would lead everybody to believe. But the general response is still unbelief. John points out in the following verses that their unbelief is in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah that their eyes are blind and their hardened hearts will not believe.
The second observation is recorded here in verses 42-43:
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
How tragic it is that these people know Jesus is God the Son but they are going to keep quiet about it so they will not face mockery and opposition. That sounds like a lot of so-called Christians I know today. They say they believe in Christ, but they are silent believers. They are evidently on a secret mission—to keep their belief in Christ a secret.
I remember attending a funeral and talking there to an older Christian I knew pretty well—faithful to his church, his wife was a regular soloist, their children were outstanding young people. This man had carpooled for decades with the man who had just died. I asked him how the deceased man had responded to the gospel that this man certainly would have shared with him. Well, he hung his head and said, “You know, I never once brought up the Lord. I never even told him I was a Christian. And how I regret that now.”
Too often, just as here in John 12, the unbelievers are vocal, but the believers are silent. Jesus sure could use some support about now, but the pressure of their culture keeps these people silent and secret about their belief in Christ.
What we have in the remaining verses of chapter 12 is a summary of Jesus’ invitation to believe in Him. He cries out to the crowd in verse 46. “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” It occurs to me that these words from Jesus just might be the last words these people hear from the Lord—the last invitation they will receive from Him.
Beloved, let’s live our lives openly and courageously as followers of Christ. Let’s join Jesus in His mission to invite the “whosoever wills” to trust in Him for salvation and everlasting life, while there is still time.
At a missions conference in South Carolina, a college-aged woman testified that she had decided to openly live out her commitment to Christ. She held up a sheet of paper—it was blank, with only her signature written at the bottom. She said, “This piece of paper is God’s plan for my life. I don’t know what He’s going to write on it, but I have already signed my name to it. I have accepted His will without knowing what it is, and I am trusting Him as He writes in the details.”
Let me tell you something: that is the only way to really live.