Jesus Talks about the Mysteries of His Death
Jesus knew that his death was near and He was dreading the pain and suffering that He would soon have to endure. Shortly before Jesus’ death, a group of Greeks found Philip and told him that they wanted to see Jesus. (John 12:22) Philip ran and got Andrew and they both found Jesus and told him that these Greeks wanted to see Him. When Jesus heard this He answered by talking about his death. This is His answer: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified….” (John 12: 23) Why would Jesus answer that the time is near for Him to die when He hears that a group of Greeks want to meet Him? Are these two events linked together somehow?
Some Bible scholars believe that what Jesus was saying was, “These Greeks coming to meet Me are a sign that the hour of my death is near.” Jesus foresees that his death will drastically change the world spiritually. The conversion of so many of the Gentiles (the Greeks are Gentiles) soon after Jesus’ death and resurrection was part of those changes. And perhaps these Greeks wanting to see Him just before His death was the very beginning of something new. These were the first Greeks being drawn to Jesus, with many more to follow. The Age of Law was coming to a close and Jesus death was ushering in the Age of Grace!
Up until this time Israel was the only nation in the ancient world that knew God’s Word and the Jews were the only people looking for their Messiah or Savior. Many of the other nations were idol worshippers, who sacrificed their children to their gods in exchange for good crops, etc. Some worshipped the sun god and none of the Gentile nations were looking for a savior. But that all changed with Jesus’ death and resurrection!
One of the mysteries of Jesus’ death is that now people from every nation would be drawn to the Savior. Jesus says: “If I (Jesus) be lifted up (crucified on a cross) I will draw all people unto Myself.” (John 12:32) After Jesus’ death and resurrection a spiritual door was opened wide to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and billions of Gentiles down through the centuries have been drawn to Him and Christianity has spread around the world.
Another comment Jesus made about His death was this: “Now is the judgment of this world: now the ruler of this world will be driven out.”(John 12:31) Jesus’ death broke the power of sin. Scripture says that the physical world of nature reacted when Jesus was dying. That the sun was darkened during the last hours of Jesus’ death. And at the moment when Jesus said “It is finished” and breathed His last breath and died, there was an earthquake and rocks crashed to the ground and the veil of the temple was torn in half. (Matthew 27:5) God’s presence was alive in the temple in the Holy of Holies and the veil hung in front of the Holy of Holies, keeping the sinful person away from the presence of a Holy God. Now after Jesus’ death, the follower’s sins were taken away and there was no more separation between God and the person coming to Him through Jesus. He was covered in Jesus’ righteousness. No more need to keep man at a distance from his God. Christ has reconciled the world to God. The cross would seem to be Satan’s triumph but in fact, it was his defeat. Out of the Jesus’ death would flow the greatest good ever to come to the world.
When Jesus said that He (the Son of Man) would soon be “glorified”, He was talking about his death. We don’t think of Jesus as being “glorified” when He was dying. But it was through His dying that He saves us from our sins and ushers us into eternal life. He continued talking about the mysteries of his death and this is what He said: “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.” (John 12:24)
Christ is saying that His death is necessary. A seed will remain a seed – nice and intact – if it remains above ground, dry and protected! It must be planted in the ground where invisible forces inside the seed melt away the protective shell and break the insides of the seed apart. The seed will never sprout and grow and multiply into roots and shoots and branches and leaves and fruit unless it “dies” or is broken apart and is no longer a seed. And that is the same with Jesus and his death. And with us too as we follow in His footsteps.
Jesus would never have been the living quickening Head of the Church if He had not come down from heaven and died on the cross and accomplished our salvation. He must first pour out His soul in death in order to reach out across the earth with the living roots and branches and trunk of eternal life and the leaves and fruits of healing and salvation for all in every nation who would partake.
Jesus went on talking to Philip and Andrew and perhaps to the Greeks nearby. He said: “Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25) I believe Jesus is telling us not to hold onto the things of this world very tightly. This world is not our home, we are just passing through. We are children of another world now. If we collect a lot of baggage here on earth – our reputation, the control we have over others, money- then it may become harder to put God first – to follow Him as we struggle on under the extra weight. Christ calls us to travel light.
We are never forced to follow Jesus, but we are gently wooed and drawn by Jesus to follow after Him. It’s our decision whether we accept His invitation or reject it. Jesus said: “Whoever serves Me must follow Me, and where I am, there will my servants be also. Whoever serves Me, the Father will honor.” (John 12:26)
And when we follow Jesus, He leads us in His footsteps – to the cross and to the grave and on to victory and eternal life. He tells us that “because He lives, we shall live also.” (John 14:19) Just as the seed sprouts into a fruitful plant when it breaks apart in the ground and “dies”, we also will sprout and grow and bear much fruit. Scripture tells us: “So when your perishable body shall be covered with an imperishable body, and your corruptible body shall put on an incorruptible body, then the saying will come to pass that Death is swallowed up in Victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54) We can’t even begin to imagine what that will be like!