March 29, 2009
?Fifth Sunday in Lent (B)
John 12:20-33

Many people walk through life believing that the key to an abundant life is what the world defines as success. They seek only after the desires of their flesh, all the while being deceived into thinking they’ll be fulfilled. Even Christians often find themselves in despair, giving in to their flesh, unable to avoid the patterns of this world. If only we could grasp fully what Jesus teaches in this text, that death to self is life abundant.

I. The hour has come (vv. 20-23).
The author sets the stage for the climax of Jesus’ ministry in the following verses. He begins by bringing a group of Gentiles interested in meeting with Jesus. They came first to Philip, perhaps because his name was of Greek origin. At any rate, Philip told Andrew, and both went to Jesus with the Gentiles’ request. Jesus’ answer probably caught the two off guard. He replied: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
This theme had been introduced in several earlier passages where Jesus replied that it was not yet time. But now with the coming of the Greeks, Jesus declared that it was indeed time. James Montgomery Boice explains the significance of the Greeks seeking Jesus in his commentary on John: “Clearly, they were a sign that the turning point had come, as a result of which salvation would now be offered to Greeks as well as to Jews.”3 The good news of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed to all the world.

II. Death bears fruit (vv. 24-26).
Jesus goes on to teach His listeners how they might bear fruit, live eternally and be honored by their heavenly Father. What is it that bears fruit? Ironically, Jesus says it is death that bears fruit, and He illustrates this with a grain of wheat. How is it that we live eternally? Jesus states that it is by hating one’s life in this world. How do we receive honor from above? By following Jesus. “What?” someone might say: “We’re supposed to seek death, hate our lives and become followers?” The answer is yes! If we want to produce fruit in our lives, we must die each day to self. This kind of death breeds life. Hating our life in this world is to seek first the kingdom of heaven.
When we become followers of Christ in these ways, we realize what it means to really live. R. Kent Hughes derives an important application from these verses: “If your life is stagnant, if your spiritual potential is going unrealized, it may well be that you need to die, to lay down your life and be released. This was the key to the royalty in Jesus’ life, and it is an important principle in ours as well.”4

III. Jesus’ death bore fruit (vv. 27-33).
Ultimately we see these principles realized in the death of the Lord Jesus. Jesus’ soul was troubled, and it wasn’t simply the recognition of His coming crucifixion. He knew that He was about to bear something much worse than the cross; He would bear the sin of the world and be separated from His Father. Yet He had another interest in mind more important than a troubled soul. He desired that the name of His father be glorified; and He desired that all men, whether Jew or Greek, might be drawn to Him. We see the fruit of Jesus’ self-denial in the hearts of believers. May we become followers of Jesus and die to self in order that we might glorify our Father and live abundantly and eternally.

?3. James Montgomery Boice. The Gospel of John. Vol. 3, Those Who Received Him: John 9–12. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books) 1999, p. 936.
4. R. Kent Hughes. John: That You May Believe from the series Preaching The Word. (Wheaton: Crossway Books) 1999, p. 301.

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