John 12:20-36 NIV
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince 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 show the kind of death he was going to die.
The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah will remain forever, so how can you say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this 'Son of Man'?” Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.
To God be the Glory
The Greeks who had gone up to Jerusalem to worship at the festival were converts to Judaism. They had heard about Jesus. And whether it was out of curiosity or a genuine openness to seek Jesus, they approached Philip with a request to see Jesus. Knowing how Jesus never misses a chance to preach, we would have expected Jesus to jump at the opportunity to meet them. However, Jesus “left and hid himself from them.”
It certainly wasn’t because his gospel was meant only for the Jews. So why did Jesus retreat by himself?
During his ministry, Jesus withdrew from the people from time to time, especially when his popularity got too much. He exorcised demons, healed the sick and preached to the people, but none of these were done to bring glory to himself.
This time, however, Jesus explained that the time for him “to be glorified has come”; and it required him to die on the cross to glorify God. In response to Jesus’ willing submission, a voice from heaven thundered, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” This was the third time a divine voice had sounded from heaven to assure and praise Jesus (the two other times were at his baptism and his transfiguration).
Do we want to lead lives that glorify God? Do we seek our own glory, or do we await God’s assurance and praise?
The Unshakeable Goal
Jesus had only one ultimate goal in mind and that was to die on the cross. He told Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)
Jesus stayed on course to what Isaiah had prophesied about him, that he would be made an offering for sin, “But it was the LORD's good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD's good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” (Isaiah 53:10-11 NLT)
When Jesus told the disciples, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour,” it reflected his determination to meet his imminent and cruel death. Jesus’ faithfulness to his goal was unshakeable.
Have we set it as our goal to glorify God? If we need a role model in our quest to glorify God, there’s no better choice than Jesus. He set the perfect example for how we can love God, endure afflictions and resist temptations.
How long have we journeyed in Christ? 3 months, 3 years or 30 years? Some of us came to know God when we were in our teens. We’ve got to live a Christian life for a 'long time’ and if we do not set glorifying God as our ultimate goal, we will lose our focus.
While Jesus has died to redeem us, we are still responsible for our response to him. Even at the point of death, Jesus did not give up because he loves us. Because of this, we should follow the advice from the writer of Hebrews — we need to persevere through the difficulties before us by focusing on Jesus.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1b-2).
Even as Jesus set his eyes on his own sacrifice, he taught his disciples to value the eternal over the temporal, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
This same teaching applies to us too. The “life” described here does not refer merely to the physical existence that we have, but what we desire to pursue in the world. We should not love the life the world describes as desirable, but the life that God defines as good.
It is ironic that the more we pursue our worldly definition of life, the more we will mess up our lives. But when we are not focused on it, we will gain a happier life, for eternity.
So what should we pursue in our lives? Jesus has provided the answer:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Do we lead lives that pursue our own glory instead of God’s? How do we tell the difference? For example, does aiming for a promotion at work mean we desire worldly goals more than God? It is if we set that as our primary goal, above God. It is not if we set out hearts on serving God and He blesses us with success in our work. The former distracts us from our ultimate goal of glorifying God while the latter rewards us with eternity beside Jesus.
Jesus chose a life that glorifies God, persevering through all difficulties till he died on the cross. He has set us a perfect example.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.