And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 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. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 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. –John 12:23-26
Wednesday April 8th was the first day of Passover for observant Jews. The event we know as the Triumphal Entry occurred when Jesus came into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover for the last time. Ethnic Jews and those practicing Judaism gathered at Jerusalem from all around the Mediterranean world. John 12 records that “some Greeks” came looking for Jesus. The very well known statement “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” is found in verse 21. Philip told Andrew, Andrew and Philip went together and told Jesus. His response is shown above. He talks about bearing fruit, eternal life, following him and being honored by the father. He also talks about, as he had many times before, sowing seeds but in this instance uses what happens to seeds to allude to his crucifixion and burial. The grain of wheat must fall into the earth and die in order to bear fruit.
The Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke record the events of Jesus’ birth. Matthew recounts the visit of the Magi, or wisemen, and their gifts. Gold has always been valuable throughout history. Frankincense is an fragrant incense made from resin of the Boswellia tree. You may find it today in anointing oil or in an aromatic candle, particularly at Christmas time. You probably won’t find myrrh. Myrrh mixed with wine has been used historically as an analgesic. It was used in first century Israel to anoint the dead for burial. The wise men bowed down and worshipped Jesus and presented him with gifts when he was just a small child. Right in the middle of the joy and celebration of Christmas is a reminder, just an incidental footnote, that the reason Jesus came into the world was to go to the cross and die.
Jesus did not say it was something to look forward to nor something to be avoided. He said that a seed must fall and die in order to produce fruit. The crucifixion was part of God’s plan of salvation. Early in his ministry Jesus was tempted by Satan three times in ways that provided a shortcut, an easy way out. When Peter was ready to take up the sword and fight, telling Jesus they would all fight and die before giving him up, what does Jesus say? Get thee behind me Satan. Why say that to the Apostle Peter, of whom he said earlier on this rock I will build my church? Peter was offering a way out, another path besides the long, slow, painful road to the cross. Perhaps Jesus was tempted, as he had been earlier by Satan in the wilderness. Perhaps at Peter’s suggestion Satan once again whispered to Jesus, knowing that in his humanity preserving his own life would be a natural priority. I do not believe that Peter was actually possessed by Satan as some others have suggested. He didn’t need to possess Peter’s body to get inside Jesus’s head. But Jesus knew what must happen.
Jesus knew that the long, slow, painful road to the cross was the only thing that would satisfy the Father’s wrath. The wrath of God toward sin was poured out onto His Son. I’ve often said that if you want to know how much God loves you, look in the manger. If you want to know how much God hates sin, look on the cross. A seed must fall. Jesus knew that his death and burial must precede the resurrection. He had told his disciples about it numerous times and alluded to his death publicly in parables, such as the parable of the wicked tenants. Jesus knew what was coming and yet prayed the night before Father not my will but yours be done. Peter was ready to fight. Pilate tried everything he could think of to get Jesus to at least try to avoid it. But Jesus knew what must happen.
A seed must fall into the ground… and die… in order to bear fruit. Something to meditate on this Good Friday.