John 12:20-26

Sunday Morning Bible Study

May 5, 1996



Over the last two weeks, we entered into the time period of Jesus' last week before His crucifixion.

It is also the week before the Passover celebration.

Two weeks ago we saw Him at a supper held for Him, where Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anointed His feet with an expensive perfume, in preparation for His burial.

Last week we saw Jesus make His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, to the cries of the people shouting "Hosanna, blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!"

We ended with the Pharisees complaining to each other:

John 12:19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.

:20-26 Greeks come to see Jesus

:20 certain Greeks

There are two different groups of people referred to in the Scriptures as "Greeks".

And no, it does not refer to fraternity kids.

The first group were Jews who did not live in Israel, but lived out in the Greek world.

The other group was the Gentiles who were Greek themselves.

In the original language, it's this group that is being referred to.

These are Gentile people who have come up to Jerusalem to worship the Jewish God at the Passover.

Isn't it ironic that the Pharisees were complaining about "the whole world" following after Jesus, and now here come some of the peope from the Gentile world to see Him!

:21 came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee

We don't really know why they approached Philip:

It's possible that they came to Philip, because his name was a Greek name (Philip = "lover of horses")

It's possible that these people knew Philip from his hometown of Bethsaida.

:21 Sir, we would see Jesus

It might sound like a simple thing to you and I.

Great! Just bring them to Jesus.

But these people were Gentiles.

When a Canaanite woman had come to Jesus for help, Jesus' first response to her was:

Mt 15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Was it okay to be bringing Gentiles to Jesus?

Motives - were they seeking "a new thing"?

Ac 17:21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)

:22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew

Apparently Philip didn't know what to do with these Greeks.

So he goes to Andrew

Andrew was from the same town as Philip, Bethsaida (John 1:44 12:21)

Andrew was also pretty handy at bringing people to Jesus.

He had brought his brother Peter to Jesus. (John 1:40-42)

He had brought the little boy with the fish and bread to Jesus (John 6:8,9)

:22 Andrew and Philip tell Jesus

Apparently Andrew wasn't sure what to do either, so the both of them went to tell Jesus.

It doesn't appear that they brought the Greeks with them.

:23-26 Jesus answered them

It might not sound at first as if Jesus if really addressing the issue of these Gentiles wanting to come to Him.

But He is.

1. The Gentiles coming to Jesus is tied in with His glorification.

It's not until Jesus dies, rises from the dead, and ascends into heaven, that the gospel is allowed to go out to the Gentiles.

2. He lays out the basics for following Him.

He's said these things before, but now reiterates them for these Gentiles who want to see Him.

:23 The hour is come

Jesus isn't talking about a literal hour of sixty minutes.

He's talking about a general time.

It's like saying, "The time has come ..."

We've seen several places that it wasn't yet time ...

John 2:4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 7:8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

John 7:30 Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

John 8:20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

But now it's time for everything to start.

Jesus is now in the final week of bringing about what He and the Father had planned from before the foundation of the world.

:23 the Son of man should be glorified.

glorified - doxazo - to praise, extol, magnify, celebrate; to honour; to make glorious, adorn with lustre, clothe with splendour

It may seem as if Jesus could be referring to being crowned King of Israel or something grand and spectacular like that.

But His glory would not come by winning an election or an opinion poll.

But He's going to clarify just what He means.

:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

corn of wheat - grain of wheat

Jesus is talking about His own life, and comparing it to a grain of wheat.

If a grain of wheat is stored in a granary, it can exist for years and never do anything.

But take that same grain of wheat, even after a few years, and plant it in the ground, where the soil and moisture begin to break it down, and that small seed will begin to sprout.

And when the plant sprouts, it will eventually bring forth lots of new grain on it's stalk.

Jesus lead a wonderful life, but the greatest benefit came when He died.

When He died, He paid for all our sins, a much greater benefit than just giving us an example of how to live.


Jesus had just been talking about how the hour had come for the Son of man to be glorified.

And now instead of talking about big parades and a grand palace, He's talking about dying.

His glory would come through humiliation.

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus was equal with God, but laid it all aside.

And in the end, His name is the name above all other names.


The land of Persia was once ruled by a wise and beloved Shah who cared greatly for his people and desired only what was best for them. One day he disguised himself as a poor man and went to visit the public baths. The water for the baths was heated by a furnace in the cellar, so the Shah made his way to the dark place to sit with the man who tended the fire. The two men shared the coarse food, and the Shah befriended him in his loneliness. Day after day the ruler went to visit the man. The worker became attached to this stranger because he "came where he was". One day the Shah revealed his true identity, and he expected the man to ask him for a gift. Instead, he looked long into his leader's face and with love and wonder in his voice said, "You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to eat my coarse food, and to care about what happens to me. On others you may bestow rich gifts, but to me you have given yourself!"

:25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

I believe that Jesus specifically has His own life in mind as He shares this.

His own death was imminent, and He understood He needed to lay it down.

Though there are other implications, which we'll see later.

:26 If any man serve me, let him follow me

This is where Jesus most clearly answers the Greeks that were seeking an interview with Jesus.

To be a Christian, you must follow Jesus.

It's not following the teachings of Jesus.

He didn't say, "If any man serve me, let him follow my teachings".

It's following Jesus.

Being a Christian is not joining a group of people who "study the teachings" of Jesus.

It's joining a group of people who are following Jesus Himself.

:26 if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

There are folks who don't want to make too much of Jesus.

They think he's a nice guy, but you know, Jesus never claimed greatness for Himself.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are like this, saying that Jesus was just a created being, and that we should be serving God only.

But Jesus says very clearly that if you serve Him, the Father will be pretty pleased with you, and will honor you.

:26 where I am, there shall also my servant be

It sounds kind of obvious, but it's true.

If you want to find Jesus' servants, just find Jesus, because His servants will be following Him.


Knowing God's Will.

People want to know, what is God's will for my life?

What does God want me to do?

I think we could learn a lot if we just ask ourselves, "Where's Jesus?"


The Israelites led by the cloud in the wilderness:

Numbers 9:15-23 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning. 16 So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents. 18 At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents. 19 And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not. 20 And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed. 21 And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. 22 Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23 At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

Wherever the cloud was, they followed.

Wherever Jesus goes, we follow.

Another way of putting it is, "What would Jesus do?"

1Pe 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

If I can come to understand where Jesus is working, then maybe I should kind of hang out there myself.


If we are going to follow Jesus, then we need to pay attention to the things He did.

The lessons that Jesus had to live are also lessons that we too must live.

And so if we look at the preceeding things that Jesus has talked about concerning Himself, we can see things that we too must be about.

If Jesus learned humility, so must we.

If Jesus learned to let go of this life on earth, so must we.


God's way to glory is through humility.

1Peter 5:5-7 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Don't be seeking greatness.

Seek humility.


"I used to think God's treasures were on shelves on above another, and the higher you reached, the more you received. But now I know that God's treasures on on shelves one lower than the other, and the lower you go, the greater the reward."


William Carey, sometimes called "the father of modern missions," always seemed to have a humble spirit. In young manhood he had a job repairing shoes. As the years went by, honors were heaped upon him because of his many accomplishments. Yet this unassuming man would only accept positions and appointments that opened the way for him to do more work in Christ's service. Even at the zenith of his popularity, one of his most striking characteristics was his meek and selfless attitude. To emphasize this point, The Illustrator related an incident that occurred at a state dinner given in his honor. With a sneer a jealous English officer asked the host, "Wasn't your great Dr. Carey once just a shoemaker?" Before the man could reply, the renowned missionary, who was near enough to hear the remark, answered with quiet dignity, "No, sir, I was not that skilled. I was only a cobbler."


A man paid a visit to his local psychologist. When the doctor asked him what had prompted the visit, the man said, "I'm suffering from an inferiority complex."

In the ensuing weeks, the psychologist put his new patient through an intensive battery of tests. Next came the long wait while the test results were tabulated and appropriate correlations were made.

Finally, the doctor called the man and asked him to return to the clinic. "I have some interesting news for you," the doctor began.

"What's that?" asked the man.

"It's no complex," the psychologist retorted. "You are inferior."

-- Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, by Charles Swindoll, p. 117


Watchman Nee writes:

Our spirit is released according to the degree of our brokenness. The one who has accepted the most discipline is the one who can best serve. The more one is broken, the more sensitive he is. The more we desire to save ourselves, in that very thing we become spiritually useless. Whenever we preserve and excuse ourselves, at that point we are deprived of spiritual sensitivity and supply. Let no one imagine he can be effective and disregard this basic principle.

Lesson #2:

Don't get too attached to this world

You need to hate your life in this world. (vs.25)

Lot and his family. (Gen.19)

Lot had moved into the city of Sodom and that's where he raised his family.

When the angels arrived to evacuate Lot before the judgment came, they had to grab Lot and his family by the hand and drag them out of the city.

As they headed away, they were warned not to even look back at what was happening to the city.

Jesus told of Lot's wife.

Luke 17:28-33 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 31 In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. 32 Remember Lot's wife. 33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

Lot's wife turned back.

She's an example of what Jesus spoke of in verse 31, about wanting to stop and pack up some stuff to take with you when you go.

She was too attached to her world in Sodom to want to willingly let it go.

Is there anything holding you back from fully serving the Lord?

If the Lord said to get up and leave right now, would there be things you'd want to stop and take with you?

Everything should be expendable compared to following the Lord.

Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things [but] loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them [but] dung, that I may win Christ,

It's not that we aren't allowed to have anything of value, but that we shouldn't be letting anything get in our way of serving the Lord.


Dear Ann Landers: Please print this response to "Class of '73," who felt inadequate when he compared his success with that of his college classmates.

My husband is probably one of the guys he admires. We have moved six times in 10 years, always for a better-paying, more prestigious job. Each move requires establishing new friendships and becoming part of the community. I dream of staying in one place long enough for my children to develop ongoing relationships, but I know it will never happen.

We drive the BMW that "Class of '73" admires. Actually, we have two. What I wouldn't give for a husband who is satisfied with his job, his salary and the city where we live. My husband's lucky I am committed to keeping our family life strong and loving. Some days I want to throw in the towel. I envy your wife, Mr. "Class of '73."

-- K.B., Anytown, USA, The Columbus Dispatch, 9/26/91, p. 2E


Monkey trappers in North Africa have a clever method of catching their prey. A number of gourds are filled with nuts and firmly fastened to a branch of a tree. Each has a hole just large enough for the unwary monkey to stick his forepaw into it. When the hungry animal discovers this, he quickly grasps a handful of nuts, but the hole is too small for him to withdraw his clenched fist. And he doesn't have enough sense to open up his hand and let go in order to escape, so he is easily taken captive.

Are there things you're holding too tightly to, things that might end up being a snare for you?

When Jesus says to let go, will you be able to?

Application -

It might be the guy who doesn't want to come to church on Sunday because he needs to take his boat out and run it.

The person who doesn't want to share God's love with their friend, because they're afraid they might lose their friendship if they do.