“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:23-25).
John’s Gospel provides a detailed look into the last week of Jesus’ ministry before the crucifixion and resurrection. The other Gospels certainly give us a vivid picture, but John’s aim is singular – “…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). All that Jesus has said and done has been leading up to his death, that the name of God would be glorified.
When the angels met the shepherds out in the fields on the night Jesus was born, they remind us of the purpose for which he came. That mighty chorus sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). Not peace to all, but peace to those for which he came. His death wasn’t paving a way for man to find God; it was providing the only way to God. As the Psalmist reminds us, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord” (Psa. 118:19).
Jesus makes this explicit in the verses following our passage above. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour (the hour of his death). Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28). And God immediately hears and answers Jesus’ prayer. “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:28).
As John Piper notes of this verse: “The deepest reason why we live for the glory of God is because God lives for the glory of God. We are passionate about God’s glory because God is passionate about God’s glory. And what makes this such good news especially in the Gospel of John is that the glory of God is full of grace and truth… The most glorious thing about God is that he is so completely, fully self-sufficient that the glory of the fullness of his being overflows in truth and grace for his creatures. He doesn’t need us. And therefore in his fullness he overflows for us.”
As we’ve been seeing in Mark, Jesus wanted his disciples to see his glory. Miracle after miracle attests to this, but these were all pointing to that singular event that would reveal his glory for all the world. It was so great that Jesus can say, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).
As we make our way through this week, there will be ample occasions for us to become distracted. There will be bunnies and eggs, baskets and candy, bonnets and dresses. All of these are fine in themselves, but if they distract us from Jesus, then they become impediments to our discipleship.
We sang these words yesterday that should remind us of the necessity to live in the shadow of the cross each and every day.
Jesus keep me near the cross; there a precious fountain,
Free to all – a healing stream – flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me,
There the Bright and Morning Star shed its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God, bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait, hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand just beyond the river.