The Hour Has Come

A group of Greeks who had probably come as God-fearers to worship at the temple were likely moved by the unique circumstances of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. By this time, stories of Jesus’ concern for those of other cultures were certainly in circulation.

  • Cleansing the Temple: Jesus had begun his ministry with a burning zeal for the House of God, and cleansed the Court of the Gentiles by driving out all the money changers and animal vendors. Otherwise, there would be no place for God fearers who had not converted to Judaism to pray and worship.
  • Centurion’s Servant: A Roman centurion who humbly asked Jesus to simply say the word was rewarded for his faith when Jesus healed his servant instantly from afar.
  • Canaanite Woman: Jesus, despite his disciples’ protestations, healed the daughter of a SyroPhoenician woman.
  • Catechizing Samaria: Jesus, to the shock and confusion of his disciples, spoke with the woman at the well as though she were his disciple, then spent two days with her village, teaching them.
  • Commendable Faith: Jesus had reserved his highest praise for these two Gentiles, commending them both for their great faith, and honored the Samaritan woman with profound revelation.

These Greeks now approached Philip, who would have had a Greek accent to go with his Greek name, as his hometown was Bethsaida, near the Greek quarter of Galilee.

All throughout this gospel Jesus had been saying “It is not my time yet.” But now the coming of the Greeks caused Jesus to say,

The hour has come in order that the Son of Humanity[1] was glorified.

Jesus, John 12:23

But when Jesus described the process for this glory he talked about death.

Amen, amen, I say to you, if the kernel of wheat does not fall into the earth to die, it remains one [seed]; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Jesus, John 12:24

Jesus then broadened his illustration to include not only himself but everyone who followed him

The one who is fond of their life themself utterly destroys and loses it, and the one who disregards their life in this world [in comparison with something else] will preserve life itself in eternity. Whoever would serve me let them follow me, and where I am, then there will be my servant. Whoever serves me the Father will honor them.

Jesus, John 12:25-26

Worldly Cultures Verses the Cross of Christ

Part of the American dream is to think we can have it all. With a little elbow grease, ingenuity, and opportunity, we can be rich. And, since we deserve it, we can indulge ourselves in whatever way we please. We grow up thinking we can be and do anything we imagine.

And because we grow up in this culture, this ethos sinks deep into our bones. Even after we put our faith in Jesus, you and I still, after all—in whatever culture we have grown up in—have that enculturation as part of how we think, feel, and see the world.

We will feel that clash of cultures, between what we grew up believing so completely it goes without saying, and what we are learning about in what it means to follow Jesus.

Because Jesus did not make his call to discipleship easy. On the contrary, Jesus stressed the cost of following him, and taught that if you and I follow the ethics, values, and ways of our culture we will actually lose everything that really matters: “The one who is fond of their life [irrevocably] loses it.

It is an admittedly hard saying of Jesus. We can understand it from the perspective of salvation, certainly. But Jesus was not evangelizing in this moment. Jesus was speaking to his disciples. So what did he mean?

Living for ourselves will garner worldly gain but eternal loss.

Jesus was saying if you and I are truly going to be his disciples, then we need to follow him wherever he goes, even into suffering and self-sacrifice. Where Jesus is, that is where you and I must also be if we are his disciples.

Following Jesus undoubtedly means sacrifice, but as with Mary, our stories will be wrapped together with Jesus for all eternity.

Cost of the Cross

The main way Jesus talked about the personal cost of following him was to talk about the cross, saying in Matthew’s gospel, “If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.” Here in today’s passage Jesus used the kernel of wheat as his example.

Jesus made several points about the cross for a believer:

1) Luke 14:27, Anyone who does not shoulder their own cross and follow behind Jesus cannot be his disciple. The cross is necessary, not optional, for every believer.

2) The cross is personal; no one can pick it up and carry it for us. In the same way, each kernel must individually be willing to die in order to bear fruit.

3) The cross must be voluntary: “Whoever would serve me…” No one is compelled to take up the cross. A person must take up their cross willingly, because of a love for Jesus and a desire to share in Jesus’ life.

4) The cross was a means of execution. It often took days for someone to die, the death was painful and gruesome. The disciple’s cross is meant to kill self‑centered desires and ambitions. We can make that decision once and for all, but the process is painful and can take a long time. Still, Jesus says you and I must die to self here on earth if we want to bear eternal fruit. “If [the kernel of wheat] dies, it bears much fruit . . . the one who disregards their life in this world [in comparison to the Cross] will preserve life itself in eternity.

5) God ordains the cross for each of us. The Lord knows the plans God has made for you and me, and the good works God has prepared for us. God will bring us into situations where displaying God’s character is sometimes going to come at great personal cost.

6) Jesus also said the Father will honor and reward anyone who serves Jesus. “Whoever serves me the Father will honor them.” That does not necessarily mean earthly honor and rewards, but sometimes it does.

[1] The traditional way to translate this phrase from the Greek “uion tou anthropou” is “Son of Man.” This is because “Man” connoted “humankind” for a few centuries in the English language. Interestingly, in Middle English, the female version of “man” was “wimman” or “wifman,” our modern-day “woman.” The male version of “man” was “werman.” This left the word “man” as truly neutral, referring to male and female alike as humans.

However, at some point the prefix “wer” fell away, so that “man” came to mean both male humans and humans in general.

Today, being more sensitive to the implications of using the male version of human as standing in for all humans, more and more people are making the intentional effort to use more accurate language when translating. In this case, “anthropos” in Greek is the neutral term denoting humankind (like “anthropology,” the study of people). If a male term is desired, the Greek uses “aner/andros.”

[What | Photo by PIXNIO]

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