Today’s passage: John 12:20-32
Jesus has entered Jerusalem by this point. Some Greek Jews are there for the passover, and they ask Philip to take them to Jesus. Fun fact, “Philip” is a Greek name. It means “friend of horses,” it’s got the Greek word for “horse” (Ἵππος) in there. You know, like how “hippopotamus” means “river-horse?” The text also notes that Philip “was from Bethsaida of Galilee” (21). Was Bethsaida known for Greek cultural influence or something? Anyway, I don’t really know where I was going with that stuff.
The key verse, as far as understanding John’s view of the gospel goes, is verse 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.
At first glance, when you go on to read verses 25 and 26, it looks like a life lesson that Jesus is teaching his listeners: if you want to please God, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices, you can’t just live a self-absorbed life. But when you bear in mind that Jesus starts making his point by saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (23) and goes on to talk about how the hour is troubling him and he will be lifted up to draw all men to himself, you see that he’s talking first and foremost about his own death on the cross. Here’s the good news: if you’ve been selfish in the past, if you’ve failed to serve God like you ought to, it’s not gonna kill you. Jesus Christ is taking the hit for you.
Jesus has further good news for humankind in this passage: “Now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (31). Jesus also refers to the “ruler of this world” (namely Satan, the Accuser) in John 14:30 and 16:11, in each verse suggesting that Satan is reigning on borrowed time. I’ve frequently maintained in this study that recognizing the world’s fallenness is foundational to understanding the gospel. Satan, the original rebel against God, led the charge in twisting the cosmos away from God’s design, and part of Jesus’ good news here is that the ruler of this world isn’t running the show, and he only gets to hold a measure of power for so long. He, like the whole entire universe, will be brought to justice.