Sermon: Dying and Bearing Fruit John 12:19–26


Dying and Bearing Fruit

John 12:19–26 (ESV)

Primary Truth Taught- Jesus must die in order to bear much fruit and so must we.

John 12:19–26 (ESV)

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 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.

  1. Jesus, the Savior of the World
    19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Here in verse 19 the Pharisees in their frustration make a blanket statement. They say that in their estimation, the world is going after Jesus. Even though, they don’t realize what they have just said and even though they mean it in a way not in line with what will soon come to pass, they are speaking truth. They are uttering prophecy.

John 11:49–53 (ESV)

49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

 

What the Apostle John does here is very interesting. He records the statement by the Pharisees, which they meant as a negative thing and uses it to introduce these Gentiles (the entire world) interest in Jesus.

During the Passover celebration, worshippers came from all over. Many thousands came from far away places and would make the trek to Jerusalem for the celebration.   They too hear about Jesus.
Asking to see Jesus is a way of saying, may we speak to Jesus or may we have a brief interview with Jesus?

We’re not told anything else. We don’t know if they ever got to speak with Jesus or if they did, what they said to Him. All we have recorded is the request to see Him.

So, more than just Israelites were coming to Christ.

Are you thankful today that Jesus is the Savior of the Nations and not just for Israelites only?
This is the picture of what is going to happen on a large scale. The Israelites have rejected Jesus. We’ll see that more clearly down the road. The leadership rejected Him and soon the people will also reject Him. Yet God will open the door for Gentiles to come.

Romans 9:25–27 (ESV)

25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

       “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

26    “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

In God’s plan, He has turned from the nation of Israel to the Gentiles. This little mention of the Greeks seeking Jesus is showing us that the door of salvation has been opened, even to the Gentiles.

Prior to this, Gentiles were not counted as true worshippers of God. They could join Judaism but never fully receive all the benefits that a Hebrew had. Their access to God was limited by the fact that they could not even enter the Temple but had to remain out side. This was because they were seen as unclean.

Now, in Christ, Gentiles have full access with no limitations due to national origin. No longer are Gentiles seen as second class citizens.
Ephesians 2:11–22 (ESV)

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Jesus Christ has given Gentiles access to God. We can come to Christ and be children of God. Through Christ we are called children of Abraham. Through Christ, we are adopted into God’s family, He being our Father.

Jesus truly is the Savior of the world!

  1. The Hour Has Come

23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

So far in John’s Gospel we’ve read that Jesus’ hour or time has not yet come. God has ordained a specific time for everything. Jesus’ destiny was on a specific timetable.

When Jesus speaks about His hour not yet coming He means the precise time that He would be fully obedient to His Father’s will in dying for the sin of His people. The hour, then, is the hour of the cross or the time of the cross.

John 2:4 (ESV)

And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”

John 7:6–8 (ESV)

Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.”

John 7:30 (ESV)

30 So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

John 8:20 (ESV)

20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Because Jesus knew God ordained His days, He shows us the sovereignty of God in not only the cross but even the very timing of the cross.

At the same time the Passover Lamb was killed in the Temple Jesus died on the cross. The Passover Lamb was a cover while Jesus’ death took sin away. Timing was everything. Not only did Jesus die at the right time, but He rose from the grave at the right time as well. On the Sunday after Jesus’ death, the Sunday of the resurrection, The Jews celebrated the Feast of First fruits, which was the beginning of the barley harvest. The Israelites practiced giving God the first portion of their harvest by faith trusting that God would be faithful and bring about a full harvest for them. Jesus rose on that very day. God showing that He is giving us His best and that there will, indeed be a full harvest coming in the future. Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruit of the resurrections to come.

Do you see the amazing timing of the cross? This is what Jesus meant by His hour.

Our Lord refers to Himself as the Son of Man…
Many teach that this is Jesus highlighting His humanity. Actually the opposite is true. The Son of Man title that Jesus uses here is to point back to the Book of Daniel. Daniel is given a vision of the Throne Room of Heaven. As he watches there he sees a being that he calls the Son of Man.
Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV)

13 “I saw in the night visions,

       and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

       and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him.

14    And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom,

       that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

       his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

       and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.

As Daniel is watching all that’s going on in the throne room of God he witnesses the precise moment Jesus returns to heaven after His ascension. The disciples watch Him rise out of their sight and Daniel is there, as it were, watching Him approach heaven and take His rightful honored throne.

So when Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, He wants us to connect Him with the divine Being Daniel saw. So now, we no longer have to wonder who Daniel saw. Because of the complete Scriptures now we know. Daniel was writing about seeing Jesus. Jesus is the divine King who is given authority by the Ancient of Days.

Look at the Daniel text and see with me that the Son of Man will also be worshipped by… that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;

John 12:32 (ESV)

32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

We can think back to our Lord’s own words of self realization…

John 3:13–15 (ESV)

13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

One last word we need to look at in this verse. The word glorified is very important here…
It seems that the glorification of the Son of Man is just now really beginning and all has been said until now about that glory silently becomes mere prelude or preparation. [1]

When we think about Jesus’ glory most often our thoughts go directly to either a miracle He accomplished or His resurrection. Our Lord’s glory is seen at every step including His humiliation as well.

Let’s listen to how one premiere theologian puts it…
…there can be no ascent to heaven, no authority of the Son of Man, and no heavenly glory as described in Daniel 7 before the descent from heaven has taken place and has been brought to its conclusion. It is from this perspective that the glorification of the Son of Man can be spoken of here in this absolute sense. [2]

Jesus is as glorious hanging on the cross as He is ascending to heaven. He is to be honored as much in His humiliation as His exaltation. He is as glorious in His dying as He is in His resurrection.

That’s why when the Greeks ask to see Jesus, our Lord basically tells His disciples, If they really want to see Me, here’s what is coming next…

  1. The Glory of Christ in His Death

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.

But here is a truth that they may not expect. Verse 24:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
My pathway to glory is through death. Do you want to see that? I will indeed bear much fruit — including Greeks. But I will not and I cannot bear this fruit any way but through dying.
If I leave the road I’m on now, and try to be seen by people who want a glimpse of a king, I will remain alone like a seed in a bag not in the ground. And you will not be saved. Not the Jews or the Greeks.
But if I go and die on my way to glory, then I will bear much fruit — you will be saved and the Greeks will be saved, and all who believe in me will be saved. Do they want to see me? This is what I want them to see. See me dying. See me bearing fruit. [3]


There was an old man who would call me and ask me to come and see him. We would sit and talk about the Lord and all His glorious work for us. Tom would inveribly ask me that in Bible College and Seminary did they ever teach on this verse? He longed to discover the meaning of verse 24.
In God’s wonderful providence I explained what Jesus meant by this verse and how it was a picture of His death and resurrection. We talked about how like the seed whose outter shell dies as the new plant springs forth so too our Lord’s earthly body, like that husk fell away to reveal a glorified body. We spoke about how it was necessary for Him to die in order to be raised. Once raised how He would bear much fruit. Just like a seed that sprouts forth in sort of a resurrection it too bears fruit if its first buried. I can remember the sparkle in his eyes after that truth found its way home into his heart.

Then I said Tom, there’s more…that was Jesus’ part. Here is our part…

4. We Must Also Die
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.

What we must understand is that we too are included in Jesus’ principle of the grain of wheat.
Jesus’ grain of wheat teaching applied immediately to His first followers many of whom would also suffer death at the hands of the Jews and Romans. So, first His desire was to make things clear for them. If He is put to death because of His claims there’s a very good possibility His followers would suffer the same fate. Many did.
We too must be ready to suffer for the cause of Christ. I don’t think we are to go looking for any trouble with the authorities necessarily. However, if someday it came between you suffering great loss or even death for the cause of Christ would you?
This year we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation. The reformation was marked with many deaths for the cause of Christ.
Somewhat of a pre-reformation reformer who was killed for his faith was John Huss.
Huss took issue with the selling of indulgences much like Martin Luther a century later. Because Rome was making money hand over fist in selling tickets out of Purgatory they had to act fast in order to silence the heretic as Huss was called. He was arrested and placed in prison because he was teaching against the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences. He was promised a fair hearing but once he arrived at Rome he was immediately arrested.
When he saw he wasn’t to be given a forum for explaining his ideas, let alone a fair hearing, he finally said, “I appeal to Jesus Christ, the only judge who is almighty and completely just. In his hands I plead my cause, not on the basis of false witnesses and erring councils, but on truth and justice.” He was taken to his cell, where many pleaded with him to recant. On July 6, 1415, he was taken to the cathedral, dressed in his priestly garments, then stripped of them one by one. He refused one last chance to recant at the stake, where he prayed, “Lord Jesus, it is for thee that I patiently endure this cruel death. I pray thee to have mercy on my enemies.” He was heard reciting the Psalms as the flames engulfed him. [4]
Huss loved Christ and His people more than he loved his life. All he had to do was recant his position, go along with the Catholic Church’s teaching and be released. However, for Huss Christ, Truth, and the Lord’s people meant more than his life. He did not love his life.
25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Only God knows the future, but as things are right now, no one is being burned at the stake for heresy.
There is another meaning Jesus has in mind.
Loosing your life in service to Him. This too is a radical choice. Jesus demands our loyalty. In times of war we must be ready to give Him the ultimate sacrifice and in more peaceful times, radical service to Him.
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.

Loosing your life as it were in radical service is what every Christian is called to do. This is not a call to missions in some foreign land but a call to serve Christ here and now.
I think we end today by looking inwardly and asking some hard questions.
Have I lost my life in radical service to Christ and His people?
Do I love my life more than I love Jesus?
If Christ were to summon me to the front lines would I go?
Until then, am I radically serving Him here by loving and caring for His people?
What do I intend to do about it? What change does God want me to make?
If we are to bear fruit for the kingdom of God we too must loose our lives in service to Christ…
What happens when we do?
If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Declaration of Grace

In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

[1] The Gospel of John by Ridderbos page 428

[2] ibid 429

[3] John Piper

[4] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/martyrs/john-huss.html

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