(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
John 12:20-33 (NIV)
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."
The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the world's crisis (is the time for judgment on this world;) now the prince of this world will be driven out. Note on Crisis - that's what the literal Greek says. To understand why it is translated judgement - in the Greek mindset - it is in a crisis that things that really matter come out - it is in a Crisis that true values are exposed, the heart of a person exposed in actions, it is by what happens in crisis that the world will be judged. It is in crisis that the best and the worst comes out of people. Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the world's crisis (is the time for judgment on this world;) now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
My question this morning is this: What is your philosophy of life? When push comes to shove, what is it that really makes you tick? If those around you were to summarize what you did with your life in one or two graphic metaphorical sentences, what would they say? If I were to grab this microphone, come to you for a 2 minute news spot and ask you "What is your philosophy of life?" - how would you answer......
The Greeks came to see Jesus with that very question. The Jews thought they were Geeks, after all, if you're not Jewish, you don't count. And so these Greeks did not come directly to Jesus, rather they came to the disciple who clearly had at least a Greek name - Philip, in the hope of getting to see Jesus. After all, Philip was from Bethsaida, on a major transportation and commercial route, he would have some experience interacting with Greeks. We know from history that the Greeks were deeply interested in Philosophy, they loved the public debate, the mental challenge, the way just thinking can shape behaviour, the way just thinking can change communities, even entire societies. To them, the most powerful tool for bringing change was ideas. History has proven them partially right.
They came to Jesus and they probably wanted to know - "What is your philosophy of life?" Are you a materialist? Do you think like the Great Empedocles that all of reality is made up of fire, air, earth and water? Or are you a relentless searcher for the "Best Truth" like Socrates? What is the Substance of reality, and if there is just one substance of reality, how do you explain the variety we see - is it by Aristotle's accidents? Or is reality actually ideas and everything we see an opinion, a variation on a theme? Do we recognize horses because they all to one degree or another reflect our ideal of horse-ness - like Plato taught? To the Greek, these were deep questions worthy of tossing and turning in bed at night, trying to figure out what in life is more important, ideas or just the stuff life is made of. This was the Greek quest for wisdom, something which Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 1:22. Now Jesus had done some fairly incredible things. He was a rabbi, the Greeks regarded them as Jewish philosophers, he had told a man to come out of the grave and Lazerous did come out! Now that has profound implications on the whole philosophical concept of substance and accidents. They wanted to interview Jesus to discover what in his opinion was the best philosophy, the truest interpretation of reality.
"Sir, we would like to see Jesus."
A quick interview, we want to know his philosophy of life.
Philip got Andrew (who also had a Greek name) and they in turn when to Jesus and said
"Lord, the Geeks, oh the Greeks want to see you."
We have no record of the interview. There probably wasn't one. The only thing that scripture records is Jesus answer, and his answer had to do with the time of Crisis. Jesus replied
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."
Three years of ministry were wrapping up. The whole reason why he came to this world was going to be revealed. The hour of Crisis had come when everyone would see what philosophy the Son of God lived by. In this hour this time of Crisis, people would see the foundational principles of the kingdom, what makes the kingdom of God tick, what ideals shape behaviour, create communities, transform cultures. And they would see it all in Jesus, his words, his actions...
"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified."
To all who could hear, including the Greeks, Jesus gave his philosophy of life not by substance and accidents or forms and ideals, but by a simple illustration, a solemn declaration, Socrates would have loved how Jesus simply said the truth...
"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
What kind of Philosophy of life is this? It sounds more like a philosophy of death! What is this Jesus saying by this simple, and certainly true illustration that every gardener realizes - a seed must be planted in order to die. Unless it is planted, it remains a single seed. But if it is planted and dies, it has the potential of producing many seeds, which may again be planted to die and still produce more seeds, which may be planted to die which may produce an entire crop, a plentiful harvest....
What would have happened if Jesus had not died on the cross, but simply went on with his life? He would have disappeared from the pages of history. He would have been a great teacher, nothing more. His miracles, the resurrection of Lazarus - a historically unverifiable anomaly. He would have been left overs in the dustbin of history, tossed out, not worth the value of keeping in our minds and hearts, a good source of philosophy for his memorable sayings, but not greater than Empedocles, Socrates, Plato or Aristotle.
Jesus philosophy of life he lived. As a seed, he died on the cross, was buried, to spring again to new life in three days, to resurrect, to be witnessed by many, who in turn would, for the truth that they had witnessed, give their lives over to death, so that by their seed sown, the harvest would be plentiful.
You see, Jesus was not only giving his own personal philosophy of life, he gave the philosophy of life and death for his kingdom, for everyone who belongs to his kingdom, for all who would follow him.
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.
In this Crisis hour, he would demonstrate this principle for all to see. It is the principle by which we are called to live also. Jesus gave the philosophy of the kingdom, a kingdom that would start small but would take over the whole world and become the foundation for eternity. Jesus gave the philosophy that is truly true. And every member of the kingdom must live by it.
What is your philosophy of life? Are you living because you were born to reproduce for the Kingdom of God? Do you see yourself a seed, the only way you will reproduce is if you hate this life, just like our Saviour, and in so doing, you will reap not only eternal life, but a harvest? How does this fit with our western mentality that we have a divine right to happiness, and wealth, and possessions and property? How does this fit with our fascination with how we look, having the newest, the best? How does this fit with the fact that spiritual reproduction, leading others to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ is an area in which we are statistically barren?
One author I read on this passage suggested strongly that if we did not want to loose members in the congregation, then don't preach this passage, it will precipitate a crisis among honest people, it will trouble their hearts, this truth will keep them tossing and turning at night wondering if they are part of the kingdom, wondering if they are living by its principles, Jesus philosophy of life. He recommended other passages that highlight the benefits we have in Jesus. He recommended keeping the peace among those who call themselves followers of Jesus. Don't preach this passage - people will leave.
To the Greeks who came, Jesus replied, he gave an answer, but more important than his words, in the next few days, Jesus would live and die his answer and become the seed sown that produced an eternal harvest.
What is your philosophy of life? And as you leave asking yourself that question, make it the crisis question of your life. Toss and turn in your bed at night wondering what makes you tick. Let your heart be troubled by it. Don't be satisfied with words and formulations and ideals in your minds because, you see, every Greek knew that our real philosophy of life is demonstrated in our behaviours. By watching what we value, by watching how we react, by watching what we do in the hour of crisis - that is when our true philosophy is exposed. The Greeks saw it wonderfully when Jesus, the Lamb of God, hung exposed on the cross. And they saw his glory, the glory of the one and only, who comes from the Father, full of Grace and truth. Jesus' kingdom philosophy was seen in his behaviours. Can that same kingdom philosophy be seen in yours? What is your philosophy of life?
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.