John 12:20-33 - Sacrificing from hatred of life in this world to gain eternal life

Updated: Apr 13

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.


“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.


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This is the Gospel reading selection for the fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This follows a presentation from Jeremiah that prophesied a “new covenant” between God and the house of Israel. It also comes after a chosen psalm reading, either from Psalm 51, which sings, “Make me hear of joy and gladness, that the body you have broken may rejoice,” or Psalm 119, where the verse says, “I will meditate on your commandments and give attention to your ways.” Lastly, the reading from John is preceded by a reading from Hebrews, which tells of God saying, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”


In my opinion, this reading is somewhat enigmatic, in the sense that it begins with “some Greeks” wanting to “see Jesus,” and after Philip goes to Andrew the Greeks seem to fade away. The translation gives the impression that “Jesus answered them,” who were Philip and Andrew asking Jesus if he wanted to see “some Greeks.” I have been led to understand this from deeper insight, which is beyond the scope this Biblical commentary will allow. So, I will simply slip in an advertisement for a book that I offer on this website [katrinapearls.com].


In 2019, I wrote the chapters of the book entitled The Star of Bethlehem: The Timing of the Life of Jesus. I published it in September 2020. It was planned to be a book that presented a printed account of a six-week class I offered at my wife’s church, entitled “Astrology in the Holy Bible.” That class stemmed from my being led to realize the specific birth data for the birth of Jesus, from seeing Matthew 2 as an astrological statement, such that the “star of Bethlehem” was the sun’s placement in the zodiac. By knowing exactly when Jesus was born, his life could then be connected to known historic events, such as when “the festival” of this reading from John actually took place.


Before I realized anything about the star of Bethlehem, I had made a Lenten presentation at my wife's church [a Wednesday night offering], when I detailed the timing of the last Passover Jesus attended, from entrance into Jerusalem until his resurrection. In that presentation, I told the attendees how each of the different Gospels dovetailed into one supportive story. As I began writing a book planned to be about one presentation, I began to add the other, as matching church presentations. I found need to incorporate both, so my dovetailing of the Gospels included this reading from John. Still, understanding the meaning of “some Greeks” came to me from another branch that my writings took me, while writing a book that became longer and longer than initially planned.


Because I began with the premise of an exact birthdate for Jesus known, I was led to ‘fill in the gaps’ that were the years of Jesus’ life, basically from his escaping into Egypt until beginning his ministry. That gap in time has historical documents available to explore, making that life be partially known; although none of those documents are recognized as canon. Still, it was from writing about ‘young Jesus’ that I was introduced to “some Greeks,” who would have been close friends with Jesus, from his younger days.


I freely admit that everything I wrote in The Star of Bethlehem was divinely inspired, as I was led to feel as if I was with Jesus throughout his lifetime, especially as it unfolded in the Gospels. I welcome discussion on the matter. For anyone who wishes to see what I wrote about this Gospel selection presented in the fifth week of Lent, the text of that book can be found on pages 217-219. Much became clear to me, which is why I wrote the book: so others will know what I was led to see. I offer this book for sale on this website at the lowest price possible; and, there will never be a profit made, because I have freely spent much more than can ever be returned making what God shows me available in print.


With that said, I will now address what the NRSV says John wrote.


These verse from John come after he wrote of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, which then says “the festival” is the Passover. That event would certainly be an attraction to all Jews. This means “some Greeks” were pilgrims, descended either from the scattering of Israelites fallen to the Assyrians or Jews who went there after being freed from captivity in Babylon. These Greeks were of the same faith and religious practices, not Gentiles visiting Jerusalem 'at a bad time' for outsiders.


John went to the point of stating where Philip was from, saying: “[Some Greeks] came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee.” The purpose of that place of origin says Philip was a recognizable disciple of Jesus, but none of the disciples went to the Passover festival [or any God-commanded festival] with Jesus. They each went with their own families and each made separate arrangements for where they would stay, near Jerusalem. Jesus was their leader - their rabbi or teacher - not close family; and the three festivals were for families to attend together. All of Jesus' disciples had wives and children, as wells as others closely related of blood, whom "they loved."


When John then said, “Philip went and told Andrew,” Andrew was the brother of Simon (called Peter). He also had family with him in Jerusalem for the Passover, having come there from an area near Bethsaida, also in Galilee. Philip and Andrew had been on the other side of the Jordan with Jesus, just prior to returning to Jerusalem for the Passover. So, their families most likely knew they would meet them there before the festival began, at the 'usual places.' What John wrote then speaks of Philip’s family staying near where Andrew’s family was staying.


For John to then say, “Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus,” this is separated by uses of the word “kai.” This usage means importance is denoted between each segment. It says, “some Greeks” went along with Philip to find Andrew. Once Andrew was found, "Philip went," importantly stating he went back to where he was when found by "some Greeks." Then, importantly, Andrew then led “some Greeks” to where Jesus was staying, in Bethany [along with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus and others]. It is then at this next use of “kai” that Andrew introduced “some Greeks” to Jesus, who then “told Jesus” why they wanted to see him. Here, the enigma is due to this meeting being one of old friends, old as from a time that is not told in the Gospels.


While it is not clearly stated, Peter had a close relationship with Jesus. Most likely his brother Andrew knew where Peter was staying, in Bethany, so Andrew would better be able to take "some Greeks" to where Peter was, with Jesus expected to be nearby. There should be no assumption that Jesus was being protected from seeing "some Greeks," who asked "to see Jesus." The precession is simply a 'connect the dots' way of John telling how "some Greek" arrived in Bethany to see Jesus. They did not know where to find Jesus, after he moved away from Nazareth.


This means when John wrote, “Jesus answered them,” that means Jesus was responding to “some Greeks” and not to either Philip or Andrew. They obviously had greetings they shared with Jesus, as old friends who had not seen each other in some time. When Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” this translation does not take into account the importance of the capitalized Greek word “Elēlythen,” which means, “Has come.” This capitalization of that word acts to enhance its meaning, so it states the importance of timing, that relative to spiritual matters being at hand. This could even have a double meaning of divine significance, such that Jesus saw this visit by old friends as another sign to him, saying that trip to Jerusalem would be his last. The timing of an important event Jesus knew was coming is then accompanied by a surprise visit by old friends "Having come," signifying the time surely “Has come.”


The element of “glorify” has nothing to do with Jesus being glorified; but instead, the will of the Father “bestowing” upon the world His grace. As such, the “hour” that “Has come” is relative to the time when Moses told the Israelites how to prevent their deaths from God's passing over at night. The Greek word “hōra” equally means “a season” and “a particular time for doing something,” such that Exodus 12 begins with Yahweh telling Moses and Aaron all of the timing elements to happen, leading up to the God passing through and killing all the first born males who were not protected by the specific procedures God said to follow. This is then the "hour" of the Passover festival being a yearly event, when the "hour" of inspection and slaughter takes place, so the Israelites could glorify their doorposts with sacrificial blood and consume all of the flesh of a sacrificial lamb.


In that most important timing of “a season,” the first born male Israelites would be saved from death through the sacrifice of a lamb that met specific criteria. It was the death of inspected lambs that saved the first born males. Therefore, when Jesus told “some Greeks,” “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” this was relative to the death of a sacrificial lamb. Jesus was saying to friends with divine insight that without that death of the sacrificial lamb, there would be no new life to come to the people of Israel.


While the metaphor of grains is vital to see, such that from one seed of wheat grows to become a plethora of new wheat, each with heads filled with grains, what is missed is the aspect of the first born males being relative to the “Son of man” [“Huios tou anthrōpou”]. Because it was the season that would be glorified by the salvation of the Passover of God, the grain that would have to die and be buried in the ground was not one of wheat, but one of the “Son of man.” The expected crop to come from that planting must be seen as many more “Sons of man,” each grown from the one sown, as a reproduction of that one. Therefore, the metaphor of the Passover saving the first born males, those born from the planting of the Son of man will not die when God's judgment comes, as they will have averted death through the eternal life born into their souls, as "Sons of man."


This becomes why Jesus then said, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Here, it becomes worthwhile to realize that the Greek word “psychēn,” which does mean “life” (as “the breath of life”), better says “soul,” while also meaning “self.” This makes it easier to hear Jesus saying, “Whoever loves self will lose that identity upon death; but those who hate what “self” makes them do in this world and sacrifice “self” to God, they will retain “life” forevermore.”


Here, John recalled Jesus telling his Greek friends, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” In this, the Greek written that begins this series of statements is “ean emoi tis diakonē,” which presents a conditional situation, as “if me someone [anyone] serves.” One must realize the metaphor of a grain being planted, so reproductions are grown; where, just like wheat grains do not bring forth Bermuda grass, all born from the seed of the "Son of man" will be resurrections of God's "Son." The conditional ["if" from "ean"] has been ignored in translation, but the “if” then says “someone-anyone” being [the state of “I” from which comes “me”] born from the seed of the "Son of man" will then be Jesus reborn. It is a condition set that says only those born from that seed can become that. This is then not Jesus expecting others to serve him, as much as it says the seed of the “Son of man” plant means all other “Sons of man” will be servants, just like Jesus.


This is then the intent of “follow me,” as that does not set an expectation of a seed to stay in the ground or on the grown wheat plant [Jesus]. It sets the expectation that all other becoming “him” must likewise “follow” the path of growth he had taken. The life of a grain of wheat continually leads to the same repetition of a cycle: birth, growth, maturity, gathering, planting, death. Therefore, Jesus adding, “where I am, there will my servant be also,” says the two will be one, in the same flesh, as Jesus reborn.


Relative to the element of service, all who serve will do the bidding of Yahweh, through marriage of their souls to His Holy Spirit. This is how it was for Jesus, from birth. For someone-anyone to likewise serve God, their “birth” will be when their past sins have been wiped clean, so they can become like Jesus, as the Christ in the flesh. All of this makes God the source of all growth, just as Yahweh was the source of the first born Israelites escaping death during His Passover in Egypt.


Realizing that Jesus is still engaged with his Greek friends, who “Have come” to Jesus because of a divine purpose, Jesus then said to them, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” In that statement, the confession that Jesus’ “soul “ was “troubled,” the same word translated as “soul” ["psychē"] here is the same root that which was earlier translated as “life” ["psychēn"]. The word meaning “troubled” also means “agitated” or “disturbed.” This says that Jesus was telling "some Greeks" details of his known coming death ["Has come"] that differs from his matter-of-fact way he told his disciples of his coming death [three times]; and, this becomes a clue that Jesus was very close to “some Greeks” that asked to see him. They certainly were not Jesus' students nor were they fans seeking Jesus, being in need of healing. The way Jesus spoke to them is as if they "Had come" to Jesus as those who had previously died and been reborn as "Sons of man, as God sending Jesus some support from 'equals' in service to Him, to ease the soul of Jesus that was "troubled."


In this conversation with his friends from his childhood, one can sense an understanding when Jesus rhetorically asked if he should beg to save his life, when his “soul” was guaranteed eternal life. Knowing this conversation took place where Jesus was staying, near Jerusalem, in Bethany, most likely Lazarus was there meeting the Greek friends of Jesus' childhood and listening to what Jesus was saying. Lazarus most certainly would know, from firsthand experience, having suffering in the flesh to the point of death. Lazarus also knew it was worth it, after Jesus told his soul to come back out in the flesh of Lazarus. Most likely [as I explain in my book], at least one of the Greeks had likewise died and become re-animated in his once dead flesh. Therefore, Jesus said these things to people who could understand what he was about to face, unlike the disciples.

Lazarus, come out.


When John then wrote, “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again,” this addresses this idea of others having died and been reborn in the same flesh. The returned life in Lazarus was not because Jesus said, “Come out.” It was because Yahweh granted those souls, including Jesus’, to experience what God can bestow upon souls in human flesh. It was Yahweh saying, I have raised these before you from death, and I will bestow the same grace of resurrection upon you after your sacrificial death."


For John to hear the voice of God speaking says he was pure of heart. For him to add the aside, “The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” says not everyone present heard the voice of God speaking, at least not clearly. However, John, Lazarus and “some Greeks” heard the voice of God, because they knew God personally, having met Him through death and resurrection.


That says Jesus was not alone in the world without others who could support him in this final “hour” before his sacrifice of the flesh. This becomes more than some wild guess of mine, when one sees how Jesus then said, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.” They had been “glorified” by God. Jesus was next.


As for those present who did not clearly hear the voice of God, Jesus said to them, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” In that, Jesus said his death would be not because of God, but because of the way the world judges human beings. This makes “the world” become that relative to Judaic law. The Judaic legal system had deteriorated into a cheap copy of all other systems of government in "the world." It was not as Moses had led them when they first married God and became his wives. By realizing that, Jesus then said Judaism had become ruled by Satan [the ruler of the world], such that a religion claiming to serve only Yahweh had switched to serve "the world." Thus, Judaism [the people ruling it] would be driven out [or “banished, cast out” – from “ekblēthēsetai exō”] as a religion no longer receiving God’s glorification. When Jesus would die physically, the power of the Jews to claim to be the children of God would also die, from self-inflicted wounds.


John then recalled Jesus saying, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Here, the capitalization of "And" is not what was actually written, but the truth is an important statement is introduced [from “kagō” being a contraction of “kai ego”]. That importance repeats the conditional situation [“if,” not “when,” from "ean"], where all who become reborn “Sons of man” [those drawn to become Jesus] will replace the external worship of Law and become internally ruled by God, as His Sons reborn. That means Christianity [the truth of that word] will replace Judaism as that which identifies a true child of Yahweh.


When John then concluded this conversation between Jesus and his loved ones, including “some Greeks,” he wrote, “[Jesus] said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” That has absolutely nothing to do with John knowing Jesus would be whipped, humiliated, and nailed to a Roman crucifix. The kind of death that Jesus was speaking of is that relative to a sacrificial lamb, one that has to be inspected for four days, found without blemish. It says the blood of Jesus would be spilled, as an offering by which the souls of the first born “Son of man” could be spared death, rewarded with eternal life. That means the kind of death Jesus was foretelling was one of willing acceptance to his body being killed, like a seed naturally becomes buried in the ground, so that a continuation of life occurs. It was the kind of death that meant others could be saved.


As the Gospel selection to be read during the last week of the season called Lent, known for the necessity of self-sacrifice, one needs to go beyond simply hearing Jesus prophesying his own death. We need to hear Jesus promising us that he will be reborn into all who do the same self-sacrifice, to be resurrected into service to Yahweh. Rather than hear Jesus say his soul was troubled, so we feel sad for thinking he too had fears, we need to hear the promise of eternal life that comes from service to Yahweh.


The hidden message of this reading is “some Greeks,” who have to now be seen in the light of those who had made the ultimate sacrifice and had also been raised to the rebirth of life in the flesh. God had sent them to Jesus at his hour of need. This needs to be seen during the season of Lent as the promise that God will be there with one, after self-sacrifice in marriage to His Holy Spirit, so the wilderness experience will be when God’s voice says, “I have glorified this” to one’s soul.

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