Key Verses: 12:23,24
“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.’”
Today’s passage is Jesus’ last public ministry. Jesus gave the parable of the kernel of wheat to the Greeks who came to see him. As we know, the Greeks seek wisdom of life. They are philosophers seeking answers how to live. Jesus teaches them a life principle through a kernel of wheat that dies and produces many seeds. This message is given to all who want to follow Jesus. Here the kernel of wheat points to Jesus’ death and his glorious resurrection. Let’s accept Jesus’ life principle and follow his example through self-denial and self-sacrifice. May God bless us to live as a kernel of wheat that dies and produces many seeds. I pray that we may obey the will of God to live as sacrificial servants of God so that we may have fruitful mission life.
PART I. LIFE IS LIKE A KERNEL OF WHEAT (20-26)
Look at verses 20-22. “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.” We see that the gospel of Jesus had already spread to the Greek world. The philosophical Greek people came to Jesus. They might have been pilgrims to the Jerusalem temple. Some of them approached Philip, who looked like a Greek philosopher. They said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (21). But Philip was not comfortable to bring these Greeks to Jesus alone. So he went to Andrew, a man of faith, and asked him to take them to Jesus. They worked together to help these Greeks. Andrew and Philip took them to Jesus. Then Jesus said in verse 23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The Greeks came to seek some wisdom of life from Jesus. But Jesus’ word seemed to be irrelevant to their question. However, Jesus’ answer gives us a deep life direction to follow. Why did Jesus suddenly speak about the hour? The Greeks expected the triumphant Jesus talking about a big stuff but Jesus talked about his impending humiliation and death. Jesus knew that his hour of death had come. Nobody thinks that death is glorious. But Jesus saw his death as “glory.” Why? There is a deep spiritual meaning behind his death. In this verse, “hour” refers to the hour of Jesus’ crucifixion. The word “glory” has a Biblical meaning. “Glory” means “revealing.” God revealed his love to the world through his Son Jesus. God revealed his glory through his Son’s death on the cross and his resurrection. So humanly speaking, “glory” is his death on the cross. Jesus accepted that his death on the cross is his glory, as well as glory to God. When Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” he indicated that the time of his suffering and death and resurrection was approaching. Jesus wanted to reveal God’s love by saving the world through his death and resurrection (7:30,39; 8:20; 12:16; 13:31).
Jesus taught the Greeks the meaning of his death and resurrection through a philosophical expression. Look at verse 24. “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.” This verse tells us a universal truth. People like this verse and make it as their life key verse. Here is a seed. By itself, a grain of wheat remains a single grain, but if dropped into the earth, nature multiplies. Out of death comes life. A harvest comes from a grain. Jesus used this analogy to explain the life principle. Each grain contains the inner life-power which the husk before held captive. But there is a prerequisite for this grain to release the inner life-power. It has to be buried in the earth and die. Once it is released, it has unlimited potential. Once the grain comes out of its shell. Then this life-power will multiply itself and will cover the whole field with a harvest of fruit. Suppose kernels of wheat do not die. Then there will be no harvest of wheat. The word “die” relates to “produce many seeds.” But the word “not die” relates to “remains only a single seed.” It is a life principle that a kernel of wheat has life in it. That life has to be used as God intended. The main purpose of life is to bear much fruit. Therefore, a kernel of wheat must die and produce a huge amount of wheat. God made man to be fruitful. Genesis 1:28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” According to Jesus’ teaching, we must decide to die and bear much fruit. Otherwise, we will remain as a single kernel of wheat in a storage room. Later, it will be ruined by fungus and eaten by mice.
Jesus applies this law of life out of death to our spiritual life. If life is loved simply for itself, it is lost. But if it is lost for others, then by such a loss life is saved and kept. Self-seeking and self-loving never result in a harvest of spiritual blessing but self-sacrifice for the sheep reaps a bountiful harvest of reward. Here Jesus compares himself to a kernel of wheat. Originally Jesus is God himself. But he became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) Jesus gave up his glory of heaven and came into this world to serve sinners with his shepherd love. Mark 10:45 says, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus loved his smelly and selfish disciples until they became holy men of God. Jesus stretched out his hands and touched a man with leprosy out of his compassion. (Mk 1:41) He commanded a hopeless paralytic, “Get up and take your mat and go home.” (Mk 2:11) Jesus humbled himself to heal one wounded woman of Samaria (John 4). Jesus served her like a heavenly princess. Jesus even loved Judas Iscariot who betrayed him to the end. Truly, Jesus sacrificed everything for us so that we might receive forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in his kingdom. While Jesus was still on earth, he was just a kernel of wheat having life for all in its germs. But through his death and resurrection there was a bursting forth and an immediate harvest, as the 3,000 saves on the Day of Pentecost proves. Thereafter the harvest multiplied as the Acts and the history of the Christian church clearly reveals. Jesus saw the abundant harvest of life through his death. Therefore, we must know that dying is the prerequisite of a new life. Ironically, some people struggle so hard not to die. They work hard to remain as a single seed. But we must apply the principle of a kernel of wheat in our daily lives. The gist of the parable of the kernel of wheat is that we can be fruitful only when we follow Jesus’ sacrificial life. There is no other way.
One preacher boldly declared, “The life of self is death, the death of self is life.” One cleaning store had this commercial advertisement saying, “We live to dye, we dye to live.” By altering the “y” to an “i” we can draw a deep a spiritual truth saying, “We live to die, we die to live.” The selfish life, with self as its center, is a useless, isolated single seed life; but the sacrificial life, with God as the center of life, means meaningful, glorious fruit-producing life. Jesus through his death produced millions of new life and changed many sinners into precious children of God. Are we prepared to follow Jesus in self-sacrifice? If we live for self, we live in vain but if we live for Christ, we will live again.” Those who deny their desire for selfish life can experience unlimited and explosive spiritual fruits in their life on earth. Levi once lived for his selfish desire for money and then he became a sick man hated by even his family. But when he lived for Jesus, he became a great Bible teacher for the weary and burdened people. Once Peter lived for his selfish political dream and became a fearful man. But when he died to his human ambition, he became a bold and powerful spiritual leader. He was willing to give up his life for Jesus. Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:31a, “I die everyday..” He died to his old self and then Christ lived in him and he became a great servant of God. President Abraham Lincoln gave his life to emancipate slaves from their bondage. As a result, he became a great American president. Helen Keller was blind, deaf, and dumb due to her illness in young age. But she overcame her adverse human situation and learned how to read and write. Later, she worked for the handicapped people like herself. She sacrificed her life to serve many blind, deaf and dumb. She gave hope to many hopeless people and became an influential woman of God in American history. Mother Barry gave up her comfortable life in America and went to Korea a war-torn country in the early 1950s and sacrificed her life to serve many wondering Korean students. I am one of spiritual fruits of her sacrificial life for the sake of Jesus and his gospel. Mothers are great because they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their children. M. Pauline Oh stayed with her children though M. Paul left to Chile. She was willing to sacrifice her life to take care of her three children. My mother-in-law sacrificed her life to support Washington ministry babysitting my children and other second-generation children in our early ministry. God used her life preciously giving us time to serve God fully.
These days America is becoming a nation of selfish people. But God wants to make American a shepherd nation with his holy mission of sending 1 million missionaries. How can it be possible? We have to raise up many sacrificial HNWS who can raise up many spiritual generals like 12 Apostles. The U.S. Supreme court allowed sodomy because it was a private matter. Then soon they will allow gay marriage, the example of a single seed life. Then who will raise up children without sacrificial mothers. Isaiah cried in Isa. 1:4 when his people became corrupt, “Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt.” When God said, “And who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8) No one raised his hand except Isaiah by saying, “Not me. I am busy. Send someone else.” They felt that they owned everything and were unwilling to serve God. But Isaiah responded, “Lord Here am I. Send me.” He was willing to give his life for God’s mission. These days I ask myself, “What kind of life shall I have if I start my life all over again?” Should I have a life of self-seeking or self-sacrifice? I can say confidently, “I will have a life of self-sacrifice once again.” When I died to my worldly desire and gave my life to Jesus, God blessed me abundantly. Following Jesus is the greatest life any man can have. I concerned a lot about my youngest son Jake due to his selfishness. But God began to work in his heart. He sent me his mission report last Thursday saying, “Dad, if it were purely up to my own selfish reasons, I would come home immediately because I miss you all and am very homesick, but I continue to pray for guidance. It's not so much that I want to stay, but that I need to stay so I learn God's servant's heart here more deeply and grow to be a man of God and good soldier of Jesus and shepherd for many. Please pray for me to have God's word deeply and grow to be a man of God. Jake P.S. I will write a report each week for you on Thursdays until I come home. Also, tell grandma I love her and will pray for her.” What a change! What a blessing! He denied his desire to have a comfortable life in America and decided to take up the cross of intern training. He is learning a life principle of a kernel of wheat because he saw many examples of a kernel of wheat principle among us. Let me tell you one secret. If we fall and die completely like Jesus, there will be a great spiritual revival in our fellowship. S. Steve dies everyday denying his sinful desire and taking his cross and following Jesus. Many sheep are flocking around his fellowship and they have 15 potential sheep to attend the conference. If we choose not to die, there will be no work of God because God’s work is a life-giving work.
Look at verse 25. “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.” There are two kinds of people. First is the person who loves the world only. Even if they live luxuriously in the world, they cannot escape the power of sin and Satan. For example, one rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17) Jesus loved him and gave him a life direction but he went away sad because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:22) He does not want to lose his wealth to follow Jesus. He lost eternal life because he loved his life in this world. He loved the world more than Jesus. 1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” One young man has a great desire to be a fruitful Bible teacher, but he does not want to lose the time of TV watching and video game. He is not disciplined to deny his desire for the worldly thing. So he is not fruitful. This kind of person cannot develop his God-given potentiality. What is worse, he loses the privilege of receiving eternal life. Second is the person who hates his life. Jesus’ expression, “to hate his life” explains how we can master the principle of the kernel of wheat. “To hate his life” does not mean to punish one’s own life but it means to overcome one’s sinful nature and live for the glory of God. It means that we must fight the spiritual battle to deny our sinful nature. As we know well, all human beings love the world and their desires. So it is not easy to hate one’s life. It requires prayer battle. When one hates his life and follows the principle of a kernel of wheat, he grows in Jesus and becomes a great servant of God. In this verse we find a paradox of life. The world teaches us to love our life but Jesus teaches us to hate our life. The world encourages us saying, “Men, take easy.” Of course people enjoy some fun in this kind of life and in the end they are miserable because they will be judged according to their life purpose. But Jesus encourages us saying, “Deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow him.” Here we learn that self-preservation without Jesus means self-destruction but self-renunciation for the gospel and Jesus means self-preservation. In other word, selfish life brings destruction but selfless life brings salvation.
Verse 26 tells us the glorious reward for those who follow Jesus’ example. It says, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” Serving Jesus equals following Jesus. How can we serve Jesus? We must obey his command. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) We serve Jesus by feeding his sheep faithfully. Many American students are lost in their sins. Who can rescue them from the power of sin and Satan? Who will go for them? YDJ said, “Send MDJ for campus fishing because they are more experienced. We are babies.” MDJ said, “Send YDJ because they are young and we are old. We are seniors. We need a break.” But Jesus wants us to give ourselves fully to feed his flocks. God blessed 45 CBF children through sacrificial young teachers who gave their time and resources. Children are the future of our nation. We have to teach them sacrificial love of God. As Jesus suffered much, we also must suffer much in this selfish world. But Jesus says, “...where I am, my servant also will be.” Those who follow Jesus’ way of life will be in paradise with Jesus. They will reign with Jesus forever (2 Ti 2:12a). Jesus was despised and rejected by the world. But God Almighty made him King of kings and Lord of lords. Likewise, God honors those who follow the example of Jesus. We must obtain this honor. Following Jesus brings man’s exaltation to honor by God the Father. This is the endurance of the saints.
PART II. FATHER, GLORIFY YOUR NAME (27-31)
This part shows Jesus’ struggle of prayer. Look at verses 27 and 28a. “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!” Jesus’ heart’s desire was to glorify God’s name. It reminds us of Jesus prayer at the garden of Gethsemane: “Abba, Father,” he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Here we can see Jesus’ manhood. Jesus wanted to get out of suffering and death. But his greater desire was to reveal God’s glory. In his anguish Jesus cried out for help, but each time he ended his crying by saying, “Father, glorify your name!” (28a) Here we learn that our spiritual life is a struggle between our will and God’s will. Prayer fills the gap between my will and God’s will. Through prayer Jesus affirms his purpose of coming into this world as a humble servant of God. Obedience to the will of God involves a tremendous self-sacrifice. Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again” (28b). God accepted his crying out. We need this kind of crying out. The crowd who heard the voice from heaven did not know what was going on (29).
Look at verses 30,31. “Jesus said, ‘This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.’” In this verse, “the prince of this world” is Satan, who has controlled the precious children of God with his power of death. He would be destroyed through Jesus’ death on the cross. God’s love, which crucified Jesus because of man’s sin, defeated Satan’s hatred. At the same time, through Jesus’ death on the cross, judgment was declared on the evil world. The world that crucified Jesus would be condemned for the crime of rebellion against God Almighty. Satan’s mission was over when Jesus was killed on the cross; by this Satan became like an unemployed because he has lost his job. Satan is now depending on public aid until the final judgment comes.
PART III. JESUS WANTS TO DRAW ALL MEN TO HIMSELF (32-50).
Look at verse 32. “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” This verse sums up verses 23-36. This verse also teaches us that he dies as a kernel of wheat so that he may draw all people to himself and to God. This verse reminds us of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this case Jesus is like a shepherd who left 99 sheep in the open field and went to look for one lost sheep. Jesus does not want even one sinner to perish, unrepentant. He wants to draw them all to his glorious kingdom. Jesus urges them to come to the light before the darkness overtakes them. “Then Jesus told them, ‘You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you’” (35).
Jesus had done all the miraculous signs in their presence. Still, they would not believe in him. So Jesus was sorry and quoted Isaiah 53:1. It says, “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” This verse tells us that God stretched his arm to save his people even though they didn’t deserve it. It was the great love of God. But people didn’t believe in him. So Jesus was sorry that they did not accept the love of God, and he quoted Isaiah 6:10 to say that their eyes were blinded and their hearts were closed. But Jesus was willing to heal them. It was wonderful that still there were some leaders of the Jewish people who believed in Jesus (42). But most of them did not believe.
In conclusion, Jesus gave us his example of a kernel of wheat that produces many seeds so that we can have fruitful life in God. May God bless us to give ourselves full to the work of God in this summer. Let’s read the key verse 12:23-24.