John 12:20-36 – The Way of the Cross

Dear Friends,

When we left off in Chapter 12 of John, Jesus had just entered Jerusalem on a donkey as the people cried Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. The Pharisees were fit to be tied, but Jesus simply brushed them off and went about his business. Father, give us understanding as we continue in John’s Gospel. Speak to us through your word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

John 12:20-36
20 ¶ And there were certain Greeks [Gk Hellenes] among them that came up to worship at the feast:

Just as Gentiles came to see Jesus after his birth, they now come to see Him before his death. John emphasizes that Jesus is the Saviour not just of Israel, but of the world. (John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 6:33; 8:12; 10:16; 11:51f.)

21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

The cancel culture was alive and well in Jerusalem, so much so that some were afraid to be seen with Jesus (v 42). These Greeks, or Greek-speaking proselytes from among the Gentiles, had no reason to fear the Pharisees since they would simply return to their own country. Solomon wrote The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. In other words, it is safer to fear God and be canceled, than to fear man and keep your respectability. People need to see Jesus, and it is up to us to show Him to them, regardless of the consequences.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.
23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.
26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.
27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

Jesus, like Paul, is all things to all men. Rather than quoting Scripture, which these Greeks may not have been familiar with, Jesus gives them a parable that is scientific and philosophical in nature, something the Greeks would relate to. Jesus’ parable shows a fundamental principle of life in Christ — dying. Jesus said If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Luke 9:23) Therefore, Paul said I die daily. There is no getting around the cross for a Christian. We cannot climb over it, dig under it, or circumvent it in any other way. The only way for a Christian is to take up the cross, die to self, and follow Christ. When we do this, the fruit and rejoicing follow. If we choose to live for self, we will be without fruit and we will abide alone.

28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. [*]
29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.
30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.
31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.
34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

The cross is an offense (Gal 5:11) and those to whom Jesus was speaking were offended. They understood his meaning and they did not want to hear that their Messiah was going to be lifted up from the earth. They were happy to cry Hosanna when He was riding into Jerusalem, but now that He is speaking of crucifixion, they are saying who is this Son of man?

35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.
36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.
John 12:20-36


In this passage, some Greeks come looking for an opportunity to meet Jesus. They approach the only disciple who had a Greek name, Philip. In turn, Jesus gives his last public teaching before He goes to the cross. Jesus gives this discourse just before Passover, as people from all around the Roman Empire have come up to worship. You might say He gives them the answer to the riddle of life: Look to the cross. Die to self and follow Christ.

Around four hundred years before the birth of Christ there lived a Greek philosopher named Socrates. Socrates lived in a time and place with many parallels to modern-day America. Athens had a pagan culture that worshiped the pantheon of gods who lived on Mount Olympus. Things were tense politically and there was much public debate. Although the Athenians treasured free speech and held it to be sacred, they were quick to cast it aside in the case of Socrates. Basically, the charges against Socrates amounted to forsaking the gods of the Athenians and corrupting the youth with his radical ideas. For example, Socrates introduced other new gods and he believed in being guided by an inner voice, rather than merely participating in festivals and sacrifices. Socrates had become very unpopular after some of his students became traitors to Athens. In other words, Socrates was tried for going against the official narrative of the day. He was found guilty by a vote of 280 to 221 and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. I do not think I know the names of any of those who condemned him, but everyone has heard of Socrates. His ideas have had a major influence on Western culture. Although Socrates was not a Christian, he practiced what he preached and he did not fear death. He faced his sentence with courage. Therefore, his courage to live and die for his beliefs makes him an example for all.

“He is the richest who is content with the least.” ― Socrates

“Be the kind of person that you want people to think you are.” ― Socrates

“To believe without evidence and demonstration is an act of ignorance and folly” ― Socrates

“If you want to be wrong then follow the masses.” ― Socrates

“Why should we pay so much attention to what the majority thinks?” ― Socrates

“I am a fool, but I know I’m a fool and that makes me smarter than you.” ― Socrates

“Death will be an unspeakable gain.” ― Socrates


We see cases like that of Socrates throughout history. A wise person (or persons) persecuted and condemned by wicked men who think they are doing God (or the gods) service. Indeed, when the Dearest and Best, a Man who never wronged anyone but blessed us all, the only One who was ever truly innocent, our blessed Kinsman Redeemer — when He willingly left glory and came to save us, what did we do? We crucified Him. He came to show us the way and that way is the way of the cross. Jesus is unique in that He did not die as a martyr for his beliefs. His death was part of an overarching plan to save us all. He died in our place, paying the penalty for all our sins. As a perfect Sacrifice without spot or blemish, He was uniquely qualified to die in our place. When you receive Christ as your personal Saviour, his righteousness is imputed to your account. If you reject Him, you will die in your sins, separated from the God who created you for all eternity. If you receive Him, you will live with Him in glory for all eternity. However, before you receive the crown you must embrace the cross. That is what Jesus taught us as He led by example.

Much like many of the martyrs we read about in the history books, those who love the truth (Christians) are looking at an increasingly dangerous political climate in these last days. For example, the state of Washington is considering involuntary internment camps for those who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates. This, despite the fact that these mandates keep getting struck down by the courts. Whether anything will come of this is anyone’s guess, but the fact that they are even considering such a thing in America should tell us something about where things are headed. Things are getting darker as the night our Lord spoke of approaches (John 9:4), which makes his words above all the more important: Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.


Father, help us to take up our crosses daily and follow You. We know and believe that your Son died for us and rose again. We know and believe He is coming back again. Help us to die to ourselves that we might live for You. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


* Each of the three times that the Father spoke to the Son from heaven were connected to his death and resurrection: 1) His baptism spoke of his death and resurrection. 2) The transfiguration spoke of his death and resurrection. 3) The passage above speaks of his death and resurrection. The death and resurrection of Christ are how we find and know God.