World Wide Study Bible


a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

Some Greeks Wish to See Jesus

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very 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. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Jesus Speaks about His Death

27 “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. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Select a resource above

20. Now there were some Greeks. I do not think that they were Gentiles or uncircumcised, because immediately afterwards it follows that they came to worship. Now it was strictly prohibited by the Roman laws, and severely punished by the Proconsuls and other magistrates, if any person was discovered to have left the worship of his native country and passed over to, the Jewish religion. But Jews, who were scattered throughout Asia and Greece, were allowed to cross the sea for the purpose of offering sacrifices in the temple. Besides, the Jews were not permitted to associate with them in the solemn worship of God, because they thought that the temple, and the sacrifices, and themselves, would in that way be polluted. But though they were the descendants of Jews, yet as they resided at a great distance beyond the sea, we need not wonder that the Evangelist introduces them as strangers and unacquainted with the occurrences which took place at that time in Jerusalem and in places adjacent. The meaning therefore is, that Christ was received as King, not only by the inhabitants of Judea, who had come from villages and towns to the feast, but that the report had also reached men who lived beyond the sea, and who had come from distant countries.

To worship. They might have done this also in their own country; but John describes here solemn worship, which was accompanied by sacrifices. For though religion and the fear of God were not confined to the temple, yet in no other place were they permitted to offer sacrifices to God, nor had they any where else the Ark of the Testimony, which was the token of the presence of God. Every man worshipped God daily at his own house in a spiritual manner; but the saints under the Law were likewise bound to make profession of outward worship and obedience, 1818     “De service et obeissance exterieure.” such as was prescribed by Moses, by appearing in the temple in the presence of God. Such was the design for which the feasts were appointed. And if those men undertook so long a journey at great expense, with great inconvenience, and not without personal risk, that they might not treat with indifference the external profession of their piety, what apology can we now offer, if we do not testify, in our own houses, that we worship the true God? The worship which belonged to the Law has indeed come to an end; but the Lord has left to his Church Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and public prayer, that in those exercises believers may be employed. If we despise them, therefore. it proves that our desire of godliness is excessively cold.

21. These men therefore went to Philip. It is an indication of reverence, that they do not address Christ, but are desirous to obtain access through Philip; for reverence always begets modesty. The inference which the Papists draw from this, that we ought to call on departed saints, 1919     “Les saincts trespassez.” that they may be our advocates with Christ and with the Father, is so ridiculous that it does not need refutation. The Greeks address Philip, while he is present; and, pray, where is the resemblance to those who address their prayers to departed saints, from whom they are separated? 2020     “Qui addressant leurs oraisons aux saincts trespassez, desquels ils sont separez.” But such are the fruits of human presumption, when it has once permitted itself to go beyond the limits of the word of God. Invocation of the saints has been rashly fabricated by the Papists out of their own brain; and now, in order to shelter themselves under a false pretense borrowed from the word of God, they corrupt the Scripture, and tear it to pieces, and do not scruple to expose it to shameful taunts.

23. The hour is come. Many explain this as referring to the death of Christ, because by it the glory of Christ was manifested; so that, in their opinion, Christ now declares that the time of his death is at hand. But I rather view it as referring to the publication of the gospel; as if he had said, that the knowledge of him would soon be spread through every region of the world. Thus he wished to meet the astonishment which his death might excite in his disciples; for he shows that there is no reason why their courage should fail, because the doctrine of the’ gospel will nevertheless be proclaimed throughout the whole world. Again, that this contemplation of his glow may not soon afterwards vanish, when he shall be condemned to death, hung on the cross, and finally buried. he gives them early information and warning that the ignominy of his death is no obstruction to his glory. For this purpose he employs a most appropriate comparison.

24. Unless a grain of wheat having fallen into the ground, die, it remaineth alone. If a grain of wheat do not die or putrefy, it continues to be dry and unfruitful; but the death of the seed has the beneficial effect of quickening it, that it may yield fruit. In short, Christ compares his death to sowing, which appears to tend to the destruction of the wheat, but yet is the cause of far more abundant increase. Though this admonition was especially necessary at that time, yet it is of continual use in the Church. And, first, we ought to begin with the Head. That dreadful appearance of disgrace and cursing, which appears in the death of Christ, not only obscures his glory, but removes it altogether from our view. We must not, therefore, confine our attention to his death alone, but must likewise consider the fruit which has been yielded by his glorious resurrection. 2121     “Sa resurrection glorieuse.” Thus there will be nothing to prevent his glory from being every where displayed. From him we must next come to the members; for not only do we think that we perish in death, but our life also is a sort of continual death, (Colossians 3:3.) We shall therefore be undone, unless we be supported by that consolation which Paul holds out:

if our outward man decays, the inward man is renewed
from day to day, (2 Corinthians 4:16.)

When, therefore, the godly are distressed by various afflictions, when they are pressed hard by the difficulties of their situation, when they suffer hunger, or nakedness, or disease, when they are assailed by reproaches, when it appears as if they would every hour be almost overwhelmed by death, let them unceasingly consider that this is a sowing which, in due time, will yield fruit.

25. He who loveth his soul shall destroy it. To doctrine Christ joins exhortation; for if we must die in order that we may bring forth fruit, we ought patiently to permit God to mortify us. But as he draws a contrast between the love of life and the hatred of lit, we ought to understand what it is to love and hate life. He who, under the influence of immoderate desire of the present life, cannot leave the world but by constraint, is said to love life; but he who, despising life, advances courageously to death, is said to hate life. Not that we ought absolutely to hate life, which is justly reckoned to be one of the highest of God’s blessings; but because believers ought cheerfully to lay it down, when it retards them from approaching to Christ; just as a man, when he wishes to make haste in any matter, would shake off from his shoulders a heavy and disagreeable burden. In short, to love this life is not in itself wrong, provided that we only pass through it as pilgrims, keeping our eyes always fixed on our object. For the true limit of loving life, is, when we continue in it as long as it pleases God, and when we are prepared to leave it as soon as he shall order us, or — to express it in a single word — when we carry it, as it were, in our hands, and offer it to God as a sacrifice. Whoever carries his attachment to the present life beyond this limit, destroys his life; that is, he consigns it to everlasting ruin. For the word destroy (ἀπολέσει) does not signify to lose, or to sustain the loss of something valuable, but to devote it to destruction.

His soul. It frequently happens that the word ψυχή, soul, is put for life. Some consider it as denoting, in this passage, the seat of the affections; as if Christ had said, “tie who too much indulges the (desires of his flesh destroys his soul.” But that is a forced interpretation, and the other is more natural, that he who disregards his own life takes the best method of enjoying it eternally.

In this world. To make the meaning still more clear, the phrase in this world, which is but once expressed, ought to be twice repeated, so that the meaning may be, “They do not take the proper method of preserving their life who love it in this world, but, on the other hand, they truly know how to preserve their life who despise it in this world.” And, indeed, whoever is attached to the world does, of his own accord, deprive himself of the heavenly life, of which we cannot be heirs in any other way than by being strangers and foreigners in the world. The consequence is, that the more anxious any person is about his own safety, the farther does he remove himself from the kingdom of God, that is, from the true life.

He who hateth his soul 2222     “Qui odit animam suam.” — “Qui hait sa vie;” — “he who hateth his life.” I have already suggested that this expression is used comparatively; because we ought to despise life, so far as it hinders us from living to God; for if meditation on the heavenly life were the prevailing sentiment in our hearts:. the world would have no influence in detaining us. Hence, too, we obtain a reply to an objection that might be urged. “Many persons, through despair, or for other reasons, and chiefly from weariness of life, kill themselves; and yet we will not say that such persons provide for their own safety, while others are hurried to death by ambition, who also rush down to ruin.” 2323     “Lesquels se precipitent bas a une ruine eternelle par leur ambition;” — “who throw themselves down to eternal ruin by their ambition.” But here Christ speaks expressly of that hatred or contempt of this fading life, which believers derive: from the contemplation of a better life. Consequently, whoever does not look to heaven, has not yet learned in what way life must be preserved. Besides, this latter clause was added by Christ, in order to strike terror into those who are too desirous of the earthly life; for if we are overwhelmed by the love of the world, so that we cannot easily forget it, it is impossible for us to go to heaven. But since the Son of God 2424     “Le Fils de Dieu.” arouses us so violently, it would be the height of folly to sleep a mortal sleep.

26. If any, man serve me. That death may not be exceedingly bitter and disagreeable to us, Christ invites us by his example to submit to it cheerfully; and certainly we shall be ashamed to refuse the honor of being his disciples. But on no other condition does he admit us into their number, except that we follow the path which he points out. He leads the way to us to suffer death. The bitterness of death is therefore mitigated, and is in some measure rendered agreeable, when we have in common with the Son of God the condition of submitting to it. So far is it from being proper that we should shrink from Christ on account of the cross, that we ought rather to desire death for his sake. To the same purpose. pose is the statement which immediately follows:

And where I am, there shall also my servant be. For he demands that his servants should not refuse to submit to death, to which they see him go before them as an example; for it is not right that; the servant should have any thing separate from his lord.. The future tense, shall be, (ἔσται) is put for let him be, according to the custom of the Hebrew language. Others regard it as a consolation, as if Christ promised to those who should not be unwilling to die along with him, that they would be partakers of his resurrection. But the former view, as I have said, is more probable; for he afterwards adds the consolation, that the Father will not leave without reward the servants of Christ who shall have been his companions both in life and in death.

27. Now is my soul troubled. This statement appears at first to differ widely from the preceding discourse. He had displayed extraordinary courage and magnanimity by exhorting his disciples not only to suffer death, but willingly and cheerfully to desire it, whenever it is necessary; and now, by shrinking from death, he confesses his cowardice. Yet there is nothing in this passage that is not in perfect harmony, as every believer knows by his own experience. If scornful men laugh at it, we need not wonder; for it cannot be understood but by practice.

Besides, it was highly useful, and even necessary for our salvation, that the Son of God should have experience of such feelings, In his death we ought chiefly to consider his atonement, by which he appeased the wrath and curse of God, which he could not have done, without taking upon himself our guilt. The death which he underwent must therefore have been full of horror, because he could not render satisfaction for us, without feeling, in his own experience, the dreadful judgment of God; and hence we come to know more fully the enormity of sin, for which the Heavenly Father exacted so dreadful a punishment from his only-begotten Son. Let us therefore know, that death was not a sport and amusement to Christ, but that he endured the severest torments on our account.

Nor was it unsuitable that the Son of God should be troubled in this manner; for the Divine nature, being concealed, and not exerting its force, may be said to have reposed, in order to give an opportunity of making expiation. But Christ himself was clothed, not only with our flesh, but with human feelings. In him, no doubt, those feelings were voluntary; for he feared, not through constraint, but because he had, of his own accord, subjected himself to fear. And yet we ought to believe, that it was not in pretense, but in reality, that he feared; though he differed from other men in this respect, that he had all his feelings regulated in obedience to the righteousness of God, as we have said elsewhere.

There is also another advantage which it yields to us. If the dread of death had occasioned no uneasiness to the Son of God, 2525     “Le Fils die Dieu.” which of us would have thought that his example was applicable to our case? For it has not been given to us to die without, feeling of regret; but when we learn that He had not within him a hardness like stone or iron, 2626     “Une durete de pierre et de fer.” we summon courage to follow him, and the weakness of the flesh, which makes us tremble at death, does not hinder us from becoming the companions of our General in struggling with it.

And what shall I, say? Here we see, as it were, before our eyes, how much our salvation cost the Son of God, when he was reduced to such extremity of distress, that he found neither words to express the intensity of his sorrow, nor yet resolution as man. He betakes himself to prayer, which is his only remaining resource, and asks to be delivered from death. Again, perceiving also that, by the eternal purpose of God, he has been appointed to be a sacrifice for sins, he suddenly corrects that wish which his prodigious sorrow had wrung from him, and puts forth his hand, as it were, to pull himself back, that he may entirely acquiesce in the will of his Father.

In this passage we ought to observe five steps. For, first, there is the complaint, which breaks out from vehement sorrow. Secondly, he feels that he needs a remedy, and, in order that he may not be overwhelmed with fear, he puts the question to himself, what he ought to do. Thirdly, he goes to the Father, and entreats him to deliver him. Fourthly, he recalls the wish which he knows to be inconsistent with his calling, and chooses rather to suffer anything than not to fulfill what his Father has enjoined upon him. Lastly, he is satisfied with the glory of God alone, forgets all things else, and reckons them of no value.

But it may be thought, that it is unbecoming in the Son of God rashly to utter a wish which he must immediately retract, in order to obey his Father. I readily admit, that this is the folly of the cross, which gives offense to proud men; but the more the Lord of glory humbled himself, so much the more illustrious is the manifestation of his vast love to us. Besides, we ought to recollect what I have already stated, that the human feelings, from which Christ was not exempt, were in him pure and free from sin. The reason is, that they were guided and regulated in obedience to God; for there is nothing to prevent Christ from having a natural dread of death, and yet desiring to obey God. This holds true in various respects: and hence he corrects himself by saying,

For this cause came I into this hour. For though he may lawfully entertain a dread of death, yet, considering why he was sent, and what his office as Redeemer demands from him, he presents to his Father the dread which arose out of his natural disposition, in order that it may be subdued, or rather, having subdued it, he prepares freely and willingly to execute the command of God. Now, if the feelings of Christ, which were free from all sin, needed to be restrained in this manner, how earnestly ought we to apply to this object, since the numerous affections which spring from our flesh are so many enemies to God in us! Let the godly, therefore, persevere in doing violence to themselves, until they have denied themselves.

It must also be observed, that we ought to restrain not only those affections which are directly contrary to the will of God, but those which hinder the progress of our calling, though, in other respects, they are not wicked or sinful. To make this more fully evident, we ought to place in the first rank the will of God; in the second, the will of man pure and entire, such as God gave to Adam, and such as was in Christ: and, lastly, our own, which is infected by the contagion of sin. The will of God is the rule, to which every thing that is inferior ought to be subjected. Now, the pure will of nature will not of itself rebel against God; but man, though he were wholly formed to righteousness, would meet with many obstructions, unless he subject his affections to God. Christ, therefore, had but one battle to fight, which was, to cease to fear what he naturally feared, as soon as he perceived that the pleasure of God was otherwise. We, on the other hand, have a twofold battle; for we must struggle with the obstinacy of the flesh. The consequence is, that the most valiant combatants never vanquish without being wounded.

Father, save me. This is the order which ought to be maintained, whenever we are either distressed by fear, or oppressed with grief. Our hearts ought instantly to be raised up to God. For there is nothing worse, or more injurious, than to nourish inwardly what torments us; as we see a great part of the world consumed by hidden torments, and all who do not rise to God are justly punished for their indolence by never receiving any alleviation.

28. Father, glorify thy name. By these words he testifies, that he prefers the glory of the Father to all things else, and even neglects and disregards his own life. And the true regulation of all our desires is, to seek the glory of God in such a manner that all other things shall give way to it; for it ought to be reckoned by us an abundant recompense, leading us to endure patiently all that is vexatious or irksome.

I have both glorified it. It is as if he had said, I will finish what I have begun; for God never leaveth the work of his hands imperfect as it is said, Psalm 138:8. But as it is the purpose of God to prevent the offense of the cross, he not only promises that the death of Christ will be glorious, but also mentions with commendation the numerous ornaments with which he had already adorned it.

29. That it thundered. It was truly monstrous, that the assembled multitude were unmoved by so evident a miracle. Some are so deaf, that they hear as a confused sound what God had distinctly pronounced. Others are less dull of caring, but yet take away much from the majesty of the Divine voice, by pretending that it was an angel who spoke. But the same thing is practiced every day; for God speaks plainly enough in the Gospel, in which is also displayed the power and energy of the Spirit, which ought to shake heaven and earth; but many are as little affected by the doctrine, as if it only proceeded from a mortal man, and others consider the word of God to be confused and barbarous, as if it were nothing else than thunder.

But a question arises: Did that voice sound from heaven without any profit or advantage? I reply, what the Evangelist here ascribes to the multitude belongs only to a part of them; for there were some besides the Apostles who did not interpret it so badly. But the Evangelist intended to point out briefly what is commonly done in the world; and that is, that the greater part of men, while they hear God, do not hear him though he speak plainly and distinctly.

30. This voice came not for my sake. Had Christ no need of being strengthened, or did the Father care less for him than for us? But we must attend to this principle. As it was on our account that Christ clothed himself with flesh, so all the blessings which he received from the Father were bestowed on our account. Again, it is also true, that the voice came from heaven for the sake of the people; for he had no need of an outward miracle. Besides, there is here an indirect reproof, that the Jews are deaf like stones to the voice of God; for since God speaks for their sake, there can be no excuse for their ingratitude, when they do not lend their ears.

31. Now is the judgment of this world. The Lord now, as if he had already succeeded in the contest, boasts of having obtained a victory not only over fear, but over death; for he describes, in lofty terms, the advantage of his death, which might have struck his disciples with consternation. Some view the word, judgment (πρίσις) as denoting reformation, and others, as denoting condemnation. I rather agree with the former who explain it to mean, that the world must be restored to a proper order; for the Hebrew word משפט, mishpat, which is translated judgment, means a well-ordered state. Now we know, that out of Christ there is nothing but confusion in the world; and though Christ had already begun to erect the kingdom of God, yet his death was the commencement of a well-regulated condition, and the full restoration of the world.

Yet it must also be observed, that this proper arrangement cannot be established in the world, until the kingdom of Satan be first destroyed, until the flesh, and every thing opposed to the righteousness of God, be reduced to nothing. Lastly, the renovation of the world must be preceded by mortification. Accordingly, Christ declares:

Now shall the prince of this world be cast out; for the confusion and deformity arise from this, that while Satan usurps tyrannical dominion, iniquity everywhere abounds. When Satan has been cast out, therefore, the world is brought back from its revolt, and placed under obedience to the government of God. It may be asked, how was Satan cast out by the death of Christ, since he does not cease to make war continually? I reply, this casting out must not be limited to any short period of time, but is a description of that remarkable effect of the death of Christ which is daily manifested.

32. If I be lifted up. Next follows the method by which the judgment shall be conducted; namely, Christ, being lifted up on the cross, shall gather all men to himself, in order that he may raise them from earth to heaven. The Evangelist says, that Christ pointed out the manner of his death; and, therefore, the meaning undoubtedly is, that the cross will be, as it were, a chariot, by which he shall raise all men, along with himself, to his Father. It might have been thought, that at that time he was carried away from the earth, so as no longer to have any interests in common with men; but he declares, that he will go in a very different manner, so as to draw upwards to himself those who were fixed on the earth. Now, though he alludes to the form of his death, yet he means generally, that his death will not be a division to separate him from men, but that it will be an additional means of drawing earth upwards towards heaven.

I will draw all men to myself. The word all, which he employs, must be understood to refer to the children of God, who belong to his flock. Yet I agree with Chrysostom, who says that Christ used the universal term, all, because the Church was to be gathered equally from among Gentiles and Jews, according to that saying,

There shall be one shepherd, and one sheepfold,
(John 10:16.)

The old Latin translation has, I will draw all things to me; and Augustine maintains that we ought to read it in that manner; but the agreement of all the Greek manuscripts ought to have greater weight with us.