The Christmas season may seem like an odd time to consider Jesus's crucifixion. But His death and resurrection were why He came that first Christmas, and that's always worth considering.
Some Greeks went to Philip and told him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
As Christians, we should always look to Jesus. When we read God's Word and when we hear it preached, we should be looking for Him. When we see the Savior, He'll transform us into His image. But if we have a misunderstanding of who Jesus is, this won't happen. To see Jesus properly, in order for us to see His glory, we must look to the cross.
In John 12:23, Jesus says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." What does this have to do with the Greeks' desire to see Jesus? Verse 24 says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."
These Greeks had probably heard the teachings of the Old Testament and were drawn by its purity, monotheism, and clear message of the greatness of God. Even though they had not become Jews, they were going to the feast to celebrate along with the Jews.
They'd heard about Jesus and it seems they were making a connection between the two, but Jesus didn't make the connection clear. Not yet! Salvation would, indeed come, to both Jews and Gentiles (Greeks). But first, Jesus had to go to the cross.
John 3:16-17 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
Back in John 10 we read, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (v16).
Jesus's sheep come from both the Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) peoples of the world. The Jewish religious leaders of the day didn't understand this. They knew the Old Testament and, humanly speaking, should have recognized the Savior. But they didn't. In fact, they were seeking to kill Him.
John 12:19 says, "So the Pharisees said to one another, 'You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.'" The whole world? The Greeks, those who were seeking Jesus. They wanted to know Him. They were drawn to Him.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, God's plan of salvation wasn't thwarted. Instead, the good news spread throughout the whole world (Romans 11:15). The hour had, indeed, come for Jesus to be glorified (John 12:23).
Jesus glorified the Father, and the Father glorified the Son through the cross (John 17:1). This is accomplished because, through the cross, the gospel is available to all who believe.
G. Campbell Morgan explained what Jesus said was essentially that "He cannot go to them physically. They cannot see Him right now. However, there is one way in which they can see Him, to know Him, to understand Him, and it's through the 'hour' that's now come. The way they can come to know, understand, and believe is through the Cross" (The Gospel According to John [Revell], p. 215).
Writing about verse 24, Saint Augustine said, "He [Jesus] spoke of Himself. He Himself was the grain that had to die, and be multiplied; to suffer death through the unbelief of the Jews, and to be multiplied in the faith of many nations" (A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, p. 285).
Picture a grain of wheat. It's alone in a little baggy on a shelf. It's very small, and it's not doing much. Just sitting there. Outwardly, you can see it, but you can't really see it. Can you? You can't see the full potential of that seed unless you plant it in the cold, dark earth. There, the outer shell comes off (dies) and it springs to live. A green sprout appears, then the blade, then the plant, then the stem, and finally the head.
Then, it'll turn golden yellow, producing lots of grain ready for harvest. But even then you haven't seen that one grains full potential. Because those seeds fall to the ground and produce more stalks of wheat, and it happens over and over until fields are filled with stalks of wheat rippling in the breeze as far as the eye can see.
That's what Jesus meant. The world could not see the full outcome of His work until He went to the cross. And through the cross, the gospel was opened to every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.
The cross reveals the glory of Christ, displaying to the world He's our true Messiah and King, worthy to be worshiped and praised. Though the cross, the gospel is available to all through Christ and Christ alone. This is possible, because only the word made flesh, the Lamb of God, could take away the sins of the world (John 1:14, 29).
What we can also see through Christ's death on the cross is that it's an example for us all. In the three-and-a-half years of Jesus's ministry on earth, He was constantly dying to Himself as He loved others. Many times, Jesus would be physically exhausted and hungry, spending countless hours laboring for the people, and just as He was going to rest, more people would come.
Not long before Jesus's crucifixion, He washed His disciples' feet. This was the job of the lowliest of servants. Yet, the King of kings sets an example and teaches us that we are to lay aside our rights and freedoms, our very lives in order to serve one another (John 13:15).
The culmination of Jesus dying to Himself was when He literally laid down his live for His sheep, when He was nailed to the cross. So, when we follow Him, we are to die to ourselves daily, serve others, and bear much fruit. We are to follow Jesus to the cross, deny ourselves, "hate" this life in this world, and labor for the gospel.