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John 12:20-26, 44-50 Study Guide: We Wish to See Jesus

Community Group Study Guide — We Wish to See Jesus
John 12:20-26, 44-50

Study Information:
When Jesus talked about his suffering and the cross he would often say that he was being glorified or lifted up to draw all people to himself. We do not think of the cross as a moment of “glorification” but it is a biblical theme that goes back to Isaiah 52:13. For us it is more natural to think of being glorified with something like a celebration or coronation, but for Jesus being glorified meant “the cross.” So, the cross becomes Jesus’ coronation ceremony where he was crowned king. The time when he appeared most vulnerable and humbled is the time his kingdom was declared (Phil 2:8). Throughout this part of John 12 we get more clarity on how Jesus viewed his own mission and what it meant to follow Christ. In this study guide we will explore his mission to the world and what it means to be part of his kingdom; and in the next study guide  we will focus, as a contrast, on the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish religious community.

We Wish to See Jesus
John 12:20-23, 44-50
The setting of this passage is the week of the feast of Passover where the city of Jerusalem swelled to three times its normal size. People gathered to worship and remember God’s deliverance from slavery. Among the worshippers were some Greeks who must have heard about Jesus and witnessed his “triumphal entry” into the city with crowds waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna” (God save us now!). The Greeks found Philip, who probably had the most familiarity with Gentiles among the disciples since he came from a region called the Decapolis which was a 10 city collective, largely gentile, around the sea of Galilee. Notice how Philip is marked by bringing people to Jesus including Nathanael, the boy with the loaves and fish and now the Greeks seeking Jesus. 

The odd thing is that when word gets to Jesus about the Greeks is that we do not get any comments of him meeting with them or what took place, rather the text pivots to tell us that this was the time Jesus announced his “glorification” (John 12:23). Why would he do that? Out of all the moments, why would he turn to the crowd and talk about his exaltation through suffering now instead of meeting with these outsiders who wanted to see him? Throughout the gospel of John, one of John’s focal points has been Jesus coming into the world to save the world. John 1:11-12 mentioned that he would be rejected by his own, but any who receive him would be given the right to be children of God. John 3:16-17 is a famous passage about God’s love for the world displayed through sending his son. John 10:16 told us of Jesus reaching sheep outside of his fold, the Gentiles. This focus area is why John 12:44-50 summarizes Jesus’ teaching ministry with a focus on being light and salvation to the WORLD (John 12:47-48). Jesus pivots to this message precisely because of the Greeks seeking him before his glorification. Jesus’ mission would be for the WORLD. Would the people of God have the eyes to see it and believe it?

There is a connection between these two passages and what Jesus did on the cross using the word “see” (John 12:21, 41, 45). Jesus’ crucifixion (his glorification) was a way for the world to see God displayed. God sent forth his son to be light, so that who ever would see him and believe in him would be seeing and believing in God (John 12:44-45). The heart of God is to save and give eternal life as we receive his Son. The next study guide will explore this more, but the hard heartedness of the religious leaders could not see the signs of Jesus or the work of Jesus and rejected him and therefore rejected God himself. 

Upside Down Kingdom
John 12:24-26
We may not realize it on this side of the cross, but it would take tremendous courage to follow Jesus and see him as king because it was so upside down and backwards to what was normal. This passage is full of paradoxes, which are pairings that do not often go together. To be glorified is to suffer, to live is to die, to guard life is to lose it (John 12:24-26). 

There’s the paradox that Jesus would be glorified by his suffering. Another paradox ws losing life to give life. Why did the son of God lay down his life? Jesus compared his life to like a grain of seed. In order to give life he’d need to die like a grain of seed falling to the ground which would decompose to bear fruit. Each grain of seed had millions of potential plants in it, and so it was with Jesus’ death that would lead to life for all who’d put saving faith in it. Another paradox, people who would guard their lives would lose them and those who did not would find them. This means that if one wanted to follow Jesus and be part of his kingdom they’d need to embrace the life of a servant rather than guarding their life or using Jesus for their gain. 

As we’ve explored with the triumphal entry, the kind of kingdom Jesus brought was counter cultural and upside down to expectations. The kingdom of Jesus is one marked by humility, sacrifice and service. Jesus declared his kingship through humility and so too are followers of Jesus called to consider others more significant than themselves (Phil 2:4). Jesus’ kingship was marked by sacrifice where he laid down his life so we can have life in him, so too followers of Jesus are called to carry their cross and deny themselves and not seek to guard their lives. Finally, life in his kingdom is marked by service as we follow and keep his commandments; we do not follow Christ for our gain, but so that we can be more like him and part of what he is doing to be light to the world. 

The religious leaders had a hard time accepting this, just like many of us do, because the way of Jesus costs your entire life. But he is the good and faithful king in how he laid down his life to bring us to life in God. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 12:20-26 and 44-50

Why would Jesus ignore the Greeks who were seeking him and instead pivot to talking about his mission and what it meant to follow him? 

How was the word “see” used in the text and what is the point John is trying to make?

In John 12:44-50 Jesus highlighted themes of his teaching from John like being light to the world, coming to save and leading to eternal life. How would this message go against standard teaching from the Jewish religious leaders of the time?

Jesus described his kingdom with a few paradoxes that connected how his followers are supposed to live: humble, sacrifice and service oriented lives. Based on this passage, study guide and sermon - is there a growth area in your life right now in terms of how you’re following Jesus? What is that and how can you take steps towards growing there?