Good Friday: A Kernel of Wheat (John 12:20-26)

I shared this message on Good Friday a couple of years ago at Davis Chinese Christian Church. On this Good Friday the message is still relevant: true life is ultimately borne from death.

I still marvel at what that might mean for me to bring life to others and this world through the process of dying to self during these challenging times. I desperately want to live, and not die, from Covid-19. But if I live, what will I live for?

I’m grappling with this question every day we are sheltering at home. When I can get back out in the world, even before from home, how I can I be a messenger of hope and renewal? How can I be like a kernel of wheat?


During spring time Lori likes to spend time in her garden. This year she is very proud of the pansies she planted from seeds.

Lori’s garden is blooming in springtime, an apt image for Easter weekend

I never wanted much of a yard—I did a lot of yard work as a teenager for my dad. But when I see those pansies I understand why my father received so much joy from his fruit trees, rose bushes, and vegetable garden.

It’s amazing what can grow out of the ground from such a small, humble beginning. Gardens and seeds tell us a lot about life—and about God’s Kingdom. This is a marvel of nature that Jesus used often in His teaching.

  • He talked about having faith as small as a mustard seed. (Matt 17:20)
  • He challenges the disciples to receive God’s Word with openness in a story about a farmer who went out to sow seed that fell on different types of soil and ground. (Mark 4:1-20)
  • He then told a parable about the hidden nature of how God’s Kingdom grows where a man scatters seed on the ground even though he doesn’t know how it grows (Mark 4:26-29).
  • In Mark 4, he teaches about a mustard seed to illustrate the Kingdom of God another way—how the smallest seed grows to be the largest of plants. (Mark 4:30-32)

And in John 12 he taught about another Kingdom principle: How Life comes from death.


Seeking Jesus (20-22)

Our passage starts in John 12:20-22, where Greeks wanted to talk to Jesus at the Passover Festival:

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 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. 

These Greeks, foreigners who appreciated Israel’s God and Jewish culture, made a simple request to see Jesus. We might be able to relate to those Greeks—curious, seeking, open to spiritual truth. You might have a different religious background, or already believe in God.

You’ve heard about Jesus, and you want to see more of what He’s about. You want to benefit from what Jesus offers/teaches—to gain insight/guidance to life. Jesus just might be the one who has the answers you’ve been seeking in this world.

That’s possibly what the Greeks thought when they approached Jesus.


Life from Death: Jesus (23-24)

Jesus’ disciples Andrew and Philip do let Jesus know about the Greeks. What He says is unexpected in John 12:23-24: 

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, 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.

What is Jesus’ hour? 

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