John 12:20-33

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

This is a major turning point in the Gospel. It is the first time in the entire Gospel in which Greeks have even been present in the Gospel. After the triumphal entry in which the great crowd greets him as the King of Israel, some Greeks, probably Gentiles, came to Philip and asked to see Jesus. When Jesus hears that these Greeks want to speak to him,he knows that it is the end and says, "Now the hour has come." In the story, he nevers peaks to them. He never speaks to anyone other than Jews in the Gospel of John. At several points in the Gospel up to this point he has said, "My hour has not yet come."The first time he said this was to his mother at the wedding at Cana.

The metaphor of the grain of wheat falling into the earth and dying presupposed the ancient belief that when a seed falls into the ground, it dies. When it is planted, it dies and then is brought back to life in a new form of a plant. Jesus is saying that if a grain of wheat isn't planted, then it does nothing and remains alone. It is just a single grain and it stays that. But if it's planted, then it dies and brings forth a plant that yields grain. It bears fruit only by dying. That metaphor is used to explain his death; by dying he will bring forth great fruit.

The focus of Jesus' address is his followers because those who love their life will lose it.Why? Because they hold on to life and like a grain, stay alone. Those who hate their life in this world and are willing to die for the kingdom of God will keep it for eternity. So also, the servant is one who follows him and does what he does, namely, being willing to die for the kingdom of God.

The trouble around this is of course facing the reality of his death and he names that, "my soul is troubled." His response is in contrast to the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus at Gethsemane is in agony and asks that God save him. Here he says that it is for this reason that he has come. There is a way in which this story in John is told against the story in the Synoptics, that they didn't get it right. In John, Jesus was not in agony about his coming death and passion; rather, he knew it, he affirmed it, and he resisted any temptation not to affirm this death for the sake of the kingdom of God.

To read the rest of this commentary, please visit 

Other resources available on

Audio telling of the story, Soundmap, Audio commentary, Original Image - 

Get in touch

Network of Biblical Storytellers International
Indiana Interchurch Center, 1100 W. 42nd St., Suite 160, Indianapolis, IN 46208

TF 1 (800) 355-6627 | PH 1 (317) 931-2352 |

Find out more about us:

Join Our Mail List