It’s Not About Jesus: Red Letter Year 11/26

John 12.20-36

20 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Lord, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels — a plentiful harvest of new lives. 25 Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. 26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. 27 Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! 28 Father, bring glory to your name.”

Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.” 29 When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.

30 Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. 32 And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

34 The crowd responded, “We understood from Scripture that the Messiah would live forever. How can you say the Son of Man will die? Just who is this Son of Man, anyway?”

35 Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. 36 Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

After saying these things, Jesus went away and was hidden from them.


I made one change to the NLT today. It has the Greeks address Philip as “sir,” a polite way of showing respect, but the word in the original is Kurios – which we most often translate as “lord” in the NT. I get what the NLT was doing, but I think it works better with what is going on here to go with the word we normally use. The Greeks are showing Philip a great deal of respect, treating him like a gatekeeper to Jesus, as someone who gets to bask in the reflected glory of Jesus’ celebrity. 

What Jesus says next doesn’t seem like much of a response (more like he ignores Philip), but it is actually a direct response, and a rejection of, what Philip is up to. Jesus didn’t do celebrity. As we’ve already seen in John (and even more in Mark), Jesus went out of his way not to bring glory to himself. Both Jesus and the voice from heaven make it clear that the goal is to bring glory to the Father. Jesus is essentially saying, “Look, this is not about me. It’s about bringing glory to the Father.” That’s right, it’s not about Jesus.

Let that bake your noodle for a minute.

Jesus completely resists all efforts to make him into something else. He refuses to accept the false worship that comes when we worship our skewed idea of who he is instead of who he is. So who is he? What is his glory? He is the crucified God and his glory is the cross. This is his response to people calling his followers “lord” and wanting to get an autograph from the celebrity: “let me tell you about the cross I am about to die on.” Then as soon as Jesus gets done telling them about that, he leaves.

As I was thinking about this passage, it reminded me of stories I’ve heard about John Wimber. I never had a chance to meet him, but it is very common to hear stories from those who did about Wimber leaving services, leaving prayer ministry (sometimes even preaching) to others, about some people going away disappointed because they had come to see Wimber, come to see the show. Wimber wasn’t interested in that because he knew that is not how the Holy Spirit operates. Celebrity and the inflation of ego that goes with it are incompatible with the Holy Spirit doing actual stuff in actual people’s lives. The Spirit isn’t interested in playing church or in stroking the pastor’s ego. Wimber got out of the way and ducked the celebrity collar so everyone could experience giving and receiving the power of the Holy Spirit.

So I say this to all Christian leaders: it wasn’t about Jesus and it certainly isn’t about us. If it starts being about us, time to disappear for a bit.

And to everyone: think about the view you have of Jesus. Can you imagine Jesus saying, “it’s really not about me?” Can you imagine Jesus disappearing into the crowd? Can you imagine Jesus being a marginalized, invisible person? Pray about that and let the Spirit help you see what Jesus is up to in this passage.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.