A Beautiful Love Story
Key verse: 12:24
“I tell you the truth, 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.”
This chapter is a love story. It is the story of love and sacrifice. It begins with the love and sacrifice of one woman who poured out her treasure for Jesus. It is the story of love that triumphs over sin and Satan. But the real love story is the story of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is the story of love that falls to the ground and dies and produces many seeds.
Her name was Mary. When Jesus came to her house, everything was put on hold. She sat at his feet and listened to him. Listening to him was the best way to accept his love and the best way to show her love for him. The words he spoke quenched a deep thirst in her soul. She had tasted love for the first time in her life. She loved him quietly. She loved him purely. She trusted his love absolutely. Once there was a crisis in the family. Their only brother was very sick . In fact, he was dying. He was their older brother and was like a father to the girls. It was hard to imagine what their house would be without their brother. So they sent word to their best friend: “The one you love is sick.” They trusted him. They believed that he loved them. But he didn’t come. Their brother died. Their rich neighbors and friends came to console them. Others came, but he didn’t come. They were disappointed in Jesus. “Does he really love us?” Then, he came. He had waited so that he could give them something better than a healing miracle. He raised their brother to life and planted in them resurrection faith. Mary was so ashamed for having doubted his love, even for a moment. She was so thankful to him for saving her brother. She was so thankful for the restoration of her faith in Jesus’ love and in his life-giving power. Now, just before Passover time he had come back to Bethany. His presence made the home–and any home–a true house church. They had a dinner party in Jesus’ honor. Lazarus was there. Martha served. Mary wanted to express her gratitude to Jesus. She wanted him to know how much she loved him. She took the pint jar of the special perfume that she had saved (probably) for her wedding and poured it out–the whole pint on his feet–not on his head, but on his feet. Then, she loosed her hair, her beautiful long hair, a woman’s crowning glory, and used it like an old rag, to wipe his feet. She loved Jesus. She did not hold back anything. She poured out her precious perfume, her pure, expensive nard, all of it–no reserves. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Jesus understood her heart, for he would also pour out everything, his life blood, in love for her and for all of us.
Judas was a disciple; he was especially trusted. He was the treasurer of the disciples. But Judas loved money. John tells us that he was a thief. He saw Mary’s act of love as a great waste. “This should have been sold and given to the poor.” His words sound so right and reasonable–like high level altruism. But Jesus accepted Mary’s love. It was a precious gem. He set it like a diamond in the crown of gospel history. (Mk 14:9) He said, “leave her alone; it was intended that she save this perfume for the day of my burial.” He drew her act of love into the heart of the gospel history.
This story is about Mary’s love and sacrifice. The gospel is about Jesus’ love and sacrifice. He held back nothing. It was Passover time. Like the blood of the Passover Lamb poured out to deliver God’s people from slavery in Egypt, Jesus would soon pour out his precious life blood to deliver the world from slavery to sin and the devil. This was his act of love. It proclaimed his Father God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…,” Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:12-13) and that is what he did. John, chapter 12 is indeed a beautiful love story.
Mary’s love and sacrifice also produced much fruit. She did a beautiful thing. Wherever the gospel is preached the story of Mary’s love and sacrifice is told. When Mother Teresa poured out her life and love to comfort and bring hope and Jesus’ peace to the poorest of the poor, the dying and abandoned people in Calcutta India, she was not just serving poor people because she felt sorry for them. She confessed that she was pouring out her love for Jesus.
Look at verses 12-15. This event is called the Triumphal Entry. A great crowd of people had come to Jerusalem for the Passover. When they heard that Jesus was coming, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Jesus acted out the words of the prophet Zechariah: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zec 9:9) Jesus was dressed simply and he was riding on a small donkey. In this way he announced his Messiahship and his Kingship. He entered Jerusalem in triumph. It was a strange victory parade. There were no soldiers, no guns or tanks. Only a ragtag army of children and ordinary people shouting, “Praise God who saves!” Many who knew about the raising of Lazarus were turning to Jesus. Jesus was greatly loved, because he had loved others. And he was greatly hated, because he loved God.
What was the victory he proclaimed? It was the triumph of his love for his Father God. His heart was troubled. But he did not pray, “Father, save me from this hour.” He prayed, “It is for this reason I came to this hour; Father, glorify your name.” (27,28) Jesus’ love triumphs over the power of the devil. He said, “It is the time for judgment…the Prince of this world will be driven out.” He triumphed over sin and death. By his death he destroyed the devil. (Heb 2:14,15) By his resurrection he freed those who were held in slavery by their fear of death. He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem because he loved and obeyed God. He rode triumphantly into Jerusalem because he loved sinful mankind. He rode in as God’s Messiah, the Son of Man. He was on a mission from God to die for the sin of the world. Indeed he was the victor.
Surely Jesus knew that to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem in this way was like signing his own death sentence. His enemies were waiting for him. They had already decided to kill him. They were only looking for an opportunity. The crowd that followed him hailed him as king. They testified to his kingship and praised his victory. He was the king who saves. The Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” These words were prophetic.
Just at this time, the world came to him (as the Pharisees said). It came in the person of some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem to worship. Most likely, they were Greeks who worshiped God in synagogues scattered throughout the Roman Empire. (Acts 15:17; 18:7) They were truth-seekers who were coming to the light. In John 3, Jesus said, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light…,.” These Greeks came to Jerusalem at Passover time to worship God. They spoke to Philip, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip and Andrew told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Very soon, he would be glorified on the cross, for his love would be poured out on the ground there. His obedience to death glorified God. His resurrection would glorify God. And God would glorify him. He would be glorified as he ascended to take his place on the throne at the right hand of God.
Jesus’ short life, poured out on the cross would spread God’s love throughout the whole world. He said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself.” (12:32) The Son of Man would be glorified. Jesus gave his disciples and the Greeks and all of us the kernel of wheat message: “I tell you the truth, 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.”
The kernel of wheat is a seed. It has life in it. When it is planted, it dies as a seed and sprouts up to new life and produces many seeds. If it is not planted, it remains as a single seed. Jesus himself is the kernel of wheat. In Verses 25-26 Jesus explains the kernel of wheat principle. It is a principle of love and sacrifice. Selfishness is excluded. He said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Death is the prerequisite of resurrection. Paul said, “What we sow does not come to life unless it dies. (1 Co 15:26). If there is no death, there is no resurrection. As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”. The kernel of wheat must die to produce many seeds. We too must die if there is to be the fruitful victory of resurrection.
William Borden was the heir of the Borden millions. He met Jesus in high school. His family gave him a trip around the world for a graduation present. He felt the pain in Jesus’ heart for the world’s hurting people who were living without Christ, so he made a decision to give his life to Jesus for world mission. He loved Jesus and he wrote in his Bible, “No Reserves.” He would hold back nothing. He went to Yale, studied hard, and challenged fellow students to answer God’s call for world mission. After gradation, he turned down lucrative job offers and set out for China. He wrote in his Bible, “no retreats.” He wanted to preach the gospel to the Muslim people of north China. He stopped in Egypt to study Arabic and while he was there he contracted spinal meningitis and in a month, at the age of 25, he was dead. Was his short life wasted? Not from God’s perspective. Before he died he wrote in his Bible, “No regrets.” He had followed Jesus to become a kernel of wheat which was planted and died to produce many seeds. Many students were moved by his love and sacrifice for Jesus, and a great student missionary movement was born.
Jesus did not want to die. He was a young man, full of vigor and life. He could have lived out a long life and done much good in the world. He prayed, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (Jn 12:27-28) His death at the age of 33 seemed wasted. But by his death he planted God’s life in everyone who puts their trust in him. He opened the way to God and to his kingdom. He could freely give his life because he knew that his Father God loved him. He could surrender to God’s will because he loved God. The Gospel story is indeed a love story. Sacrifice is love. Love is sacrifice.
If we love ourselves and cling to the material or human things of the world in order to enhance and protect ourselves, we lose the life that is life indeed. Judas didn’t love Jesus. He loved money. He tried to save something for himself. But he only found bitterness and failure and death. If Mary had taken Judas’ advice and saved her perfume, she would never know the real meaning of love and life. Instead she poured out her most precious possession and held back nothing and she found love and eternal life. The secret of love and life is sacrifice and giving.
When we become Christians, we die to ourselves. We are united with Jesus in his death and united with him in his resurrection (Ro 6:5). Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. And I no longer live. It is Christ who lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) So my union with Christ is first of all, personal. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passion and desires. (Gal 5:25) So then we are set free to live by the Spirit. He is the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.
We need God’s Spirit and his help to live lives that are loving and sacrificial like that of our Lord Jesus. God calls us not to be selfish nor to promote a life of selfishness and self serving, but a life of love and sacrifice in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus. We need to live from day to day a life of love and sacrifice and also to teach it to our families, to our children and to the flock of God whom he has entrusted to our care. We need to teach them the principle of love and sacrifice—the kernel of wheat principle. It is the right foundation . Let’s always remember Jesus’ love and sacrifice with thanksgiving.