Multiplication through Dying (John 12:20-26, 32-33) Palm Sunday

Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg  | April 13, 2014


The hour for which J came into the world, was the hour in which he left it.” (Stott)

  • The paradox of the incarnation.
  • Jesus’ purpose for living was dying – that many might live.
  • How would you like that to be your sole purpose in life? To die!
  • In a very real way it is!
  • Pratt: looking fwd to day when one of you is first martyr from RTS
  • Until now J had been saying repeatedly “my hour has not come” (since Cana)
  • Coming of the Greeks – a sign that his hour had come – to be glorified – beginning with his death
  • Normally his death is considered an aspect of his humiliation – yet here it is also an aspect of his glorification
  • The first step in his glorification was his suffering and death
  • His suffering was the means to his resurrection and ascension
  • As Isaiah’ suffering servant – J’s suffering was the necessary condition to bring light and justice and salvation to the nations
  • J spoke of himself when he said “unless…dies, remains alone, but if dies, bears much fruit.
  • The OT and NT are clear that in order to bring salvation to the many – Jews and Gentiles – one man, the last Adam must die.
  • But here we see this is also true of J’s disciples. The servant is not greater than the master.
  • For J and his disciples, suffering and service go together.
  • Suffering is indispensable to fruitful or effective service.





Here we find: the principle, the application, the invitation and the incentives for doing so.

  1. The principle: life only comes from death. – V. 24

24 …”unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”


  • Submit to one another out of reverence for X
  • Husbands love your wives as X loves the church, laid down his life
  • Love your wives as your own bodies, sacrificially


  • Pastors should neither dominate nor neglect the sheep, but lead to green pastures, equip for ministry
  • People should love one another, looking out not only for your own interests but also for interests of others


  • Church not preoccupied with own affairs only, but incarnationally and sacrificially sharing the gospel and giving aid to a needy, lost world


  • Bill Rasch CDC Coord (Illustration):
    • Renewing Vision of Stonebridge church – answering the questions of
      • who we are, who are the people around us,
      • what has God called us to do, and how are we to do it?
      • Vision statement of one of his churches: taking the gospel to our neighbors
  1. The application: give up self-life (psuche) to gain divine-life (zoe)25
  • 25 “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to LIFE
  • A contrast not apparent in English
  • Psuche refers to the life of the mind, we call it ego,
    • means the human personality that thinks, plans for the future, and charts its own course.
    • This is what must die.
    • The independent will of man must die, so that so that the follower of X actively submits his will to him.
  • Zoe, joined to the adjective eternal, means divine life.
    • Every Xian has received this gift of eternal life or divine life, and possesses it in part now, if fullness in next life.
    • This life is not merely length of life, but also quality of life, the life, the character of Christ indwelling us.
    • This life is growing in us by the work of the HS, and by our daily, momentarily, surrendering our will to his.
  • When Jesus says the one who loves this self will loseit he does not mean “misplace” it but rather “destroy” it (apollyei).
  • What is needed is a detachment from this self, and this is what is meant in verse 25 by hates(Michel 1967:690-91).
  • When Jesus says the disciple must hate father and mother (Lk 14:26) he does not mean despise, reject and abominate in an absolute sense.
  • He is speaking about choices and attachments.
  • He means the devotion and obedience to himself must be so thorough that nothing else is distracting.
  • The same language is used when he teaches that one can only serve one master (Mt 6:24 par. Lk 16:13).
  • So Jesus is not speaking of a hatred of the “self” itself but rather of a rejection of the self’s claims to autonomy and control.
  • Rejecting the false claims of the self in this worldis actually a way of caring for one’s true self, for thereby one will keep it for eternal life (v. 25).
  • Thus, this passage is not referring to self-destruction or masochism; it calls one to reject the way of rebellion and live in the light of eternity.

Jim Elliot illustration:

  1. The invitation: put it into practice by following him – V. 26a

26a “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me

  • If only I’d been there… we think of all we might have done to help Jesus during his earthly ministry, but much of this is mere sentiment.
  • If we would serve X we can do it now. he says “anyone who really wants to serve me must follow me.”
  • How can we follow him? Self-denial and service
  • Follow him by self-denial:
    • take up your cross daily and follow him. It may mean a minor change or a total change.
    • The issue is the will. Are you willing to do whatever X calls you to do?
    • To be poor, despised, nearly forgotten, surrender your leisure time, your retirement time, hobby time, cherished sin or pastime?
    • You and God know the details. Will you obey him?
  • Follow him by service: how can you serve him?
    • He came not to be served but to serve.
    • He gave his disciples an example to follow when he washed their feet.
    • He taught ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NAS)
    • Speaking of those who fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, vistited the sick and in prison.
    • Was a time when evangelical church led the way:
      • founded missions, built hospitals, launched welfare programs, cared for widows and orphans.
    • We have allowed unbelieving churchmen to drive a wedged bt evangelism and social service and push us into only one half.
    • Diff bt outreach (social action) and evangelism (sharing the message of the gospel) per Priddy.
    • We must be content to let a minority do the work while we enjoy our middle class comforts.


  • Doug and Beth Wright
  • Steve and Annette Kohl
  • Tom Pickles
  • Bill Waddell
  1. The incentives: the presence of Christ and the honor of the Father – V. 26b

26b…and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

  • Jesus has been living in the presence of God and is returning to the presence of God, so this is a promise of being with Christ in the presence of God.
  • The honor we receive from the Father comes from our union with Christ, the one whom the Father honors.
  • Such union with God in Christ and such honor from the Father are what we were created for and what we rejected in the rebellion in the Garden of Eden.
  • It is only through a death to the false, rebellious self that we can receive such life and return to our true humanity in union with God.
  • In a sense, then, these verses contain the core description of discipleship.
  • “Self must be displaced by another; the focus on self must be displaced by focus on Jesus Christ, the supreme revelation of God” (Carson 1991:439).
  • Love is essentially self-giving. Since our most valuable possession is our own life, the greatest love is expressed in laying it down for others.
  • Just as the essence of hate is murder (as in Cain), so the essence of love is self-sacrifice (as in Christ).
  • With the love of God both revealed to us and indwelling us we have a double inescapable incentive to love one another. (Stott, 292)


  • Count Nicolas von Zindendorf

Categories: 2014, John, Passion Week, Sermons, The Life and Ministry of Jesus

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