The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 32


(John 12:20-33)


1.    There was a great preacher named Walter Wilson, (he went to heaven a number of years ago) who was always looking out for soulwinning opportunities.  One day he was on a train and as it passed a cornfield he said to the woman sitting next to him, “See, what a large cemetery that field is, for at the foot of every stalk of corn is a tiny grave. 

2.    Dr. Wilson then explained how Jesus said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone” (John 12:24).

3.    Before moving on, let me give you the background to our text tonight.  This incident took place after our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (12:12, 13), which we looked at last week.

4.    We are getting close to the cross.

5.    These Greeks (12:20) were natives of Greece who turned away from idolatry and had adopted the Hebrew religion.  They had come to Jerusalem “to worship at the feast” (12:20).

6.    These Greeks form quite a contrast to the Jewish leaders.  The Jewish religious leaders had rejected Jesus and were plotting to kill Him (cf. 11:53).  Meanwhile these Gentiles were seeking after Him (12:21).

7.    This development can be traced throughout the book of Acts (cf. Acts 13:46; 28:28).

8.    It is not stated why these Greeks came to Philip (12:21).  Perhaps it was because he was a Jew with a Greek name (Philip means “Lover of Horses”).  Incidentally, Alexander the Great’s father’s name was Philip – Philip of Macedon.

9.    For some reason Philip went and told Andrew (12:22).  It is interesting to note that every time we see Andrew in the Bible he is bringing someone to Jesus (cf. 1:41, 42; 6:8, 9).

10. Notice that our Lord’s answer has to do specifically with His death on the cross (12:23-33).

11. “The hour” (12:23) refers to the hour of His death (cf. 2:24; 7:6,8; 8:20; 13:1; 16:32; 17:1).

12. The Greeks wanted to see Jesus (12:21). I was preaching in a church one day and looked up and saw a big banner with these words on them, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”  I felt a whole lot better then, and I tried my best to preach Jesus to those assembled there that Lord’s Day.

13. And today I hope that you too will see Jesus – Jesus in His death, Jesus in His resurrection, and Jesus in His service.



1.    Our Lord uses the analogy of a corn (grain) of wheat.  Although a corn of wheat in the ground dies, it produces the blade, the ear, and the harvest.

2.    It must die in order to bring forth fruit.  Our Lord demonstrated that what is true in the natural world is also true in the spiritual realm.

3.    There is a divine principle that life comes through death and this principle is operative in both the natural sphere as well as the spiritual sphere.

4.    We haven’t really “seen” Jesus (12:21) until we understand that He died on the cross for our sins.

5.    The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die that it may produce fruit.  And eternal life for the many comes through the sacrificial death of the one corn of wheat – i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ.  He had to be “lifted up from the earth” (12:32, 33). 

6.    The corn of wheat may be stored in the granary but it is useless there.  In order to be a blessing, to reproduce itself, to bestow life, the corn of wheat must be put into the ground and die.  And then, out of death life springs and much fruit results.

7.    Think about this – like the corn of wheat in the granary, if our Lord had done nothing but live and teach and perform miracles, He would have “abideth alone” (12:24). Jesus did not come to save us through His teachings or by His instruction.

8.    We are saved today because He went to the cross and died for our sins – “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die…”

9.    “But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit…” – think of all the millions of people down through the centuries who have been saved by the blood of Christ – this indeed is “much fruit.”

10. Application: This same principle applies to every one.  A person must deal with his own selfishness.  He must abandon his self-centeredness and worldly conformity.  He must die to self or else he “abideth alone” (12:25).  But if he dies to self and lives for God, he too will bring forth “much fruit” (12:24b).

11. Once a Christian understands this principle, he or she has no problem with giving generously to the Lord’s work.

12. There is a Biblical principle here: if you live for worldly pleasures, you will lose your life some day anyway, and will go straight to hell.  Most people, even many Christians, think that the most important things in life are food, clothing, and worldly pleasures – this is basically what they are living for.  They fail to recognize that the soul is more important than the body.

13. My friends, if you live for God (“hateth his life in this world” – 12:25), you will keep your life “unto life eternal” (12:25).  And this eternal life comes through the death of that corn of wheat that fell into the ground and rose again (12:24).

14. Before continuing on, let me point out that to the Jews “hate” (12:25) was sometimes used in the sense of “love less” (cf. Luke 14:26, 27).  In other words, alongside our love for God, all other loves must look like hate.

15. Not only do we see Jesus in His death, but we also see Jesus in His resurrection.



1.    When the corn of wheat dies it reproduces itself in other corns of wheat.  Years ago I heard a preacher named Art Wilson preach this text.  He entitled his message, “Corn on the Cob.”  In his opening remarks he said, “I want to give you something to chew on.”  He sure did!

2.    Bro. Wilson told of an incident in his life when he was a dinner guest at a farmer’s house out in Iowa.  The farmer showed him a huge ear of corn that won first prize at the Iowa State Fair.  It was the size of a baseball bat and had thousands of kernels.

3.    So when the corn of wheat dies it reproduces itself in other corns of wheat.  The life of the corn of wheat, which passed through death, is communicated.  Even so, we, who have believed in Jesus, and have been saved by His blood, now possess His resurrection life, the life, which passed through death (cf. 11:25, 26).

4.    “ Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

5.    “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more” (Rev. 1:18).

6.    “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

7.    The devil hates this doctrine of the resurrection.  That is why he is so busy deceiving people with false teachings such as reincarnation and evolution.

8.    I read about this wealthy countess in Germany, who lived about 100 years ago.  She was a well-known skeptic and did not believe in the resurrection of the body.  Before her death she gave orders that her grave should be covered with a heavy slab of granite.  On top of that she wanted huge square blocks of stone, with the corners fastened to each other and to the granite slab by heavy iron clamps.

9.    Upon the covering she had this inscription placed: THIS BURIAL PLACE, PURCHASED FOR ALL ETERNITY, MUST NEVER BE OPENED. 

10. As if the God of heaven can be hindered by iron and granite!

11. By and by a little seed from a nearby birch tree fell into the ground and sprouted.  Soon the root found its way between the side stone and the upper slab and grew there.  Slowly but surely it forced its way until the heavy iron clamps were torn asunder, and the granite lid was raised up and it is now resting upon the trunk of this huge birch tree, which is flourishing.

12. Beloved – “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  And – “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24).



1.    Are you in His service?  Service = ministry.  We are all called to serve in some capacity – therefore we are all in the ministry.

2.    Let me stop at this point and make some thing clear – we are saved by grace, not by works.  But after you are saved, God wants you to serve (12:26).  We are saved to serve!

3.    This is taught over and over in the Bible (cf. Matt. 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33).  How little of this do we hear today!

4.    In Mark 8:34-38, our Lord teaches self-denial, self-sacrifice, and surrender.  And yet today, most churches are teaching self-esteem, and encouraging members to be satisfied with themselves.

5.    The selfish man needs to die to self.  Our churches are filled with pampered, selfish, self-centered church members.  I know that it is “every man for himself” out in the world, but it should never be that way in church.

6.    The selfish man needs to die to self or else he will “abide alone.”  Someone has said, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small parcel!”

7.    Someone once asked George Muller how he was able to accomplish so much for God and he replied, “There came a day when George Muller died to self.”   Have you experienced that?



1.    The centrality of the cross is brought out here in this text (12:24).

2.    Christ is glorified through the cross (12:23, 28) {a theme in the Gospel of John}.

3.    Christ judges the world through the cross (12:31a).

4.    Christ defeats the devil through the cross (12:31b).

5.    Christ is exalted through the cross (12:32).

6.    Christ draws all men unto Himself through the cross (12:32).

7.    Christ gives light through the cross (12:35, 36, 46).

8.    Christ saves lost sinners through the cross (12:47b).  Are you saved?

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