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22 December. John chapters 11-12
Chapter 11 records possibly the greatest of Jesus’ miracles – raising Lazarus from the dead. This, more than anything else, seems to have created an unbridgeable divide between the crowds who believed in him on the basis of the evidence they saw, and the Pharisees and others who stuck to the official line that Jesus could not be a prophet or Messiah because he did not keep all their rules. Their only reaction is to threaten to kill both Jesus (11:53) and Lazarus (12:10).
Jesus knows for certain by this time that he did not have long to live. But had he achieved enough in his lifetime to ensure that his renewal of the Jewish faith would live on? What persuaded him that he had, according to John, was the arrival of the unnamed Greeks who asked to see Jesus (12:21). This seems insignificant when he was already very popular, but the point is that these were not Jews, and yet they had made a special trip to see him. That meant that the message had started filtering out beyond the Jewish community to the wider population of the Roman/Greek empire. And once the message was out, it could not be stopped by the authorities in Jerusalem. A fire had been lit, and spread to the point where no-one could put it out.
Therefore Jesus tells them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. … it is for this reason that I have come to this hour” (12:23-26). It is one of the marks of a mature person that they do not rate themselves as irreplaceable, that they are willing at the appropriate time to step down and let someone else take over. Jesus knew that time had come. Time, in fact, for him to die in order that something different could appear – the Holy Spirit – to take the message onwards and outwards.