Everyone Who Hates His Life Will Keep It

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.


I admit, the title of this sermon sounds a bit ominous. If you aren’t already familiar with this teaching of Jesus, it might sound like a terrible proposition. The idea that if you hate your life, you’re stuck with it, isn’t very appealing. And it gets even worse if when we add the rest of Jesus words, “Whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” The idea that if you hate your life, you’re stuck with it eternally, is about as bad as it gets.

But is that what Jesus is really saying? Most certainly it is not! In fact, in almost every way, He’s saying the opposite. Rather than a promise of suffering or a declaration of judgment or any other form of bad news, it is actually one of the greatest promises ever made. Embedded in this passage is the promise that the eternal life that Jesus came to bring is for Jew and Gentile alike. It is a promise that the curious Greeks and the faithful child of Abraham will be glorified and honored together in the presence of God.

With that in mind, we’ll consider another addition to the crowd and their question, Jesus and His answer, and within those two things, the implications of all of this for us today.

The big idea of this passage is a promise from Jesus that everyone—Jew and Gentile, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, as well as people from every language, nationality, background, and religion—might be honored by God in eternal life. Jesus revealed in our passage that He came not only for the physical offspring of Abraham, but for anyone who would surrender themselves to Him, loving Him above all things, trusting in Him alone, serving Him as the King of kings, and following Him wherever He leads. And the main takeaway is that we might all die, love, hate, serve, and follow; that is, that we might trust and treasure Jesus above all.

Let’s pray.


Perhaps you’ve noticed that John wrote this portion of his Gospel in such a way that the crowds are critical to the story. That is, understanding the makeup and perspective of “the crowd” is the key to understanding Jesus’ teaching in this passage.

The crowd that gathered around Jesus at His triumphal entry continued to grow (or, perhaps, become more defined). John intentionally revealed that the different groups within the crowd had different backgrounds, motives, questions, and concerns. Part of what He wanted his readers to understand about Jesus is tied directly to those different backgrounds, motives, questions, and concerns. That’s why we’re introduced to a third group within the group in this passage. They were there for reasons that are exceedingly significant for us.

The Makeup of the Crowd (17-20)

You may remember that in last week’s sermon I noted that three crowd-streams came together in vs.17-19 (those who were with Jesus when He raised Lazarus from the dead, those who’d come to Jerusalem for the Passover and heard about it, and the Pharisees). In our passage for this morning, there’s yet another group added to “the crowd”.

John writes, 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.” The basic idea is that there were Gentiles (non-Jews) present in the crowd and at the Passover.

Evidently, that was a normal thing. We see it in some detail in Acts 2, for instance, 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem … devout men from every nation under heaven…? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians…” (Acts 2:5-11).

The fact that the Greeks were going “up to worship” suggests that they had converted to Judaism, or at least that they were “devout men”. But the fact that they were not Israelites, that they were not offspring of Abraham, is what we most need to notice.

Again, the crowd growing and surrounding Jesus was made up of all kinds of different people, from all kinds of different backgrounds, for all kinds of different reasons. There were Jews and non-Jews. Some from Jerusalem and many from neighboring regions. Some were there to worship Him, some to tell others about Him, some to question Him, some to persecute and prosecute Him, and some just because they’d heard so many things about Jesus that they wanted to see and hear Him for themselves. Again, we can add to that list, worshiping Greeks, but that leaves us with the question of their interest in Jesus.

The Question of the Crowd (21-22)

Like the rest of the crowds that formed “the crowd,” the feast-going, worship-participating Greeks had their own agenda. John tells us that they 21 …came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.”

There are a number of questions these two verses raise that John doesn’t answer. Why did the Greeks go to Philip (and not directly to Jesus)? Similarly, why did Philip feel the need to take this request to Andrew first? And most significantly, what was it that drew the Greeks to Jesus? Why did they “wish to see Jesus”? In each of these questions, it should be plain that the text doesn’t explicitly tell us. There are subtle hints regarding the first two questions (Philip is a Greek name, John lists his hometown which is near Greek-speaking cities, and no one knew exactly how the Jewish Messiah related to Gentiles), but John records nothing concrete.

On the other hand, regarding the third and most significant question—the motives of the Greeks for wanting to see Jesus—Jesus’ reply gives us important clues. Most likely, the Greeks were wondering how/if they, as Gentiles, as non-Israelites, fit into Jesus’ power, glory, and plan. I say this is the most likely reason the Greeks wanted to see Jesus because Jesus’ response essentially answers that question.

Before we get to Jesus’ response, however, I want to put a question before you. Throughout John’s Gospel, as we’ve encountered response after response to Jesus’ works and teaching, I’ve asked you to consider in broad terms how you respond to Jesus. For instance, last week, having considered the response of the crowds, the Disciples, and the Pharisees to Jesus’ triumphal entry, I asked you all to consider the question put before them: “What do you do with Jesus’ claim to be King?”. In similar fashion, I’m asking you here, in light of this new group approaching Jesus for their own purposes: What is your question for Jesus? Why are you interested in Him? What is it about Him that draws you to Him? What is it that you hope He offers?

The reason you go to Jesus, the questions you have for Him, and the things you desire from Him are not insignificant. They say a lot about your heart and are a good indication of what Jesus’ response will be to you.

For my entire childhood, I only knew people who “went to Jesus” as some kind of cosmic vending machine. You put in the coins of prayer or some kind of good work, push the appropriate Jesus buttons, and He gives you what you want—or at least you hope He will. Since then, I’ve met many who “wish to see Jesus” only as some kind of divine jail-breaker; as someone who can get you out of trouble when all else fails. Others that I regularly encounter “go to Jesus” as the highest trump card. Jesus is for them the card they play to justify their own ideas or desires. They act as if Jesus supports their agenda as a means of silencing all dissent. If Jesus is for it, who can be against it? Love is love and that kind of nonsense.

In each of those instances, Jesus’ response will look a lot more like the one the Pharisees regularly received. Indeed, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23).

So the question stands, why do you go to Jesus? What do you want from Him? Why do you wish to see Him? Jesus is about to tell us what it really means to come to Him and why we should. We would all do well to consider our own answers in light of His.


As I just mentioned, John doesn’t explicitly tell us why the Greeks came to Jesus, but Jesus’ response when approached by Philip and Andrew on their behalf, is telling. Had Jesus come for the Gentiles? Was His resurrection power for them as well? Would He reject them, rebuke them, or receive them?

Jesus Time and Mission (23-24)

Well, as He was prone to do, Jesus seemingly bypassed the questions altogether—both the implied question of the Greeks (Are we included?) and the direct question of Philip and Andrew (Will you grant the Greeks an audience?). Instead of answering as we might expect, and the Greeks probably wanted (“sure, have them come on in”), Jesus initially made two statements about Himself that weren’t obviously connected to the question presented to Him.

First, He 23 answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.'”. Clearly not what they asked, but awesome and critical nonetheless.

There are nine separate times in John’s Gospel in which Jesus refers to “His hour.” The first four times (2:4; 4:21; 7:30; 8:20) referred to a future time; that is, four times in a row Jesus declared that His time had not yet come.

It is truly significant that for the first time, Jesus declared that His time had come. His hour was at hand. Specifically, the time of His glorification (which they certainly didn’t yet understand) was upon them all.

What’s more, and remarkable beyond measure, one of the very things that God determined to usher in Jesus’ hour was the coming of the Gentiles. The good news of the gospel is entirely tied up in its inclusion of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. This will become clearer as we continue on in this passage, but even now, it’s good to pause and reflect on the fact that Jesus came in love for the whole world and the Greeks of v.20 provided an opportunity for Jesus to proclaim that.

What was it about this time that was significant? Why had Jesus’ time finally come? And what did that mean? We’ll come back to these questions in just a bit.

The second response Jesus gave, another that was more about explaining Himself and His mission than directly responding to the disciples and Greeks, is found in v.24.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Seeds in a bag can’t produce a crop. It is only once seeds are placed in the ground that they can germinate, grow, bear fruit, and ultimately provide life to those who need it. In the same way, in response to Philip’s request that Jesus meet with the Greeks, Jesus told Philip and Andrew (again, in a manner that they wouldn’t really understand until later) that He needed to die in order bear the kind and quantity of fruit He’d come to bring. And in this simple teaching, Jesus was introducing the best possible news for the Greeks and the rest of the world!

Indeed, Jesus would soon suffer at the hands of the men in v.19 and then even more at the hands of the Roman authorities. He would suffer even unto death (as a grain of wheat falling to the earth) in one of the worst possible ways known to man (crucifixion). But then He would rise from the dead (as a seed pushing forth out of the ground). And in that He would be glorified, making a way for all to join Him! Jesus told His hearers what His fruit was and how all people (including the Greeks) could access it.

The Nature of Trusting Jesus as Treasure (25-26)

It is in the second part of Jesus’ answer that we get the clearest sense of what the Greeks were after and the fullest sense of Jesus answer. “Jews, Greeks, Gentiles, all mankind, I have come to die that you might join me in eternal life in the Father’s honor. The path to that blessing, that fruit, is to trust in and treasure Me above all.” Let’s consider all of that in light of vs.25-26.

What does it mean to trust in Jesus as the greatest treasure? Rather than leaving those ideas as vague concepts, as so many today are prone to do, Jesus clarified what He meant by trust in four ways and treasure in two.

1. Love Your Life to Lose It

First, if you trust me as your treasure, you need to stop loving your life in this world. Indeed, 25 Whoever loves his life loses it…”

For clarity, consider the parallel claim Jesus made in Matthew 10 (and Luke 14:25-33).

Matthew 10:37–39 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

This passage informs every part of this section (all four trust and both treasure claims), but the gist of what it helps us see concerning loving our lives to lose them is this: trusting Jesus as your treasure means (1) letting go of your idolatry of self, (2) letting go of your love of sin, and (3) letting go of anything you love more than Jesus. If you love yourself more than Jesus, sin more than Jesus, or anything else (even good things like your parents, kids, siblings, and even your own life) more than Jesus, then you do not yet fully trust Jesus as your treasure.

Grace, in answering the Greeks, Jesus warns us as well that loving anything more than Him or that dishonors Him, is antithetical to trusting in Jesus. If you are perfectly happy with all you have in this life (or can imagine being so), if the blessings of this world is enough for you, or if you delight in sin, then your hope is not in Jesus and you will lose the very life you hold dear.

2. Hate Your Life to Keep It

Jesus’ second claim concerning the nature of trusting Him as treasure simply affirms the opposite of the first. If we love any part of our lives more than Jesus, then we are not truly trusting in Jesus and we will lose our lives. On the other hand, if we trust in Jesus as our treasure such that we hate our lives in this world compared to Jesus, then we will gain eternal life.

25 … and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

I like a good $1.50 Costco hotdog and pop combo. Occasionally it really hits the spot and gives me a bit of joy knowing that we’re not pressing on our budget. At the same time, when I think of it in comparison to something truly desirable, like Jake’s brisket, I genuinely despise Costco’s hotdog—especially the extra inch on each end that you have to eat without the bun to give it its proper balance in the universe.

In a similar way, Jesus is not saying that trusting in Him means despising the people in your life that He elsewhere commands you to love. He’s saying that trusting in Him means believing and feeling in your bones that they are Costco hotdogs (divided by a million) and He is Jake’s brisket (multiplied by a million billion).

3. Serve Me

Jesus’ third clarifying claim regarding the essence of what it means to truly trust in Him is found in v.26—trusting Him as treasure means serving Him.

26 If anyone serves me …

To trust Jesus is to serve Him, to gladly obey His commands and do His bidding. It is a tragic thing when Christianity is shared merely as some kind of passive mental ascent to a set of facts, or a get-out-of-hell-free card, or, worse yet, as the means by which your selfish desires can be met. We’re often told, pray this prayer and Jesus will fix your life and make everything better. Of course, there’s some measure of truth in that, but above all, it’s a tragically false and deadly version of the gospel; indeed, it is no gospel at all.

It’s especially tragic for two reasons. First, it’s tragic because, as I said, it’s false. It cannot deliver on what it promises. But second, it’s tragic because even if it could deliver on it’s promises, it’s promises fall infinitely short of the fullness of what Jesus offers.

What I mean is this: for most of us, the charge to be someone’s servant is not an overly appealing prospect. Kids, think of having to be your brother or sister’s servant for a day. That would probably be pretty rough, wouldn’t it? They’d probably have you doing things like cleaning their room, giving them all your money, getting them snacks and such. In other words, being their servant is unappealing because they’d use you for purposes that benefited them, but not you. Even serving the best person on earth isn’t awesome because the best they have to offer still falls sort of what you were made for.

Serving Jesus is different, though. The gospel is a call to trust in Jesus as His servant and that is the best news out there because Jesus only does perfect things. He only ever succeeds. He has all glory, honor, victory, power, and blessing. To serve Him is to be about the greatest work, for the greatest reasons, to the greatest ends. Think of being able to travel around, helping your favorite band or athlete or author or artist or video gamer. You’d gladly sign up for that, wouldn’t you? You’d be eager to do so and you’d love to brag to your friends about it. It’d be an honor. Well, if you can even begin to get your head around that idea, you can begin to understand that doing so with Jesus—serving Jesus—is all of that and infinitely more. It is good news that trusting in Jesus means being His servant. Don’t cheat people of that blessing by leaving it out of your gospel presentations!

4. Follow Me

Finally, the fourth aspect of trusting Jesus as treasure is following Jesus.

26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me…

This isn’t fundamentally different than serving Jesus. Serving Him is following Him and following Him is serving Him. You can’t follow Him without serving Him and you can’t serve Him without following Him. The gist of this point is simply that where Jesus goes, those who trust in Him will follow. What Jesus does, those who trust in Him will join in. The call to follow Jesus, like the call to serve Jesus, is good news indeed.

The Nature of Jesus as Treasure (26)

We are united with Jesus in His measureless blessings when we trust in Him as our treasure. As we just saw, Jesus clarified the nature of the trust we need. Trusting in Him means forsaking love of this life, hating all things in comparison to Jesus, serving Jesus, and following Jesus. He also clarified the nature of the treasure He offers. The great treasure means, above all, that we get to be with Him and be honored by the Father alongside Him.

1. We will be with Jesus.

where I am, there will my servant be also….

Greater than living forever, greater than all the money, friends, health, and success in the world, greater than all other things, the reward Jesus offered was the greatest possible reward. There is nothing you might rightly desire more. Where Jesus is, you will be with Him. By God’s sanctifying grace, you will grow to see this promise as it truly is—greater than everything else you might desire. Being with Jesus is the greatest treasure because Jesus alone possesses all glory.

The Greeks asked if they could see Jesus. Once again, if they would trust in Him as treasure, they would always see Him. They would see Him forever. They would be with Him in perfect fellowship and everlasting joy. And so it is for you and me.

2. We will be honored by the Father.

Second, and similarly, trusting in Jesus as our treasure means that we will be honored by the Father along with Him.

26 …If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

If being honored as student of the month by your teacher, or employee of the year by your company, or MVP by your coach, or best in class by your 4H judge would be an honor, consider carefully how unparalleledly awesome it would be to be honored by God; to have God tell you, “Well done, I’m proud of you, you bring me joy!”

Again, and without exageration, being honored by the Father is greater than living forever, greater than all the money, friends, health, and success in the world, it is greater than all other things. It is the highest reward. There is nothing you might rightly desire more. The Father will honor you! If that doesn’t sound like the greatest thing you can imagine, you need to pray, read your Bible more carefully, and rethink everything.


The believing, Gentile Greeks wanted to see Jesus. To that end, they made their request through Philip, who solicited Andrew to join him in presenting the request to Jesus. In light of Jesus’ answer, we can infer that the heart of their question was whether or not Jesus brough good news for Jews only or Gentiles too.

Instead of answering directly, Jesus first clarified His mission as a means giving an even fuller, greater answer than the Greeks were expecting.

And Jesus’ answer was this: You want to see me? You will certainly see me for I am about to be glorified. Contrary to your expectations, however, I will not be glorified by leading a military victory over the Romans, but by giving my life as a ransom for many and then by rising from the dead.

Your life comes through My death. And you gain access to all of that, you are able to “see” Me, not by your own merit, but by being united to Me in Mine. That happens as your surrender our entire life to me in the knowledge that my reward—being with me, glorified like me, and living eternally in the Father’s honor—is worth more than everything in your life and in this fallen world combined and multiplied by a billion.

Trust me, therefore. Serve me, follow me, and believe that my Father will reward you—you and everyone who joins you—with everlasting fellowship and honor. What an answer, what an offer, what a Savior, what a treasure.

May your new year be happy because it is increasingly marked by believing and living in light of these things.