"The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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 man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:23-25)

Here Jesus is responding to Andrew and Philip, who told Jesus about some Greeks who came to Jerusalem to worship and approached Philip, asking him:
"Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." (John 12:21)
Jesus was also reflecting on the fact that he was just ceremoniously welcomed as he walked through Mount Olives into Jerusalem by his students and disciples, who chanted:
"Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (John 12:13)
Coming "in the name of the Lord" means that Jesus was recognized by his students not as the Supreme Being, but as God's representative. Someone who comes in someone else's name is an emissary or messenger for that person. This is confirmed by Jesus when he said earlier in John:
"But He who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world." (John 8:26)
The Hosanna chant of his students and disciples also testifies to the importance of God's Holy Names. See this commentary for a discussion of the Hosanna chant.

Jesus' students and disciples are appreciating this fact - that Jesus is God's representative - and the Greeks who came to worship in Jerusalem also had heard this.

So Jesus, seeing that he is being praised and sought out as he comes into Jerusalem, comments that this is a moment in time when he is being glorified. (Note that "son of man" is better translated to servant of humanity - see this commentary for explanation). But then he characterizes being glorified, and what this praise means to him.

Jesus compares it to a kernel of wheat. What does this mean?

The kernel of wheat that drops to the ground and "dies" as a seed - sprouts, in other words - symbolizes those who commit their lives to serving and pleasing God, and being of service to others. The seed that does not end up sprouting in the ground stays alone - symbolizes the empty and lonely person who does not exchange a loving relationship with God.

The physical world is populated primarily by empty, lonely people. Even those who are surrounded by big families and lots of so-called friends are lonely without a loving relationship with the Supreme Being. Those of us who ignore our relationship with the Supreme Being are truly alone, and those who surround us might give us the illusion of loving relationships, but these relationships are all conditional relationships: They care about us as long as we care about them, and/or we fit their other requirements (status, money, family, etc.) The bottom line is that these relationships are dependent upon the physical body. Those we are relating with - family and friends - identify us and themselves as these temporary physical bodies. Therefore, they are not reaching the real us - the person who temporarily occupies the physical body.

This might be compared to two cars driving down the freeway together. The cars might look like they are relating because they are driving so close to each other, but the drivers within each car are not relating. They don't even know each other. And then the cars separate, never to be seen together again.

Jesus presents our two choices quite clearly. We can either focus on our false identities within this empty physical world, or we can resume our natural position as one of God's loving servants. The later course produces other "seeds" as we naturally influence others with our spiritual consciousness.

Jesus confirms this with the next sentence, as he states that, "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." What does this mean?

The "his life" in the first phrase is the same as "his life in this world." Jesus is talking about ones physical existence.

The person and the physical body are not the same. They are independent of each other. We wear these physical bodies for a temporary period of time, and we leave them then they die.

Our physical lives can either be a platform for learning about the Supreme Being, re-establishing our loving relationship with Him and coming to serve Him; or they can be about chasing the fleeting physical pleasures of the world. This chasing of the pleasures of the physical body is described by Jesus as "The man who loves his life."

So then he says that if a man "loves his life" in the world, "he will lose it." What will he lose? Jesus clarifies this as he describes that "the man who hates his life in the world will keep it for eternal life."

Why does "eternal life" go to one who "hates his life"? If a person realizes that this physical world and its empty pleasures run counter to the state of being one of God's loving servants, then that person will hate the physical world.

The physical world, populated by physical bodies and physical elements, is not eternal. It is all temporary. It is changing dramatically, and every body dies. For each of us the physical world is temporary because our bodies will die within decades. Most bodies die within about 5-8 decades. A few live a little longer, but every body dies. This makes this physical world temporary for each of us.

"Eternal life" is our natural position in the spiritual realm. We are each spiritual beings, who are temporarily occupying a physical body. This physical realm was developed by God as a place where those who wanted to be away from the Supreme Being could go and pretend to be someone they're not for awhile.

Thus while the physical world allows us to play out our temporary identities and ignore God for awhile, it is also a place of learning - a place of rehabilitation. If we use this lifetime to follow Jesus - sent by God to help us re-develop our relationship with God - then we can return to our natural position - our permanent home - in the spiritual realm. If not, then we will stay here, and continue to assume temporary physical bodies and be away from God.

Jesus confirms that he's come to teach us to re-establish our loving relationship with God with his most important teaching:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)


(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of John without sectarian institutional influence, see the Devotional Translation  - translated from the original Greek texts.)