5th Sunday during Lent

March 18, 2018

Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church

Sioux Falls, SD

 

John 12:20-33

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request.  “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”  Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly I tell you, 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.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.  Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

 

John 12:20-33

“We Want to See Jesus . . . Glorified”

1) On the Cross

2)  In Our Life

 

Dear Redeemed children of God,

‘We would like to see Jesus.’  Among many Passover worshipers coming to Jerusalem, ‘some Greeks’ bring Philip a personal request, ‘We would like to see Jesus.’  What are they specifically seeking?  Were they too far back in that hosanna-singing crowd of people waving palm branches & paving Jesus’ path with their coats when he rode into the city on a donkey Sunday… too far back in the crowd to see Jesus with their own eyes?  Do souls simply want to get up close & personal for a minute or two – maybe take a selfie — with a well-known individual?  Do these Greeks, like Roman King Herod, just want to watch Jesus perform a miracle?  Or do they desire to personally hear a unique, authoritative preacher’s life-giving, life-preserving words of repentance & forgiveness?

What response Philip & Andrew expect as they bring this request to Jesus is not recorded.  Their Lord once told a Canaanite woman, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel’[MT 15] before he healed her demon-possessed daughter.  Introduced by John the Baptist as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,’[JN 1] we can see a few foreigners requesting, ‘We would like to see Jesus’ offering a subtle preview of Jesus’ pre-ascension instruction for faithful followers to share his good news of forgiveness for every repenting sinner in our city, in our country; in the ends of our earth.  While living as a Jew, preaching & performing miracles among Jews, Jesus was nevertheless sent to save every soul — Greeks, Jews, Romans, Americans — to save every soul!

Recalling his commission to redeem the whole world, ‘We would like to see Jesus’ is a critical request I pray we will make every day — a request one of our vicars would offer with every sermon he preached, ‘Lord, let us see Jesus… in his Word.’  God’s Word, you see, is where our Savior shows himself to us.  Greek souls approaching Philip ask to see Jesus with earthly eyes – may ask no more than another sideshow as they celebrate in the big city.  Jesus’ intriguing response to this relayed request – ‘the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’ – not a simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to meeting these Greeks — guides hearts to ask, as we open God’s Word, ‘We would like to see Jesus…glorified.’

Reformatting our request, Jesus addresses not, ‘What we want to see in Jesus’ but ‘What Jesus wants us to see in him.’  Using farming to frame his truth – reemphasizing reality he taught when we entered Lent a couple weeks ago — Jesus stresses the fact he must die so we can live…we can live in Christ forever.  ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground & dies, it remains only a single seed,’ our Savior explains, ‘If it dies, it produces many seeds.”  Using corn to illustrate, we can do the math:  If I eat a kernel of corn in spring, I only eat one little kernel – not a stomach-filling nor life-sustaining meal.  If I plant this kernel in the ground where it will die, decay, germinate, sprout; grow into a cornstalk – as our Creator designed it to the fifth day – later this summer, I can eat a number of hot-buttered, well-salted ears of corn, each containing 640 kernels.  Naturally; miraculously, death produces abundant life.  If Jesus does not die, he alone lives forever.  If Jesus dies for us, an abundant number of us will also live with him.

Applying this death-producing-life truth to himself, Jesus turns our eyes to look at that center cross at Golgotha where the Son of Man will be glorified.  While a cross may make us think gory rather than glory, Jesus climbs his cross to be glorified like an Olympic champion stepping up onto the highest platform to receive people’s praises.  Why praise Jesus for being crucified?  Death seems synonymous with defeat.  Why is Jesus’ glorious crucifixion a farther-reaching, longer-lasting triumph than an Olympian’s gold medal win at Pyeongchang?  When Jesus’ dead body is ready to be buried as Good Friday ends, we glorify God’s Son for the fact…  A) Jesus’ victory is won for others; not for himself,  B) Jesus’ defeat of the devil frees us from Satan’s slavery forever, not only for the next four years;  C) Jesus enduring hell – being forsaken by his Father – pays the ransom price of sin no one else would ever be able to offer.

Crucifixion, of course, will not be a walk in the park.  Looking into the future — seeing a soldier’s whip shredding his back, a thorny crown piercing his bloody brow; seeing painful nails pierce his hands & feet – Jesus declares, “Now my heart is troubled.  What shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour?’  No, it is for this very reason I came to this hour.”  Determined; resolute, Jesus knows:  Out of death comes life – Out of Jesus’ death comes our eternal life!

As Jesus prays, ‘Father, glorify your name!’ a voice from heaven – a voice the crowd hears but cannot understand, a voice sounding like thunder; a voice clearly indicating something heavenly is happening here – ‘a voice from heaven declares, ‘I have glorified it & I will glorify it again.’  Wanting to see Jesus, we will see Jesus glorified at his cross.  At Golgotha, God the Father who audibly identifies Jesus, announcing from heaven after he is baptized in the Jordan River; announcing again on a mountain where Jesus is transfigured, ‘This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased,’ God the Father will put his Son to death — spiritually as well as physically — because God mercifully placed all our iniquities on his own sinless Son, Jesus.  At his cross, as his death atones for our every sin, Jesus will deliver life…life to be lived in God’s glory!

Aer we asking to see Jesus glorified?  Looking; listening at the cross, we first hear Jesus pray, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’[LK 23]  Not only does he pray for us whose sins insist he die hell’s death on our behalf, Jesus prays for Roman soldiers painfully nailing his hands & feet to his cross; Jesus prays for Jewish leaders whose jealousy leads them to blindly ridicule him on this cross where he will hang until he breathes his last.

Not only does he pray for, Jesus also produces forgiveness.  Jesus wins God’s gift of freedom from guilt, washing away our sin’s eternal death penalty with his own innocent suffering as our Savior / Substitute.  Jesus assures our salvation.  One of two thieves crucified on side crosses is led by the Holy Spirit — who uses gospel truths people mockingly toss at Christ’s cross to work in his heart a faith which turns this thief from his own ridiculing request with his partner for an earthly rescue, turns his heart to rightly admit, ‘We are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong’ — one thief is led to sorrowfully, hopefully ask Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  Jesus’ response delivers forgiveness to a repenting thief, not to a hard-hearted, unrepentant thief on the other side — Jesus gloriously promises, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’[LK 23]

Producing forgiveness at his cross – obviously enduring hell we deserve as he cries, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’[MT 27] Jesus ultimately announces, in a triumphant voice, ‘It is finished!’[JN 19]  Glorifying God’s name, producing eternal life-giving, soul-saving truth the Father wants every one of us to know, Jesus wins salvation for us; for the whole world at his cross.  Wanting to see Jesus, which I pray will be our daily desire – wanting to see Jesus glorified – our Savior first turns us to his cross where God delivers his eternal judgment in a timely manner.  On Christ’s cross, sin’s penalty gets paid in full – for us.  On Christ’s cross, as Jesus tells us in advance, ‘the prince of this world – the devil who deceived Eve; who enticed Adam to bring sin into our world & into our life the prince of this world is driven out.’  Overpowered by Jesus’ refusal to sin, Satan simply ‘bruises the heel’ of our crucified Savior who is ‘crushing his head.’[GEN 3]  On his cross, Jesus gloriously lifts faithful souls up out of hell to live with him in heaven, promising, ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.’

Drawn to Christ at his cross, seeing our Savior glorified, souls led by the Holy Spirit to fear, love & trust in God will also want to see Jesus glorified in our own life.  Ask yourself, ‘When people look at me, will they see Jesus?  Do other souls see God glorified in the life I am living today — a life of Christian love, a life obviously appreciating God’s forgiveness for my sins; a life offering Jesus’ forgiveness to any soul who sins against me?’  Also applying his kernel of wheat illustration to our life, truth-telling Jesus explains, ‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’

‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it’ causes us to pause, does it not, for I naturally love my life.  Easily assuming I am the center of the universe, I always ask, in my head if not aloud, ‘What am I going to get out of this job, out of this relationship?  When will people pay me a little more attention?  How do you think I feel?’  A Savior changes our perspective; alters our outlook on life.  When we, by God’s grace, realize Jesus’ death delivers eternal life, an ‘all about me’ life I used to love is no longer appealing.  As our sinful nature’s evil earthly life is put to death, eternal life Jesus wins when he dies to redeem us rises in us saints who now imitate ‘God’s true righteousness & holiness.’[EPH 4]

Not being the center of our universe, being changed into someone who is not expecting other souls to serve us but focuses on serving others – applying a familiar truth Jesus stresses, teaching us to pray, ‘Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us’[LK 11] is not easy.  Sadly, our old self keeps gasping for air, as if on life support, as long as we will still live on earth.  Fortunately, the Holy Spirit keeps working faith & faithfulness in us as we study God’s Word.  Life Jesus delivers in his death as our Savior/Substitute empowers us to withstand our wheezing old self – empowers us to resist temptations to find excuses for not forgiving someone who hurts us with their words – empowers us to glorify our Savior by announcing Jesus’ forgiveness to underserving souls who sin against us the same way God very graciously, undeservedly; endlessly forgives you & forever forgives me because Jesus died to redeem us.

As we disciples pray every day, ‘We would like to see Jesus…glorified,’ God turns us to his Word; our Lord repeatedly turns us to our Savior’s cross.  One day – as he likely did for Greeks first offering this request in Jerusalem – one day Jesus will also let us see him face-to-face, will let us see his crucified but risen, ascended self; will let us see all his godly glory as our Savior returns to take us home to heaven through earthly death.  Without a doubt, Jesus’ death gives us life while Jesus’ gift of eternal life puts our sinful self to death

What else will we say?  ‘Lord, we would like to see Jesus!  Yes, we want to see Jesus glorified!’

Amen.