How is everyone doing? Who is stir crazy? Who is loving this time at home? What have been some of your favorite pastimes during our time of social distancing? Share them with us. We’ve done some home projects so it feels good to be getting some things accomplished on the home front for sure. I know I’ve done a lot of eating. Is anyone else ready to confess the same? I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of the humorous notes posted on social media. Even though what we are going through isn’t funny, there have still been reasons to smile. I’ve done a lot more praying for sure. That’s a good thing, right? I’ll look forward to reading your comments when the service finishes!
I’m still in this series, “When Jesus Speaks” where we are looking at some pretty intense passages that are full of the Red Letters, the ones that detail the words of Jesus. The story we are going to dive into this morning is found in John’s Gospel in chapter 12. It is the text that immediately follows the Palm Sunday Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem where Jesus was praised and worshiped as a King. Scholars I read after say it is still Sunday as this passage opens.
John 12:20-32 (NIV) 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
24 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. 25 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. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. 27 “Now my heart 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. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
I am not sure I have ever spent any significant time on this particular passage except for verse 32 where Jesus says, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” The references to losing your life for Christ’s sake aren’t new to me, but I have probably gone to other Gospels to preach those ideas. So this was a lot of fun for me to delve into the richness of this passage.
It is interesting to me that the passage begins with two Greeks, two non-Jews, two Gentiles coming and asking to see Jesus. Why is that significant? I think it speaks again to the worldwide, inclusive nature of Jesus’ mission. You will remember that Magi from the East, non-Jews, came asking to see Jesus when He was born, right? Well, here we are at the end of His earthly life, and non-Jews are coming and are asking to see Jesus. John captured this nuance for a reason.
Jesus’ birth was announced to the world, and here in Jesus’ response to the Greeks’ desire to meet with Him, His death is announced in a universal way as well. Jesus is like, “They want to see me? Oh they will see me alright. In fact, everyone will see me. I will be lifted up from the earth (verse 32) and I will draw all men until myself.”
I also find it interesting that God the Father speaks out loud in this passage. You’ll remember that when Jesus was beginning His earthly ministry and was baptized by His cousin, God the Father spoke from Heaven about being well-pleased with Jesus. Here, once again, near His death, God the Father spoke. This only happened 3 times in the New Testament, so you know it has to be important. God the Father was making a statement here that this was “go-time.” Now let’s dive into the text to see what we can learn when Jesus speaks.
Here is the first thing I see:
When Jesus speaks, the weight of the cross is made known. Let’s explore how the glory of God is tied to the weight of the cross.
Look at verse 23 again: 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be GLORIFIED. Skip to verse 27 27 “Now my heart 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. 28 Father, GLORIFY your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have GLORIFIED it, and will GLORIFY it again.”
What do we make of the fact that Jesus will be glorified and that the name of God will be glorified?
First of all, notice Jesus didn’t say that the time has come for the Son of Man to be crucified. He said that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified, and yet we understand what is just ahead for Jesus. The cross is coming. Somehow the glory of God is tied to the crucifixion. The glory of God is connected to the cross.
First-century Jews who heard Jesus talk about the glory of God would have had a foundation and some experience with the glory of God. Jews knew the story in Exodus 33 where their former leader, Moses, requested to see God’s glory. What was God’s response? He basically said, “I could show you My glory, but it would kill you.” Right? He told Moses that He would allow His glory to pass by Moses, but Moses would only be able to get a rear view of the glory of God. The Jewish people knew the glory of God was no small thing. It was a very weighty and serious matter. It was too much to take in all at once.
A Jewish person could easily have gone to Psalm 19:1 which says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” You could actually translate the word, “glory” to mean “weightiness.” What we see in creation speaks to the magnitude or weight of God’s glory. There is beauty and design in creation. It is awe-inspiring. It speaks to the power of God, to His creativity and care, right?
When Jesus speaks about the Son of Man being glorified, the weight of God’s glory takes on new meaning. Jesus and God both speak in this passage in John 12 and what they are both saying is that if you want to see Jesus, if you want to see God in all of His glory, look at the cross. If you want to see the full expression of the righteousness of God, look at the cross. If you want to see the weight, the heftiness of the love of God, look at the cross. If you want to see the magnitude of the mercy of God, look at the cross. If you want to see the absolute display of the holiness of God, look at the cross. If you are interested in gazing at the power of God, look at the cross.
Golgotha was THE place where the glory of God was never more radiant. The righteousness, the holiness, the love, the mercy, and the the power of God make up the glory of God, friends. I have never heard anyone else put it that way. It is just what God told me, and there, when Jesus looked disgusting, when He was marred beyond recognition and repulsive…there we behold the glory of God! Isn’t that stunning? It’s quite a paradox! It’s surprising! It’s totally unconventional and is almost beyond our earthly comprehension, but here it is, the glory of God on display on Calvary’s hill.
We are told in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
And where was He most radiant? Where were His words the most powerful? It was no doubt, the cross. The cross is the culmination of every preceding holy action, every issued pronouncement of forgiveness, every extension of mercy, every word of compassion. Never were more powerful words spoken than the words Jesus spoke on the cross. With His words, Jesus forgave the thief who was crucified next to Him. With His words, Jesus forgave those who had tormented Him. With His words, Jesus pronounced, “It is finished” and atonement for sin was complete.
Glory! Glory! Glory! Oh, when Jesus said, “Father, glorify Your name,” He was saying, “Let’s roll! Let’s put the glory of God on display for everyone to see it!” Jesus knew the cross would be the big reveal, the full reveal of the glory of God. You know on that show, “Extreme Home Makeover” when the family comes back to see their newly remodeled home and there is a bus in front of the home to obscure their view, and one of the people yells, “Move that bus” and when the bus rolls away they are gasping at the stunning picture that is behind it all.
Can you see it? When you finally see the glory of God on display, when the veil is taken from your eyes, it’s like God the Father said, “Move that bus! Tear that curtain down in the Temple. Remove every obstacle so that all can make their way to Me. Allow the full weight of My glory to be high and lifted up for everyone to see.”
Part of the glory of God is the perfect way God met His own requirements. God takes sin seriously. Sin demands a price. Sin violates God’s law. Someone had to pay. God couldn’t be glorious if He didn’t uphold His own standard. He couldn’t be glorious if He dismissed justice and tossed it aside trivial. How could He ignore His own law? Here’s the truth, if God didn’t judge evil, He would be unjust.
So what did He do? He threw His full weight of support for us, people He loves beyond comprehension, He threw His full weight, all of His glory, onto a cruel cross so that judgment would be rendered on Him and yet we could go free. That, my friends, is the glory of God! Isn’t that awesome?
The second thing I would suggest to you from this John 12 text is that:
When Jesus speaks, the way of the cross is made known.
What I mean by that is that Jesus tells all who want to be His followers they must come by way of the cross. He says, “John 12:24-26 24 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. 25 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. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Here Jesus uses an agricultural image to help us understand what it means to truly follow Him. The cross wasn’t just where our victory was won, but it was also symbolic of God’ will for each one of us. Jesus says that when a seed goes into the ground, it bursts out of the ground with more life than it went into the ground with.
Some people want to just SEE Jesus, to see what He can do for them, to see what He’s all about. Some people never move past seeing. The cross invites us to move from seeing to following. Jesus tells us the way to follow Him is to die. Jesus willingly laid down His life. He was like a seed going into the ground which produced something much greater than the seed could have produced had it not been buried. Jesus says He can do the same with our lives if we will lay them down. In a sense, we can be buried with Christ, and be raised to produce greater things than we ever could if we refuse to bury our own wills. Seeing Jesus won’t produce anything, but following Him will produce a supernatural harvest.
But following Him, going the way He went, means going the way of death to self. That’s not a popular idea, is it? I found myself at a Walmart this week, where on the outside of the store, yellow caution tape had been placed in front of the outside pop machine to keep people from going up and touching the various buttons there which could become a quick way for a virus to spread. While I was walking in, I saw a man go under the caution tape, put his money into the pop machine and retrieve his beverage. Nobody was going to tell him he couldn’t have a soda if he wanted a soda.
Death to our desires, death to our way is something we not only resist, but it is something we go out of our way to defy. That’s not the way Jesus took. He knew what He was facing and even though the very thought of it was emotionally traumatizing, He said, “Not my will, but the will of my Father’s, be done.” That’s the way of the cross.
When we have a decision to make about who we are going to serve and we choose to serve God over self, we have gone the way of the cross. When we have a decision to make about serving others or preserving our own comfort, and we choose serving others, we have gone the way of the cross. When we forgive those who do us wrong, we have gone the way of the cross. The way of the cross comes with the sacrifice of our wills, our wishes and our wants.
Jesus said, “If you want to experience the power of production in your life, if you want to see what can be harvested when you choose to die to self, follow Me to the cross.”
The person who chooses the way of the cross regularly asks, “God, what do you want from me?” When we control our lives, we will produce what is in our power to produce. When we allow God to control our lives, He will produce what His power can produce. Which do you want to see happen?
Do you understand that Jesus accomplished far more with His death than He ever did with His life? And Jesus’ life was pretty impressive, right? Incredible miracles were recorded and countless more were performed that were never written down. The following He had, the insight He communicated through His teaching was phenomenal. He was prophetic, prolific, powerful, and impacted so many people. But it wasn’t until He died, until He willingly sacrificed His life that the exponentially powerful miracle for the entire world, not just those living at the time, but those who had looked forward to the Messiah’s coming and those who have been born since His death would be accomplished. As impressive as His life was, His death wrought even greater things! The same can be true for all who are willing to die with Christ and give God full control. Just as a seed has to be buried in order to fulfill its potential, so too, we must die with Christ.
Verse 27 tells us Jesus had two options. He could pray, “Save me” or He could pray, “Use me.” Jesus prayed the latter. When Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify your name,” He was praying, “Father, plant me, bury me so that a harvest of righteousness can be reaped.” He prayed not to save Himself, but to be used of God.
Well finally, this passage tells us that When Jesus speaks, the works of the cross are made known.
When Jesus went to the cross He went to work do two things. Look at verses 31 and 32: “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”
There are two monumental works listed here. First Jesus says, I’m going to deal with the devil.” In the Garden of Eden, back when Adam and Eve sinned, judgment was passed on Satan. It was said in Genesis 3:15 that Satan would strike Jesus’ heel and that Jesus would crush Satan’s head. Well, it happened at the cross. What was prophesied was enacted at the cross.
What Satan had to use against us was our sin. The guilt and condemnation and shame that come to us and tie us up and keep us bound, that which kept us separated from the power and the presence and the favor of God, it was all done away with at the cross. Jesus triumphed on the cross. Satan no longer has any legal claim to a Child of God. Hallelujah!
Even though Satan still has limited authority to roam around, He has no legal right to the church, to the Bride of Christ, to we who have gone the way of the cross. He is defeated in our lives.
Not only did Jesus go to work to deal with the devil on the cross, but secondly He also went to draw humanity to Himself. Who wouldn’t be drawn to a Savior who leads by serving, who loves without condition, who forgives to the uttermost? The cross is the reminder that God loves the entire world. And that is why I preach the cross. That is why I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why the blood of the Lamb isn’t something I try to gloss over. The most beautiful thing about the cross is the salvation that was purchased for all who will make their way there.
All of time points to the cross. All of Scripture points to the cross. Jesus is the Lamb of God slain from before the foundation of the earth. The cross isn’t a mere trinket or treasure, but it is the place of transformation where we bury our past and take on the life of Jesus.
I love the old Gaither song that puts it this way:
‘Twas a life filled with aimless desperation
Without hope walked the shell of a man;
Then a hand with a nailprint stretched downward
Just one touch then a new life began
And the old rugged cross made the difference
In a life bound for heartache and defeat;
I will praise Him forever and ever
For the cross made the difference for me
What Jesus has done on the cross can never be undone! Oh the wondrous cross!
That’s it. When Jesus speaks,
When Jesus speaks, the weight of the cross is made known.
When Jesus speaks, the way of the cross is made known.
When Jesus speaks, the works of the cross are made known.
Are you listening, and have you been transformed by the weight, the way, and the works of the cross?