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Sermon Text: John 12:20-33
Date: March 28 & 29, 2015
Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B
John 12:20–33 (ESV)
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 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.
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
We Wish To See Jesus
1. The one glorified in his death
2. The one who glorified his Father
Have you ever been on a trip or lived far away from loved ones and start to get anxious to see them? Have you ever ordered something that you just couldn’t wait to see finally in your home? Have you ever waited anxiously to see the class results to see how you did in a course at school? We get anxious to see things because seeing makes something real for us. Seeing things also make them a priority. We keep pictures of loved ones in our office or home to remind us of them, so even if we can’t see them in person, we can see them in the photo.
There’s something greater to see than a loved one or something we ordered. We long to see our Savior. And seeing Jesus, like people we cherish so dearly, never gets old. We always wish to see Jesus because we always have a need to see Jesus. We always have a need for his love and forgiveness so we make him the priority of our lives, to always hold him before our eyes.
Our lesson takes place on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus is just a couple of days away from his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. People from all over the world were coming to worship at the celebration of the Passover. We’re told that some of the people there were Greeks, likely proselytes, those who had converted to Judaism rather than those physically descended from Abraham.
When they arrived they had a clear goal. They found Philip (coincidentally or not, the one of Jesus’ disciples who had a Greek name) and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” They had heard about Jesus, likely his miracles and his authoritative teaching, and now they were looking for him, ideally to meet with him but maybe even just to catch a glimpse of him.
Philip seeks out Andrew’s assistance for this task for reasons that are not provided by John, but Jesus’ response to this request is sudden. He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.” Undoubtedly, Jesus’ upcoming death is already starting to weigh heavily on him. But notice in the seeking question of the Greeks we have a beautiful picture of what Jesus is going to do. He’s not going to be a Savior just for the Israelites, he’s not going to rescue just one small group out of the races of mankind. Jesus is coming to be a universal, global Savior. He’s coming to save people, be they Jewish, Greek, Roman, English, Italian, African, Japanese, Indian, whomever. Jesus is coming to save them all. He’s a Savior for all.
We would hardly call his saving work “glorious,” right? We’re going to see him beaten within an inch of his life and only after that atrocity takes place, then we’ll see him be nailed to a cross and left to suffocate and die. Yet Jesus was clear, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus’ work would bring him glory because it would accomplish the whole reason for which he came.
Then Jesus has words for his disciples that, perhaps, they didn’t quite understand. They knew things were tense between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, they knew things could go wrong, but it’s unclear how vividly they saw Jesus’ words being fulfilled in their own lives. He said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 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.” In just two days, the disciples are all going to show that they love their earthly lives more than Jesus and more than eternal life. Judas will hand Jesus over for a bag of money; the rest of the disciples will flee from Jesus when he, outwardly, would seem to need them the most. Peter himself will deny even knowing Jesus three times before the sun rose or the rooster crowed. The disciples will all show just how selfish they were, and Jesus warns that such attitudes will cause people to lose their life—that is, lose the eternal life he’d given to them.
We can be selfish too, can’t we? If we’re honest, we could easily see ourselves taking the role of just about any of the disciples in that scene in the Garden of Gethsemane or the Temple courts, couldn’t we? I could be betrayer; I could be denier; I could be abandoner. You often love your life more than your Savior. You shy away from speaking about your faith; you’re quiet when you know others need to know and see what you know and have seen about your Savior. We neglect coming to church or come out of a sense of obligation rather than joy. We say in our hearts, “I don’t wish to see Jesus.”
Lord, save us from our unbelief! We are so weak and so likely to love our lives more than what you’ve given to us! But here is why we wish to see Jesus, isn’t it? Because we have failed, we have been selfish, we haven’t loved God above all things or shared the wonders we know. But what did Jesus say? 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. Jesus was that grain of wheat. He f[ell] to the earth and die[d] to bear fruit, fruit for us. His death was glorious for him not because it was so cushy and wonderful but because it accomplished what he wanted to do: saving us who had rebelled so often against him. Jesus’ death rescues us from our own death in sin. He pulls us out of our selfish stupor and shows the real life that he’s given to us and that he makes our priority. We want to see Jesus because he is the who was glorified as he saved us.
As Jesus continues to speak, we get a glimpse at the troubles in his own heart. As almost an overture to his pleading with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane to take this vile cup of suffering for the world’s sin from him if there is another way, he says, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Could Jesus have asked his Father to save him? Certainly. Could Jesus have stopped everything? As God, yes. Jesus will tell his disciples that he could have at his disposal more than twelve legions of angels to rescue him. But then, Jesus said, “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled?” (Matthew 26:54). What would’ve been the point in stopping everything? As Jesus said, this was the reason he had come to this point.
The whole point was to finish the mission. The whole point was to rescue mankind from our sin. That had been the Father’s plan from the beginning. From the moment he confronted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Father’s plan was made clear. A Savior would come to fix the sin and death that had come into the world. As Jesus would be glorified in his obedience, so too the Father is glorified in a mission that is accomplished. The voice of the Father booms from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The Father had been glorified at every step of the plan of salvation, every step that we’ve celebrated the last four months. When Gabriel came to Mary to announce her upcoming pregnancy, the Father was glorified. When the Son of God was born in the most meager of surroundings and worshipped by shepherds and eventually wise men who had traveled from afar, the Father was glorified. As Jesus grew and matured, the Father was glorified. When Jesus was baptized, anointed by the Holy Spirit for his work, the Father was glorified. As Jesus as lived perfectly and taught God’s Word flawlessly, the Father was glorified. And so too, the Father will be glorified in what, once again, looks like a most inglorious scene: a bloody cross and a tomb. But there is glory in that scene because it is the fulfillment of the Father’s love for fallen mankind. There is the Father’s love for us as he pays the price for our release by abandoning his own Son to hell.
This voice, Jesus said, was for the comfort of the people standing there. Jesus knew what was going to happen, but they didn’t understand, at least not completely. In the dark days coming, as Jesus body will lay in that tomb, they needed to be reminded, by the Father himself, that this is for the Father’s glory. The Father is glorified in the defeat of his enemies, in the undoing of Satan’s disasters. Jesus said that’s exactly what was about to take place, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
There’s a similar tone to Jesus’ words here as there was early on in his ministry, words we heard last week from Chapter 3 in John’s Gospel, when he compared himself to the bronze snake on a pole Moses lifted up in the desert. We want to see Jesus, we want to see him lifted up, because it’s there he will draw all people to [him]self. Perhaps in our sin we’d rather not see Jesus. Maybe when we were far from him we put him “out of sight, out of mind.” But now, but by glorifying the Father, by accomplishing this plan of salvation, but be willing to go to death even death on a cross (cf. Philippians 2), Jesus has saved us. We are drawn to him, made close to him, because he died for us. He has changed himself from something we were scared of as one who would bring punishment to one we long to see knowing he is our loving Savior, which was the Father’s plan all along.
And so, is there anything else we want to see? Is there anything else worth looking at but the Son of God who glorifies himself and his Father by rescuing us? Is there anything more important than looking at Jesus? No. He is and will continue to be our all in all. May he always the one we desire. May we always wish to see Jesus. Amen.