That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
- Psalm 6
- John 12:20-36
Dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,
In the past week I have read two major authors, one is Richard Dawkins, the well-known atheist. Dawkins makes this statement in his book River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
I, however read another book this week. It is the Bible, written and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Of itself the Bible states:
“… no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20–21, ESV)
What Dawkins says brings confusion and hopelessness to my mind, because the Bible to the believer is exactly not what Dawkins claims it to be. The Bible, and more so the passage of John we read this morning, brings peace to my mind; it stills my heart, and it makes my look forward to something more beautiful any mind can ever fathom.
I want to proclaim the Word to you taking these main points:
- God is in control to the finest detail
- The Son of Man glorified: He is approved by the God of heaven and earth
- The hour has come: The world and Satan are judged, while the elect are gathered in
- The demand of discipleship
God is in control to the finest detail
The passage we read today in John’s Gospel has a verse preceding it:
So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:19)
This verse is followed by this:
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.” (John 12:20–21)
Greek was the spoken language of most of the world in the day of Jesus. The “Greeks” was a term of reference to all others but the Jews of the day. Some of these Greeks also went to worship God at the Passover and the Feast of The Unleavened Bread. They were not formally accepted into the Jewish nation and were therefore only allowed in the outer court of the Temple. They heard the people talk about Jesus. Verse 17 says: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. (John 12:17, ESV)
So the Greeks were eager to see Jesus. They went to Philip, who went to talk to Andrew about it. They were the only two members of the Twelve with Greek names. Some of the Greek customs, culture and thinking actually became part of the daily living in Galilee. Philip came from Bethesda in Galilee.
I see more than a coincidence here. God is control – He had put Philip there to be that link between the Greeks and the Saviour of the world. Through them, as through all the nations of the world, God would “draw people to Himself”.
The two disciples might have been not too sure if they could actually go to Jesus about the Greeks wanting to see Him. There are other verses in the Gospels telling us the time of the Son of Man had not yet come.
At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 7:30, NIV)
You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” (John 7:8, NIV)
When He had sent them out on their first preaching mission, He had instructed them, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 10:5–6).
They however did go to Jesus. Philip had been placed by God in the position to have a Greek name and to rub shoulders with the Greeks before this event. It was the case with Andrew, even it was only his Greek name that opened the door for them to meet Jesus. God made the Greeks curious about Jesus at the Passover feast. It was at that particular feast that Jesus was present – and not only was He present, but He was the Passover Lamb that would be crucified. All prefect timing.
God placed us with everything of our background in certain places for a purpose. Only He knows why He allowed certain things to happen to us, why we meet people at certain places in certain circumstances – but the ultimate plan is for us to be like Philip: an instrument in leading people to see Jesus. Never underestimate the purposes of God in your life. Nothing happens without reason. Just be obedient and step up to the task when the opportunity presents itself to help those around you to see Jesus.
The Son of Man glorified
Attested by the Father
Study the Gospel of John carefully and you will find that Jesus never really addressed the Greeks who wanted to see Him. Jesus replied to the request to see the Greeks with this:
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. (John 12:23, NIV)
Isaiah prophesied about Jesus:
“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6, NIV)
There was another prophesy uttered by Isaiah:
See, my servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. (Isaiah 52:13, NIV)
All of this now has reached its climax: the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified: salvation will reach the end of the earth – here represented by the Greeks – by the exaltation of the Son of Man. Our Lord responded:
“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.” (John 12:27–28, NIV)
A voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.”
The crowd heard the voice of God, attesting to the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of Man , and also the Son of Man. Jesus told the crowd the voice from heaven was for their benefit, not his. What is going to happen in the next 48 hours or so to Jesus, is for their benefit; the voice was for them to see, hear and believe. The hour has come. It is almost as if what was promised to Adam and Eve in paradise after the fall, and every promise thereafter, are now going into fulfilment. And the Father by his own voice attested to the Person and mission of his Son.
Therefore we believe – against all odds. God has spoken, and before Him we bow in adoration, confession of sins, and reception of his Son as our Saviour.
Like a kernel to produce many seeds
How is the Son glorified? By being lifted up. This has two meanings: his name would be lifted up, He would be worshipped as Lord and Saviour; but He would be lifted up as promised:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (John 3:14–15, NIV)
Jesus was also glorified by his obedience to the Father even to the death of the cross, and in the redemption He achieved for the fallen world; He was glorified when the Father highly exalted Him, giving Him a name above every name and seating Him at his right hand; He was and is glorified in the work of the Holy Spirit as He leads thousands to the feet of the Saviour.
Jesus plainly states that the glorification of the Son of Man will take place in his death: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”Jesus sees how from his passion and his death a magnificent panorama opens, reaching onward through the ages into all eternity, and it is one shining path of glory. He then saw even the people of Wee Waa and how He would gather in some into his family. He saw today, He knew we would be here to hear this Word of salvation. But He knew He had to give his life to achieve the purposes of God.
If a grain of wheat be not put into the soil, it will, indeed, not die, but it will then “itself remain alone” and produce nothing. So will the Son of man remain alone if He does not stoop to death on the cross. But if the grain falls into the earth, dies, and is consumed, it brings much fruit. Augustine said, “The death of Christ was the death of the most fertile grain of wheat.”
When the Greeks requested to see Him, Jesus sees the great harvest that will go on and on as the product of the great Grain of Wheat which fell in the earth.
Therefore He can declare about Himself:
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25, NIV)
He gave his life away to keep it, but not only his life only, but all those whom the Father gave Him. He who clings to his earthly life with passionate attachment, Jesus says, by that very act of clinging to it with such love loses it.
Paul said about this act of Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6–8,)
The hour has come
This world is judged
With Jesus about to give his life – there were less than two days lift of his earthly life – Jesus uses very definite time indications: “the hour has come” and “now”. It is an hour of crisis; it’s crunch time. He who made time will use His time to bring judgement.
By rejecting Jesus this world is pronouncing a verdict upon Him. In reality, by doing this very thing a judgment descends upon the world itself and it loses its right to exist. By killing Jesus the world pronounced its own death sentence, lost its right to exist. The world would not end at once, but this hour decides that its enduring character has passed, it is doomed.
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17, NIV)
The devil is destroyed
By bringing a judgment on this world this hour throws “the ruler of this world” out of his domain and dominion over the world. By inciting the world to kill Jesus the devil wrecked his own domain.
The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. (1 John 3:8, NIV)
What is happening here is nothing less than the transfer of power from the present God-hating world into the hands of the Son of Man.
With the crucifixion Satan lost all grounds of appeal against sinful humanity, because eternal redemption has been achieved through the sacrifice of Christ. Ironically, at the cross the world and its ruler are judged, while Jesus is glorified and salvation is achieved for God’s elect.
The elect are gathered in
There is a wonderful contrast between verses 31 and 32: The ruler of this world will be driven out and by the cross and resurrection of Jesus lose his power. It is different with Jesus. He contrasts Himself with Satan. Listen:
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32, NIV)
Satan will be thrown “outside”, Jesus will “be lifted up“. Satan will lose his dominion, Jesus will receives his dominion. This is the kind of death He would die: it is a death that would destroy death, the ruler over death, and death as a result of sin.
The Greeks asking to see Him, are the sheep of the other pens Jesus talked about.
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16, NIV)
The demand of discipleship
To follow Christ unreservedly
Whoever serves me must follow me (John 12:26)
This verse follows the verse that speaks about “the man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life ins this world will keep it.”
As Jesus was prepared to lose his life, so He now calls his disciples to give up their lives too. The example He sets for them, has limits upon them: they could not give their lives as a ransom to save others as He did; only He could do that. But the example He set for them is that they too must take up their cross and follow Him. They would understand the full meaning of these words as one would betray Him, another deny Him, and all left Him alone.
After his resurrection Jesus spoke to Peter and three times asked him if he really loved the Lord. Then the Lord told him something about what would happen to him, Peter, on his last day:
Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18–19, NIV)
The price of discipleship is still the same: we have to die of ourselves, our desires, our plans, our ideals – we must follow Jesus, even if it means to receive the honour of suffering for Him.
With a promise which cannot fail
“Where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.”
If we die to ourselves in following Jesus who died like a kernel in the ground and was raised up to bring in the harvest, Jesus promises that we will be where He is. More than that, His Father will honour those who serve Him.
The word to remember here is “serve” – like a bond slave doing the bidding of his Master: he has nothing of his own, no program of his own, no belongings of his own; he exists for one reason, which is to serve the One who has set him free. The Father will honour such a servant, and in the Name of his son, He will welcome them in there where Jesus is. That’s His promise.
The Gospel is preached. It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.
But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)
It is so different from what Dawkins try to tell us: no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
Jesus says He destroys evil, He draws us to Himself, gives us life, and promises to take us to where He is. There is purpose, evil is destroyed, good restored, and a glorious future promised.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 5 May 2013