5th Sunday in Lent 4 Significant Days: “Significant Final Appearance on Tuesday”
March 21, 2021 John 12:23~36
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
If you had just one final, public appearance to make in your life, *what would you SAY? What would you want people to remember? Or what would you want them to DO?
At times, we have that opportunity; maybe we think that it will be our last family reunion,
or our final Christmas gathering, or it’s at the time we retire and there’s a farewell party for us, & they want us to say a few parting words. We would want our final words to be significant.
Let me read from John 12, beginning at vs.23
We’ll keep in mind that Jesus has already told The Twelve Disciples point blank that it was time for him to go to Jerusalem where the religious leaders were going to condemn him to death, deliver him over the gentiles to be mocked & flogged & crucified, and then he will be raise on the third day.’ That’s in Matt.20 before Palm Sunday. Those things are just the cold, hard facts. Now, John, in his gospel, is always giving us more than the plain facts;
he gives the deeper understanding & meaning behind those facts. He’s always answering the Small Catechism question: what does this mean? …..making John a solid Lutheran.
So, what does it mean that the Jewish leaders are going to make Jesus suffer, & crucify him, and that then on the 3rd day, he will rise from the dead? It’s important that all Jesus’ followers know how those terrible outward events will be fulfilling God’s awesome plan of salvation for mankind; including, for you & me. This is why Jesus speaks what he does in John 12. What makes it significant is that this is the last week of his life, and here he is making his final public appearance before these things happen.
So, how can he teach his disciples to view those upcoming cold hard facts with the eyes of faith, & with proper understanding of God’s historic plan of salvation thru the promised Messiah or Christ? We just heard it. Jesus announces that ‘it’s time’; /the time of real glory has come; /time for a grain of wheat to dies to bear much fruit; /time to hate this worldly life; /time to serve; /time to judge the sinful world & cast out its wicked ruler; /time to walk in the light, & to believe, and to be sons of light. Everything Jesus has said & taught in the past has been important. ….>
….> But now ‘his hour’ has come, and these are the last things he will say to the crowd in his final appearance. And to mark the occasion, the Father voices His approval.
So, for our Sundays in Lent, we’ve been focusing on the things said & done by Jesus during Holy Week. At the beginning of the week, on Palm Sunday, Jesus is hailed as the Son of David, & one they hoped would redeem Israel. That would come true; but most were not grasping HOW it would be true. He would not be as a conquering king like David, but would be a suffering servant, just as Isaiah prophesied. So, on Monday, Jesus cleanses the temple; on Tuesday, Jesus confronts some false teaching of the Jewish leaders; he also warns the crowds to not be fooled by the scribes & pharisees because they don’t practice what they preach; and that’s not acceptable in God’s kingdom.
In John 12, it’s near the end of the day on Tuesday, and this is His final public appearance prior to his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and his trial & crucifixion.
So, what does Jesus want his followers to remember, to know, & to do ? Let’s look at
3 things Jesus chose to focus on: #1: his death will glorify God & produce saved souls; #2:
he will suffer willingly for us; & #3: he is the light, and in him we will be children of light.
So, he leads off by saying: “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.” This is how Jesus wants us to understand his crucifixion, death, and burial.
On a number of occasions, Jesus had stated that his time had not yet come. But now his hour had come. The Father had his divine timetable; all things were being accomplished according to the scriptures; and the Son was ready to carry out his assignment, because without him WE had no hope. And the Son knew full well what that meant for him:
a particular death. The Christ would be glorified; but the glory-of-God in Christ is completely different than the glory of men, or of the earth. The glory of earth is to have earthly power; /to have people’s approval, /to amass money & property, /to have fine food & clothing, /and to have people honor you. Jesus does not want man’s earthly glory in that way;
he never did, and he never will.
The Jews back then were looking for an earthly kingdom; and there are churches today that are still looking for Jesus to be an earthly ruler. They talk about a ‘millennial’ kingdom to come. They teach that when Jesus returns, he will set up a kingdom on earth for 1,000 years. That’s not just a mistake, that’s a lie; which goes against what Jesus taught. When he said ‘my kingdom is not of this world’, he meant it.
His glory is in being that divine grain of wheat. His glory is not ‘in’ this world, but is ‘beyond’ this world. This world is ruined; a world which is under judgment, & influenced by a wicked ruler = Satan. When Jesus returns, on that very Day this world is done, it will be destroyed by fire, and eternity will commence for us.
Jesus’ glory is in bringing a gracious salvation for condemned sinners; it’s beyond earthly things. So, he did not come to overthrow the earthly Romans; he would allow Roman torture to triumph over him. He did not come to run the Jewish army & people from a throne in Jerusalem; instead, he would accept a crown of thorns & bow down his head in rejection & ridicule. In fact, it was not even His ‘glory’ to continue to travel around healing the sick & the lame & the blind; by setting his sights on the cross, he would be bringing a true healing of the soul to all peoples, all tribes & languages, with his own life as the holy payment for man’s sin, once & for all. As Jesus said, ‘I, when I am lifted up, will draw all people to myself.’ For God’s promised Messiah, the only way of being glorified was by way of the crucifixion; and The Voice from heaven agreed.
Now, because his suffering and the cross is Jesus’ ‘glory’, and because Jesus draws us to himself, and calls us to follow him, what kind of ‘glory’ are we to live for? Certainly this changes our definition of glory & success for our lives. Our Lord & teacher, our Savior & God did not have his sights set on earthly things; so neither do we = his people.
As Jesus makes his final appearance, he also emphasizes that His death is the exception to all deaths. Death is our enemy; it’s the opposite of life; it’s punishment for sin & a separation from the living God. But because Jesus is sin-less, so his death means something completely different. One perfect & holy death was promised as our substitute. When He dies for us, he becomes the perfect seed to bring about ‘much fruit’. This is a significant teaching. Our Life in God is restored to us by way of one special death.
By his death, we are the living fruit of his work. Because of him, death will pass over us, & it won’t harm us. Jesus has taken our deaths to the tomb; and then he walked out alive. The judgement coming to the world will also pass over us, as he has drawn us to himself and shares his victory with us. I read from John 12; in John 11, even as Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, he had stopped by Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. The religious leaders saw this as a threat to their own earthly ‘glory’. In reality, it showed Jesus as the only one who could face our death and win. And that is what he said to Martha at the time: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He is the divine grain of wheat that bears much fruit. This is a significant teaching, & one of the vital things he emphasized at his final appearance.
Another thing Jesus wants us to know is that He is going to suffer willingly to save us; which shows us his true love in grace. He said, “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”.
Yes, he is troubled, because he is fully human. His death is coming; and only a REAL purpose can overcome that instinct to preserve our life. Soon, in Gethsemane, Jesus will earnestly pray: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” He’s human. But He’s also filled with real purpose. So he says, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
Jesus knew this was his purpose; and he was willing, because your forgiveness & life were his goal. The cruelty of the Romans was well known in their day; & the prophets had told of the suffering he would endure. The Son of God knew full-well what he was coming to do for us. That’s why he says, “What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?”
It would include being betrayed, being beaten & whipped, stripped & mocked, and suffering suffocating pain as he hung on the cross. He could’ve called on 12 legions of angels to help him, but he was keeping you in mind. But the worst was this: the soul that sins is cut off from God; the payment is eternal abandonment. This was the center of his work, & he knew ‘hell’ was coming because it was also foretold: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s why his soul was troubled on Tuesday; but there was no way he was going to say ‘Father I’m backing out; save me from this hour.’
Without him, sinners had no hope; he refused to abandon you & me & our neighbor. We are his purpose. As He said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. His hour had now come for him to ‘give’, & he was willing.
And the 3rd thing Jesus leaves us with before he goes to die is this: “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” It’s a final appeal to trust him and live in hope in him. He has taught this before, but its important to remember. Back in John 8 he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This picture of ‘light & darkness’ is one of God’s favorites.
We can see light & darkness every day & all over creation. It’s a direct comparison that even a child can understand; so that you & I can have the faith of a child to trust him as our light in our dark times.
That darkness of sin, death & hell is about to come at him in a rage & fury, and he knows it will crush him; but he trusts his Father who is the God of Light. He wanted the crowd to trust him & stand firm in his promises & hope. That coming Friday would be filled with darkness; but the light was coming. He is the light that would destroy darkness forever. And those who trust him are the living children of that light.
So, this is what was important to Jesus as he makes his final public teaching appearance. He makes it significant by telling his followers how to view the things they were about to see, now that his time had come. His followers will see all those cold, hard facts of his awful suffering. But what does this mean? It would show his true glory in dying for us so that we would have the light & the hope of eternal life.
It also means that you are a child of this light, and it gives you something important to say when your last hour has come. But don’t wait until then. Live in that light of Christ now
for the good of those around you, that they too may live in hope.