Lent 5 + March 15 & 18, 2018 + Pr. Dale Reckzin Download PDF
Text: John 12:20-33
Your watch. Pictures of other people's vacations. A rerun you've seen three times. The pile of dishes in the sink. The car in front of you in a traffic jam. These are things you look at. These are things you see.
But a beautiful, multi-colored sunset casting beams of golden light over a majestic landscape. A centuries old masterpiece in a world class museum. Your newborn baby. Your wedding pictures on your twenty-fifth anniversary. You don't just look at these things. You don't just see them. You gaze at them. You fix your stare on them. You behold them.
Our gospel lesson shows us the difference between simply looking at something and beholding it. Our text begins, "Some Greeks… went up to worship at the Feast…[They] came to Philip…with a request. 'Sir,' they said, 'we would like to see Jesus.'" (v 20-21)
Now, our text does explain why the Greeks wanted to see Jesus. But Jesus uses their request to change the subject from simply seeing him to beholding him. That is, Jesus uses this opportunity to proclaim his real majesty, his immense passion, and his total commitment to being our Savior. That's why God's Word urges us not just to see Jesus but to gaze at him, to fix our stare on him, and to focus our entire existence on him. God's Word tells us: Behold the Savior in all his glory.
Of course, Christ's glory is directly opposite to this world's glory. Jesus says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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." (v 23-24)
Christ’s glory is his death. That is not glory as the world sees it. This world's glory is to amass a fortune, dominate everyone else, and achieve the most outward success. But Christ's glory is different. Christ's glory was to give his fortune away, to serve everyone else, and to make everyone else rich. Christ did this by suffering a humiliating death on a cross. And Christ’s death was more painful than anyone else could ever possibly experience.
Jesus knew this unbearable cost of his unusual glory. Jesus says to his heavenly Father, “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. Father, glorify your name!” (v 27-28)
Jesus grasped the horror of his upcoming crucifixion. But he also fully understood why he could not escape that torture. But being crucified was the main reason he came to this earth. Without the crucifixion there would be no payment for human sin. Without the crucifixion there would be no releasing any sinner from the grips of death and damnation. Without the crucifixion there would be no reason for any sinner to believe in a loving, gracious, and merciful God. So, Christ had to suffer and die. It was the only way to reveal the true glory of God. That true glory is the glory of God’s love. It is the glory of his compassion. It is the glory of God’s delight in saving poor, miserable sinners.
That's why Jesus ends our text by saying, "'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.' He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." (v 31-33) Again, Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew all the gory details about his upcoming death. He also knew what that death would accomplish. He would drive Satan, the prince of this world, out of power over this world. Jesus would also call all people to believe in him for eternal life. And, once again, that is the glory of God--to save sinners. And God does not save sinners by force or by gimmicks. God saves sinners with sacrificial love. God saves sinners by paying the supreme sacrifice—the life of his one and only Son.
Now, when it comes to this glory of our Savior, how do you view it? Is it something that you just see or look at? Is it something like an old rerun, or the photographs of someone else's vacation? Is it mildly interesting? Is it something you can look at and then forget? Is the glory of Christ something to keep your mind occupied for an hour at church but then you tuck Jesus away in your spiritual filing cabinet the rest of the week?
Well, if you are only interested in seeing Jesus, then you really don't understand Jesus. If you only want to have a casual relationship with Jesus and you are not that interested in Jesus, then Jesus is not interested in you.
So, don’t be wishy-washy and semi-interested in Jesus. Don't just have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward Jesus and his glory. Instead, listen to what Jesus says about a real, living, and active relationship with your one and only Savior. Jesus says, "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. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." (v 25-26)
Believing in Jesus requires total dedication all the time. So, following Jesus is not like following a college basketball team in March Madness. You know how that works. You pick your teams. You fill out your brackets. You get all excited for a week or two if a team you picked makes it to the Final Four. But after March Madness is over, most people forget about college basketball for the rest of the year.
Well, following Jesus is not a case of temporary fan insanity. Following Jesus, beholding Jesus, believing in Jesus as your Savior, is a life-long, total commitment. It means "hating [your] life in this world." (v 25) That does not mean hating God's gift of life. It means running away from all the sinful temptations of this world. It means that instead of loving and glorifying money, you use your money to support your family, support your church, and pay your taxes. It means killing the urge to put yourself first and to win every argument. It means not acting so childish that you think everybody else has to "understand" you while you can ignore the problems of others.
So, hating your life in this world is really about imitating Jesus and how he sacrificed himself to serve others. As today's verse read, "The Son of Man did come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45) To apply that thought to you and me we could say, The children of God do not seek to be served but to serve others and to give our lives as a thank offering to the one true God.
That's what it means to behold our Savior, Jesus Christ, in all his glory. It means to follow in his footsteps. It means imitating his love and his sacrifice. It means faithfully serving others. Sadly, you and I will never achieve this. Besides being believers in Christ, we are also sinners. So, our faith falters. Our feet wander off the narrow path. Our feeble knees stumble along the way of following Jesus.
And that is exactly why we can never just take a passing interest in Jesus. Jesus is our only Savior from our sins. Jesus is our only Savior from our so-so service to God and our half-hearted service to our neighbors. So, we must always cling to Jesus in faith. We must always plead for him to forgive us the sins we commit even when we are trying to follow him and imitate him. And like the book of Hebrews says, we must always fix "our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2) So, don’t just see Jesus. Behold him. Behold him in all his glory as your loving Savior.