Click HERE for an audio version posted on our Facebook page.
John 12:20-23, 31-33
After Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the Jewish leaders were worried. They were plotting to kill Jesus, but huge crowds welcomed him and praised him as the son of David. How could the carry out their plot? Jesus was so popular with the people that it seemed to them that the whole world had gone after him.
Unfortunately, many in the crowd that welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday were just caught up in the emotion of the moment. We saw an example of this with the student walk outs last week. When some of the students were interviewed they showed that they didn’t know what laws were already on the books, or what issues were at stake. They were caught up in the emotion of the moment. The same kind of thing happened on Good Friday. Another crowd was caught up in the emotion of the moment. Stirred up by the Jewish leaders they called for Jesus to be crucified.
But the Jewish leaders spoke more than they knew when they said, Look how the whole world has gone after him! It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the Holy Spirit has John follow their statement by telling us that some Greeks came to Philip with a request. They, non-Jews who had come to know the true God and the promise of a Savior, who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, wanted to see Jesus.
John shows us that the way someone usually gets to see Jesus is not by being caught up in the emotion of the moment in a large crowd, but through individuals, through people like Philip, like you and me, who can help them see Jesus, see him for who he really is.
When Jesus heard that these Greeks wanted to see him, he said: The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. But the path to his glorification was not what most expected. He had not come to gain glory by being served, like an earthly king who is decked out in fancy robes, and gold and jewels, and has is subjects bow before him and kiss his ring. He came to serve. He took on the form of a servant and became obedient to death; and not just any death, death on a cross. He came not to bring glory to himself, but to glorify the Father. By his humble service, because of his reverence and his obedience even in the midst of suffering, he brought glory to the Father. He showed the Father to be faithful to his promises, completely trustworthy. He showed the Father to be holy and Just, yet at the same time gracious and forgiving, just as he had proclaimed his name to Moses, The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished, but he punished Jesus in our place so that he can be just and at the same time justify those who have faith in Jesus.
When Philip and Andrew helped these Greeks see Jesus they learned that Jesus had come for the judgment of this world. As aged Simeon foretold as he held the baby Jesus in his arms, Jesus would be the cause of the falling and rising of many. He would be a cause of division, and he still is today. Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword. He said that he would be the cause of division even within families, fathers against mothers, children against parents.
We talk about Jesus freely within the four walls of our churches, but if we mention Jesus outside of the church, at work, or at school, or on social media, or among general society, we quickly learn that there are many who hate the name of Jesus. Most of you have probably experienced what Jesus foretold, division in a family, because some in the family, like you, love to talk about Jesus and all that he has done for you, but others in the family get angry at the mention of his name, and maybe go into a rant about all the bad things that have been done in Jesus’ name.
This fact often temps us to be silent and to try to hide who we are. But Jesus warns us not to love peace and comfort more than him. Anyone who loves his life destroys it. And the one who hates his life in this world will hold on to it for eternal life. He encourages us to be willing to take up the cross of contempt and verbal attacks, and even persecution, and follow him.
Maybe these Greeks needed this reminder, for when they returned to wherever they had come from they would likely be a small minority, if not the only ones among their friends and neighbors who believed in Jesus. The disciples needed this encouragement because their faith and commitment to Jesus was about to be severely tested as they would see him arrested, beaten and crucified. We need to hear this encouragement as we live in a world that is increasingly anti-Christian. When we sin by hiding our faith, when we fail to take up our cross and follow Jesus, when we confess that we have denied Jesus as Peter did, we need to be assured that Jesus was judged in our place. And as we rejoice in our forgiveness we are strengthened and encouraged by Jesus promise that if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. And that those who are faithful to death will receive the crown of life.
How did these Greeks get to see Jesus and learn the truth about him? Somehow they noticed that Philip was a disciple of Jesus, and they asked him to help them see Jesus. That’s why Jesus tells us to let our light shine, to let it be evident by our words and actions that we are his disciples. Often, doing that will bring us trouble in this world. But, what a joy and privilege it is when even just one person notices that we are followers of Jesus, when they notice that we have something they need and want, and they ask us to help them see Jesus!
When that happens we want to be prepared to help them see the real Jesus. We want to be ready to help them see that Jesus didn’t come to win you earthly glory and that following him won’t make you healthy and wealthy. We want to be ready to help them see that Jesus had to be lifted up on the cross. What seems foolish to our sinful nature, what is a stumbling block to many, is in fact a wonderful truth! Jesus was lifted up because of your sins. He suffered the punishment you deserved. He was the sacrifice God demanded to pay for the sin of the world. He came to take on the Prince of this World in mortal combat. And, although for three days it might have looked like Satan had won, Jesus rose on the third day. Satan has been driven out. Jesus descended into hell and proclaimed his victory. He has destroyed the devil’s work. When Satan points to our many sins and demands that God send us to Hell with him, Jesus points to the cross as the reason we can enter heaven instead. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Jesus was lifted up on the cross. Despite Satan’s attempt to obscure this fact, it is known all around the world. Through the cross, Jesus is drawing people all over the world to himself. But, like the Greeks who came to Philip, many need help seeing Jesus. They need help seeing who he really is, and what his crucifixion means. They need people like Philip, like you and like me; people who are followers of Jesus; people who let their light of faith shine. They need people who make it obvious that they are followers of Jesus, people they can pick out of a crowd so that they can come and ask, “we want to see Jesus, can you help us?” When that happens, be ready to show them the true Jesus. Show them from the Scripture that Jesus came to bring Judgment on this world, he came not to bring peace, but a sword, that following him means being willing to take up a cross. Show them from Scripture that Jesus came to do battle with Satan, and that he was victorious. Satan is defeated. He has been cast out. His poisonous bite has been neutralized by the anti-venom of the precious blood of Jesus shed on the cross. The sting of death has been removed by the glorious resurrection of Jesus. The Father has glorified his name in Jesus who fulfilled every promise and has won eternal salvation for all, not just Jews, by his life, death and resurrection. Because Jesus was lifted up in our place, the Father remembers our sins no more.
The Jewish leaders didn’t realize how true it was when they said that the whole world was going after Jesus. Because he was lifted up on the cross he is drawing all people to himself. He works in their hearts that desire to see him, to know who he really is and what the cross means for them. May these people see by our words and actions that we know Jesus. When they ask us, as they did Philip, to help them see Jesus, may we be eager and willing to help them, no matter who they are, see that Jesus was lifted up to pay for their sins and give them eternal life.