Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent – Judica April 2, 2017
Text: John 12:20-33 revised 3 year series B 17:2005
Theme: Lord Jesus, Help Me to See You.
Lord Jesus, you have told me not to worry or to grow anxious about anything but in everything to present my needs to God (Phlp.4:6). If You care for the birds of the air and the flowers in the field, won’t You take care of me (Mt.6:32f)? Aren’t I much more valuable to You than the birds and the flowers? You died to redeem me; You hold me in Your hand; You promise to take me to heaven. How precious are Your thoughts towards me! But still I worry.
Worry doesn’t change a thing. It only adds to the problem. Often I ruin perfectly good days in the present by worrying about things tomorrow that haven’t yet come and over which I have no control. There are times that I must look like Your friend, Martha – worried and troubled about many things which are not eternally important – things of which You have promised to take care in my life.
Did You ever fuss and faunch about things like I do? You were a true human being, right? So did You fuss and faunch like me? Did You worry and grow anxious about that which lay ahead of You?
The Epistle Lesson today said that when You were here on earth, You went to the heavenly Father in prayer and begged Him with loud cries and tears to save You from death (Hb.5:7). That sounds like anxiety to me. But it also says that the Father heard You because of Your reverence and obedience through the things that You suffered. Rather than letting it overcome You, You turned causes for anxiety and suffering into avenues of worship and devotion to God.
Help me to do a similar thing because I find it hard to revere God and to obey Him when I am suffering. Rather, I am tempted to complain and even to speak against Him. I don’t like that; I don’t want to be that way. I want to be more like You. Help me to see You that I might be comforted in faith and strengthened for life.
I. To see You troubled yet determined.
Is that similar to the reason behind these Greek men in our lesson wanting to see You? The account doesn’t tell us why they wanted to see You. At the time they were in the temple and just beginning to celebrate the great Passover feast. What a time of worship it must have been for these men who once had been heathen but had come to faith in the true God of Israel. They must have been excited when they learned that You were there, too. How remarkable! They wanted to see You and be with You when Your own people wanted to get rid of You. Their request brought a brief parable to Your lips: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
I understand the point of the parable because this is the time of year that I begin to think about throwing some seed into my garden. When I hold seed in my hand, I note how it looks – small, dry, dead. Some are so shriveled that they don’t seem to have much potential for accomplishing anything. But when I bury that seed in the ground, a wondrous transformation begins to take place. Soon a plant pokes its head above the soil. It produces beautiful flowers or luscious vegetables, and more seed along with it. It’s truly a miracle to behold. But it happens only if that first seed “dies.”
You were talking about Yourself, weren’t You? Your death on the cross and burial in Joseph’s tomb was only 3 days away. I’m sure that Your enemies were confident that any potential You had as “a messiah” was taken away by Your death. Ah, how foolish they were. By the time the third day rolled around, You had risen to life again. And You promise that because You live all those who die believing in You will live in the resurrection. What a joy it is to see you this way.
But ironically, this sight of Yourself brought You consternation. It brought You face to face with Your destiny. You would be treated horribly by people in just a matter of days. They would make you suffer horribly, then kill You. Anxious moments for You, I am sure. You even described it when You said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say?” You were troubled, churning within by what You knew lay ahead. I would be too if I knew beforehand all the suffering and pain I would have to endure, if I were You. But I suspect there was more to Your agitation.
That sight of these formerly heathen Greeks coming to You reminded You of the pain and suffering that sin, death, and the devil wrought upon Your once perfect creation. Yes, these Greeks seem to have come to faith, and that was a great thing. But how many more were there at Your time and my time and every other time in world history who are lost because of sin and doomed to death because they never saw You. Such a thought about my creation, if I were the one who made these things, would overwhelm me, perhaps to the point of inactivity or worse, despair. But it spurred You on all the more,
determined to do what You could do for us as the Savior.
You said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour? No! It is for this purpose that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”
You knew the personal cost to Yourself. Yet, You were determined to see it through. You offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to Your Father who was able to save you from death (Hb.5:7), but You were still willing to see it through. Why? Because it was God’s way to save the world from sin. By seeing it through You brought glory and honor to God, because when we were helpless to do anything about our lost state, You and the Father gave up everything dear to Yourselves for us.
Troubled yet determined in astonishing mercy and grace! Lord Jesus help me to see You and understand what this means. It means You love me greatly even though I have so often failed You in my sin. It means You did not give up on me despite my unfaithful self. Indeed, You do not give up on anyone. People are lost only because they give up on You and don’t want to have anything to do with You. Troubled yet determined Your love for us is deep. Help me see You.
II. To see You fallen yet raised to glory.
But is that enough? Lots of people have been troubled and determined to do something, but that doesn’t mean that what they did actually helped. People have good intentions many times. But good intentions don’t necessarily bring about a beneficial result. Lord, how do I know that what You intended to do was accomplished? Dear Jesus, I need to see You; I need to know; I need confirmation.
That’s the reason the Father spoke, isn’t it? In fact, He did more than speak. He thundered from heaven.
When You spoke of Your determination to glorify the Father’s name through Your death and burial for us, He replied so that all heard it even though few understood it. He said, “I have glorified (my name), and will glorify it again.”
Now there’s proof, right from heaven – proof on which we can rely. When Your voice affirms something, there is no doubt about it. Shame on us when we doubt anything that You tell us. But at this time God did more than speak. He gave undeniable proof of all that He and You promised. When He raised You from the dead after You had been planted in the earth, that was undeniable proof that the forgiveness and the life that You promised us was accomplished. Yes, You had fallen just as the seed in the parable fell into the ground. But You were raised again to glory just as You promised. Your promises are true, and Your resurrection to life is to be considered by us as proof to all Your other promises as well.
So it is that when You say, “Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” It is true. Your resurrection assures me. When You say, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” It is true. Your resurrection assures me. When You say, “I am the Lord Your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Is.43:1f). It is true. Your resurrection assures me. Yes, you had fallen. But God raised You again in glory as proof that all which He says about forgiveness, life, and salvation through His grace in our lives will be carried out.
Lord Jesus, help me see You this way. Send me Your Spirit to help me believe it. For there is no doubt about it with You.
Ah, dear Lord, what a peek this gives me into Your Savior heart. You are my God. Grant me the comfort this sight gives. Grant me the determination I need to put aside the attractions of this world that would draw me away from You. Help me to serve and follow You unwaveringly and without complaining. When, in less than 2 weeks from today, I again see You lifted above the earth, let Your cross, like a mighty magnet, draw me in faith to glorify You and the Father above. God grant it in my life for Your name’s sake. Amen.