Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Sermon: John 12: 20-26 Jesus Glorified

Look back over your life for a moment, and think about this - at what point did you have the most glory? When were you at your peak? What day, or week, or year could you point to and say that you were recognised and on form?

Perhaps it was when you won a promotion, after a long battle with colleagues. Maybe it was your wedding day, looking beautiful as you walked down the aisle. You could remember a sporting achievement, your retirement, your grandchildren being placed in your arms for the first time.

For all of us it will be something different, the high point of your life, the thing you look back to time and time again. So as we think about Jesus being glorified, we might be surprised that it wasn’t one of his miracles; wasn’t one of this teaching sessions; it was his death.

As we come to John 12, Jesus has recently raised Lazarus from the dead. It’s now Passover time, and Jesus has ridden into Jerusalem on the donkey. Jerusalem is full of people from all over the world, gathered for the feast, and among the crowd, there are some Greeks. They would have been Jewish converts, but they’re not native-born Jews. Do you see their question in verse 21? ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

They’ve obviously heard about him; they want to see him for themselves. We wish to see Jesus. It’s a question we would love to be asked, isn’t it? When a friend or relative or neighbour says to you - we want to know more about Jesus, tell me about him. Who is Jesus?

The question, and who it comes from is the signal for Jesus, the indication that his time has come. It’s a bit like the alarm clock ringing to say that it’s time to get up. Verse 23, Jesus says, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’

Do you remember what happened at the start of John’s Gospel? Jesus is at the wedding in Cana, and the wedding runs out of wine. it would be terribly embarrassing, and Jesus’ mother comes to him and says, ‘they have no wine.’ How does Jesus reply? ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’

All the way through John’s gospel, we’re moving steadily towards this hour, and now, with the Greeks coming to see Jesus, the alarm has sounded, the hour has come. And yet it’s still very surprising how Jesus will be glorified.

We might have thought that because foreign people were coming to see Jesus and talk to him that this was his glorification; that he was being recognised by all peoples. Actually, Jesus makes it clear what his glorification involves: ‘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.’

I don’t know very much about gardening, but I do know that it’s the time of the year to be planting for your summer flowers. So you go along to the garden centre, and you buy the packets of seeds, but rather than planting them in the ground, imagine you left them sitting on the shelf in the garage. There wouldn’t be any flowers to show - the seeds wouldn’t do anything.

They need to be planted - buried, if you will - because out of death comes life. The grain of wheat is buried and dies, but through the death of the grain comes the producing of much fruit. In the same way, Jesus dies on the cross, buried in the tomb, but produces much fruit and much life through that death. That’s why Jesus is glorified in his death; the cross is the place of exaltation - his being lifted up to draw all men to himself later in the chapter.

Jesus was glorified in his one-off, unrepeatable sacrifice of himself for us and our sins; in his death we have life. And yet, as we consider Jesus glorified, he calls us to follow the path he trod. To hate your life - to give it up for the sake of Jesus by following him, taking up your cross, and giving your all for him. ‘If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will be my servant also.’

It’s costly, to give up your life and comfort and security for the sake of Jesus and others, but at the end of the day, just as Jesus was glorified in his service and through his service, so the Father will honour the one who serves Jesus.

What was your greatest day? My prayer is that it was the day you decided to follow Jesus, whatever the cost, and give your life to serve him.

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Holy Communion service in St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Wednesday 6th April 2011.

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