Monday, April 02, 2012

Sermon: John 12: 20-36 The hour has come

You're lying in bed, sleeping peacefully. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, an almighty noise rings out; the silence is shattered. Wearily you open your eyes and realise its the alarm clock. It's time to get up. The day lies ahead of you, whatever it holds in store. Maybe you're going out to milk the cows; maybe it's time to head to the office. The hour has come.

Or perhaps you're the sort of person who marks dates on the calendar and then counts down the days. Eagerly anticipating the holiday, heading off to the airport and getting away from it all. The graduation day has come, the course has finished and you're now finally qualified in your chosen profession. The hour has come.

In our reading tonight, Jesus declares that the hour has come - that his hour has come. But it's not the long-awaited holiday that has come. Rather, the hour has come for his glorification.

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. The crowd welcome his arrival, and hail him as king. 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.

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. There's a hint of that in verse 32, that of drawing all people to himself. But the way he will draw people to himself isn't through miracles, isn't through his teaching. Rather, it will be in this glorification.

Now, when you think of Jesus being glorified, what is it that comes to mind? You might think of the crowds in Jerusalem shouting their praise; or being elevated high on people's shoulders. In this country, it might involve meeting the Queen and receiving an MBE or Knighthood. But as Jesus is glorified, as he is lifted up, it means his death on the cross - as John says: 'he said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.'

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.

Even as Jesus is going towards his death, even though his soul is troubled, he is determined to follow the path that lies before him. He isn't going to ask the Father to save him from that hour - its the very reason he came into the world - to glorify the Father. The Father confirms Jesus in his mission, assuring him that his name will be glorified.

You see, it is in Jesus death, arms stretched out on the cross, lifted high, that Jesus will draw all people to himself. At the same time, though, he wins that decisive victory against the 'ruler of this world' - the devil who is driven out. Jesus is glorified in his death, as that invitation to everyone and anyone is made - come to me.

Once again, the crowd are confused by what Jesus says - they just can't get their heads around the thought of the messiah suffering. So they're left wondering, who is this Son of Man? The answer is clear - Jesus is the light of the world, they need to walk by his light, listen to his teaching and follow in his way.

There's one appeal to everyone - 'While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.' The call still rings out - one day it will be too late to believe; on day it will be too late to become children of light; so while you still have the light, as Jesus, the light of the world is offered to you - receive him now, believe in him now.

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.

Are you following Jesus in his path? Are you serving him by way of costly devotion, putting him ahead of everything else?

Jesus is on course to go to the cross to save us. It's in his death that Jesus is glorified, and he calls us to follow him. To serve him for the glory of God.

This sermon was preached in the Brooke Memorial Hall, Brookeborough at the Holy Week service on Monday 2nd April 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment