Countdown to Calvary: Walking with the Chief Priests and Pharisees into Pilates Palace. “Order the Tomb to be made secure!” (Matthew 27:62-66)

Our Countdown to Calvary has one more day to account for. The day of silence when the disciples have all been scattered – they have gone their own ways for fear of being hauled away from the homes, livelihoods, arrested, found guilty of being a follower of Jesus and crucified. Who knows where they are hiding now?

While they are in their very best hiding places, what we do have is the location of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees as they walk into Pilates Palace. They too are in fear of their future – What if Jesus actually rises from the tomb? What will become of them? Will the people arise against them, demand their crucifixions? What will happen to the Temple, its community, its role and its religious order?

Yes! They are afraid for the future of what they have worked hard to out into its place and the life of the people who have relied on them for being taught about God, facilitating their God-covenanted commitments, righteous community according to all the Laws of Moses and to the teachings of the great Prophets. There has been much invested by them here. They have too much to protect not the least of which is their positions of power and prestige and great influence.

But, instead of hiding away, they’re acting decisively, with great determination. We cannot find any of the disciples so we will now walk with the Chief Priests and the Pharisees to see what their intentions are in this very critical moment. We will walk alongside of them to learn just how the establishment responds.

Matthew 27:62-66 New Revised Standard Version

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64  Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[a] of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” [b] 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

It’s the Sabbath, the day of rest for the Jewish people. Jesus’s followers, hiding, devastated by his death, are resting: “On the Sabbath day they rested according to the commandment” (Lk 23:56).

But “the Chief Priests and the Pharisees” are busily at work. They have insisted on having an appointment with Pilate. They demand that he set people to work securing Jesus’s tomb. When Pilate tells them to use their very own “guard of soldiers” for the task, they don’t hesitate. They supervise the Jewish soldiers’ labor in “sealing the stone and setting a guard.”

These are the same religious leaders who got so mad at Jesus if he so much as healed anyone or even plucked heads of grain on the Sabbath. What’s got into them that they’re now so ready to work and to put other people to work on this obligatory day of rest?

The reason they give is inadequate: “Lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’” Well, yes, but a fraud like that would be exposed fairly quickly by the discovery of the stolen body, or it would just fade away when the risen Jesus himself remained an embarrassing absence, failing to appear in person.

So, what do the religious leaders really fear?

Let’s look at some of what’s happened in the last twenty-four hours or so.

For three hours, while Jesus was on the cross, “there was darkness over the whole land …, while the sun’s light failed” (Luke 23:44-45).

Whether or not this was a solar eclipse or divine intervention of another sort, it would have been deeply unnerving. Solar eclipses were read as threatening omens back then and for many centuries afterward.

There was also an earthquake, apparently with a specific target.

At the moment of Jesus’s death, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mark 15:37-38).

This was the curtain that blocked entrance to the Holy of Holies at the heart of the temple to anyone but the high priest on the Day of Atonement.

With Jesus’s death, the barrier was removed. Tombs were opened, as well, and “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” Although the risen saints did not “appear to many” in Jerusalem until after Jesus’s own resurrection, rumors of resurrection must have been heavily in the air.

All this was enough to persuade at least one centurion that Jesus was both “innocent” (Lk. 23:47) and truly “the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54), but it must have given “the chief priests and the Pharisees” the exalted heebie-jeebies.

Is it possible they are afraid of more than the theft of a body? They don’t admit this to Pilate. They probably haven’t voiced the fear to one another or even, perhaps, allowed themselves to be conscious of the true reason for their fear.

But is it possible that they were terrified that they’d made a dreadful mistake and that Jesus really would rise from the dead and prove himself to be the Christ, the Son of God? Given all that had happened, it wouldn’t be an irrational fear. And only an unspoken fear of such magnitude would plausibly explain their demand, on the Sabbath day, that soldiers work to seal the tomb and guard it against not just body snatchers but—God forbid! —a resurrection.

If that’s what’s making their stomachs churn, they do not have many options.

Do they really think that sealing the tomb will keep a risen Christ inside?

Or that a guard of armed soldiers might arrest and conceal the risen Christ?

These are desperate and inadequate measures. The portents of imminent supernatural intervention are staring them in the face, and they are flailing helplessly. Even Pilate has no confidence in their efforts. He says, “Go, make [the tomb] as secure as you can.” He’s being more than just a little bit ironic. He knows they can never make it secure. Not against what’s about to happen.

The fears of these religious leaders may be profoundly characteristic of fallen human beings in general. Even in our times, those who minimize or deny the resurrection of Christ may, at some level, be afraid that it might just be true.

They would readily deny their doubt, of course, certainly to us and probably to themselves. But if, as we believe, Jesus really did rise from the dead on that first Easter Sunday, then his resurrection threatens a spiritual earthquake in the life of anyone who prefers not to answer to (or even to be loved by) a risen Christ. It must seem easier to guard against perceived threats to their established faith.

Many today are still incredibly uncertain of what to make of the resurrection. Many today still prefer to remain “restful” and in hiding from the reality of the moment. They prefer to acknowledge more truth to the fact the tomb is now heavily guarded “by the guards of the temple establishment” and see no viable reason to raise themselves up challenge it or to question it or protest against it.

With the humility we have been taught by the man, Rabbi Jesus, we’ll go ahead, gracefully acknowledge they have their questions and legitimate concerns. We meet with them as Jesus met Levi/Matthew as the Tax Collector. We will “walk” across their paths in the prayerful hope they will freely engage us as Levi did. In the prayerful, faith-filled, living hope that we will be invited into their ‘homes.’

God invites all of us to have an abiding relationship with Him. He extends His invitation in His time and in His own way. This “day of our silence” is His way. This day of silence is His time for us to walk across that “Levi/ Matthews path.”

It is an enormously powerful moment to receive the skeptic and their questions.

While they may only see the “heavily guarded tomb,” God is busy working His miracle of resurrection beyond the guards, beyond the rock, inside the tomb. We just need to be ready to invite the skeptics to come back with us tomorrow.

We who, by God’s grace, have been allowed to believe that Christ not only died for our sins but was also “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25) are blessed to await Easter Sunday morning not with fear but with sure hope and great joy.

May we each take time today to “accidently” cross paths with, pray for those who minimize, question, deny the resurrection. May we pray that their fear, too, might be replaced with a joyous living faith in the love of God in Christ.

For tomorrow, COMES THE SON RISE ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

ABBA Father, today we pray we would have a refreshed perspective of all that has Jesus endured for us. He humbly served those He loved, even His betrayer. We pray that if we have become too callused or familiar with His suffering that our hearts would be softened again. We pray that His resurrection would give us a renewed, empowered and inspired and inspiring confidence all things are still possible, and that greater things are surely yet to come. Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Countdown to Calvary. An Agonizing Walk into the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus and Us. – MATTHEW 26:36-46

Today is Good Friday.

The question beckons us today as we continue our countdown to Easter,

Was Jesus’ coming crucifixion the most agonizing moment of his life?

Surely it must be ranked among the very highest we read of in the bible. Death on a Roman cross was excruciating pain, and none of that was spared to Jesus.

Perhaps considering the magnitude of this moment, for Jesus, what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane was suffering just as great as crucifixion.

When the Passover meal was eaten Jesus left with his disciples, except Judas, who had already gone to fetch soldiers to arrest Jesus.

Jesus and the other disciples went to Gethsemane, an area filled with olive trees. The man, Rabbi Jesus needed his time and space to pray, to pour out his heart to His Father God, and he took along three of the disciples to stay close to him.

In the hour or two that follows, we read from our incoming text, Jesus bares the unbelievable weight of his grief in his soul, and we see pain beyond imagining.

Matthew 26:36-46 New American Standard Bible

The Garden of Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called [a]Gethsemane, and *told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” 40 And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and He *said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is [b] willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.” 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45  Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, “[c]Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour [d]is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Three things mark out the time in Gethsemane.

1. It is a time of deep agony.

Several of the words in verses 37 and 38 are filled with appalling pain and anguish for Jesus. He was “sorrowful” and “troubled.” He told the disciples: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”

The gospels don’t often describe any emotion of Jesus other than compassion.

So, the gospel narrators saw this time and this experience in Gethsemane as something almost unique and certainly important to record.

There are martyrs who have gone silent or with brave words to their death, as if it is nothing to them that they will be burned at the stake or torn by wild dogs or executed with a sword.

Not Jesus. Inside him is a sorrow and an agony so strong, so all-consuming that he feels he might die there and then, and he pours out that sorrow to God.

Why such pain?

Above all, perhaps two reasons.

For one thing, Jesus knew that crucifixion lay ahead.

Death on a cross was death by prolonged torture.

The piercing of hands and feet with nails, the exposure to burning sun or bitter cold, the humiliation by mocking crowds, the near-impossible strain of lifting the collapsed body to breathe, the physical frame becoming weaker, the mind becoming delirious… all excruciating pain.

And it lasted a very long time, maybe hours, maybe days. Crucifixion was an intentional slow death, so the condemned person experienced maximum agony and so those who watched learned the lesson – never to rebel against the state.

Crucifixion was so cruel that the Romans usually crucified only slaves, pirates, or their enemies and not their own citizens.

Jesus knew crucifixion lay just ahead. Who would not be in an agony of soul?

For another thing, Jesus’ death would be no ordinary death.

Yes, he would suffer and die like any man. But he would be the man whose suffering included bearing the sins of the whole world in his own body.

No one can know all that meant for him – perhaps more intensified pain, perhaps separation from his perfect communion with his Father.

Whatever exactly was before Jesus, it was a ‘cup’ he dreaded drinking. Bishop N.T. Wright says: “He had looked into the darkness and seen the grinning faces of all the demons in the world looking back at him. And he begged and begged his father not to bring him to the point of going through with it.”

Whatever the trials or suffering of our lives, whatever the reality is, however great our darkness or our pain, Jesus understands. He knows deep agony, he knows what it is to dread what lies ahead, he knows the need to get down on the ground and cry out to God to be released. He knows what we all need to know!

2. It is a time of wrestling and resolution.

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden is remarkable for its straightforward honesty.

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (v. 39).

We have all known people who prayed for a dreadful future to go away:

  • The person diagnosed with an incurable neurodegenerative disease, or with an inoperable cancer or severe cardiac disease which will lead inevitably to death.
  • The mother who was just told by their doctor that the baby in her womb was anencephalic, and without full development of the child’s brain and skull the baby could not and in fact would not live for more than a few hours after birth.
  • The parents of any beautiful seven-year-old boy or girl diagnosed with a brain tumor, or in a severe auto accident, life supported only by medical equipment, waiting for the inevitable day the child’s time in this world would certainly end.
  • The Husbands or Wives who were just told that their spouses had Alzheimer’s.
  • Ask any Ukranian Citizen who just had their lives upended by bullets flying in and through their kitchens or living rooms or bedrooms where they were just going to sleep, watching TV, listening to music with the children close at hand.

For these people and so many others like them, their deepest longing was that somehow that unimaginably dreadful future would not exist. If only somehow – by a miracle of miracles – what they know will happen will not happen. If only the impossible could become possible. How can we or they not pray for any of that?

So, the man, Rabbi Jesus went off to be alone and he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Is Jesus simply voicing his agony and his longing? Or did Jesus truly think the cup of suffering could be taken away?

When Jesus prays the prayer the second time, he seems to know the answer.

The words are slightly different. “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (v. 42).

Had Jesus sensed the answer to his prayer was ‘no’?

Perhaps that is reading too much into the slight change of words, because Matthew records that Jesus prayed the same prayer a third time (v. 44).

But it sure makes sense that Jesus would ask if he could be released from the appalling suffering of death on the cross. There is a deep inner wrestling here.

But Jesus was not rejecting God’s will. 

He was not trying to avoid the will of His Father God; he was ensuring this cup of suffering was the will of God. Certainly, his flesh recoiled from the prospect of dying in agony, and certainly it was an unimaginable burden to absorb the pain and sin of the world in his body, but the heart of his prayer was always “may your will be done.” He wanted nothing other than what His own Father wanted for him. He had no alternate agenda other than to do the Father’s will.

And as he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, the matter was settled.

There was no more time for questioning. It was resolved, and Jesus would go forward into the hands of those who would betray, arrest, beat and crucify him.

3. It is a time of weakness and failure.

The disciples persistently let Jesus down. At the start he told them to keep watch with him (v. 38).

After his first time of prayer, Jesus returned to them, found them sleeping and urged them again to watch and pray (v. 41).

A short time later he came back to them again, and again found them sleeping (v. 43). And when his prayer was then finished and he rejoined them, it was no different. “Are you still sleeping and resting?” he asked them (v. 45).

It was the night and therefore no surprise they were tired and fell asleep.

But Jesus needed them.

One of the greatest struggles of all human history was happening only a few paces away, but these men curled up and went to sleep. Even though they were asked several times to stay awake, still they slept. What Jesus wanted was not very difficult to understand and not impossible to do. But they let him down.

We are no different. We don’t sin out of ignorance. We sin because of weakness, unwillingness, selfishness, or carelessness. At times when the deep spiritual battles are at stake, we’re not on the alert, not at our posts, not playing our part.

Thankfully Jesus did not give up on these disciples, just got them to their feet since the force coming to arrest him was in sight (v. 46).

Jesus does not give up on us either.

That does not mean our failures don’t matter, only that Jesus won’t let us wallow in past mistakes for there are new challenges to face just ahead.

What then shall we say of this walk through the Garden called Gethsemane:

A time of deep agony.

A time of wrestling and resolution.

A time of weakness and failure.

There are three short but important lessons.

1) Prayer is not always answered as we might wish.

Jesus, the perfect Son of God, poured out his heart.

There is no doubt he longed to escape the cross. But God said ‘No.’

There was no fault in the person praying.

There was nothing wrong with the prayer. It would have made no difference if the prayer time had lasted all night, or if the prayer had been repeated a million times by a million people. The answer from God would still have been ‘No.’

The lessons?

  1. We can and should pour out our hearts to God, but with humility and meekness let us recognize that the will of God we find may find on the door stops of our hearts may not be the same as the will we agonizingly brought to the prayer.
  2. The deepest of inner agonies can be shared with God.

Jesus was troubled, and he tells his disciples his soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

Some Christians believe any form of depression as weakness of faith.

If that were true, then many of the Bible’s greatest saints were weak. And Jesus was weak in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was, but it was no sin.

Weakness is common to human experience, and, at times, it is the very thing that drives us to God.

There is no sin in being real about our feelings, and no sin in coming to God confessing our struggles. God copes very well with honest people. Cures are rarely instant but being open before God is always the right start.

3. God’s will does get done.

Jesus prayed for that: “…not as I will, but as you will” (v. 39). And God’s will was done.

We may never face death on a cross, but we may see some other appalling future that sends dread through our whole being. At times like that we are tempted to say: ‘How can God be so absent or impotent?

Where is God at a time like this?’

The answer is God is right there. Just as he was in Gethsemane, as he was at the cross, and as he was at the tomb raising Jesus back to life.

Through all of it, God was there.

Our challenges and our agonies overwhelm us, and we feel so alone.

But God is there, always there. He is not hiding, not gone astray, not become unwilling. And God is at work, and his work is always good.

When Jesus left Gethsemane, the challenge of the future was still there.

The agony of the cross was still ahead. Easter was about to come.

But Jesus came through Gethsemane strengthened in knowing God’s will more certain and surer and he could face anything God allowed in his life. Because of what happened in his Gethsemane, he was now prepared even for the cross.

As we walk around and through the Garden, observing the events of that day,

May God also make us all more ready for his perfect will, whatever it may be!

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Eternal God, your power is unlimited, and your strength has no end. You have said that faith, hope and love as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Fill me with the measures of faith, hope and love for a breakthrough in my own circumstances. I believe You are able to do far more than all that I ask or can even dare imagine, according to the power at work within me. To you be glory throughout all generations, forever and ever. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Countdown to Calvary: Humility, We See Jesus – Dying to Bear Much Fruit. Lessons in our Living John 12:20 – 26

Today, I want to try to tell you a short story about two men and their wheat.

One man had a grain of wheat and he loved it very much. He spent the majority of his time and energies on securing the best possible container for his wheat.  

When it came to moving his wheat from one place to another, he spared no expense. He loved his wheat, so he bought the best. He made sure his grain of wheat stayed out of harm’s way; if wheat gets wet you know it will quickly spoil.

So, he was very careful to be sure to always do what the wheat experts told him to do in order to see his grain of wheat stay strong even into old age. This man was sold out for his wheat, and it showed. Then the man died.

The other man also had a grain of wheat but what he did was very different. 

He went out into the backyard, dug a hole, threw his wheat in to it, covered it with dirt, and poured water all over it thus completely ruining the wheat. 

Then the man died.

Sometime after both men were dead and buried a news reporter got wind of these two unusual men and their wheat. The reporter decided to do a follow up. 

Where the first man had lived the grain of wheat was easily spotted surrounded by the best. But when the lid was removed, and the cameras pulled in close the sight was saddening; that grain of wheat though greatly prized and protected had been ruined. Stuck away in the dark of selfishness that wheat had spoiled

The reporter got back in her car and assumed she was about to go from bad to worse. If the first man had done everything to protect his wheat and it had all been for nothing, then what would there be to show for the other man who just threw his in the ground and wasted it?

As she drove closer, she noticed these tall and vibrant green plants along the side of the road; very strange. As she pulled into the driveway the entire yard of the second man was covered in three-foot-tall green grass. Now filled with curiosity the reporter asked the neighbor, “What are all these plants.” And he responded, “It’s this man’s wheat”

One man protected his wheat and lost it all. 

The other man threw his wheat into the ground, and it produced much fruit. 

Christ’s life is that single grain of wheat. He is glorious and he has done many glorious things. But if he doesn’t die there is no salvation for you or for me. If Jesus is not the suffering Servant/Savior of Isaiah 53, then he is no savior at all. 

But if he did come to die and if he did die and rise again, then he will produce much fruit. There will be lives changed. There will be a great harvest of joy-filled Christ-followers. Jesus came to die, and he died so to bear much fruit.

John 12:20-26 Holman Christian Standard Bible

Jesus Predicts His Crucifixion

20 Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.”

22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied to them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24 “I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. [a] 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I. Eternal life requires more than fearing God and being interested in Jesus (20-23)

As we look into these verses from John, we need to realize that we are at a turning point in salvation history. God’s plan to reconcile the world to himself through the seed of the woman is about to advance at a rapid pace.  

Here’s the point

A.  The glorification of Jesus Christ is required for the salvation of the nations.

The Pharisees in verse 19 make the observation that, “the world has gone after [Jesus].” In the triumphal entry and in the people’s loud praises the Pharisees see the popularity of Jesus. That confession in verse 19 leads us to the account of “some Greeks” in verses 20-22.

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

Literally the people and nations are coming to Jesus. They want to see him. Now this phrase means more than look at him. These Greeks want to talk with Jesus.

They are hesitant. Possibly because they have just witnessed Jesus clean out the court of the Gentiles when he cleansed the temple; that’s a bit intimidating. So, they instead go to Philip who probably spoke Greek and asked for an audience with Jesus. The people and the nations are mightily curious coming to Christ.

And Jesus responds with a surprising and an unexpected word, verse 23, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

Up to this point in the life of Christ when Jesus has spoken of “his hour” it has always been in the future tense.

In John 2:4 he told Mary, “My hour has not yet come.”

In John 7:30 we read, “So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”

In John 8:20 we read, “These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.” 

From here on, from the coming of the Greeks on, Jesus will emphasize the fact that his hour is here.

In John 12:27, “Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose, I am come to this hour.”

Using the language of the time to glorify the Son Jesus says in John 13:31, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”

It is possible that Jesus is only 4 days from the cross. Jesus is fully aware that his death his required for the salvation of the people and the nations.

And Jesus is fully aware that now is the appointed time of his glorification. He must be glorified in order for these Greeks to be saved. He must be glorified in order for you, me to be saved. No one from Adam to the last of God’s children will see eternal life if Jesus does not fulfill the Father’s plan of redemption.

Let’s drive this point home

B.  Your salvation depends upon Jesus’ glorification

Let’s bring in some of the terminology from verse 23. Unless Jesus is glorified, unless the grain of wheat is put into the ground, he will not bear fruit.  Unless Jesus be glorified no one will be saved.

That’s how crucial the cross is. That’s how important this hour is; salvation depends on it.

We should expect the theme of glory to be central from here on in John and it is. We’ll unpack this more, Lord willing, I just want you to see what glorification is.

Look down to verses 28-33.

‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again… verse 31…’Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

The glorification of God is displayed through the judgment of sin when God’s wrath for poured out on Jesus. The glorification of God is displayed through the defeat of Satan when his power is broken through the resurrection of Jesus.

The glory of God is about to be displayed through Jesus’ finished work on the cross, resurrection from the grave, ascension back to God’s glorious right hand, and the salvation of the people and the nations who come to Him.

Our salvation and the salvation of the nations, depends on the Son of man being glorified.  The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus do not just show us something they secure something.  The glorious work of Jesus Christ on your behalf secures your salvation. 

If this hour doesn’t ever come, then we are lost and hopeless but if Jesus has been glorified then we are saved and we are all born again into a living hope.

These Greeks in John 12 were God-fearers who were willing to submit to God’s laws. They were interested in meeting and learning from Jesus.

But that’s not what is required for salvation. We must be connected by faith, by hope and by love, to the glorified Jesus crucified, resurrected, and ascended.

Where are you today? Does our religion consist only of some rule keeping and occasional interest in Jesus?

If so, you and I would do well to fear that we are missing salvation all together (Hebrews 4:1).  Salvation depends on you being connected to the glorified Jesus.

By faith you and I are joined to him. And with him we are as righteous as God and have power over the grave. Jesus has been glorified. There is salvation and eternal life for you. But you and I must absolutely be connected to him by faith.

Salvation is a promise because salvation depends on the completed work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death is a necessity. – The Single Seed must Be Planted!

II. Nature proves that a harvest requires death (24)

A.  Jesus illustrates the necessity of his death by pointing to the planting and harvesting of wheat. Verse 24

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.

We grow vast fields of wheat to make bread.

Here is what a grain of wheat looks like. 

If you do nothing with this single wheat, then as a whole, it is 100% worthless.

But if you plant that wheat there comes a miracle. By continual harvesting and sowing, one grain of wheat can produce millions of grains of wheat. But what is required to make that harvest happen? You absolutely have to plant the wheat.

You must make it for the moment ruined. Once that grain of wheat is put in the ground and watered you cannot dig it up, grind it up, and make bread out of it. 

But when it dies it bears much fruit.

Jesus obviously isn’t giving us instructions for our gardens.

He’s giving us hope for our souls.

If Jesus skips the cross, if he does not die, then there is no salvation.

But since Jesus endured the cross dying in our place then there is salvation.

Just as millions of grains of wheat come from the death of one grain so the salvation of the people, the nations, comes from the death of the only Son of God.  Eternal life depends on the death of Jesus Christ.

All of the Realm of Nature illustrates this clearly.

Here’s our third point that comes out of Jesus’ death on our behalf.

III. You are the fruit (24-25)

A.  God, The Father is the Lord of the harvest, Jesus the Son is the single grain which starts the harvest, and all that we are and do is a part of the harvest

You and I must fight to keep the call of verses 25 and26 grounded in the work of Christ explained in verse 23 and 24. You and I will live life rightly, enjoy eternal life, serve Jesus, follow Jesus, be with Jesus, and be honored by God as we cling to the glorified Jesus.

All that we are as a Christian is a direct product of all that Jesus has done. God doesn’t demand our death for your salvation. God saves only those who have the glorification of Jesus credited to their souls.

B.  I was quite surprised! Verse 25 is not what I expect

I thought verse 25 should read, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world bears much fruit.

But the teaching here is not that you and I should die to bear fruit.

That is true and Jesus is going to teach us all about that in John 15.

But before we get to chapter 15, we need to get this point. 

Our redeemed life, our experience of eternal life this very moment, is the produce of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

If we get our place wrong when you think about God’s will for all of creation, then we’ll get our life wrong, and we’ll be frustrated by a lack of fruit bearing.

Let’s lay a foundation and hold fast to it.  Our salvation and the salvation of others realized through our good works is ultimately the result of Jesus’ work. 

Since Jesus is the grain of wheat that fell into the earth and died, and since Jesus bears much fruit, we are saved and so are others.  Eternal life today is the result of the glorification of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago.

C.  Your Christian Life is “found” not by protecting yourself but in your gaining the Life of Jesus Christ

Look at John 12:25, Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

When we read the bible there is a repetition of someone loving a person and hating another person.

Romans 9:13 reiterates the facts that God loved Jacob and hated Esau.

Now let us read and study and pray over Genesis 29:30 – 32

30 So Jacob…loved Rachel more than Leah and served Laban for another seven years. 31 When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.

Hate is not necessarily the emotional disgust that we feel when we say we hate something. Love and hate in this context have more to do with priorities.

Think about it this way, “Whoever focuses on his life loses it, and whoever forgets his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Have you and I ever been so focused on one thing that we completely forget everything else? That’s the idea. If you focus on your life, your wants, your plans, and yourself then you will also forget, lose your focus on Christ. 

But as we focus on Christ, his wants, his plans, and his self then we will forget our life.

Look at God’s promised product: if we love our life, we will destroy our life.

We are like Lennie from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Our thinking is off and so we end up destroying the thing we love the most. 

By protecting ourselves and looking out for ourselves and taking care of numeral uno we ultimately end up destroying ourselves. That is warning.

But here is the promise of John chapter 12: whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

I believe it’s important that the verbs loving, loses, hating, and keeping are present active indicatives. That means they keep right on happening.

These are not one-time events but characteristics, a way of living.

A life primarily focused on Christ will necessarily be a life which neglects self.

You can’t love yourself and Christ. You will love the one and hate the other.

Please do not be fooled into thinking there is a healthy balance between loving self and loving Jesus. There is no such place as a “middle ground.” To attempt to be there is to be disgusting. Jesus promises to vomit you out of his mouth.

We love Jesus.

So, here’s how to pursue this self-hating Christ loving life: follow Christ. 

We must never set out to hate or neglect our lives.

What we must set out to do is focus on, prioritize, and follow Christ. 

This is the connection between verses 25 and 26. It leads to our final point.

IV. Following Christ entails serving now, and gaining heaven and honor then (26)

A.  Following Christ is forgetting self

You can’t protect yourself and follow Christ because going after Christ means following the One who came to die.

Look at verse 26, “If anyone serves me; he must follow me.” 

This is Christianity: finding life not in yourself but in the glorified Jesus.

Adopt his plans as your plans.

Do the things he did. Care about the things he cared about.

Christianity is not keeping the rules and being somewhat interested in Jesus. 

Please notice something.

Twice the word ‘serve’ is repeated in these two verses.

Christians are those people who see the glorified Jesus and serve him.

We are those who are changed by the work of Christ so that we give ourselves to the work of Christ.

Christians work the works God sent Jesus to do.

Christians serve Christ and follow Christ by joining in the grain harvest. Serving and following Jesus demand our everything.

This is why in a similar passage Jesus tells us to count the cost (Luke 14:25-33).

Notice, eternal life is not something we get after we die because of a decision we made as a kid with little consequence for the time in between. 

Eternal life is the time span in which we will enjoy the life Christ has given us.

When we forget ourselves and follow Christ, we will gain a life that is worth living and enjoying for all of eternity. Our self-centered lives would make for a miserable eternity. God’s Christ-centered life makes for an amazing eternity.

Here’s the promise of heaven, verse 26, “and where I am, there will my servant be also.” 

Jesus said in John 14:3, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” 

The promise of heaven, everlasting life and joy in the presence of God, is held out to both you and to me today. 

Follow Christ. 

Serve Christ. 

Ground yourself in the glorification of the only Son. 

Heaven is for you.

Plant your hopes in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

You will not be disappointed.

There’s more.

Verse 26, Jesus promises, “If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” 

Jesus knows nothing of bait-and-switch. Hating your life is not going to turn out to be a bad idea. If you trust Christ and let him shape your desires and your direction, then look what you’ll get.

Do you see it in verse 26? God himself will honor you. 

Every honor bestowed on man by man goes no farther than this earth and our graves and that appointed day we are all laid therein – never to be seen again.

But every honor bestowed on the servants of Christ is eternal and unceasing.

The honor given by God to you because of Christ cannot be taken away, revoked, or destroyed. There is a meaningful substantial life for you and for me,

and it all depends on Jesus.

V. Imagine with me that your lunch plans have changed and instead of what you had planned you’re going to sit down with Jesus on a public park bench and review your life

Would it become evident that the reason you do what you do and have a family and come to worship and live where you live is so that you can get something for yourself?

Or would it become evident that the reason for everything you do is because you are caught up in the great harvest that depends on the glorified Jesus?

Do you do what you do because of you?

Or do you do what you do because Jesus has been glorified?

Jesus has been glorified. Your salvation, your life, and your future can be secure but only if you give your life over to him. Turn from your sin and insufficiency and utterly trust in the Jesus who makes you pure and is himself Sufficiency.

There is an amazing harvest going on all over this globe and in our community. 

We are a people who have faith in the work of Jesus and will get engaged in his works.  Because Jesus is glorified giving us eternal life we serve him, follow him, and look forward to the honor of eternal life. 

Look around your neighborhood and your work and the grocery store. the fields are indescribably vast and white for harvest. Let’s plant the seed of Jesus! Let’s praise the Lord of the harvest and go from this place to be a part of the harvest.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Dear Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for Your amazing plan of redemption and that the Lord Jesus was ready and willing to forgo all human glory and praise and be led as a lamb to the Cross, so that His death could pay the price for my sin and the sin of the whole world.

Thank You that Jesus lived a perfect life, foregoing any honor, in order to be made sin on my account and died a cruel death on Calvary’s Cross so that by faith in Him I might be forgiven of my sin and receive life everlasting. Praise Your Holy Name, and thank You, Lord Jesus, Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! AMEN.

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