Now that we’ve made it through the Christmas season we can return once again to our study of the Gospel of John. If you will turn to John 12:20-26 with me we will get started. Let’s read our Scripture together.
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:20-26 NIVO)
We’ve had such a long break that I feel like I need to refresh our memories just for a moment. At the beginning of John 12 we read where a group of folks had thrown a dinner party to honor Jesus after He had raised Lazarus from the grave. While at the dinner party Mary took some very expensive perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet then wiped His feet with her hair. That caused quite a stir among the disciples as Judas asked why it wasn’t sold and the money given to the poor? Jesus stood up for Mary and told the disciples that there will be plenty of opportunities for them to help the poor, but His time with them was growing short.
The next day after the dinner party Jesus and His followers headed out to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. When the word spread that Jesus was on His way, the crowd took palm branches and went out to meet Jesus. As Jesus made His way to Jerusalem the crowd went out to meet Him with palm branches. They shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13 ESV) They didn’t make up the phrase. What they shouted was a quote from Psalm 118. Then Jesus found a donkey, saddled up, and rode the donkey into the streets of Jerusalem with the cheering crowd following. Jesus didn’t take a seat on the donkey because He was tired or because it was convenient. He mounted the donkey with great intent as the fulfillment of a prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. Turn there with me and let me show you the prophecy.
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9 ESV)
The crowds were ecstatic and all the while the anger and rage of the Jewish religious leaders was swelling to nuclear proportions. Right after the dinner party we read in verse 10 that the religious leaders made plans to put Lazarus to death as well as Jesus. Lazarus was a living testimony and they wanted to get rid of all evidence that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Then, after Jesus rode into Jerusalem, we read in John 12:19,
19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (John 12:19 ESV)
So there’s the background, the context of where we begin today. In the opening verse of our Scripture for this morning we read, “there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.” We have no idea who these Greeks were or where they were from. All we know is that they were among those who had come up to the temple to worship God and they were drawn to Jesus. What was it that drew them to Jesus? If we read the other Gospels we might find our answer.
In Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus rode into Jerusalem He went to the temple, but since it was late He left and went out to Bethany for the night. The next day Jesus and His disciples left Bethany. Then Jesus and the disciples made their way to the temple in Jerusalem where Jesus found merchants selling their goods in the temple courts, most probably the outer court, the only place where Gentiles were allowed to worship. Turn with me to Mark 11:15-17 and read along.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” (Mark 11:15-17 NIVO)
God’s House is a house of prayer for all nations, or all people, not just the Jews. Really? In theory maybe, but if you took a look at the temple you would notice that the theory wasn’t carried out in practice. When king Herod began rebuilding the temple in 19 B.C. he enclosed the outer courts with colonnades. It was a segregated area that was called the Court of the Gentiles because it was an area only for those who were not Jewish. The Gentiles were forbidden in any other area of the temple. There were signs in Latin and Greek reminding the Gentiles that trespassing in any other area of the temple would result in death. In 1871 archeologists discovered a block of limestone in Jerusalem that was 22 inches high and 33 inches long. Each letter engraved on the block was 1 ½ inches high. Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, had written about it, but nobody had ever actually seen it until one was discovered in 1871. The inscription reads,
IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE
AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE
WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO
WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME
FOR HIS DEATH
WHICH WILL FOLLOW
I’ve shared all of this with you because this information gives us incredible insight into the story of Jesus running the money changers out of the temple courtyard. The merchants couldn’t set up shop in the areas where the Jews filled the temple. They weren’t about to disturb the worship of the Jews so they turned to the only space where the Gentiles were allowed into a loud, raucous flea market. Jesus wouldn’t have it! God’s house is a house of prayer for all people–marginalized people, despised people, undeserving people, shunned people, and sinners need to know that God’s house is a house of prayer for all people.
The Greeks who had gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover feast approached Philip and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” It’s interesting that the people approached Philip and then Philip went to Andrew. Both of those names are Greek and the two men came from Bethsaida, a town near an area that was heavily populated by Greek speaking Gentiles called Syrophoenicia. The Greek speaking people approached someone they felt comfortable with and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Andrew and Philip presented their request to Jesus, but Jesus’ response seems strange at first. When Jesus heard Philip and Andrew say, “Lord, there are some Greek speaking people who would like to meet you. Would it be alright to bring them over?” Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23) “The hour has come!” I’m sure Jesus’ words probably don’t move you any more than they did me the first time I read them, but let me show you something that I’m sure will move you.
Over and over again throughout Jesus’ ministry He had told folks, “It’s not time.” Let me show what I mean. The very first miracle Jesus ever performed was turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. They ran out of wine and Mary turned to her Son. In John 2:1-4 we read,
1 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” (John 2:1-4 NIVO)
It was not time. The time would come, but that time was not the right time. In John 7, we read that Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to go up to Jerusalem and perform some miracles. They wanted Him to become more of a public figure so He would gain more followers. Jesus said, “You go to the Feast. I am not yet going up to this Feast, because for me the right time has not yet come.” (John 7:8 NIVO)
They say, “Timing is everything.” and it was certainly the case with every aspect of Jesus’ life. There would come a time when He would announce that He was the long awaited Messiah, but not until it was time. There would also come a time when those who were out to get Him would do so, but that time was also in God’s hands. Let me show you what I mean. If you will turn with me to John 7:27-30.
27 But we know where this man is from; when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.” 28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” 30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. (John 7:27-30 NIVO)
In John 12, Greek speaking people wanted to see Jesus and that prompted Jesus to announce, “The time had come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” And for the rest of Jesus’ time on earth we will hear Him say, “The time has come!” In John 13:1 we read,
1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (John 13:1 NIVO)
“The time had come…” Four chapters later in John’s Gospel, while Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, we read,
1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (John 17:1 NIVO)
What was it about the Greeks seeking Jesus that triggered Jesus’ response? We have to remember, Jesus said He came “for the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) His earthly ministry was focused on calling God’s Chosen People back to God, but the Cross was the pivot point of Jesus’ ministry unto the whole world–to all of those who would trust in Him. At the time the lost sheep of Israel were most agitated and angered by Him the Gentiles were seeking Him and Jesus knew the time had come.
Let’s finish our time in God’s Word by taking a look at the rest of our Scripture for this morning found in John 12:24-26.
24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:24-26 NIVO)
Nobody in their right mind would ever connect being glorified with dying and being buried and yet that was exactly how God would glorify His Son, our Savior, Jesus. Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Little ag education for you. Farmers in Oklahoma plant about 2 bushels of wheat per acre. A little seed is planted in the ground. It lies there dormant until the conditions are right. At the first sign of life, little roots begin to grow to anchor the plant. Next the shoot begins to grow and push its way to the surface as it develops a stem and leaves and a head which consists of anywhere from 20-50 kernels when it is fully developed. It is not until the seed is placed in the ground that the process of abundant life can emerge. In 2015 in Oklahoma the 2 bushels of wheat that were planted on each acre produced an average crop of 33 bushels per acre. Abundant life through the sacrifice of a life. And that is the way Jesus saw His own life. There’s no question that in talking about wheat Jesus was speaking about His own life. It would be through His death that a great harvest would come. It would be through the death of Jesus that the glory of God would be most brilliantly put on display. Yet, there is nothing in us that would ever equate such a horrible death upon a Cross with glory. The Romans intended the Cross to be demeaning, dehumanizing, and to reinforce what they saw as their sovereign power over humanity. John Timmer, the former pastor of Woodlawn Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan wrote,
Only an evil heart gloried in the death of President Kennedy. Only racist hearts gloried in the death of Martin Luther King. The men and women who loved Jesus would see him die on a torture instrument that the Romans had invented to terrorize their enemies. They would see the Romans take his life, and before that they would see the Romans take his dignity in a public spectacle that was meant to intimidate anybody with an eye to see or an ear to hear or a heart to tremble at state-sponsored terrorism and the awful suffering it brings. The Romans jammed their crosses into the earth like scarecrows, and every one of them proclaimed to the world, “Caesar is Lord and don’t you ever forget it. (John Timmer)
What the Romans and the world understood to be the humiliation and subjugation of Jesus, God used as the instrument of His glory! And history has shown the Romans and the world to be wrong and the glory of God to be ever-expanding! Jesus said,
25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:25-26 NIVO)
I need to point out something really interesting about verse 25. Three times Jesus speaks about “life.” In the first two instances “life” is a translation of the Greek word, “????” (psuche). Jesus says that if we love our life then we are showing preference over what we want to what God wants. When we love our life the things of this world are more important than the Kingdom of God. John spells things out for us in 1 John 2:15-16 where we read,
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-16 NIVO)
Jesus said He came to do His Father’s will and that is exactly what we, as the followers of Jesus, are to do. To “hate” our life means that we prefer the things of God over our own desires. John tells us that if we hate, or dismiss what we want, what this world has to offer in “life,” then we will receive eternal “life,” which is a translation of the Greek word, “???” (zoe). This word is used 36 times in John, 17 times John uses the word to talk about eternal life. We need to understand that eternal life is not only enjoyed by those followers of Jesus who have died and gone to heaven. Eternal life begins the moment you and I accept Jesus into our hearts and begin to follow Him as Lord and Savior.
We need to realize that Jesus had a life, a “????” (psuche), in the same way that we do and yet we find over and over again that He laid down His life in order to live out His Father’s will. Let me show you what I mean. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11 NIVO) Just six verses later Jesus said,
17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (Jn. 10:17-18 NIVO)
Nobody forced Jesus to do what He did for you and me. He willingly took our place in the judgment seat, suffered the penalty of our sins, and took on the Cross that should have been ours. Why would He do such a thing? Why would He who knew no sin willingly stand in my place and suffer the penalty for sin that I had earned? The answer is quite simple yet it is the most profound act that has ever occurred. He did it because of love and He calls us who recognize what He has done for us to follow in His steps. We see this in verse 26.
26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. (John 12:26 NIVO)
You want to serve Jesus then follow Jesus. After hearing what you’ve just heard you may be wondering, “Where will He lead me? What will He call me to do? Where He call me to go?” There’s no way I can answer that question for you, but I will tell you this: If you really understand the Cross, what He has done for you, then you will be so overwhelmed by His love for you, His willingness to lay down His life for you, that serving Him will be your greatest joy and honor. If you understand what He has done for you then you’ll willingly follow Him wherever He leads and you’ll be honored to serve Him in whatever capacity He calls you to serve. Paul wrote,
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal. 6:14 NIVO)
As a young boy Jim Elliot told his parent’s friends that one day he wanted to tell somebody about Jesus that had never heard of Him. On February 2, 1952, Jim waved goodbye to his parents and boarded a ship for the 18-day trip from San Pedro, California to Quito, Ecuador, South America. He and His buddy, Pete Fleming spent a year learning to speak Spanish before they moved to Shandia where there was a small village inhabited by the Quechua Indians where they took the place of a missionary who was retiring. They learned the language of the tribe quickly and God blessed their ministry. Three years later the whole tribe had been won to Christ.
The Quechuas main problem was another tribe, the Auca Indians, who had killed many of their people. The Aucas were warriors. They had killed several workers of an oil company who were drilling near their village. The oil company eventually closed their site because all of their workers were afraid to work around the Aucas. Jim knew the only way to stop the Aucas was to tell them about Jesus. Jim and four of his friends began to plan a way to show the Aucas they were friendly.
Nate Saint, a missionary supply pilot, came up with a way to lower a bucket filled with supplies to people on the ground while flying above them. He thought this would be a perfect way to win the trust of the Aucas without putting anyone in danger. They began dropping gifts to the Aucas. They also used an amplifier to speak out friendly Auca phrases. After many months, the Aucas even sent a gift back up in the bucket to the plane. Jim and the other missionaries felt the time had come to meet the Aucas face-to-face.
Jim and his friends were on the beach waiting for the Aucas to make contact. Two Auca women emerged, but they didn’t look friendly at all. Then Jim and his friends saw a group of Auca warriors with their spears raised, ready to throw. Jim Elliot reached for the gun in his pocket. He had to decide on the spot if he should use it. But he knew he couldn’t. Each of the missionaries had promised they would not kill an Auca who did not know Jesus to save himself from being killed. Within seconds, the Auca warriors threw their spears, killing all the missionaries: Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot.
Some would say it was a waste. Jim Elliott would disagree. In a journal entry six years before his death Jim Elliot wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim and four of his fellow missionaries were speared to death in the Amazon Rain Forest by the Aucas, the very people they came to love and serve for Jesus’ sake. Jim and his friend’s death wouldn’t be the end of the story. Jim wife, Elisabeth, and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, went back to the Aucas and made contact. Many of the members of the tribe, even some of those who speared the men to death, became followers of Jesus. The tribe has grown through the years because they have stopped killing one another. There were only about 600 tribe members when Elisabeth and Rachel first made contact, but the tribe has grown to over 2,000 members today. James S. Boster, professor at the University of Connecticut has written, “I believe that conversion to Christianity was instrumental in saving the Waodani.” In an interview in Christianity Today, he said, “the five missionaries’ refusal to fight back, despite their guns, and the forgiveness shown by the missionaries’ close kin showed the Waodani the power of Christianity.” Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground…
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 10, 2016