When it comes to the work of Jesus, you cannot remain neutral. That inescapable truth appeared in last week’s Lenten service. You can (1) cling to Jesus by faith. The world hated his teachings and so the world may insult you for believing those same teachings. You may suffer for following Jesus, but you will gain heaven. Or, you can (2) reject Jesus as Savior. Ignore his commands. Embrace the godless behaviors of the world and feel content that you blend into a Christ-less society, but you will spend eternity in hell. Those are the only two options. When it comes to the work of Jesus, you cannot remain neutral. You either side with him and his Word or you do not.
To be honest, that truth does not always settle so well. The devil continually whispers that you can force God to follow your beliefs. The struggle to deny your self-centered cravings is fierce. So, God strengthens you in this struggle. See The Cross Reveal Jesus’ Glory as he comes to divide, to conquer, and to draw.
Listen to our reading from John 12:20-33.
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.
27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
Did you catch the absolute single reason Jesus comes to earth? The reason he is born Christmas Day? The reason he lives under the Law of God, in complete obedience to the Ten Commandments? The reason you will get to celebrate Easter in just a few short weeks? The only reason you can say with confidence: “Heaven is mine!” [The reason:] Jesus comes to draw all people to himself.
Just after three years of ministry, Jesus makes a startling announcement: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. His entire life has been leading up to this very moment. Good Friday is just a few days away. He knows what approaches him: death.
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. It’s true, a single wheat seed remains a single wheat seed. Yet, if it falls into the soil, it decays and breaks down. That seed will sprout and it will reach towards the sun, push out leaves, and produce many more wheat seeds. The single seed produces many seeds.
Jesus is that single wheat seed; he carries the single perfect life God wants. The only way lives— that’s your life (and mine)— can be found pleasing in God’s sight is for the one Seed to fall and die. The Cross will Reveal Jesus’ Glory. On the cross you will see Jesus keep the promise made to Adam and Eve and the world. He comes to purify you (and me) from sin.
That means, he comes to divide you (and me) from the sin that caused him to come down in the first place. Embracing the thoughts, the decisions, the behaviors that God calls “wrong” can actually divide us from him.
The man who loves his life will lose it… Jesus is not condemning taking care of your health. Rather, he asks: “Which do you love more: (1) My words, or (2) Your words?” Are you still making excuses to defend the ways you abuse your body— even though God calls you to live a pure life? Is your heart bloated with pride? Do you boast and brag about the achievements of you [grand]child because it looks good for you? Do you find comfort in your net worth, believing wealth provides real security? Have sports and school events taken priority over your time spent with God? The man who loves his life so much that he puts his wants (and wishes) over God’s commands will lose [his life]. Pleasure, fame, and fortune will not follow you after death or get you into heaven.
[T]he man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. “Hating life” does not suggest self-abuse (or neglect) or finding fault with everything in this world. Instead, the matters of this world come second to God. In a world jam-packed with time commitments, do you still find a few minutes with God in prayer and devotion? When a friend pressures you to hand your body over to sin, do you stand up and say: “No”? When someone hurts you, are you quick to forgive as Christ forgave you?
This is a difficult truth. You cannot love both God and this life. You will love one more than the other, and the object you love will become your G/god. Embracing the thoughts, the decisions, the behaviors that God calls “wrong” can actually divide us from him.
This is why Jesus comes. You see, if you (and I) had no spiritual needs, then Jesus has no reason to come. If Jesus had never come, then it shows the world has no sin. We needed no Savior. We are perfect. By the simple fact that Jesus comes at all it demonstrates there is something wrong with the world and with us.
This is how The Cross Reveals Jesus’ Glory. It divides you (and me) from the seductive pleasures that lead to death. The Cross Reveals Jesus’ Glory as he comes to conquer our greatest enemy.
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. The “prince of the world” is the devil. He does not rule the world or control it. Rather, he rules in the hearts of people. He tries to lure us away from our Creator, tempting us believe that life will be just fine apart from God.
Yet, Jesus comes for this reason: to conquer that lie. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” The grain seed trembles at the thought of plunging into death. Jesus even sweats drops of blood in Gethsemane pleading, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Yes, the dreadful anticipation of pain ripping through the body, the fatigue, the insults cause him to shudder. Yet, something even more repulsive stands in front of him: the cross. The object upon which he will hang under God’s thunderous anger, with your love for this life draped across him. And Jesus comes to conquer the eternal effects of your wandering choices.
When Jesus closes his eyes in death, it looks like the prince of this world has now become king! All the forces of Satan sneer and snarl and gleefully think they have won. The smug chief priests gloat and the calloused soldiers sneer at another execution and the passersby wistfully shake their heads. Yet, on Easter’s early morning, Jesus breaks out of his tomb alive. The debt of sin has been paid in full.
This world’s prince has been dethroned! No longer can the devil demand you spend eternity in hell with him. He cannot point to your actions and scream, “But God, she disobeyed! Punish him! Damn her!” He cannot hiss that he is equal to God. He can do nothing. When Jesus is lifted up on the cross, he signs on the dotted line for your release with his blood and gives to God what you and I cannot: perfect obedience. God has accepted that payment.
Now, you are free to enter heaven— and the devil cannot stop it. The Cross Reveals Jesus’ Glory, because on the cross Jesus conquers the devil and draws you to himself.
You see, you cannot live neutral to the work of Jesus. Either you follow him in faith or you reject his Word for your life. Yet, the power to follow Jesus does not come (or even start) from you. Jesus draws you to himself.
[W]hen I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to myself. Through the Word and at your baptism, the Holy Spirit created the faith in your heart to look up at the cross and believe. The One lifted up makes payment for sin. When Jesus is lifted up from death, you see the payment has been accepted. When Jesus is lifted up into heaven, you see a victorious King establish his eternal reign.
Now as you look at the cross, you see it Reveal Jesus’ Glory. That’s why you are here today. You are not ashamed of the One whose life fell to the ground so that you can have life. You are not willing to sacrifice life with Jesus so that you may indulge in the world. You are here to be reminded of the great lengths of love Jesus endured to draw you to himself forever. You are here to be strengthened with the Word so that you can fight against the fallen prince of this world. You are here for the Holy Spirit to still strengthen your faith so that you follow Jesus with an undivided heart.
When it comes to the work of Jesus, you cannot remain neutral. You can (1) cling to Jesus by faith. The world hated his teachings and so the world may insult you for believing his teachings. You may suffer for following Jesus, but you will gain heaven. Or, you can (2) reject Jesus as Savior. Ignore his commands. Embrace the godless behaviors of the world and feel content that you blend into a Christ-less society, but you will spend eternity in hell. Those are the only two options. When it comes to the work of Jesus, you cannot remain neutral. You either side with him and his Word or you do not.
By God’s mercy alone, Jesus is lifted up to draw you to himself. Jesus accomplishes what he promises to do. As you look up at the cross, you see how he has joined you to him. So, you follow with an undivided heart. The Cross Reveal Jesus’ Glory as he comes to divide, to conquer, and to draw.