Sunday, September 20, 2009

John 12:20-33; Holy Cross Day; September 20, 2009;

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 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. (John 12:20-33, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

You know, the whole world is looking for something spiritual. I have heard that the fastest growing religion in the world right now is Islam. It’s growing in Africa, South American, Canada, and yes even in the United States. It is a part of the human psyche to want spiritual things to be a part of life.

People especially look for God, as a higher power, in times of trouble. Just remember our national outcry after the attacks of 9/11. Everywhere you looked there were people crying out to God for help and understanding. People want God to be a part of their lives. They want God around when stuff isn’t going well. But the question could well be asked “What god?”

The term god that is used in the public square is very generic and it is meant to be that way. Sometimes you might even hear it said like this; “Let us each pray to god, using whatever name we know him by.” The truth is there is no generic god. There is only one true God. He is the one we should seek. He is the one we should pray to. He is the God who comes to us in Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel today finds some “Greeks” looking for Jesus. These guys were, presumably, people who believed in the God of the Jews. They were in Jerusalem for the Passover, they saw that Jesus was there and wanted to know more about him. “We want to see Jesus.” They asked Philip. Of course they didn’t just want to look his direction, they didn’t just want to stand beside the road and watch him walk by. They wanted to look him over, and see what made him so different. They wanted to talk to him. They wanted to get a chance to get to know him. They wanted to see what everyone else saw when they saw Jesus. Here was a man who brought a crowed with him as he marched into the city in a parade of palms looking to everyone like the next King of the Jews. Here was a man who had the guts to go into the temple and clear out the moneychangers and their overpriced sacrifices. He was a man who had raised a three-day-dead-man to life again. He was a man who drew crowds with him everywhere he went. He was a focus of public attention and they wanted to know what every one else saw when they looked at him. They wanted to see what they would see when they looked at Jesus. These curious men came to Andrew and Philip to take them to see Jesus.

Philip and Andrew were not new to bringing people to Jesus. Andrew brought his brother Peter. And Philip brought Nathaniel. “Come and see, we have found the Christ!” they said to their brothers. “Come and look at what we have found. Come see him for yourself.” And now they brought these Greeks to Jesus, “These Greeks, these gentiles, want to see you Jesus. Is it ok?” They asked.

What do you think those Greeks saw when they looked at Jesus? It would probably be easy to describe Jesus, that is what he looked like. How many pictures have you seen? How many pictures do we have all around here? Unkempt hair, smiling face, beard… Halo around his head? Eyes that burn into your soul? Smiling, crying, frowning, and laughing? When these men came to Jesus did they see what they though they’d see? Was Jesus what they expected?

Maybe I should ask the question of you, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask Christian people: What do you see when you look at Jesus?

Think about Palm Sunday. The Jews that followed Jesus to Jerusalem shouting “Hosanna!” saw a powerful king. They must have been overjoyed when he flushed the corruption out of the temple. It was a very powerful and king like thing to do. That’s exactly what they wanted; someone who would get them out from under the thumb of the Romans; someone powerful to take their biggest problems to and let him take care of them. When they looked at Jesus they saw someone who was going to make everything better.

Do you see Jesus that way? Is that the first thing you think of when you see Jesus? My God is an awesome God! I think we all do at times. “If I just have faith in Jesus everything will be alright.”

Susan stood beside here father’s bed. He had been wracked with pain for 3 months. “It’ll be ok dad. We just have to have faith and Jesus will heal you.” She is all smiles and confidant. When Susan sees Jesus she sees healing for her father. That’s the awesomeness of God in her life. Her faith is about Jesus making her father right again.

Ray was successful. Business was great and in spite of the failing economy he was still doing well. He was often asked about the secret to his success. It wasn’t a secret as far as he was concerned. He just followed the principals found in the Bible. As long as he did that Jesus would make sure he was successful.

“Lord,” cried Amy. “Give us the victory over these evil people who only want to cause us pain and suffering. Show your glory in their defeat! You promise that we will be victorious over sin. Make it so now.” As she prayed the crowd around her murmured their approval. They were sure Jesus would show his power and defeat their enemies.

I wonder if that’s what the Greeks who came to Jesus saw? Jesus powerful. King Jesus. Jesus making a glorious stand against everything that was wrong in the world. I think Jesus wants them to see something different. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.” Jesus isn’t talking about throwing out the Roman Legions. He’s not talking about healing every disease, he’s not talking about establishing a glorious earthly kingdom based in Jerusalem. He talking about death and suffering. He’s talking about having a troubled heart. He says following him isn’t about being healed and successful. It’s about hating one’s life and being a servant. None of that sounds very glorious to me. It’s not what I want to see in Jesus. I don’t think its what the Greeks expected to hear or see.

The truth is faith in Jesus isn’t about being successful in life. It’s not about being healed from every disease. It isn’t about triumphing over our enemies. Faith in Jesus is about seeing Jesus lifted up on a cross, bleeding and dying, suffering and crying out in pain. Faith in Jesus is about that Seed dying and being buried. That’s what today, the Festival of the Holy Cross, is all about. It is a day to thing about the cross of Jesus, and what it means. Our faith is in Jesus Christ who was crucified, lifted up. It’s what he did there on the cross that is so important to everyone. It is there that he “draws all people to himself.” It is there that he gets our attention as he dies.

Jesus is in his full glory on the cross. He is the one who hates his life for the sake of us all. What we mean is that he loved us more than himself. He willingly hung on the cross out of love for you and me. It’s been said that nails didn’t hold Jesus on the cross, love did. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, to be lifted up on the cross and suffer, and die, for the sins of the whole world. Our God is an awesome God. We see just exactly what that means when we stand at the foot of the cross.

What do we see when we look at Jesus? We see Jesus crucified, dead and buried. We see Jesus dying for us, and our sins. We see Jesus paying the penalty for all that we do wrong every day; the things that hurt our friends and family; the things that cause us pain and suffering. We see Jesus suffering for all that we don’t do that we should. Ignoring the suffering of others, and passing up opportunities to share the love of Jesus with other. We see Jesus taking all our punishment to the grave, and packing it all in there to stay, freeing us from it all.

And there’s something else. This seed dies, but it springs up again and bears many seeds. Jesus rises from death and the grave. The punishment of sin is taken care of; the guilt of sin is washed away. Good Friday sorrow leads to Easter joy. But there is no Easter, no resurrection with out death and burial. There are no “many seeds” with out the death of the One.

Do you want to know who God is? The world is looking for Him. They want to see him as a god who will make their nation successful in war. They want to see him as a god who will give them a happy and healthy life, and a booming economy. But God isn’t necessarily found in those kinds of things. But he is found in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. That’s where he shows his love for the world. That’s where he shows his love for you and me. That’s what we see when we look at Jesus. Amen.

The Peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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