Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Life For Death” based on John 12:20-33 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered: Sunday, March 18, 2018
There are three times in the New Testament when God the Father’s voice is heard, booming from above. The first was at Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. God told all of the men and women who had witnessed this ceremony that Jesus is his Son and, therefore, Jesus is the One who was commissioned to carry out the work of the world’s salvation.
The second time, as Peter, James, and John were almost blinded by the transfiguration of Jesus, God reminded them, again, that Jesus is his Son, but, this time, made sure that they focused more on what Jesus was saying, rather than on what they were seeing. Jesus had been talking about his impending trip to Jerusalem and his work of the world’s salvation.
So, now, maybe a week or two later, after Jesus had entered into the streets of Jerusalem amid shouts of praise and glory on that first Palm Sunday, people wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. It could have been some of his miraculous signs and wonders that garnered their attention. After all, the chapter right before the Gospel reading for today recounts the account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps, though, it was simply word of mouth about the way that Jesus spoke and taught, either in his style that was so pleasing to the ear, or his content that was so comforting to the heart.
Whatever it was, some who had not met Jesus yet, wanted to see him. They wanted to see the One who was changing the world one small word or deed at a time.
Jesus recognized that now was the time for him to answer those questions to groups much larger than his twelve disciples. Now was the time to tell people to see who he really was and why he came onto this earth. Listen again:
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…
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.
Wait, first, he was talking about his glory and then, right afterward, he started talking about wheat kernels and death? That doesn’t seem to follow. What do wheat kernels and death have to do with Jesus’ glory—his renown among the people?
That’s seems like a pretty logical question; one that could still be asked today. As millions, and even billions, of people still seek to find out more and more about Jesus, there are plenty of points of interest that are involved in their investigations.
Was Jesus really born of a virgin? What happened from the time of his birth until he was 12 years old in the Temple? What about the next 18 years between then and the beginning of his ministry at age 30?
Do you really have to believe that he was and is the Son of God to follow some of his most basic teachings—like loving your neighbor as yourself, taking care of the poor, the needy, and the widows, or, here’s a big one, judge not, lest ye be judged?
Did he really do all of the miracles that the bible says he did or, rather, can science explain them away, just like it can for the beginning of the world and the 10 plagues?
Some of those questions have pretty clear answers found in the Scriptures. Some of them don’t. And, really, that’s ok. Some of them are very important. Some of them aren’t. That, too, is ok. However, when people wanted to know about Jesus in this section from John’s Gospel, he didn’t tell them about his virgin birth. He didn’t address any questions about his formative years. He didn’t talk about loving your neighbor or raising his friend, Lazarus from the dead.
But, oh, don’t you wish that he did? Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus’ purpose in coming down to this earth was to be a great moral teacher or if Jesus simply came onto this earth to make people’s lives physically easier?
Wouldn’t that, really, make your interactions with your God much more honest? If Jesus was only here to say good things and do good things for your earthly life, then you could pray that to-do list that you’ve been wanting to ask about anyway. You wouldn’t have to feel selfish about asking for lots of money, for a better job, for a better looking wife, or for kids that are smarter and better behaved than yours. You wouldn’t have to start or end with, thy will be done. You could just get to the heart of the matter and ask him to make you feel better; to remove your sadness, your sickness, or your pain, without having to worry if God is somehow trying to teach you something through it.
The first two times that the Father’s voice boomed from above, it was to direct people’s attention toward the work that Jesus was going to do in order to save the world from its impending and deserved doom and destruction in the fires of hell. Like a divine arrow pointed at Jesus, the Father’s voice marked Jesus as his anointed and appointed Savior for all of mankind. And, not surprisingly, the third time that it happened was for the same purpose. Listen again:
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!
Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.
The Father was confirming that what Jesus was talking about was true; that it revealed the glory of God and the purpose for which Jesus came. He came not to be a shining example of a teenager, to be a great moral teacher, or to be some sort of miracle healer. He came to be a kernel of wheat. He came to die so that others, through his death, would have life. He came to die so that you, through him, would have life.
And, because Jesus died, because he substituted himself in your place, to die the death that your sins deserve, the Father’s voice booms again to let you know what gives God glory and the purpose for which Jesus came. No, it no longer gets confused for thunder or the voice of an angel. Instead, it is much more clear and available anytime you want to hear it.
Week after week, you hear it right here in this building as he says to you, “God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Therefore, as a called servant of Christ, and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
He speaks officially and publicly through his called workers, but he also does so informally through your Christian family, friends, and neighbors and through your own eyes and ears as your read his holy Word.
It says that Jesus died so that you would be forgiven and so that, through him and his death, you would have life—not an enjoyable time with nothing to complain about for 70 or 80 years, but life eternal with him in heaven.
With your salvation as his purpose, Jesus was willing to do anything and everything that it took to accomplish his task, even giving up his own life for you.
What is your purpose? Are you here on this earth to be morally good? Are you here simply to garner all of the shiny stuff of this world and the respect and admiration of everyone you know?
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
You are here to be a servant of Jesus so that you can follow him to where he is. That means doing what he did—not sacrificing your life on a cross, but, rather, carrying your cross and sacrificing your wants, your deepest desires, and your own needs for the benefit of everyone else around you and not letting anything stand in the way of that.
Give glory to God with your life, not yourself, and you, too, will produce many seeds, so that others may hear, believe, serve, and follow Jesus, too. Amen.