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Palm Sunday/Passion of the Lord - Series B

Text: John 12:20-43

Title: “Truly Seeing Jesus”

Date: Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

We live in dark and dangerous times. The stability we crave in life seems shaken every time we turn around. Our country goes deeper and deeper into debt…more than 21 trillion dollars according to US Debt Clock.org. Men and women continue to be downsized from their jobs and have a difficult time finding full-time employment. The joining together of one man and one woman in holy marriage that God Himself instituted and blessed continues to be challenged by the gay and transgender communities. From sociopaths to ISIS and radical Islam…all of them continue to wreak havoc and devastation in our country and throughout the world. We need relief…we need hope…we need someone to save us from all this madness.
         Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, where faithful followers of Jesus Christ remember His suffering and death to save us from the madness of sin, death, and Satan. This coming week, we Christians will once again sit in the upper room with Christ to hear His final words and prayers, and then receive His true body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine. We will go with Christ to the Garden of Gethsemane to hear His anguished prayers and witness the betrayal of Judas. You and I will once again be present at the trial of Jesus before Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, where Christ is mocked and condemned. Then we will come before the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, and see the “King of the Jews” tortured first and then sentenced to death prior to His journey to the cross.

         Today also recognizes the way Jewish people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. This morning, the events recorded in our sermon text take place two days after the first Palm Sunday. Jesus spends much of that Tuesday in the Temple courts where the leaders of the Jews question His teaching authority. (cf. Mk 11:27-33) And this day will be the last that the Lord Jesus teaches publicly before He suffers and dies.

         Also in Jerusalem at this time is a multitude of pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire to worship and celebrate the Feast of the Passover. Among those present are a group of Gentiles who had converted to the Jewish religion. These Greek proselytes likely heard about Jesus’ reputation of healing the sick…restoring sight to the blind…making the lame walk…and casting out demons. This group comes to Philip with a request…”Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (v 21b) Perhaps they think Jesus is the one who can give hope and meaning to their lives.

         When Jesus hears this request, it reminds him of the work He is about to do. He makes it clear that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (v 23) The time has arrived for the message of the One who has come to save all people to be spoken for all to hear. Jesus points out that if you want to see Him, then you must die just like the seed that dies so “it bears much fruit.” (v 24) Jesus must now be the seed that dies in order that the abundance of fruit of forgiveness, life, and salvation can be harvested. He has fulfilled the Father’s will with a few final important acts remaining. If you truly want to see Jesus….be repulsed by your comfortable, self-serving lifestyle. (cf. v 25) If you truly want to see Jesus…follow Him in a self-denial lifestyle and serve Him and your neighbor. (v 26; cf. Mt 16:24-25)
         What Jesus is inferring here is that life in Him on this side of heaven is a risky life. Those of you here this morning who are farmers or gardeners know about risk. Every year you put seeds in the ground, not knowing what the weather conditions will be. Will there be enough rain? Will there be rain at the right time? Will the wind and the sun of summer whither the crops? All these questions are asked once the farmer has risked the seed and is willing to let it die so that it might germinate and create life. To not risk the seed but keep it in the bin for safe-keeping is to receive nothing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what are you willing to do so others might see Jesus? The Lord says that those of you who love your life and see your life as all-important…will ultimately lose it. Do not be like the Pharisees who “loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (v. 43) Only those who hate their life in this world can have a new life in Christ and be “sons of light.” (v. 36b) Only those who hate their life in this world can have a harvest of self-denial service to the Lord of hope and love.

         This is quite a challenge since you and I live in very risky and perilous times. Many people in our culture are desperate for hope and meaning in their lives. And it seems that is what technologies of the 21st century are suppose to provide. I-pads and I-phones store and send digital photos, emails, or text messages. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other similar media are ways to express yourself to the world with the risk of exposing too much of your personal information. And never forget these media are also portals for evil people to use for their own twisted and demented purposes.

         Yet, given all this so-called advancement and progress…there is a bit of irony. As our society continues leaping into new worlds of biotechnology, genetic engineering, and nanotechnology…it also continues crawling backwards into the caves of old world philosophies and spiritual “paganism” and the worship of Mother Earth…all of which does not want to see Jesus!

As a disciple of Jesus, you may be tempted to shield yourself from these issues or think that they are not very important. As a disciple of Christ, you may also be tempted to keep Jesus to yourself. After all, one of the critiques of mainline churches today is that we are not well equipped to lead the unchurched to truly “seeing” Jesus. Too often, congregations are only concerned about themselves and their own members. What does following and serving Jesus look like for you in this community of Emporia and Greensville County? As God’s son or daughter, are you willing to take a risk of sharing Jesus for the possibility of a harvest of new believers and also renewed believers…those who had moved away from the Lord?
         In our sermon text, Jesus addresses all this by telling us what will happen to Him. His soul is troubled because the reality of being the sin-bearer is closing in on Him. The Son of Man will be lifted up on a cross on account of all peoples’ sin and for all peoples’ salvation. (cf. vv 27-32) Christ will be crucified and killed. He will be planted and then the harvest of this planting will be eternal life as God intended life for you. The harvest will be an absence of fear in the midst of whatever will seek to overcome you. The harvest will be hope in a world desperate for hope and victory over evil, which seeks to destroy you.

As a resurrected seed of God, you become a bearer of the Good News of salvation. This is the Good News celebrated as you hear God’s Word. This is the Good News of God’s love and mercy that came to you hidden in the waters of your Baptism and in the eating of bread and the drinking of wine…Christ’s true body and blood. The Good News is…because Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, darkness cannot overtake you and nothing can take hope from you. Through the darkest and most evil times, the Light of the world walks with you and will give you strength to stare down the most powerful evil that can confront you. When you have died to all that would hold you back…you will be seen as a servant of the One who invites you to die in Him and live in Him. For in Revelation 2:10 God says; “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
         So even though you and I live in dark and dangerous times and the stability we crave in life seems shaken every time we turn around…there is hope, love, and mercy. Truly see the Son of God, who promises to be with you always even unto the end of the age. (cf. Mt 28:20)  Truly see the Savior of the world as He dies, so that you might receive the great harvest of sins forgiven and eternal life. Truly see the resurrected Jesus Christ, who brings you to the triumphal entry into His kingdom, in everlasting joy and blessed righteousness. Amen.

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