Seeing Jesus (John 12:20-26)

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Frederick Douglas (1818-95) was a prominent American abolitionist, author and orator.[1] He was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and later escaped at age 20, going on to become a national anti-slavery activist. His writings and speaking were very influential to indict the institution of slavery.

Douglas made himself the most photographed American of the 19th century, sitting for 160 separate photographs (Abraham Lincoln sat for 126).[2] Douglass used his photographs to change the way viewers saw black people. He wrote, “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” And that is what Douglass did with his portraits. He took contemporary stereotypes of African-Americans — that they are inferior, unlettered, comic and dependent — and turned them upside down. In almost all the photographs, Douglass is formally dressed, in black coat, vest, stiff formal collar and bow tie. He is a dignified and highly cultured member of respectable society. He never smiles to not give the impression that slaves were content in their institutionalized circumstances. Instead, Douglas often looks straight into the camera lens, which was unique back then due to modesty, and allows the viewer to see the man eye to eye and face to face. Frederick Douglas used art to re-train people how to see.

Seeing is not simple. We can look at something without truly seeing.

On this Easter Sunday the aim of my message is to help us look at and see Jesus.

–        Message from Bible.

o   Complicated book bc it doesn’t answer all our questions and we are challenged to understand it.

o   Accessible book bc when people read with sincerity it is life-changing… start with the Gospels.

o   Today’s message is in Gospel of John / pew bible page #898

Easter 2017_2

EXAMINE       John 12:24-26                                  Seeing Jesus                       Easter 2017

John 12:20-26 20  Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23  And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24  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. 25  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26  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.

Jesus has lived for 33 years, with approximately the last 3 years of His life as a public ministry of speaking and serving people. Jesus’ ministry aim was at least two-fold: 1) To reveal God. Jesus was God with skin (incarnate). The words Jesus spoke and the works Jesus performed were the ways and being of God. 2) To rescue humanity. If we are left to ourselves, we hinder and hurt each other. Our selfishness and pride are untamable and we need something or someone to rescue us from selfishness that leads to disaster and sin that leads to death.

To help us see Jesus in this passage – and for us to experience the meaning of Easter today – we need to affirm these 3 realities.

 #1 Outsiders loved Jesus.

The setting of this passage is the Jewish Passover. Passover was an annual festival for Jews to commemorate their national deliverance from Egyptian enslavement. God sent several plagues to the Egyptian Pharaoh, with the tenth and final plague of death to Egyptian firstborn. However, God spared the Israelites of each plague, including of the last with death. Each household that applied to their front doors the blood of a sacrificial lamb were “passed over” with death. Many Jews would also travel great distances to pilgrimage to the capital city of Jerusalem and offer sacrifices in celebration of Passover.

In this case, there were also Greeks who came to celebrate the Passover. It is unknown if these Greeks were dispersed Jews or God-fearing Gentiles; likely the latter due to 1) they respectfully approach the Disciples rather than go directly to Jesus, and 2) a Gentile curiosity fits the aim of John’s for this passage and his Gospel (cf. Jn 12:19 “the whole world has gone after him”; 12:32 “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself”; and further emphasis upon salvation for the world Jn 1:29; 3:16; 4:23; 6:40; 8:12; 10:16; 12:45; 18:37; 21:24-25. The point is it is the non-Jews and outsiders who want to see Jesus.

Previously Jesus told a group of religious leaders that though they look, they don’t truly see and are blind (Jn 9:39-41). So, while religious people often have up close observations about Jesus, they are the ones who do not see Jesus clearly. However, the outsiders, and most specifically those who admit their lives are imperfect and immoral are the ones who see Jesus with openness to His salvation.

Today, there are many outsiders who may like Jesus but not the church. Some have been raised in the church and fallen away, while others are unfamiliar with any religious culture. And while a fondness or familiarity with Jesus is a starting point, it isn’t substantial to have any impact in your life. Think about it, Judas was inches from Jesus but still in route to hell.

Why study Jesus?

–        Bearded men are beautiful.

o   You may call it facial hair, but I call it fantastic on my face.

o   With a great beard comes great responsibility; beards also reflect character traits of patience and persistence which are great qualities every woman wants in a man – take notes single men!

o   Abe Lincoln (greatest POTUS), Sean Connery/Morgan Freeman (greatest male actors), and Chuck Norris (greatest every man), and Jesus!

–        Most important figure in history, sustaining the course of over two-thousand years. Today ~1/3 of world population professes faith in Jesus[3], while other religions reference him in some form.

–        Talks a lot about love and peace, which this world is desperately lacking. We can learn from Jesus.

–        Anyone who can heal the sick and raise the dead should get our attention.

So, if you don’t know Jesus or it has been some time since you’ve related to Jesus, then my encouragement to you is to be like these Greeks asking to see Jesus. Take the next step toward Jesus…

–        In the next week/month, read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).

–        Watch movie “The Case For Christ” or check out http://ehrmanproject.com/

–        Meet with Christian friend or pastor over coffee or meal to discuss Jesus.

–        SPBC upcoming sermon series in April-May/Summer isn’t specifically about Jesus but important implications of what it means to follow Jesus – “How To Be Rich” and then later in summer “Rogue Living”.

#2 Jesus loved outsiders to death.

While it is unknown if these Greeks ever do get a direct meeting with Jesus, John recounts for us a response by Jesus. John’s Gospel outlines the life of Jesus. Previously in Johns Gospel it is recorded that Jesus’ hour was not ready.[4] The statement of Jesus’ hour references His death. However, at this point in the Gospel, Jesus is days away from His death. In Jesus’ words, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (Jn 12:23). Jesus’ knowledge of His impending death was both a burden and blessing. It was a burden for the obvious reasons of the emotional and physical suffering He would face. Jesus’ awareness of coming death was also a blessing in that He leveraged these circumstances to teach His disciples life-transforming truth.

The truth Jesus shares with the Disciples is a metaphor about His death and resurrection. “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” (Jn 12:24).

Whenever Jesus drops the “Truly, truly” that means pay attention.

–        Jesus uses imagery relevant to agrarian society and blue collar disciples. A seed must die and enter the ground for it to grow and produce fruit. Likewise, Jesus would not establish God’s kingdom without His sacrificial death.

–        There is no Easter Resurrection Sunday without Crucifixion Friday.

–        There is no light without going through the shadows of darkness; no summit peak destination without the journey through the valley; no completeness of joy without the context of suffering and sorrow.

–        Yet, following Jesus’ death would be His resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection would result in the fruit of 11 Disciples turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6) and never being the same. The promise of people from every tribe, language, people, and nation to be present in God’s kingdom is exciting and an enormous task. Think about it, how could 11 ordinary and unschooled Jewish men reach people across the world and sustain for centuries later? Only because they had been transformed by Jesus (Acts 4:13).

Jesus’ death on the cross is sobering. To consider that people were murdered in this manner is mind-blowing. Fleming Rutledge’s provides insight “… Crucifixion as a means of execution in the Roman Empire had as its express purpose the elimination of victims from consideration as members of the human race. It cannot be said too strongly: that was its function. It was meant to indicate to all who might be toying with subversive ideas that crucified persons were not of the same species as either the executioners or the spectators and were therefore not only expendable but also deserving of ritualized extermination.

Therefore, the mocking and jeering that accompanied crucifixion were not only allowed, they were part of the spectacle and were programmed into it. In a sense, crucifixion was a form of entertainment. Everyone understood that the specific role of the passersby was to exacerbate the dehumanization and degradation of the person who had been thus designated to be a spectacle. Crucifixion was cleverly designed — we might say diabolically designed — to be an almost theatrical enactment of the sadistic and inhumane impulses that lie within human beings. According to the Christian gospel, the Son of God voluntarily and purposefully absorbed all of that, drawing it into himself. . . . “[5]

Jesus faced His enemy with weapons that were stripes on his back, scars in his hands, blood on his brow, and love on his face.

Jesus’ death on the cross is substitutionary. Jesus did not die for wrongs committed by His own life, but for ours. He willingly stepped forward to die in our place. One of the religious leaders who sought to rid and murder Jesus indirectly prophesied such saying, “it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (Jn 11:50); and “Jesus saying, ‘let these men go” (Jn 18:8). Another person says it this way, “[God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Cor 5:21). Jesus was our substitute to live the perfect life we cannot accomplish on our own, and to die the death punishment we deserve for wrongs against humanity and sin against Holy God.

Jesus loved us to death. Pause a moment to let that sink in.

Illus: My wife is pregnant with our 5th child. First, I’m grateful she even married me. And second, I’m overjoyed she even had one child, not to mention in process to have our five.

Proverbs 30:18-19 “Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on the rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a woman.”

Life, marriage, and parenting are amazing wonders and gifts that God brings to us. Wrapped into all of that is a love that is difficult for humans to express in words. The love of a man and woman, the love and bond between a mother and carrying her child for 9mo, and then raising that child. Unfathomable love is shared in earthly relationships, but God’s love is even more vast and unplumbed.[6] But while God’s love is immeasurable it is available because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection to live in reconciled relationship with humanity.

è Will you trust Jesus Christ as one who offers love, life, and leadership with you? Following the message will be an opportunity for you to respond publicly or you may write your name & contact on our Connection Card and turn in to us.

#3 We must die to live.

A third truth we must embrace is Jesus’ call to follow Him. Faith in God is about following Jesus. As Jesus lived, served, sacrificed, and gave His life away, so we His followers must do the same. “A servant is not greater than his master” (Jn 13:16). Following Jesus is not about loving life on earth and having our best life on earth in the present, but rather of dying to comfort zones and contentment with earthly pleasures in order to have a future reward in heaven. Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25).

We must die to live.

–        Die to our pride. Dying to pride means we admit we cannot do life alone. Pride seeks to elevate itself above God. When we die to pride we admit that God is greater than us, sufficient for us, and that we need Him and His resources.

o   Too often we try to get God to give us prizes without giving Him our pride.

o   We are dying to a life wasted on the pursuit of pleasure that only lasts a few moments…

o   We are dying to pleasing people who only love you for what you have to offer and not unconditionally.

o   We are dying to a life of monotony, anxiety, and all sorts of empty frustrations people have in this world because they have missed the grand purpose of all life.

–        Die to our past. Dying to sin means we admit we have done life wrongly. Sin is any attitude or action that has fallen short of glorying God and loving neighbors. When we die to sin, we leave our past ways at the cross and we are transformed by the power of God’s Spirit to a new way of life (Titus 3:12). We do not have to live in guilt, shame, or fear, because all our sin is paid fully and finally at the cross of Jesus.

–        Die to our apathy. Jesus calls us to serve God and people as He did. “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” (Jn 12:26). In another of John’s writings he says, “whoever says he abides in [Jesus] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1Jn 2:6). When we die to pride, our past, and to apathy, we are living as Jesus and dying to live.

APPLY/THINK

Jesus’ resurrection reveals God’s principles have value, God’s power is vast, and God’s promises are trustworthy. Today, Jesus is calling you faith in His death and to follow in dying, that you may join Him in resurrection hope. Your life is only a seed and you cannot expect flowers or fruit unless you are planted in the soil of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What hinders you from planting that seed?

[1] Information from http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/frederick-douglass

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/02/opinion/how-artists-change-the-world.html?_r=0

[3] http://www.pewforum.org/2012/12/18/global-religious-landscape-exec/

[4] See John 2:4; 4:21, 4:23; 5:25, 5:28; 7:30; 8:20, but also 12:23; 13:1; 16:2, 16:21.

[5] The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, pages 89–95.

[6] http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-loves-you-even-more-than-i-do

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