- Isaiah 9:1-7
- John 12:20-36
My friends, I suppose all us have had the experience of preparing to do something in public. It take us weeks to memorise our words for a speech, or a poem, or the introduction of another speaker. Or we might prepare an item for a concert. We learn the words, we pick the inflections for our voice, the hand movements, so that all will go well. We become confident that we can do it, and even repeat some phrases in our sleep.
Then the actual day arrives. The closer we get to that moment we need to step up, the less confident we become. It becomes a nightmare, and we suddenly wish we could just run away or disappear in thin air. This is human; it happens all the time.
There was a day in the life of Christ that He declared that his hour has come, and about it He said:
“Now my soul 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. (John 12:27, NIV)
He said these words because, although He was God, He was also fully man. In these words of Christ we hear the Gospel summarised.
Jesus Christ and the whole world
Our Saviour was sent into the world with the mission from the Father to seek and to save the lost. He came as light into the darkness. But He also became flesh and dwelled among us. Yes, He too was human.
He knew – and actually announced it more than once – that to accomplish his mission, He had to bear the sins of rebellious people, sinners, go to the cross to nail those sins on that cross, give his life and die a brutal death.
All along in John’s Gospel we read that He preached and proclaimed the Good news. He performed miracles, of which the pinnacle was bringing his friend Lazarus back to life. For a brief moment He enjoyed the praise of people who called Him the King of Israel. He rode on a donkey, and they waved palm branches and shouted, “Hosannah! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.”
But it was short-lived. The leaders, we read, wanted to kill Him.
But then, something happened. While his own people rejected Him, some Greeks wanted to talk to Him. The term “Greeks” roughly refer to all people who were not Jews.
In the crowd during the lead-up to Passover, some of these people came to find out more about the God of the Jews. They could freely move around in Jerusalem, and were even allowed in the forecourts of the Temple, but where the Jews worshipped, they were not allowed.
They heard the discussion about the Messiah, and about the One who brought Lazarus back to life, and that some claimed that He is the Son of God. So, some non-believers wanted to speak to Jesus.
They went to see Philip, who was from Galilee, and most probably has some Greek connections – his name “Philip” was not Jewish. While went to Andrew, also from Galilee.
We need to see the connection here between the Greeks – or non-Jewish believers – and the mission of Christ. We read in Isaiah 9:
There will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future He will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1–2, NIV)
How is this? Who was the light? Go to verse 6:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, NIV)
This brings us to the beginning of John’s Gospel:
Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:3–5, NIV)
He dwelled with the people, and displayed the glory of the Father. Of Him John the Baptist said, “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Of Him his Father said, that He gave his Son because He loves the world. Jesus Himself declared:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51, NIV)
So, when the non-believing Greeks, representing “the world”, showed up asking for Him, at the very time that his own people rejected Him – and we read about this in John 1:11: “He came to which was his own, but his own did not receive Him” – Jesus said,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23, NIV)
Death and increase
This now begs the question? Why “Son of Man” and how would He be “glorified”?
There’s other references to the “Son of God” and they refer to the office of Christ as the One representing God to the people. But “Son of Man” refers to Him as the One who would represent his people to God – those whom God gave to Him to rescue them from eternal condemnation.
So, how is He a representative of saved sinners glorified? He gave his life to die like a kernel of wheat that falls in the ground and dies. For, if He does not die, there would be no harvest. His sacrificial death became the first fruits – the beginning of the harvest. The harvest He brought to the Father was now more than just believing Jews; it includes those who believe in Him from all nations – those who may still walk in darkness, and those who once walked in darkness.
We hear our Lord say in John 10:
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16, NIV)
And in John 17 He prayed to his Father, and praying for his disciples, He included this prayer:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, (John 17:20, NIV)
And so, the Gospel is going out, and as Paul said to the Corinthian Christians:
What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures … (1 Corinthians 15:3–5, NIV)
This is our message. We preach it, because we believe it; we believe it, because it changed our lives; we know it changed our lives, because we were once dead in our sins, but now we are made alive; we are made alive, because He who rose from the dead is our Lord and Saviour.
And today, once again we proclaim the message of Him who gave his life – the Son of Man – who was glorified by the Father because He laid down his life freely, no one took it from Him. Like the Father, He too loves sinners and calls them into the light. That is the purpose of every time you open the Bible, and the purpose of every minister in every pulpit.
Have you heard this call? Have you come into the light, believing that Christ died for you? Listen to the words of our Lord:
Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When He had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (John 12:36, NIV)
This was about the last time He spoke in public. Time for his call to believe in Him eventually ran out. And so will it be for us: there will eventually be no chance to hear it again. Don’t wait until it is too late before you answer.
Sons of light
So what happens when you believe in Him and put your trust in Him? Does it bring any changes to your life?
First of all, let’s say it clearly: we’re saved by grace, good works don’t count to be saved. We’re saved on account of the sacrificial death of Christ.
But, when we believe in Him it surely brings changes in our lives. For starters, we are born again – we start a new life, the old has gone, the new has come. Paul writes:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)
Why could he say this? Because He understood what Jesus meant when He stated:
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. (John 12:25-26, NIV)
We follow Christ and we lose our lives in the love of Him who died for us. In another verse Jesus said:
And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27, NIV)
I cringe when I hear a cheap grace sermon, where the Gospel is presented as some sort of psychological therapeutic session for people who feel they are the victims of society who owes them an apology. They are never brought before the living holy God who hates sin, and they are never told about the love of God who gave his Son to be the remedy for sin and to bring us back to God, and therefore they are never brought to repentance. There is no message of justification in Christ alone, and as a result a great number of churchgoers don’t know a thing about sanctification. There is no visible difference between their lives before the Gospel and after the Gospel. No, there must be a difference: it’s like death and life, darkness and light, being blind, and having sight.
My dear friend, don’t be like the people we read about just a few verse further in John 12. Listen,
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:42–43, NIV)
But what about opposition? Listen carefully – and this is a wonderful message for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ: Jesus said about the hour which has come,
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31, NIV)
Satan is not in charge anymore. When Jesus died and He rose again, Satan was defeated and driven out.
My friend, because Satan was driven out and defeated, you don’t need to fear him anymore. You’ve got Christ on your side. But more that that, because the hour has come, this message needs to go out to all the nations of the world.
Take up your cross and follow Christ; exchange the old for the new. It will mean that you have to talk to your neighbour, or even a complete stranger, about the risen Lord. And they will need to see in your actions that you know what it means to take up your cross.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 22 January 2017