20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, 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. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If 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.
27“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. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (John 12:20–43)
Just a few words before this text in St. John’s Gospel, we have this account of our Lord entering into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:12-14).
Today, the church rejoices in her King, her King who rode into Jerusalem, just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). With the cry of Hosanna, which means, Save and is also an exclamation of praise, the people praised Jesus and gave to the Lord the glory due His name (Psalm 96:8). They echoed the words of the Psalmist, Save now, I pray, O LORD… Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! (Psalm 118:25-26)
By their words, they declared the truth of who Jesus was. By their confession, they spoke of Christ’s true identity and who sent Him. Jesus was the Messiah, the promised One, who would save and deliver Israel. To Him they cried shouts of adoration, acclamation, worship, and honor; the King of kings and the Lord of Lords. Though Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey, Jesus is the great king above all kings (Zechariah 9:9). This Jesus who entered humbly into Jerusalem is the same Jesus whom God also has highly exalted and given the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-10).
Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but only on His journey to enter another locale, that of Mount Calvary. This is why He had said, for this purpose I have come to this hour. He had not come to receive glory and honor of men, but for the salvation of sinners.
By ‘this hour’ that our Lord spoke of, our Lord meant the time of His very suffering and death. In our text, Jesus says, 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. Here He is speaking of His death. Through His death, much fruit would born, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible (1 Peter 1:23). That fruit is those who bear His name, those who believe and so are saved, Christ-bearers, Christians by name.
The reason Christ came into the world was to save sinners, not to save by force or in power of might, but to save through weakness and humility, in perfect obedience to the will of His Father.
Jesus made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:7-8).
This was demonstrated not long after the hero’s welcome by the people in Jerusalem on that day called, ‘Palm Sunday’. Later that same week, the chief priests, the officers, and the Jews would call out, Crucify, crucify and call only Caesar their king, not, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews (John 19:6, 15, 19).
He who was acknowledged as the King of Israel, He who comes in the Name of the Lord, is the One sent by the Father to demonstrate God’s love for all people. For fallen mankind Jesus was sent, not to merit our salvation by conquering sin in life, but by conquering sin through death—His own death. This is the Christian faith, that God saves sinners through the death of His only begotten Son.
This Jesus who came for the purpose of saving you is He who receives all Hosannas, honors, and praise, and rightly so. This One alone brings true peace with God and with one another. He is your Mediator and your Advocate (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1). He makes intercession to the Father—for you—without ceasing (Romans 8:34). Though clothed in lowly form, Jesus Christ is the very Word of God, through whom All things were made…and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1, 3).
Jesus is He, “who, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Maryy and was made man” (2nd Article of Nicene Creed). If He would have come in power and might, all would flee from Him. He is perfect and holy. You are not. You are beset by your sin and unworthy to stand in God’s presence. If He would have come with the use of force and coercion, none would willingly follow Him. The Law can make people do many things, but the Law is not of faith and God’s grace, nor is it the means of your salvation.
Your Lord comes to you in weakness, that you might believe Him according to His Word and not according to what you see. He comes in lowliness that you might trust in His promises. He gathers you to Himself by that which is weak and lowly that you not go by sight, but by what He says.
Therefore do you come to receive His mercy and His grace which He gives in Word and Sacrament. Therefore do you readily hear and believe His forgiveness spoken through the called and ordained servant of the word. Therefore do you believe His word preached through the pastor, who is called not to preach his own word, but God’s, that you be strengthened in the faith and continue in that faith, remain in His Word, continue to be His disciples, and know the truth (John 8:31-32). Therefore do you come to the Lord’s Table as the Lord bids you, for there, your Lord Jesus gives His very body and blood in bread and wine that you eat and drink eternal life.
Through these means, your Lord gives you certainty and peace with Him and eternal life. Christ won forgiveness for you on the cross, but through Word and Sacrament, God gives you the blessed benefits of that cross.
Though these means through which God works appear lowly and insignificant, it is not according to your eyes that you truly perceive and believe what God is giving. It is according to His Word alone that you believe His Word to be so. Your eyes would here deceive, as they readily do, just as in Jesus’ day, where few believed Christ to be who He said He was because of His appearance.
Your reason and human understanding here would also deceive, for these cannot grasp the things of God, for the Scripture says that The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But God’s Word cannot and will not be undone. Nor do the Lord’s sheep go after the voices of strangers, deceivers, and false teachers, for Christ’s sheep hear His voice and His voice only. They go by His Word and not by the word, speculation, or opinion of fallen man.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27).
And so in today’s text does Jesus say, 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.
There will come a time when the whole world, even those who try to work against God, will acknowledge Jesus Christ to be Lord, but the time is not yet and the moment is not now. Christ’s true identity as God and man remains hidden from those who deny God’s Salvation through cross and death. But Jesus is the only Savior. He is your only Savior.
The entrance of our Lord Christ into the City of Jerusalem in lowliness on a donkey hid His divinity. But it is in lowliness and humility that our Lord comes, not bearing the signs of a great ruler, but that of a meek servant. He comes to draw, not to drive away; to forgive, not to charge; and to save, not to condemn.
In God’s wisdom, has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Here do we see Christ, who came into the world lowly, laid in a manger; having humbly entered into the city, riding upon a donkey; dying a death reserved for sinners, having been nailed to the cross. Those who receive this Jesus as He is in truth believe Him according to what He says. And these will have eternal life. The Christ who concealed His divinity in the flesh is hidden from unbelievers. Only those who believe in Him according to His Word will see Him for who He is – their Savior and the world’s Savior. These will come to hear His Word and to receive from Him gifts of life, even through the humble means of water, and even through the lowly means of bread and wine.
Through earthly elements our Lord gives you His grace. In bread and wine, Christ gives His own body and blood to eat and to drink in His Supper. Here He gives you forgiveness of all your sins and assures you of that forgiveness. By the preaching of His Word, He plants faith within the heart and raises to new life by means of His Gospel (Romans 10:17). Through the mouth of fallible man, the Lord forgives sins and pardons iniquity (Matthew 16:19; 18:18).
By His Word, the Lord makes Himself known. Jesus reveals Himself to be the One who came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7), whom the Father sent, in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin and condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
This is the same Lord and Jesus Christ who offers Himself to you in Word and instituted Sacrament.
Jesus says, Where I am, there will my servant be also. Where Christ’s Word is preached and where He gives Himself in the Sacrament, there the Lord’s children will be, hearing and receiving for the strengthening of their faith and unto eternal life. Not only this, His servants continue fighting with their sin and temptation and put down their sinful Adam daily, repenting of their sin and holding fast to Christ alone for help and salvation, for Christ alone is the only help and the only salvation. You know this because you are His servants. You are His people. You carry His Name. You are His. Amen.