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“The Passion of the Lord,” John 12:20-43

 

For audio, go here.

 

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; JesusInSynagogue, copybut 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.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Today is the day in the Church year called “Palm Sunday,” that day in which the Lord entered Jerusalem on a donkey, that day in which the people, with palm branches, cried out, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13 || Psalm 118:25, 26).

On this day, the people proclaimed acclamation to God.

Here was Jesus, entering Jerusalem, the people declaring what was right and true.

In less than five days, this same One, so gloriously welcomed by the people as He entered Jerusalem, would undergo trial for crimes that He didn’t commit, suffer shame and contempt for preaching the truth, and be crucified for sins not His own.

On this day called Palm Sunday, Jesus, and we, enter the week of the Church year called “Holy,” where our attention turns to the events suffered by our Lord in this last week prior to His glorious resurrection.

This day is also called “Sunday of the Passion.”  Our attention draws to the last hours of Christ in His State of Humiliation.

Our attention also draws to the reality of our own passion, our own suffering, as followers of Christ, as our Lord Jesus Himself testifies.

In short order, today’s second Gospel reading follows the account of our Lord on Palm Sunday after the people met Him on the road with the shouts and praises and acts of worship.

Shortly thereafter, Greeks asked to see Jesus.  It is at this point that Jesus begins His discourse, words to be taken to heart.  Jesus here speaks about His forthcoming death, what it means, and its purpose.

Connecting the later reading of today’s Gospel with the former reading of John’s Gospel at the beginning of the service, a close connection reveals itself.

The last few words of the Palm Sunday reading earlier this morning were these, spoken by the Pharisees among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing.  Look, the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19).

Immediately following these words by the Pharisees, John the evangelist records that certain Greeks then sought Jesus.

Jesus’ word and work were not only for the Jews.

The expectation of the Messiah, the Christ, as recorded in the Old Testament, was not only for the chosen people of national Israel.

Remember Jonah…God sent Him to Nineveh, a Gentile city, to call them to repentance.

It was Isaiah whom God moved to write, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).  These very words Jesus Himself also spoke in the clearing of the temple (as recorded by Mark 11:17).

The “House of prayer for all nations” referred to by Isaiah under inspiration, and then by Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14), was a reference to God’s house where God is worshiped.  All nations include Jews and Gentiles. God’s house is for all people, none excluded.

This is the irony of what those Pharisees had said among themselves about Jesus, that “the world has gone after Him.”

They were right.

This is how it was, and how it was to be, as the Psalmist declares, “Let the peoples praise, You God; Let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:3).

What is ironic here is that the Pharisees despised the very thing that was happening that God had said would happen, and yet they claimed to be teachers of truth.

Far from it!

Those of the truth hear God’s voice (John 18:37).

Greeks, non-Jews were seeking to see and hear Jesus, yet the Pharisees closed their ears to Him.

Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22), but salvation is for all people, not just for the Jews alone.

But how does such salvation come?  Through what means is salvation won?

This is where the words of our Lord Jesus from today’s second Gospel reading come in.  Jesus’ Word in response to those Greeks who sought Him reveal that by His death, there is life.  This is a great paradox: by means of death is life.

Jesus also stated that “Whoever loves his life loses it.” Both verbs, love and lose, are in the present tense.

Jesus also says, “Whoever hates his life in this world” (present tense) “will keep it” (future tense) for eternal life.

These words, too, are paradoxical.

Life through death—loving life and losing it—hating life and keeping it—these statements seem to be contradictory.

One lives by living, not by dying.  You keep your life by loving it, not by hating it.  You lose your life by hating it, not by loving it…

This is what fallen man considers to be true.  He wants to believe that God works the way that the world works—not according to what God the Creator says, but according to what man the creation says and what it wants to say/mean.

If the world had its way, Jesus would not have entered Jerusalem on a donkey.

Jesus would not have been unjustly accused and then, “crucified, died, and buried.”

Jesus would not have suffered as He had.

Blood would not have been shed.

Sinners would bear their own sin (to each his own) but could make amends for their transgressions and iniquities by simply trying harder and convincing themselves that this is how one gets right with God.

If the world had its way, sinners would only be sinners as they much as they saw themselves as sinners.

The problem is that it’s not us—or the world—who determines right and wrong, good and bad, the truth and the lie.

God does.

When it comes to paradoxes, we don’t determine their veracity.  God does.

Things that don’t make sense to us don’t make them untrue.  What makes something true or not true is not dependent on our understanding of it, our belief in it, or our acceptance of it.

What makes something true or not true is not established by us.

Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6).

What He says is true, whether we believe it or not.

What He declares to be is so, because He said it.

This way of “reasoning” might seem like a blind kind of faith, but a truly blind kind of faith is that kind of “faith” which follows a thing that it cannot see or know.

We follow what we know, not blindly, but with certainty.

Christians don’t follow what they don’t know or that which is uncertain.

We follow and believe God’s Word as its been given.

We hear it and we listen to it.

We read it and we study it.  We believe it.

To believe God’s Word is not blindness.

God’s Word is not unsure.

What is blindly following something, “blind faith,” is following where one cannot see where one is going.

We don’t follow the Bible this way.

We are not blind to where we’re going.

We know where we’re going.

We know our eternity is with God in heaven.

We don’t know everything that will be—Only God does.  But we do know that we are known by Him Who knows everything.

Because God knows us as His people, because God is our Savior from sin, death, and hell, we don’t need to know all that He knows.  He is God.  We are not.

What we do know, according to His Word, this is what we are to believe and that which we do believe.

Following Christ’s Word, God’s Word, is not blind faith.  It is faith founded on the sure foundation, on that Word made flesh, on Him who suffered, was crucified, died, buried, and three days later, rose again from the dead.

Such a faith rests in Jesus according to His Word.

That Word reveals to you that through His death, you have life.  His blood conceals, covers, and cleanses you of your sin before the Father.

Loving your life means not resting in Jesus alone, not entrusting yourself fully into His care and keeping.

Hating your life means recognizing your uncleanliness before Him Who is pure, your unholiness before Him Who is Holy (1 Peter 1:15), your sin before Him Who is sinless; lamenting your unrighteousness before Him Who is Righteous.

Hating your life is acknowledging that you deserve only judgment from the just God and despising your own sinfulness.

Hating your life means also not trusting in yourself for salvation, but resting in Jesus alone, trusting in God’s mercy through His beloved Son, “seeing” that Christ’s death means—is—your life.

The Son of Man, Jesus, is He Who is life, He through whom you have life, He who gives you life.

Along with the paradox of your life through His death is the paradox of Christ’s glorification.

The word glorify can have the meaning of “Bestow glory upon”; “Elevate or idealize”; and “Cause to seem more splendid” (The Sage’s English Dictionary and Thesaurus).

These things we associate with the high and the mighty, the majestic and the glorious, the strong and the proud.

Yet Christ’s glorification, as revealed in today’s second Gospel reading, is not associated with the worldly understanding of that word.  Contrasted to our view of glory, the glory of Christ is in His lowliness, weakness, and humility, even as he hangs on a tree, “having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

“Though Jesus was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the week of our Lord’s Passion, the entrance of our Lord into His suffering and then death.

Like our Lord, as we fix our eyes on what is to come, we also are aware of our own suffering and struggles.

Amid these, there is Christ.

The Lord comes to serve, giving His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Lowly He enters Jerusalem.

Lowly, and rejected, He journeys to Calvary, to Golgotha, to His death.

He does so that you live—eternally. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day, Passion Sunday)

 

For audio, go here.

 

The Passion of Our Lord

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.

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