The Most Extraordinary Request

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12
John 12:20-33


12:20 “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—”Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.” (John 12:20-33, NRSV)


Let us pray: God of suffering and glory, in Jesus Christ you reveal the way of life through the path of obedience. Inscribe your law in our hearts, that in life we may not stray from you, but may be your people. Amen.


We wish to see Jesus.

Pretty basic.

Pretty simple.

Sir, we wish to see Jesus.


In many ways that is the basis of why we come to church, it is what we do and who we are. In the modern age where we are all about goals and mission statements.  Having this request as a goal just might be the best we could do. We wish to see Jesus.

Isn’t that why we come to church?

Come and See…see what?

See Jesus.


Some Greeks come up to the disciples and request to see Jesus.

What does that mean?

Well, Jesus tells us.


Here we are in the fifth week of Lent.  One more Sunday, Palm Sunday, before we celebrate Easter and the resurrection.  We have this pivotal story in Jesus life as described in the Gospel of John.  The entire Gospel of John has been pointing to this climatic moment.  Three times already in the Gospel of John Jesus says “My hour has not yet come.”  He said it in chapter 2 before he turned water into wine when his mother suggests that he do something before the wine runs out.  Jesus turns to her and says, “My hour has not yet come.”  Then he says it twice in chapter 7 to his brothers and then to the authorities who were trying to arrest him.  “My hour has not yet come.”


Now, suddenly these Greeks come and ask to see him and he responds “O.k. now is the time.  My hour has come. It is time for me to die.” I don’t really know why now, why is this the hour for Jesus?  I can imagine a few things.  He recently raised Lazarus from the dead, a miracle that angered and shocked the authorities.  The authorities realized that with miracles like this, raising someone from the dead, Jesus would get too popular, would challenge their power and authority.  Scripture goes so far to tell us, “From that day on they planned to put Jesus to death.”  So Jesus surely knew how he had angered them and knew that his time was coming.


And when the Greeks come and wish to see him, it only reinforces that their fears are coming to fruition.  These Greeks represent the broader world and indicate that Jesus’ ministry was starting to take off, his popularity is growing.  In a strange convergence, Jesus’ hour has come because both his supporters and his opposition wanting to see him meant that more and more people were following him.  His popularity and his hatred only leads to more eyes on him so his hour has come. Jesus knows that everything is not as it seems and that his followers don’t really understand what it means to follow him.


It is still that way today.  Garry Wills wrote a book in 2007 entitled “What Jesus Meant” which talks about the vast difference between the popular Jesus that the world thinks about and the Jesus of the Bible.  Wills says about the Jesus of the Bible.


“He preferred the company of the lonely and despised. . . . He crossed lines of ritual impurity to deal with the unclean, the lepers, the possessed, the insane, the prostitutes and adulterers, and collaborators. . . . He was called a bastard. . . . He had a lower-class upbringing . . . chose his followers from the lower class. . . . Jesus not only favored the homeless, he was himself homeless. . . . He was in constant danger of being arrested and assassinated. . . was called an agent of the devil . . . consorter with loose women, a glutton and a drunkard. . . . The puzzled disciples trotted behind, trying to make sense of what seemed to them inexplicable, squabbling among themselves about what he was up to. It would never have occurred to them to wear a WWJD bracelet.” (“Foreword: Christ Not a Christian”)


Jesus challenged everybody and everything in his life.  He even challenged his own religion, and every step he took in his life was a step closer to the cross.  Instead of teaching about how to get ahead in life and how to have a lot of fans, he said things like, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.”  Instead of teaching how to be successful, he said things like, “Those who love their life, lose it.”  And then he laid down his life, even though he didn’t have to.  (Idea from John Buchanan sermon, 4-2-06)  He could have gotten out of it- he was the son of God after all.  But he knew what he came for and he was willing to suffer for it.


He was willing to die, because he knew as he told us that “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”  People will look up at the cross and see why I came.


The message and meaning of the cross is what Jesus told us that the way to gain your life, the way to live your life fully, is to give it away, in love, for his sake.  The message of the cross is the message of the Christian life, which is always about giving.  The Christian life is not so much about conquering, converting, and growing as it is about giving, serving, and loving. (John Buchanan, 4-2-06)


Why did Jesus have to die?  To show us how to live.  Yes, he died to save us, so that we might have eternal life.  But he also died so that we might live, so that we might have abundant life.  And how do we do that?  We lose our life, when we give it away for others.


I saw something in this text this week that I have never noticed before.  When Jesus says that unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies it is just a single grain, what he is basically saying is that unless a grain dies for others it ends up alone.  I take that to mean that unless you live your life for others you will end up alone, just you and your little life.  To be alone, really alone, uninvolved, isolated, is really to bear no fruit.  There is nothing to bear, no fruit, no productivity.  Loving our life so much in this world, loving ourselves more than others, not giving and caring and loving leads to a fate worse than death.  It leads to a life of loneliness, disconnection and unfruitfulness.


Jesus died, because he refused to compromise, he refused to give in to the ways of power and authority, he refused to give up what he knew was the way to life.  Jesus died because he believed that the way to real life, the way to eternal life, is to live for others.  He died to show us that in living for others we become who God created us to be.


He died to show us that there is nothing in all of life or death to be afraid of, for when he died and was lifted up he drew all people to himself.


Sir we wish to see Jesus. And what does seeing Jesus mean? It means we see the cross. It means you we see how to live and how to die— for others.


Let us pray:


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