Text: John 12:20-43
Form: Jesus blesses us beyond measure.
Function: My hearers will believe in the truth Jesus revealed.
My path to salvation was not unlike many others in that it was winding and even backtracking on more than one occasion. Thankfully Jesus sent many of His servants to help me on my way to present the truth of God to me in manner that could not be honestly ignored. One such man was Eddie. I met him shortly before Jesus saved me and he was instrumental in that coming to pass.
The first time I met him, I had been invited to dinner at his home by his wife, who was a co-worker of mine. At that point in my life the only thought I gave to Jesus was to try to think of ways to prove Him wrong. I would look forward to meeting Christians just to pepper them with my line-up of what I thought were unanswerable questions.
I knew his wife was a Christian as she was outspoken about it, but only learned he was a pastor upon meeting him. At dinner I presented him with the same series questions I had asked others before, but this time something different happened. What he said made sense.
Looking back I saw two things were happening simultaneously. First, Eddie presented the truth of God, in way that I was not used to. He was kind and intelligent and really listened to what I had to say, even though he knew I was wrong. And second, the Holy Spirit was working on my heart to draw me to Jesus.
And both of those things had to happen if I was going be saved. Eddie was no doubt being led by God during that talk but unless I was willing to go to where the truth led it was of no use to me and unless the Holy Spirit was willing to carry me to the truth I had no hope of getting there.
We are going to carry on with our sermon series, Almost There. This time we will be talking about truth. In today’s encounter with Jesus from the Book of John there were a lot of people who seemed to be looking for the truth and they were looking for it in the right place, or truly in the right person, Jesus.
So we can assume that they were be at least partly right-minded, but I’m not sure they fully understood what they were doing. The people may have thought that Jesus was able to tell them the truth but not realized the Jesus was truth. So even when Jesus revealed the truth as they expected, they were surprised to see that it His truth went further than they would have imagined.
The story opens up with our first set of truth-seekers, some Greeks. We know almost nothing about them, but given they were seeking Jesus, we can be gracious and assume their hearts were likely in the right place. They told Phillip they wanted to see Jesus who told Andrew who told Jesus.
And here we begin to get an idea of how truth might come to us or where we might go to find the truth. Jesus has sent out His people to carry His truth to others, people like Eddie who I talked about in the beginning. Of all of who have been saved are bearers of God’s truth. Like the Word says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” [Rom 10:15]
But meeting Jesus would not have done anything for those Greeks if they were seeking Him just because they were curious. Jesus is far more than a mere teacher. The truth He brings doesn’t simply increase our knowledge but can save us if we have faith in Him. Of course that is only possible be Jesus is God as He would soon tell the people around Him, though in a cryptic manner.
He said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” When the people heard that they were like likely overjoyed. Being glorified by God would be a great blessing, right? Never would the people around Jesus have they thought that the glory would look like blood and pain and shame.
Jesus proves this by explaining His glory in pretty stark terms. He talked about a grain of wheat not being able to do anything unless it died first, meaning that a grain of wheat that isn’t planted and doesn’t sprout into a new plant is worthless. It remains alone, never producing more wheat.
Likewise, unless Jesus was willing to go through with His Father’s plan and sacrifice Himself on the cross of the truths of God that He revealed would not have done any good because people would still be living in sins.
So here we have Jesus giving the Greeks a truth. And it is for us too. But is it one that we want to hear? It is a hard truth. People might say they want the truth but what if that the truth was you have to lose your life if you want to keep it?
The people following Jesus were well knew that the life of a prophet was hard, but perhaps they didn’t know how hard. It looked like Jesus did want just a part of His followers’ lives but all of it and what’s more is that He while didn’t exactly want them be martyrs, but Jesus wants people who are willing to live out their whole life in service to Him on day-to-day basis. Jesus’ truth went beyond what anyone would have thought.
But Jesus was not asking His people to lose their lives without reason. Of course, Jesus was and is God in the flesh so if He commands us to do something, we must do it simply because we were told to do it. But Jesus, being ever gracious, tells us about the blessing we will receive when we have faith in the truth He revealed.
The Greeks went to Jesus to be taught, to learn some new truths, but what they found was infinitely better than that. Maybe the Greeks had at least a partial earthly mindset. Perhaps they thought the glory Jesus was speaking about could have been things such comfort, wealth or power, but that was nothing in comparison to what Jesus revealed.
Jesus said that by giving up our lives we receive eternal life. That is much better than any deal we could ever find on earth. We give our small, sinful lives to Him and we get an eternity of joy in return. We give up nothing for everything.
But how could Jesus expect His children to give up the only life they have ever known even if they knew it was the truth? By giving us yet another promise. Jesus said where He is His servants are there also. We are never alone in our attempts to live out the truth. Jesus is always with us. That is a wonderful truth, but it gets better.
The people in the time of Jesus were used to following teachers around so being with their teacher was somewhat expected. But Jesus went beyond that. He said that He goes before us. So Jesus is asking us to do as He has already done and go where He already is and love who He already loves. And He is with us, strengthening us every step of the way.
But even the faithful could still be troubled at obeying Jesus even with such a promise. Jesus knew this and, strangely even seemed to have identified with us mere humans. He said, “My soul is troubled.” So we should not be surprised when we feel the same way. We want to be spared from suffering just like our Lord did. Yet being conflicted like that doesn’t mean we are actually going to give up and turn our backs on God permanently because we know the truth is that no matter how it looks, God is there with unlimited forgiveness. I have felt the truth of this week more than I thought I would.
That Jesus was willing to be vulnerable enough to reveal that truth would have been enough, but, as it has been all along, God, God the Father in this case, gives the people listening to Jesus even more. God, the Father, spoke from heaven in a booming saying He had glorified His name and would do so again.
And that should have been more than enough to prove that Jesus spoke the truth when He offered them eternal life. The Father’s words should have silenced all the doubters. No more than that, what those people heard should have transformed all of the enemies of Jesus into His most passionate followers.
But it did not. Some would have seemed to at least almost believe that the God the Father was pleased with Jesus because some thought an angel had spoken because t angel’s are God’s messengers. But to treat God the Father’s words as the words of a mere angel is highly disrespectful.
Others did even go that far. Some said they heard only thunder and not a message from God Himself.
The truth of God, which carried with it more blessings than anyone could ever have thought possible, was no blessing for them. They would not, or perhaps could not, accept it.
Of course many did accept it. The truth, that Jesus could give them eternal life, had just been perfectly confirmed and the reason for that was yet another example of how far God was willing to bless His people. The words God the Father spoke from heaven were not for Jesus because He already well knew them. God spoke the truth just for the people around Jesus.
Jesus then went on to reveal a truth that would be harder to accept than the one He just said. He told them that the Son of Man would soon be lifted up and would draw all men to Himself. The people listening could not believe it. They knew that “to be lifted up” meant to be killed on a cross.
While many listening to Jesus would have been troubled by what He said, none would have been more so than the disciples. The disciples knew that Jesus was the Son of God and they were right about that, but they also thought they knew that the Son of God could not be killed by evil men.
But was not as if this was first time Jesus had clearly told His disciples He was going to die and be raised for He told them more than once. One time Peter told Jesus to stop saying such things. [Mark 8:31-32] And the Old Testament revealed such truth, like the vivid description of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. John quoted the beginning of that section in this part of his Gospel. Isaiah told us that the Man of Sorrows would be pierced for our transgressions, as in pierced by having nails driven into the hands and feet of Jesus at His crucifixion and that this man would be numbered among the transgressors like Jesus was when He hung between two thieves.
And there is yet more revealed there. While Jesus being able to bless people with eternal life was a gift that went beyond what even the disciple thought possible, it looks like neither they nor anyone else considered what it would cost Jesus to so bless us.
Isaiah said that soul of this Man of Sorrows would be made an offering for guilt and that He would bear our iniquities. Yes, eternal life is a gift of infinite value but so was the price paid for it, the death of Jesus on the cross. But the truth is that is the extent to which Jesus loved us.
And so my beloved I leave you with this: The truth is Jesus was lifted up to die so that we might live eternally.
Almost There: Truth
The people may have thought that Jesus was able to tell them the ________________ but not realized the Jesus was the ________________.
Of all of who have been saved are ___________________________________-.
What if that the truth was you have to ________________ your life if you want to _______________ it?
Jesus wants people who are willing to live out their whole life in service to Him on a ______________________ basis.
Jesus said that by giving up our lives we receive ________________________.
So Jesus is asking us to do as He has already _______________ and go where He already ______________ and love who He already ______________.
Eternal life is a gift of infinite value but so was the price paid for it, ____________________________.
Juli & I had technical issues with the sermon this week. I know she would want me to post something, so I am posting a video that a friend shared with me when my mother passed away.
1The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
11Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
A This is the Word of the Lord.
C Thanks be to God.
1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
A This is the Word of the Lord.
C Thanks be to God.
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 42:14–21
13 The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. 14 “For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. 15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. 16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. 17 But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.
Israel Blind and Deaf
18 “Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! 19 Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one in covenant with me, blind like the servant of the Lord? 20 You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.” 21 It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.
1With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. 2I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. 3When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. 4Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.
5I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” 6Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! 7Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.
Epistle Ephesians 5:8–14
8 For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
It is hard to not _______________ the evil that seems to abound around us.
Responding in Fear
We might resist ________________ for a stranger.
People are ________________ and we have enough ________________ our own to deal with.
We might fear ____________________ the way Jesus told us will be too hard or to costly.
Why We Shouldn’t Respond in Fear
The ___________________ will be the best of days for we know it means our fear will forever be no more.
We who are saved fear God in the sense that we have the ______________________ for Him.
His enemies should fear Him because in time He will in __________________________ them.
God is ____________________ to only tell us the things we want to hear.
We should never fear that evil is running amuck because we have been told over and over again that __________________________ and one day all things will be made right.
We never need fear that God will fail to lead on His path because He _________________ He will not forsake us and it impossible for God to break His own word.
Jesus will lead us to eternal ______________ and ______________________.
When I was growing up my family and I went camping quite a bit. Actually, each summer I’d go on a ten-day camping trip with my scout troop. Of course, I didn’t start out on such lengthy adventures, but built up to them over time. I don’t clearly remember my first camping trips, but grandma does and she loved to tell my one particular story about one the first times I went camping when I was about four years old.
Night had fallen and everyone was asleep, everyone but me. My grandma woke up and saw me sitting up looking up into the clear night sky looking very worried. My grandma said, “Josh, what’s wrong?” Not looking at her, but continuing to stare up into the heavens, I said, “Dummy rain.”
I tell you that story to show how some fears, no matter how intensely felt, are unfounded. My grandma told me there wasn’t a cloud in the sky but apparently that didn’t matter to my little four-year-old self. I was worried that rain was coming and it would be our ruin.
Sometimes I think that even now I have worries every bit as baseless as that. I look at the world around me and am tempted to think things are getting worse because it seems like our culture is moving farther and farther away from how God would have live our lives.
There are problems that we, especially our children, are facing now that seem much greater than they ever have before and they are all the more intense due to the nearly all-encompassing nature of the internet and social media. Now we can be constantly aware of any and all problems any in the world the very moment they happen.
Just looking at what has happened to us recently we can see that coronavirus is effecting nearly every part of our lives and only seems to be growing in intensity.
But then I hopefully stop and realize that God is just as in control now as He always has been and that nothing, absolutely nothing, comes to pass without Him letting it do so. While that doesn’t at all make those evil that happened good or less painful, it at least gives me some comfort. We never need to fear anything because we known that in the end, God will reign in perfect victory and we, His children, will be there with Him living in perfect peace for all eternity.
So let go on with our sermon series, How Not to Do Things by examining fear. The words we read from Isaiah show us rather clearly just how, or who, we should fear.
Before we get going, it is important to know, or least have a reasonable guess, of when the prophecy Isaiah spoke could be expected to come true. What makes doing that difficult is that when Isaiah revealed God’s words he would frequently start talking about one time period only to suddenly switch to another with little warning.
It would be like if I said, “I was walking to church and I got a haircut.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense until you discover I was talking about what I did a few months ago and what I plan to do next week. Isaiah is a lot like that. The first part of chapter 42 is about one period of time, indeed one the most important as it was about how Jesus would treat others when He became a human like us, but the second part of the very same chapter, the part we read, is about an different time in Jesus’ life and is every bit as important.
I think it will become clear that the words we heard this morning tell us what is going to happen when Jesus comes back. At least that is what it mostly about, because it also partly shows us how we are to live our lives today. If that sounds confusing to you, rest assured it does to me too.
We start off with an image of great power! A mighty man is geared up for war! His passion for the upcoming battle is at its peak! He shouts aloud, warning his enemies that He is coming and their unavoidable destruction is at hand. Fearing such man would be reasonable.
And when we realize the man in this description is Jesus, we start to see just how glorious our Lord truly is. Many times when we talk about Jesus we speak about Him in term of how Isaiah spoke of Him earlier in this chapter. There we are told “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…”
That’s how Jesus was when He first came to our little world to live among us. He healed even when people doubted Him and fed people who were only looking for a free meal. He gently corrected His disciples again and again when they missed what He was trying to teach them. He even welcomed them back to His side after they abandoned Him.
But Jesus won’t always be so gentle. Indeed, He was not always so gentle even when He was living as a man the first time He lived among us humans. Look at what He said to the self-righteous Pharisees who were telling people that they had to obey the law to get into God’s good grace. Jesus said, “You blind Pharisee!” And He told them they were full of greed and self-indulgence and of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.
Jesus would not let such evil stand unopposed and so He called it out, but one day, He will do more than just call it out and that is what Isaiah speaks about.
Isaiah speaking for Jesus said, “For a long time I have held my peace; I have kept still and restrained myself…” but a time was coming when He would cry out. That cry would be the cry of battle by the mighty man of war who was righteously indignant.
How different that is than the first coming of Jesus because at that point Isaiah said Jesus “will not cry aloud or lift up his voice.” And Jesus didn’t cry out at all the injustice He experienced. He was put through an illegal trial and convicted by what everyone knew to be false evidence but He did not speak out, in fact He refused to talk during most of His time in court.
But that wouldn’t always be so for the time for evil to have its way is coming to an end. And what a blessing that is! It is hard to not fear the evil that seems to abound around us. But is not just the obvious evil, like murder, that can cause fear, but the subtle evil we might not see until it seems like it is too late.
CS Lewis described evil with a wonderful word, one I had to look up. He said evil was fissiparous. Fissiparous. Huge bonus points if you know what that words means. Fissiparous means inclined to split into groups. So when CS Lewis said evil was fissiparous, he meant the evil turns us against each other.
Families are supposed to be places of peace and love and yet so often they are not. People get hurt and the fact that the hurt came from someone that was supposed to love them makes it all the worse and so they find it hard to forgive.
Our church should be welcoming to all but sometimes we just like doing things the way we do them and we might resist changing for a stranger. Or maybe we are reluctant to take new people in because people are messy and we have enough messes our own to deal with.
And so we are tempted to split apart instead of coming together because we might fear living life the Jesus told us will be too hard or too costly. We fear being hurt or being taken advantage of.
But one day that will end because all they evil that keeps us part will be utterly removed. Isaiah says “I will lay waste mountains and hills…” That means that when the Last Day comes to pass nothing will stands in our way of truly loving God and our fellow brothers and sister in Jesus.
Now the evil that stands in our midst is much like a mountain, impossible to ignore and almost insurmountable. But even a mountain is nothing to God. When Jesus comes back it will be as if it never existed.
However, this is only one way to understand these verses. From our point of view, those that are saved, the coming of the Lord will be the best of days for we know it means our fear will forever be no more. But for those that do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the Last Day will be terrible.
Looking at it from their point of view, the end brings noting but destruction. In those times the words of Isaiah would have represented an end to life as they knew it. Then the people regularly farmed on hills and mountain so the destruction of hills and mountains meant an end of their food supply. Isaiah, speaking for Jesus, says similar things about their crops drying up and a total loss of drinking water. In other words, the evil forces in the world will have nothing to fall back on. They will be without hope of any kind.
And here we begin to look at another kind of fear, righteous fear. We should all fear the God as He alone is almighty and while we who are saved fear God in the sense that we have the ultimate respect for Him. His enemies should fear Him because in time He will completely defeat them.
But no one ever needs to fear that destruction for salvation is there for everyone without exception. Here in Isaiah Jesus says that He will lead the blind and that blind is us. Previously God spoke rather harshly, though truthfully, what He was going to do with all the evil ones. And now He calling all of us blind which clearly not a compliment. But God is not obligated to only tell us the things we want to hear. He calls people blind because they are.
They cannot see the truth that is before them. We should never fear that evil is running amuck because we have been told over and over again that God is in control and one day all things will be made right. Of course we will never be so perfectly faithful, but still God leads us.
In fact, He leads in paths so easy so wholly free from obstacles that we can be totally assured we will never fail to complete the journey, but if, and only if, we let God lead us because even though it is easy it is not a path that we could ever find on our own.
The only way we can be saved is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. There is no other way. We might not fully understand how that is so much less why it so but that doesn’t matter, it is God’s path and that is enough.
And we never need fear that God will fail to lead on His path because He promised He will not forsake us and it impossible for God to break His own word.
Where then is fear? It is no more! But it gets even better than that. For our blindness, our reluctance to rely on God, is only temporary because when Jesus returns He will restore our sight, or as says in Isaiah, the darkness before us will be turned into light.” In the end, there will be no darkness no evil, nothing but God.
And so my beloved I leave you with this: Jesus will lead us to eternal life and peace.