Sermon title:  OUR LIGHTED PATH LEADS TO HEAVENLY GLORY

 

 

John 12:23-36

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 28, 2019

 

 

 

Our Lord Jesus is the bridge

between heaven and earth—

the only way for earthling men and women

to get to heaven.

 

At John 14:6 he said,

 

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

 

Jesus himself is the way to heaven.

 

At John 8:12 he said,

 

"I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me

will never walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life."

 

Jesus himself is our lighted pathway

to heavenly glory.

 

The Gospel writer John

wrote extensively

about what Jesus said on this topic—

especially what Jesus said during his last week on earth.

 

The Lord’s words that we read

from John Chapter 12

in this morning’s Responsive Reading

were introduced

a few verses earlier in that chapter.

 

Beginning at John 12:20,

the writer who witnessed and recorded these events

tells us the setting

where our Lord spoke these words.

 

He was at Temple at Jerusalem,

when crowds were gathering

a few days before the annual Passover celebration,

and Jesus was teaching publicly in the Temple,

when John 12:20 says,

 

20 Now there were some Greeks

among those who went up to worship at the Feast.

 

These were likely either Greek converts to Judaism,

or Greek-speaking Jews.

 

The 6th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles

tells us how the early Christian church

later

experienced its first internal conflict

when Greek-speaking Jewish believers in Jesus

complained

that their widows

were not being cared for

as well as the Hebrew-speaking widows.

 

And that led to the appointment

of the Church’s very first deacons

to take care of the matter.

 

Ever since the conquest by Alexander the Great,

around 350 years earlier,

Greek culture had dominated the Middle East

and had a significant influence

even on the Jews.

 

As for these Greeks at the Temple, we read,

 

21 They came to Philip,

who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,

with a request.

"Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus."

 

Even though the Apostle Philip was a Jew born in Galilee,

he had a Greek name.

 

That may be why the Greeks approached him first

in their quest to see Jesus.

 

22 Philip went to tell Andrew;

Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

 

Andrew, too, had a Greek name,

even though he also was a Galilean Jew,

and was the brother of Simon Peter.

 

So, this is further evidence

of the influence that Greek culture had

on many Jews in the Promised Land.

 

Jewish parents often gave their children Greek names.

 

The Greeks who wanted to see Jesus

may have followed Philip

when he went to Andrew,

and then when the two of them

went to Jesus.

 

We don’t know.

 

Those Greeks drop from the Gospel writer John’s radar,

as he switches

from talking about them

to talking about what Jesus then said,

presumably in their hearing.

 

23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come

for the Son of Man to be glorified.

 

Many in the crowd at the Temple—

and many even among Christ’s close followers—

expected him to “be glorified”

by taking power as King in Jerusalem

and sitting on a glorious throne.

 

Hundreds of years earlier

King David’s son, King Solomon,

made a glorious throne for himself,

fashioned out of ivory,

overlaid with pure gold,

and decorated with precious gems

like rubies, emeralds and diamonds.

 

But our Lord had in mind

a throne more glorious than that.

 

He would be glorified

by sitting on his heavenly Father’s throne in heaven

as King of heaven and earth.

 

And he would be glorified

by gathering to himself

millions upon millions of followers

from all the nations of the earth,

who all praise and glorify him as their King.

 

But first, he would have to die and be buried.

 

So, Jesus went on

to teach that fact to his disciples

for the umpteenth time,

using an illustration.

 

He said,

 

24 I tell you the truth,

unless a kernel of wheat

falls to the ground and dies,

it remains only a single seed.

 

But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

 

When wheat goes to seed,

each individual kernel of wheat

eventually falls off the plant and falls to the ground.

 

Before that, the kernels of wheat,

while they were forming and growing at the tips of the stalk,

were receiving water and nourishment

as the living plant drew up moisture from the soil

and passed nutrients to the growing kernels.

 

But then, when it goes to seed,

each individual kernel separates from the stalk

and falls to the ground,

as if it were dead.

 

Before that, it’s just a single seed.

 

But, after it falls to the ground and dies,

the kernel of wheat sprouts

and a new stalk of wheat grows from it

and produces many more seeds.

 

In a similar way,

Jesus said that he had to die

in order to produce many Christians.

 

That coming Passover weekend

he would die.

 

And the result would be

like a field full of wheat—

all of us who put faith in him.

 

But, for us to follow Jesus,

we must also adopt his attitude.

 

He was willing to lose his life in this world

for us.

 

And we, too, must be willing to give up everything we have—

even life itself, if necessary—for Jesus.

 

We need to value going to heaven with Christ

above anything and everything else—

as if we hated everything else

in comparison to our love for Jesus.

 

He went on to say,

 

25 The man who loves his life will lose it,

while the man who hates his life in this world

will keep it for eternal life.

 

By saying “hates his life

he doesn’t mean

that we hate our job where we work

or that we hate the home where we live

or that we hate how our life is going.

 

He means that we “hate” our life

in the sense of loving it less

than we love him

and the eternal life he promises us.

 

We “hate” our life

in the sense that we’re willing

to give up everything in this world

to follow Jesus,

and to follow him to heaven.

 

Just as Christ surrendered up his life at the cross,

we must surrender up everything we have to Christ.

 

We need to follow his example.

 

He says,

 

26 Whoever serves me must follow me;

and where I am, my servant also will be.

 

My Father will honor the one who serves me.

 

As we follow Jesus to the cross,

we also follow him to heaven.

 

“where I am, my servant also will be.”

 

Christ will be on his throne in heaven,

and we will be there with him.

 

At Revelation 3:21, Jesus says,

 

“To the one who is victorious,

I will give the right

to sit with me on my throne,

just as I was victorious

and sat down with my Father

on his throne.”

 

So, here in John’s Gospel,

Jesus says,

“My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

 

What an honor it will be

to sit with our Lord

on his throne in heaven!

------------------------------------------------

 

But, first, Jesus would have to go to the cross.

 

He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver,

arrested,

abused by the guards,

slapped, hit, spat upon,

publicly mocked,

whipped with a scourge

that would tear open his skin,

and finally be nailed to a cross,

to hang there until he died.

 

No wonder he went on to say,

 

27 "Now my heart is troubled,

and what shall I say?

'Father, save me from this hour'?

 

Our Lord didn’t face all this without emotion.

 

He wasn’t going to be shielded

from the pain

he was about to undergo.

 

He was going to refuse

the narcotic-infused beverage

that the Roman executioners

mercifully offered for prisoners to drink

before their crucifixion.

 

He was going to go through every bit of it

awake and alert,

so that he would be stung by every rebuke

and would feel intensely every excruciating pain.

 

His heart was troubled.

 

The thought evidently entered his mind

that he could say,

'Father, save me from this hour.'

 

And then he wouldn’t have to go through any of that pain.

 

So, he let us know that he had that option.

 

He could have opted out of going to the cross for us.

 

But he chose to go through with it.

 

It was his intent, all along, to go through with it.

 

He never seriously considered abandoning us.

 

He said,

 

“No, it was for this very reason

I came to this hour.”

 

So, instead of backing out and saying,

 

'Father, save me from this hour,'

 

Jesus said,

 

28 Father, glorify your name!"

 

His death on the cross

would glorify the Father’s name.

 

His dying for mankind—

his dying for us—

would bring glory to God.

 

And then a most amazing thing happened.

 

Right after Jesus said,

 

28 Father, glorify your name!"

 

29 Then a voice came from heaven,

 

"I have glorified it, and will glorify it again."

 

The crowd that was there and heard it

said it had thundered;

others said an angel had spoken to him.

 

30  Jesus said,

"This voice was for your benefit, not mine.”

 

Centuries earlier

God spoke to the prophet Elijah

through “a still, small voice.”

 

And he speaks to us today, in our hearts,

through a still, small voice.

 

But, history records a few occasions

when the powerful voice of God

thundered from heaven.

 

One such occasion was when he gave the Ten Commandments

to the people of Israel.

 

The voice of God from heaven

was so frightening

that the Israelites begged Moses

to mediate between them and God,

so they wouldn’t have to hear God’s voice again.

 

And now, on this occasion,

when Jesus said,28 Father, glorify your name!"

and

Then a voice came from heaven,

some in the crowd

said it had thundered;”

but others admitted that it was a voice from heaven.

 

Those who recognized it as a voice

benefited by this confirmation from heaven

that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah sent by God.

 

30  Jesus said,

"This voice was for your benefit, not mine.”

 

We, too, benefit today

when we take all these things to heart

and put our faith in Christ.

 

---------------------------------------

 

Then Jesus said,

 

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world;

now the prince of this world will be driven out.

 

Some translations render that as

as “the ruler of this world.”

 

Either way, the reference is to Satan the devil.

 

1 Corinthians 4:4 calls Satan

“the god of this world.”

 

1 John 5:19 says that

“the whole world is under the power of the evil one.”

 

Revelation 12:9 calls him   the devil and Satan,

the deceiver of the whole world.”

 

Christ won the victory over the devil

through his sacrificial death on the cross

 

He set us free from the devil’s deceptions.

 

He set us free from being controlled by the devil.

 

He set millions of Satan’s captives free.

 

Jesus went on to say in John 12:32,

 

32 But I,

when I am lifted up from the earth,

will draw all men to myself."

 

33 He said this to show

the kind of death he was going to die.

 

Christ was lifted up onto the cross.

 

It took the death of the sinless Son of God

to set mankind free from sin and death.

 

34 The crowd spoke up,

 

"We have heard from the Law

that the Christ will remain forever,

 

so how can you say,

'The Son of Man must be lifted up'?

Who is this 'Son of Man'?"

 

In the Old Testament, Daniel Chapter 2

tells prophetically, in advance,

the succession of dominant world powers

down through history, and concludes

with God replacing those Gentile governments

with the Kingdom of God,

of which Daniel 2:44 says,

“it will itself endure forever.”

 

In Daniel Chapter 7

the prophet uses the same expression Jesus used

to describe the Messiah,

calling him “the Son of Man.”

 

And it says

the kingdom of the Son of Man will last forever.

 

The Jews knew that from the Old Testament,

but they didn’t grasp

that the Messiah first had to die.

----------------------------------------

 

Now Jesus’ time on earth with his disciples

was drawing to a close.

 

He was going to be with them

only a few days longer.

 

So, we read that

 

Jesus told them,

 

"You are going to have the light

just a little while longer.

 

Walk while you have the light,

before darkness overtakes you.

 

The man who walks in the dark

does not know where he is going.

 

36 Put your trust in the light

while you have it,

so that you may become sons of light."

 

When he had finished speaking,

Jesus left and hid himself from them.

 

Jesus himself was that “light” he was talking about.

 

That “light” came into the world

when Jesus came down from heaven

and walked among men.

 

The Gospel of John

spoke of Jesus repeatedly in those terms

in its opening chapter.

 

After the Gospel’s opening words at John 1:1,

 

1 In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

 

John went on to say about Christ in Verse 4,

 

In him was life,

and that life was the light of all mankind.

 

John explained in that opening chapter of his Gospel

that when

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,

that was when

“The true light

that gives light to everyone

was coming into the world.”

 

And now, as Jesus entered his final week on this earth,

he told his disciples,

"You are going to have the light

just a little while longer.

 

In just a few days, he was about to leave this earth

and return to heaven.

 

But that wouldn’t be the end of the story.

 

He left us the Bible

to be a light to our path.

 

Psalm 119:105 says,

“Your word

is a lamp to my feet

and a light for my path.

 

And Jesus promises at Matthew 18:20,

 

“where two or three are gathered in my name,

there am I among them.”

 

So, we can still follow Jesus today.

 

At John 8:12, Jesus said,

 

"I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me

will never walk in darkness,

but will have the light of life."

 

Before we find Christ,

our life in this world is like

“The man who walks in the dark” and

who “does not know where he is going.

 

But now Jesus lights our path.

 

Finding Jesus

is like stepping out of the darkness

onto a lighted path—

a path leading to heavenly glory forever. 

 

Jesus’ invitation at Luke 18:22 is still open:

 

He invites us, “Come, follow me.”