Wednesday 20 February 2019

John;s gospel in Chapter 12,verses 20-33. Turn with me to this passage which John alone tells.

Jesus had entered Jerusalem for the Passover festival having just raised Lazarus from the dead, and was receiving an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of people gathered for the festival. He was greeted with palms, the symbol of the Jewish state, but there were some who did not welcome Him, and indeed were plotting His death.

This was Jerusalem’s big religious festival held annually to remember how God saved Israel: we might compare the Passover to our Christmas, when the Churches attract many people who attend not so much from a religious attitude, but see it as a social event.

At such a time as this many Gentiles would go to the city, and although not Jews, would join in the celebrations. Some Greeks were amongst the crowds who had heard of Jesus and were determined to meet Him. They were from a settlement in the North of Galilee and went to Philip who came from near their area and said to him, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus’.

Having heard the stories of what Jesus had done, they realised something was missing from their lives, and wanted to receive from Him that something. When they said they wanted to see Jesus, they were in fact seeking a meeting with Him.

These words, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus, were the theme of the preacher, who gave the address when I was ordained. They are carved on the pulpits of numerous evangelical Churches in both England and the United States, to remind the preacher that his duty is to teach about Jesus Christ; not to entertain, or engage in politics, nor speak about climate change, nor be intimidated by political correctness, remembering he is there to bring people closer to God, and there is no other way people can come to God, except through Jesus Christ. The Bible states, ‘how can they believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?’

I recall seeing a Songs of Praise programme on television, which told about a Vicar who was being coached by a comedian because she wanted to improve her ability to liven up her sermons by telling jokes. As a favourite journalist of mine would say, you really couldn’t make it up. But she is not alone in confusing the pulpit with the theatre; in recent times I have witnessed slide shows, drama, and guessing games; all worthy, but not from the pulpit.

I believe such action from the pulpit lowers people’s respect and reverence for the Church, even if they feel amused at the time. Our whole purpose is to lead people to Christ, and the Bible states we should do so with reverence and awe.

When Jesus was told of their request He was pleased and responded immediately. He had not gone to Jerusalem to enter for the same purpose as the crowds had in mind; events were building up and were leading to the time of our Lord’s road to the Cross. So when He heard a group of people were genuinely seeking Him, He said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.

The Jews would not have understood what Jesus meant. For them the Son of Man conveyed an image of someone who would lead to world conquest and so attain glory, but Jesus meant it was time for Him to make the supreme sacrifice for the world by dying on the Cross, so bringing glory to Him and to God.

He went on to say "Truly, truly, I say to you." Whenever Jesus used those words, it meant that He was going to say something important. Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." He was pointing out that when a seed died it brought forth fruit.

He was here meaning that He was like the grain of wheat, and unless He went to the cross, His whole purpose in coming to earth will have been in vain. He knew what He had to face, and that He is going to be glorified through the sacrifice the cross, because by that cruel death, the way to forgiveness for all believers was made possible. If He had not made the sacrifice on the Cross, you and I and everybody else, could not have forgiveness. His death meant eternal life for all who believed in Him.

When He met those Greeks, it was as the first sign that the gospel was to go to all the world, and part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles, the symbol of the great harvest for which He came.

If He had not died, we probably would not know any more about Him for He would have just been another figure of history, of no greater significance than any other great religious leader. Because of the cross, He was able to do something He could never have done otherwise.

Jesus said the one loves their life will lose it. He was referring to those who live solely for themselves and out to get as much as they can without thought for others.

Christians generally are called to put service of the Lord first, and indeed there are many men and women who could have followed brilliant careers for rich rewards, but chose to go on mission fields far away from their homeland and work for very little.

We see the humanity of Jesus displayed when He expressed his fear at the thought of the Cross, but was ready to give obedience to God and suffer much pain, which would ultimately lead to triumph. God spoke to Jesus in His hour of torment, just as He did at His baptism and when on the Mount of Transfiguration. God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause.

The cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of the human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise,

At the cross, Jesus underwent the judgement we deserve, and paid our debt to God. His death gives us hope of everlasting life with Him one day. He wants to give you that hope in your life today. He alone can give you that new life that can never fade, and you can find that new life by meeting Jesus.

People in these high pressure days are so often weary and depressed and looking for that spiritual something. People are looking for something beyond themselves, looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of guilt, fear and worry. Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’

Maybe something has happened in your life, or you have a feeling you cannot explain. You are attracted to the teaching of the Bible; the God of the Bible is growing on you; you are being drawn towards Jesus. You may have been coming for years, but in your heart, you sense there is something more.

If we want to see Jesus, we must refer to our Bibles. You can meet him now through the pages of the Bible – not a physical encounter of course, but a spiritual encounter just as real. We now have the advantage of unlimited direct access.

Of course, on the other side of the coin, people can choose not to meet Jesus, and that is precisely why it won’t happen – because of choice. And if we walk away from Jesus, and want nothing to do with him, then in the end He will close the door on us – for all eternity. If we do not take the opportunity now, the time will come when we will not be able to meet Jesus.

Even the most ardent atheist has to concede that a man named Jesus existed, who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago, for there is historical evidence of this. What many challenge is His divinity, that He truly was the Son of God. If however we reject these doctrines, we reduce Him to what many want to see Him as, merely a religious cum social worker. But, that is not how the Bible portrays Him. All other religions are founded on philosophies or principles, only Christianity has a person.

Jesus went further, and said, much to the annoyance of to-day’s politically correct theologians, ‘no one can come to the Father except through me.’ This is now unacceptable to many Christian preachers who claim (erroneously) that all religions lead to God.

There are so many reasons for wanting to, ‘see Jesus’. It is said, that people are hungry for love, hungry for security, hungry for significance. Jesus said ‘I can fulfil all those needs.’

People are looking for something spiritual; looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of baggage of guilt, anxiety, fear and worry. Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’

So many men and women these days are doing things and behaving in a way that once would never have been thought of, so carrying all sorts of moral problems. Then they feel guilty and ashamed, become troubled in mind and turn to drink and/or drugs.

We all have a fear of dying, and many have no hope for the future, no answer as to what shall become of them. Jesus said, ‘whoever believes in me shall not die but have everlasting life’. When He said that, He did not mean believe He lived, He demanded people accept Him as their Lord and Saviour; just an emotional attachment to the Church is not what our Lord is seeking.

But when a person claims to be someone, you have to make sure they really are who they say they are. Margaret Thatcher, when Prime Minister, visited a psychiatric hospital and met an old lady. She greeted her and said, ‘hello, I’m Margaret Thatcher, your Prime Minister.’ The old lady said, ‘don’t worry dear. I was the same when I came in here, you’ll get over it.’

With Jesus we have His teachings. From the time He walked the roads of Palestine to the present day, men and women have had first hand evidence of Jesus influencing their lives.

God will always respond to the seeker. If you have loved ones in your family or amongst your friends who are not saved, keep praying for them that they may come and see Jesus.

All Jesus ever did was from a heart full of love compassion and grace. Yet the very people He helped betrayed Him, and conspired to nail Him to the Cross.

A day is coming when we will all see Jesus. The Bible says everyone will assemble before Him as He sits on the judgement throne. Some will go one way with the goats, some the other way with the sheep. We will have either joy in the after life with Jesus, or eternity with the lost. This is determined by how we respond whilst we are here on earth. The bible says ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the time of salvation’. It will be too late after we have died, and no amount of intercession will then save us.

I hope you are here now, wanting to see Jesus, for He wants to show us Himself. May we ever be like the Greeks in our passage today and want to see Jesus.

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