Thursday 2 March 2023


The Reverend Eric

Thursday, 2 March 2023


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 event. This was the major festival held annually to remember how God saved Israel. 
This was Jerusalem’s big annual religious festival: 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 non-Jews would go to the city to 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 t o Philip who came from near their area and said to him, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus’ Philip went to fetch Andrew who took them to Jesus knowing He would never turn anyone away.

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. So when they said they wanted to see Jesus, they were in fact seeking a meeting with Him.   These were sincere people, not sightseers anxious to see a celebrity figure; they didn’t want to see the temple or any other prominent figure.

The word 'see' here, has the sense of have a meeting with, being able to talk with Him.  Like so many people today, these Greeks were not content with what they had in their own lives; they must have felt there was something missing. They thought there must be more to life than they had experienced, and were searching for the truth.      

These words, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus,’ were the words the preacher used in his 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 have witnessed slide shows, drama, and guessing games 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.

    When Jesus was told of the Greeks’ 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.  Jesus said this to show the kind of death he was going to die, and the word ‘glorified’ was a substitute for crucified.

The term Son of man, would have been heard before, as it was used in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament, and was used to mean the world would end.  The Jews dreamed of a golden age when life would be wonderful, and they would be masters of the world.  The Son of man would be the conquering hero, sent by God to lead Israel to world glory.  This made the Jews listen carefully to what Jesus was saying, as they thought the time had come to be victorious.

  When He met those Greeks, it was 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 was glorified as his hands and feet were nailed to a wooden cross, which was then lifted up causing him to bleed and suffocate to death.    Crucifixion was the most prolonged, painful and horrific form of execution ever invented by man. 

Jesus said this was His greatest hour.  The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified, Jesus who died in the place of His people, taking the punishment, so they could be forgiven.    This is what Christianity is all about. This is the centre of what it means to be a Christian. 

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,  it brought forth fruit. Likening this to man, it was by people dying for the faith, so other people would learn the gospel.

As Christians were martyred for the faith, so the Church grew, and 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. 

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. 

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. No one wants die at the age of 33 years, and no one wants to die on a Cross. 

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.   As Jesus sits in the condemned cell contemplating his death, it’s hard.  Just because he knew it was God’s will, didn’t make it easy.    His heart was troubled.   

And if Jesus was that stressed out, why are we surprised when the Christian life seems tough and hard.  Jesus never promised it would be anything else.  We follow a crucified Lord who said:  follow me. 

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there heard it, and said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.   Jesus told them, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine’.  Jesus was meaning this showed the intimate and unbroken union He had with God the Father    

Let us think for a few moments how this relates to us in our time.  Maybe something has happened in your life to make you think things are not as you had hoped.  Perhaps the thought of drawing close to God seems attractive, and you would like to meet with Jesus.  Sometimes people can come to Church for years, and then they hear a word which makes them think there may be something more for them.  

This is why it is so important that all preaching should be based solely on the Bible.  If society doesn’t like what we preach, then that is their loss. But we should not under any circumstances apologize for quoting Scripture, as so shamedly recently happened.

We can never know what is in people’s minds, often more than we would expect.  We see here Jesus being sought by people from a distant land, when there many in his own land who wanted him dead.  I don’t know what was in the minds of the Greeks, but they were really seeking Jesus for honourable purposes, 

If and when, we want to see Jesus, He is ready waiting to meet us in our Bibles; obviously not in the physical sense, but an equally powerful way, and we can meet Him whenever we want to without restriction.   

 God still speaks directly to us to encourage us, and 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.    God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause.
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 us that hope in our 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.

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.  Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’   

Everyone today has to decide how to respond to Christ. People can be attracted to Christianity by its morals, but won’t commit themselves to Christ Himself.  For many the price is too high, for it would mean giving up some of the world’s standards and ways.  Nor is an emotional attachment to the Church is what our Lord is seeking. 

Our Lord said death was the way to spiritual life and glory.  This was meant to teach the purpose of the Messiah, which was not  like other kings of the world.  He didn’t come to seek a life of honour, ease and magnificence, but to have a painful death on a wooden Cross.  The crown he would wear was one for crucifixion, not coronation. His death would be a source of spiritual life for the world, and like a seed of corn would bring fruit to the praise of God, and redemption for many people.

When he said he who would hate his life would keep it; for those who wanted to be saved, must be ready for salvation.  Those who love their life with all its pleasures, but may lose their souls; those who deny life here to serve Christ, will duly gain life.

Christians know when this life ends, a new life begins.  Without the death of Christ there would be no life for the world, but those who live by the Spirit reap everlasting life.

We learn that those who profess Christ must follow him, just as a soldier follows his Commander, and sheep follow a shepherd, a Christian must be true in following Jesus. Real Christians show faith and obedience.  To serve Christ in name and form is easy, but to follow in faith and life can be too demanding for others.

The Lord offers encouragement when he says, ’where I shall be, so shall my servant be, and God will honour him. When the Father honours us on the last day, we shall find his praise makes up for all we gave and lost.

 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. The criterion is 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. 

May we ever be like the Greeks in our passage today and want to see Jesus and seek Him with all our hearts

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