“For This Reason I Have Come”

John 12:20-33

18 March 2018 – Fifth Sunday of Lent

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“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. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

 

 

Prayer.

 

On my drive into the office Wednesday morning

I heard one podcast commentator say,

“We’re all going to die; and it’s going to be hilarious!”

 

I nearly drove off the road.

 

The conversation was about technology.

One spoke about his son watching

YouTube failure videos.

Failure videos are short clips of

People making poor decisions,

Doing really dumb things,

and often getting badly hurt …

Why would anyone create a failure video?

It’s all about producing the “failure,”

Posting the video online,

Becoming immensely popular,

And hoping that popularity results in a paycheck.

Yes, people get paid for such nonsense.

“We’re all going to die; and it’s going to be hilarious!”

 

Another was speaking about artificial intelligence;

Where computers are programmed to learn on their own initiative.

A video from a University of Michigan robotics lab was cited

 

NOTE: THIS IS AN EMBEDED VIDEO

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhyMyXRutqY)

 

Showing a robot learning how to walk.

The implications of a self learning robot

Evoke images of sci-fi movies like “The Terminator”

Or robot uprisings that take over the world.

“Be afraid,” one commentator said. “Be very afraid.”

To which the other repeated,

 

 

“We’re all going to die; and it’s going to be hilarious!”

 

Jesus is about to die

and it is anything but hilarious.

 

Thank goodness our Lord’s suffering, passion, and death

Didn’t take place in today’s world,

Because it would go viral on social media …

For about 10 minutes.

It would be found and pulled down as inappropriate content.

It would become an obscure piece in the Huffington Post

Or a lost soundbite on the evening news.

 

 

Jesus is deadly serious.

And so should we.

 

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Early Christian Apostles

Set aside 40 days for all Christians to prepare ourselves

For the passion, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

 

 

Lent was, and remains to this day, a time of preparation.

 

Early Christian practice

Used the first three weeks of Lent

As a time for inward preparation.

Self-reflection.

Self-examination.

Personal confession.

Repentance.

Forgiveness.

Absolution.

Fasting.

Abstinence.

 

The final two weeks of Lent

(starting this Sunday)

The focus of the faithful is to pivot

To the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross.

We have two weeks to contemplate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

 

Some Greeks from out of town attempt to drop in and cold call Jesus.

The best way to get past the door keeper is to know someone,

Or know someone who knows someone.

Any kind of connection will do.

Philip, with his Greek name,

From Bethsaida, a mixed population of Jews and Gentiles in the north,

Was the perfect go between.

 

 

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (12:21)

 

As I’ve often said, the Gospel of John is most deeply concerned

With answering the question, “What does it mean?”

What does it mean to see Jesus?

To perceive this Jesus who is about to die?

 

A good place to start over these next two weeks

Is to create a devotional visual of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus.

This is where the internet is so valuable.

 

 

Consider doing an image search.

Start with fine art: The masters. Renaissance art.

Do an image search of crucifixion

 

 

Using the key words stained glass: Cathedrals. Artists. Guilds.

Don’t forget to do an image search

 

 

Of crucifixion icons;

You’ll discover some of the most moving visual images of the crucifixion

Mostly coming from our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters.

 

Save your favorite pictures.

Print them out.

Surround yourself with visual masterpieces of the crucifixion of Jesus

Even as you contemplate this faith changing event in your daily devotions and prayers.

 

 

We wish to see Jesus.

Perception is more than visual.

Consider diving into the music of the passion and death of Jesus Christ

Over these next two weeks.

 

Every year I make two tried and true visits:

The first is Handel’s Messiah.

I listen to it over and over again.

During the conclusion of Lent and Holy Week

The second part of Messiah takes on added weight,

For it covers Christ’s passion and death,

His resurrection and ascension.

The second stop I make is the 1970’s rock opera

Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

I play it loud in the car and I sing along with every word.

I play it quietly in the office, filling my environment with Jesus

(I’m playing it as I write this sermon).

I’ve loved Jesus Christ Superstar from the beginning.

 

Perceiving Jesus as he makes his way to the cross

Can become life changing.

Singing, in the choir, or just allowing hymns to speak,

Is a graceful compliment to the words of Passion and crucifixion.

 

 

Allow sacred music to help you see Jesus.

Listen for the whisper of God to help answer the question,

“What does the crucifixion mean?”

 

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“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” (12:23)

Jesus responded to the unnamed Greek travelers who came to see him.

 

Most of us have a deeply developed Gospel world view

That is rooted in the synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In each of these Gospels

We have shaped in our imaginations

Of a Jesus who was reluctant to die,

Negotiating with the Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane,

“… if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” (Matthew 26:39)

Even on the cross, Matthew reports Jesus crying out

“My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

The narrative from Matthew and Mark are nearly word-for-word identical matches.

 

Yet, here in John, we hear in Jesus’ final discourse

With these unnamed Greeks and his disciples serving as his audience

A complete willingness to accept, even embrace, his crucifixion.

“And what should I say- ‘Father, save me from this hour’?

No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” (12:27)

 

John’s Gospel requires us to ask,

 

 

Who would embrace their own death?

Why would Jesus welcome his own death?

 

Faithful followers of Christ

Have heard the promise

And believe his word.

O death, where art thou sting?

There is no sting when we have the courage

To face our own mortality

Believing that

Just as Christ faced his mortality,

Was resurrected and ascended to heaven,

So too, can we look forward to the same gift of grace.

Death becomes no more of a sting

Than stepping from this world and entering the next.

 

John faithfully allows Jesus to answer the “Why Question.”

 

 

“Father, glorify your name.”

Jesus dies to glorify God.

The humiliation of public shame, suffering, and death,

Is completely erased

By the glory of God’s gift of resurrection.

The selfless act of crucifixion propels the message of God’s grace

Far beyond a single, isolated act,

In a foreign culture,

In a faraway land,

Separated by thousands of years

Into a cosmic, ongoing truth.

 

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The glory of God

Through death and resurrection

Becomes a compassionate act of inclusion.

The Greeks who came to see Jesus were included in God’s plan for salvation.

The early Church exploded,

Caught fire,

And spread to every corner of the world

Because God was glorified.

We are here today

Because Jesus brings glory to God.

 

This gift of God’s grace

Only scratches the surface of the enormous love

God has for you and me.

Imperfect as we all are,

God still loves every last one of us.

Indeed, “God so loves the world

That He gave His only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him

may not perish

but may have eternal life.” (3:16)

 

Crucifixion and resurrection brings glory to God

 

 

“And I,” Jesus continues,

“when I am lifted up from the earth,

Will draw all people to myself.” (12:32)

All people

Is God’s radical hospitality,

God’s extravagant grace,

God’s enormous love.

 

“For this reason I have come,” Jesus tells us.

 

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Dearly beloved,

Over the course of this coming week and Holy week to follow,

Try not to be distracted by the complexities of life.

Let us put our cell phones away.

Sit on the anxiety of fragile health and uncertain outcomes.

Be still and avoid the temptation to be swept into disputes and conflicts.

Temper the tongue and keep a lid on family strife.

Put away temptations and bring an end to sinful behavior.

 

Dearly beloved,

Keep your undivided attention upon Jesus.

See and hear Jesus.

Perceive our Savior as you’ve never experienced Him before.

Wear his suffering, and may your suffering be eased.

Witness his death, and may the sting of death in your life be removed.

 

Dearly beloved,

Journey forward.

Lean into the crucifixion

Knowing full well,

The glory that comes beyond the grave,

The glory of our Lord, our Heavenly Father.

May this glory keep us close to Christ

And draw all people to Him.

Amen.