The Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 18, 2018
Jesus Is Encouraged by the
Scope of His Work
Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. 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. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” 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. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever been given a project or taken on a project that seemed to simply overwhelm you? Perhaps you were given a project at work that no one else wanted to take on. Perhaps you were assigned a project at school that you just weren’t thrilled about doing. Perhaps you decided to take on a home remodeling project that turned out to be much larger than you had originally anticipated. As you are working on this project, however, have you ever reached a point where it all started to come together just as it was supposed to? Suddenly you get a renewed sense of energy, don’t you. All the months of hard work, all the sweat and all the sacrifice now seems worth it!
Now consider this: even the biggest and most overwhelming task that you or I could ever possibly undertake is nothing compared to the task, the mission that Jesus came into this world to accomplish. In fact, Jesus’ task, Jesus’ mission was one that only Jesus could accomplish! With that in mind let’s study this portion of Scripture under the theme: Jesus Is Encouraged by the Scope of His Mission. There are two things that we want to see concerning the scope of Jesus’ mission. First, let’s see that Jesus’ mission would result in glory. Then let’s see that Jesus’ mission would result in judgment.
Our text for today takes place on the Tuesday of Holy Week. Jesus had just been welcomed into the city of Jerusalem as the King of Israel. (See John 12:13) Jesus had once again cleansed the Temple of the Lord by overturning the tables of the money changers and driving out the merchants who had once again set up their market place in the Courtyard of the Gentiles. Then something happened which to most people may have appeared to be a rather insignificant event. John says in the opening verses of our text, “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we would like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.”
Why did these Gentile believers want to see Jesus? Did they want to thank Jesus for cleansing the Courtyard of the Gentiles and restoring it to a holy and sacred place— a place where they could joyfully worship the Lord their God, a place where they could humbly pray to Him without all the chaos and the cacophony of a market place in the background? Why did they approach Philip with their request? Why did Philip feel it necessary to consult with Andrew before bringing this request to Jesus? John never answers any of those questions, does he. In fact, John never even tells us if these Greeks were ever granted their request to see Jesus! Instead, John reveals to us that this request by these Gentile believers served as an encouragement to Jesus. Even though Jesus knew that His crucifixion and death were now just days away, He was encouraged by the fact that His mission here on this earth was coming to completion. Jesus was encouraged by the fact that once His mission was complete it would result in glory. Here in our text John enables us to see three aspects of the glory that Jesus’ mission would achieve.
First, look at what our Savior says in verses 23 and 24 of our text, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.” From our vantage point as 21st century Christians we know exactly what Jesus is talking about when He says, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” Jesus knew that while His suffering and death on the cross would outwardly look like complete and utter defeat, in reality His death on the cross would bring Him unparalleled glory! This glory would be openly revealed on Easter Sunday when Jesus physically rose from the dead. This glory would emanate from the fact that Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection would proclaim that He is the Victor over sin, death and the devil!
Part and parcel of Jesus’ glory will be the glory He receives as the Savior of all mankind— both Jews and Gentiles alike. Using the picture of a kernel of wheat, which when planted in the ground “dies” only to produce “many seeds,” this request by these Gentile believers encouraged Jesus to stay focused on the fact that since He was about to suffer and die to pay for all the sins of all the people, His death and His resurrection would result in securing the glory of eternal life for all who put their faith and trust in Him— including you and me!
Stop for a moment and think about what that means, my friends. On the Tuesday of Holy Week— just days before He would suffer and die on the cross— Jesus was encouraged to complete His mission by thinking of you! Jesus knew that the scope of His work included saving you! Jesus knew that the glorious victory He was about to achieve would envelope and embrace you! Jesus knew that just as His death would be followed by His glorious resurrection, so also your faith in what He has done for you (pointing to the cross) guarantees that your death will one day be followed by a glorious resurrection to eternal life.
That thought then leads us to the second aspect of glory that is emphasized here in our text. Look at verses 25 and 26. Jesus says, “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. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”
The same miracle of life through death, glory through humility and victory through apparent defeat also occurs in our lives as the children of God today. In the paradox of God’s kingdom, we live and triumph only when we die first. In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul tells us that we are not only baptized into Christ’s death, but we are also baptized into Christ’s resurrection. God’s holy Law causes us to die to sin. God’s glorious Gospel raises us up by giving us new life. (Romans 6:1-14)
Jesus also reminds us that just as He received glory by faithfully serving and obeying His heavenly Father, so also we receive glory by faithfully following and serving Jesus. Outwardly, there may not appear to be anything glorious about us or about our lives. We may suffer, become discouraged and experience setbacks in our lives. But Jesus promises us that by following Him in humble service, Jesus promises us that living by faith in who He is and what He has done for us (pointing to the cross), means that one day we will end up where He is now— in glory everlasting! That’s why our Lord tells us that we who honor the Son here on this earth will one day be honored by the Father in heaven.
The third aspect of glory that Jesus emphasizes here in our text is found in verses 27 and 28. We read, “’Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.’”
Jesus’ entire mission here on this earth was focused on bringing glory to His heavenly Father. Every time Jesus conquered temptation He was bringing glory to His heavenly Father. Every time Jesus kept the Law perfectly in our place He was bringing glory to His heavenly Father. Every time Jesus proclaimed the Truth, every time He exposed false teaching, every time He performed a miracle, every time He had compassion on the helpless— every single thing Jesus did and said served to glorify the name of His heavenly Father. Would Jesus quit now— now that He was so close to completing the mission His heavenly Father had given to Him, the mission of saving us from our sins? Absolutely not! This request by these Gentile believers encouraged Jesus to fulfill His Father’s Plan of Salvation for this world by suffering and dying for our sins, and then rising to life again for our justification!
Jesus’ mission, my friends, would indeed result in glory— glory for Him as the Son of Man, glory for us as the beloved children of God, and most importantly, glory for His heavenly Father. At the same time, however, Jesus’ mission would also result in judgment. Look at verse 31 of our text, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” The eternal destiny of all mankind, your eternal destiny, my eternal destiny, was about to be determined— right there on the cross. Only one of two outcomes was possible: Either Jesus would successfully complete His mission which would result in glory; or, Satan would win which would result in our eternal damnation.
Jesus had no doubt concerning the outcome of the epic battle that was about to take place, did He. Jesus knew that the head of the serpent was about to be completely crushed. Jesus knew that our enemy the devil was about to suffer complete and utter defeat. Jesus knew that when His mission was complete, when He had reached His goal of paying the penalty for all the sins of all mankind, God’s judgment on this world would be “Not Guilty!” Jesus knew that Satan would be “driven out” and that He would “draw” to Himself everyone who believes and trusts in Him as their Savior. Yes, my friends, Jesus knew what had to be done. Jesus knew the scope of His mission. Jesus knew He would be victorious!
There may indeed be times when you or I have taken on a project that just simply overwhelmed us. Hopefully, we also know what it is like to get to a point where we can see everything coming together just the way it is supposed to and that gives us a renewed sense of energy and encouragement.
In just two short weeks we will once again watch as our Savior makes His way to the cross where He will fulfill the mission He was given to do— a mission that only Jesus could fulfill. May God grant that as we see our Savior complete His mission and as we hear our Savior victoriously proclaim, “It is finished!” that we will be moved to say:
To God be the glory!