Controversial Jesus #16 - Glory
Josiah Leuenberger, Director of Young Adult Ministries and Life Stage Leader, looks at how we look at our lives and what truly matters - not in finding answers in living in ourselves, but in having our perspective set on someone infinitely bigger than ourselves and lay our lives down.
Good morning, it is great to be together. Welcome to Orchard Hill. If you're new, a special welcome to you. My name is Josiah, I serve with our adult ministries here at the church. And guys, Labor Day weekend, isn't this the best? The only thing better than a weekend is when we have a day off when we should be working. That is the best.
Well, if you're new here, a special welcome. Here at Orchard Hill, we are a church where people come together at all stages in our journey of faith. And we are so glad that you're here. If you are wondering about who God is, maybe exploring Christianity for the first time, this is the place for you. If you've been in the church your whole life and you're looking to come and take steps and grow, then we're so glad to have you here as well.
And as we gather, we know that we come from all different places, but also here at Orchard Hill, we believe very strongly that when we gather here, God really, he really is in our presence and he speaks to us through his word as we look at the Bible together.
And so, that is our expectation, that's our hope as we come to this time, as we hear a word from God. That he will speak to our hearts, to our minds, in a way that would really be powerful to change us. So, why don't we pray about that together, then we'll get into the word.
Father, it is great to be together this morning. It is encouraging to be with other people who are walking through life and looking for truth, looking for answers about what is most important, what's most meaningful. And we thank you for the way that you reveal yourself to us in your word. And we pray that this morning, that you would speak to us from John 12 in a way that would wake us up, that would direct us, that would challenge us where we need to be challenged. That would encourage us in the places where we need to be lifted up. This is our hope, this is our expectation, would you speak to us now? And we pray this together in Jesus' name. Amen.
Well, I want to share with you that each morning, the way that I start my day is I come downstairs, the first thing I've got to do is flip on that coffee pot. And then I grab my Bible with a cup of coffee and I sit down on the couch for some time reading my Bible. And once I'm done with that, the next thing that I do is open up my phone and look to my Google news feed. Those of you who still read newspapers, Google news feed is personalized news just to you.
And I want to share with you, this week I opened up my Google news feed and I saw some articles that caught my attention. The millennial generation, those of us 20 to 35ish, we're making some headlines. Millennials won't buy baby boomers luxury ranches out west. What is our problem? The next recession will destroy millennials. How millennials are changing the food industry's taste buds. Millennials aren't into God, patriotism, or having kids.
What is our problem? Guys, listen to this line I read this week. "Are millennials the most self-centered generation ever? Many people think so. The list of charges against them is as long as it is familiar. They're immature, lazy, and selfish. They're constantly taking selfies and sharing them on social media. They won't dane to pay their dues at entry level jobs and they can't buy houses because they spend all their money on hipster status symbols, like avocado toast." Come on. Kale and eggs, guys.
Here's a quote from another article. This one's from The Washington Post about people in their 20s. The author writes, "What really distinguishes this generation from those before it is that it is the first generation in American history to live so well and complain so bitterly about it." But guess what? That article was written in 1993. Those of you between 45 and 55, they're talking about you. Jokes on who? I guess we millennials aren't alone in our issues.
I've got one more quote for you. This one is from The New York Times, it's actually a response in an advice column. The author writes, "We ask ourselves, 'Why are their conversations so self-centered?' They say, 'No one understands me. My family doesn't get what I'm going through.' And the list goes on. 'My other doctor was better. The therapy isn't doing me a bit of good. The food here is terrible and I haven't gone to the bathroom in seven days.'" You may not be surprised to hear that article actually ends with a list of do's and don'ts to keep in mind for conversation with the elderly. I'll tell you guys, this generation of senior citizens ...
Well, now that we are all offended, here's the point I'm trying to make, maybe each generation, maybe we all have our own unique issues. Maybe different stages of life, we all express it in different ways, but I think we also have commonality as human beings. Maybe we have a common problem in that we all tend to be pretty self-centered. We live as if the world revolves around us. We have number one in mind most of the time.
I mean, believe me, I know from personal experience. Left to my own devices, I can be thinking all day about my plans, my schedule, my goals, my friendships, my future. That comes very naturally to me. Do you identify with that? Is that what is on your mind most of the time?
You know, I think here's the problem with this, I think sooner or later when we live as if we are the center of the world and everything revolves around us, sooner or later we realize that we are running down a road in search of feelings of significance and fulfillment and life, looking for lasting meaning. We are running down that road and it doesn't ever lead us to where we hope we'll arrive. Living with ourselves at the center of our lives, it just doesn't offer us satisfaction in a way that lasts.
And what we see in today's passage ultimately is, that when it comes to the most important things in our lives, there is a way for us to be certain about what is most important, what truly matters. But ultimately, we're not going to find those answers in living for ourselves, because finding meaning, a satisfaction that lasts, a real purpose in life that stands the test of time, God's word tells us those things are available to us, even beyond what we'd ever hoped. But the way for us to get there is through setting our perspective on something, on someone that's infinitely bigger than we are.
And so, this morning you heard this passage from John 12. Let me set the context for you a little bit. Here we are coming into the last week of Jesus' life. We're in John 12, so there's still nine chapters left in this book, a lot of ground left to cover, but we are coming into the last week of Jesus' life and this chapter begins with him coming into the city of Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This annual Jewish celebration, remembering what God has done in liberating the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt.
People from all over the nation are gathered and they're excited. They are especially riled up as Jesus comes into the city. This scene that is depicted in the early part of John 12, it's kind of like a Super Bowl celebration parade. People are riled up, they're waving palm branches. And that tells us a lot actually about their excitement, what it's stemming from. You see, the palm branch was a symbol of nationalistic pride for the people of Israel. It was common for them to wave palm branches, remembering their nation, where they'd come from, where they were going, their hopes and dreams for the Israelite people.
And so, this crowd, as Jesus enters, they have a lot of excitement. Their hope is that Jesus is the Messiah, the sent one from God. Specifically, their hope is the sent one from God to liberate them from Roman captivity. That was their greatest felt need at this point in time.
And so, when Jesus comes into town, you can see that hope clearly in the words that they shout. They proclaim these words of scripture, "Hosanna," meaning give salvation now. "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel." These people are excited, they are hopeful that now is the time Jesus is going to break those bonds of oppression they are experiencing under Roman rule.
But little did they know, what we will see is that Jesus came for so much more than to just release the people of Israel from their captivity as political prisoners. He came to release each and every one of us who would for all of eternity look to him in faith and believe in our need for a Savior from our brokenness, from sin and death.
But these people, they're all riled up when Jesus comes into town. And so much so, we actually hear this attitude from the Pharisees. Listen to this, this is verse 19, they feel hopeless when they see how excited the people are. "This is getting us nowhere," their opposition to Jesus, they say, "This is getting us nowhere. Look, the whole world has gone after him." They are speaking with hyperbole. You know what they're saying, they're exaggerating a feeling because it's so real to them. "The whole world has gone after him! What can we do to stop this guy?"
And what's really ironic is, the next part of this passage, we actually do see evidence that the world is turning to Jesus. We see direct evidence of the truth in their statement. This group of Jewish converts from a Greek background, they seek out Jesus' disciples, specifically a man named Phillip, one of Jesus' disciples, who is also from a Greek background. And they ask Phillip, "Take us to Jesus."
And the details of that conversation between these Greek Jewish converts and Jesus, we don't get those in the text, but it is a significant fact that these people do seek them out. It's important enough for John to mention. And here's why, we need to recognize that these men, as they come to Jesus, these people, they're outsiders in the religious community. They believed in the one true God, the God of Israel. They probably were drawn by the contrast of Jewish morality with the licentiousness of the culture that they lived in.
But also, when they come to Jesus, they're coming to him with a hope. Because you see, these people, even though they had a genuine faith in their hearts, they were absolutely outsiders in the religious community. They were kept at an arm's distance. They weren't true Jews. You see, that nationalistic pride, the waving of the palm branches, that excluded people like these followers of God. They were tired of practicing mechanical rites of their tradition. They were disenchanted with their faith. They come to Jesus hoping for more.
And what's significant about this is these are individuals coming to Jesus with a hope for more, but they are also representative of the world. The world, looking for a new path to God. A new way of understanding what life is really about. Where real meaning, significance and fulfillment for a person's life can be found. They're coming to Jesus looking for answers.
And you and I know from experience, it's usually discontent that leads us to seek out change, right? It's frustration with the status quo in our lives that ultimately leads us to want to change. I don't know that anyone among us has ever thought to ourselves, "You know what? I think it's time for me to get a new car, because the one I'm driving is so nice, I want to take it to a dealership now and do a trade in while I'll still get a lot of money for it." I don't think anyone of us has ever made a change for that reason. It's being discontent with the status quo in our lives that ultimately leads us to step out of our comfort zone and seek change.
I don't know if you were here last week, but we actually had a promotional video for a ministry here at Orchard Hill called Financial Peace University. This is an awesome ministry starting up in September. And really, what this group seeks to do is equip people to understand how we can steward wisely the financial resources that God gives us. And that's not always easy.
You know, Dave Ramsey is the founder, the creator of that program, and he's a guy who has some memorable tag lines. And last week in that promotional video, he used this line, it's very common. He says, "What is it that finally gets us to make a change in our financial lives?" He says, "It takes being sick and tired of being sick and tired."
And what I want to say to you, is when these Greek Jewish worshipers, they come to Jesus and they seek him out, it's because they're sick and tired of practicing a dead religion that doesn't do anything for them. These mechanical rites, being excluded because of their nationality. They want to know if there's a better path, so they come seeking Jesus out. That's why they seek him out.
And so, as we look at the text, we see how Jesus responds in the world turning to him for answers. We're in John 12:23, "We'd like to see Jesus," the men say. Phillip went to tell Andrew. Andrew and Phillip in turn told John. In verse 23, Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified." Jesus is saying here, "It is time for me to accomplish what I ultimately came to do."
And as we continue in the passage, we see him describe what that is. Verse 24, "Very truly I tell you, 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." And so, with this agricultural analogy, that really would have resonated with Jesus' listeners in the ancient near east. He essentially describes the essence of what his mission in coming to earth was all about.
Verse 24, "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But it dies, it produces many seeds." Jesus is explaining here, when one kernel of wheat falls and dies, that might seem like a loss. But he says here, what happens when it dies, when it dies a seed is planted. And when that seed is planted, it begins to grow in due time.
It grows, it blooms, it blossoms into a new plant that produces a whole new harvest of many seeds. What Jesus is saying here is, "The moment is coming for me to lay down my life. But don't think of this as a loss. Because in me laying down my life, what is to come is I'm about to accomplish the salvation of many. The salvation of the world." That's what Jesus came to do on the cross.
Jesus came, fully God and fully man. He stepped into our space, he lived a perfect sinless life, though he dealt with temptation. But Jesus came and he lived a sinless life, he pointed us to God the Father. But not just as our good example, he came to live among us and lay down his life as the perfect sacrifice for our sin. To pay the penalty for us to be forgiven and restored with the God who made us.
Jesus laid down his life, he died so that spiritually dead people, which is each and every one of us apart from faith in him, might be given new life for eternity. That's the Gospel.
And what we see next in this passage is that good news of what Jesus has done. It has very personal implications for each and every one of us. Verse 25, Jesus says, "Anyone who loves their life will lose it. While anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
"Anyone who loves their life will lose it. While anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternity." You know, in so many ways, we hear everyday the world tell us that our life is about us. Do we want to be fulfilled? Then we need to seek to meet our own desires. Do we want to be people who are significant? Then what can we do to make our mark on the world?
But Jesus' words, here he tells us, do you want to be truly significant? Do you want a life with a meaning that ultimately lasts? Jesus tells us the path here is absolutely counter-intuitive. He says, "Follow me and die to yourself. Anyone who loves their life will lose it. Anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
My friends, Jesus tells us here, real fulfillment and significance are available to us beyond what we've ever hoped for. But the way to get them is so counter-intuitive to us, because we have to stop searching for them in ourselves. That's the only way. And that's not easy to do in our sin nature. We all know what comes naturally to us is to live as if we're number one. The world is all about us. We've got to set ourselves aside. That doesn't come naturally to us.
But thankfully, scripture makes the way clear to us. It points us in a path that can ultimately lead us to make sense of what we're experiencing. And that changes everything. You know, sometimes in the morning when I'm at home, and I'm getting in my workout, I like to turn on some sports so I feel like I'm not the only one doing some physical activity. And oftentimes, when I turn on TV, I find some sports games that are playing that I don't really understand. Two in particular come to mind, rugby and cricket. I've got no clue what those people are doing.
When I watch those sports, I can last about two or three minutes before I'm looking to change a channel, because those games make no sense to me. I don't really get much enjoyment out of watching them. But here is what I know, there are people all across the world who love those sports, who go crazy over them. Some of these cricket games last for like 24 hours. And people are glued to the screen.
What do you think makes the difference between them and me? I think the difference is these people get what it's all about. They understand the rules. They understand how a team can succeed. They get the meaning. I think that makes all the difference.
And I guess what I'm trying to say is, sometimes I feel like we can approach life in a similar way to how I feel about cricket, apart from God. Apart from God, I think most of us look at life and we think, "This is all right. But I don't really get it. I don't find much joy or meaning in it."
But what makes all the difference for us is scripture shows us Jesus came to show us and teach us what true life is really about. And when we come to him in faith, he wakes us up. He breathes new life into us, he gives us eyes to see and understand. An ability to live for what's most important. That's available to each and every one of us. We can all have that, but it does come at a cost. Comes at the ultimate cost, the same one Jesus paid, of dying. If we want to live for what's most important, for what lasts for eternity, we've got to be willing to lay ourselves down and die to self.
That's what Jesus tells us here. And for most of us, what ultimately leads us to make that choice, that takes us so far out of our comfort zone, what leads us to open up our hands and say, "I'm willing to let go of control," it takes us being sick and tired with living as if we are at the center of our lives. We've got to say, "I'm tired of living for me."
Maybe you've known nothing else. It takes saying, "I'm tired of the false promises that I can find ultimate satisfaction and meaning in living for myself." You know, maybe today you're here and you can see that God has been working in your life. Make no mistake, one of the ways God works in our lives is by allowing us to be discontent with anything less than him. Because ultimately, only he can satisfy. In God's goodness, he will let us be discontent and miserable with anything that is less than him. Because that's how he gets our attention and leads us to see that he is able to satisfy us in a way that will stand the test of time.
Jesus tells us, "Whoever finds his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." That's the hope that's available for each and every one of us. Freedom from sin and self. But it comes at the cost of laying ourselves down. But if we'll do that, we reap a reward that lasts for eternity. This changes everything for us.
But what we see next in this passage is that not only does the counter-intuitive Gospel change things for us as individuals, giving us fulfillment, a sense of significance in being owned by God, and our lives lasting for eternity, but it gives us a purpose. It's powerful to engage us and energize us through life.
That's something that absolutely comes out in this passage. Let's pick up in verse 25, "Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my soul 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."
And what we see here from Jesus is that as he contemplated his death, his betrayal, the humiliation that would come along with that, as he contemplated that difficult road that was before him, Jesus did feel a sense of trepidation. I mean, that was only natural in his humanity. But did Jesus back down in the face of all that pain? All that difficulty? What we see here is, no, Jesus' conviction, it only strengthened.
Look at verse 27, "Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say, Father save me from this hour?" Jesus says, "No. It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Jesus' conviction strengthened in the face of his deepest, most painful moment. His conviction strengthened because he knew that his life was for a greater purpose. It was ultimately about pointing to God. It was about forwarding his glory.
And Jesus' driving ambition was for the world to see the power of God to heal, to restore. The God who brings life from death, that's what Jesus' life was all about. He lived for the glory of the Father. And so, even in the face of his death, Jesus was filled with conviction. He was filled with conviction and purpose, even as he looked to the cross.
And so, what Jesus' words here, what they ultimately tell us is that if we have found our true life in him, we also find our greatest purpose in following him. Because in trusting Jesus and following him, we step into his mission.
The Apostle Paul describes that in 2 Corinthians, "Jesus died for us all, so that those of us who live should no longer live for ourselves, but for him who died for us and was raised again." What this tells us is, if we want to live a life of true meaning, a life that makes an eternal impact that comes through seeking to partner with Jesus in his mission, by showing the world the redeeming grace, the transforming truth that is in Jesus Christ, by living to forward his glory. Seeking God's name, his renown above our own, even in our most difficult moments.
Ephesians 2:10, one of my favorite verses in all of scripture. The Apostle Paul writes, "We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works which he has prepared in advance for us to do." That's our mission, that's what God has made us for. He has given us grace. He's drawn us to himself and given us new life, that we might participate in his mission in the world in the things we do and the words we speak and in who we are. And that fills us with purpose. That brings a new meaning to everyday life for each and every one of us, because that can play out in a thousand different ways.
I mean, think about it. We can be representatives of Christ by being people who have hope and joy, even in the midst of pain and difficulty. Because we know where our hope ultimately lies. We know who holds our future. We can be people who are humble in our success, because we know whose glory ultimately matters. We can be people who remain confident, even in our failure, even in our biggest screw ups, because we know we are significant. Not because of our performance, but because Jesus has made us his own and we are defined by his performance on our behalf.
We can live with open hands and be generous because we know what lasts for eternity. Those are all ways that we can be representatives of Jesus Christ in a response to the grace we have received. And ultimately here in this passage, Jesus makes it very clear, one way that we can respond to his grace is by emulating him and serving the world around us.
There's an author, counselor, Craig Lounsbrough, he writes this, "The shortest short term investment is to serve ourselves." The shortest short term investment is to serve ourselves, to live for ourselves. But serving others, as representatives of Jesus? Pointing others to the grace, the hope that is in him? That's something that lasts for eternity. When we seek to serve, what we ultimately find is that is something that can be incredibly life giving for us.
You know, I've been in the church for a while, and I've seen a lot of people go on mission trips or service projects. I've done a lot myself. And it's something that I hear so consistently when people return from those kind of experiences, is they say, "You know what? If the people we went there to serve got half as much from us as we got out of serving them, we'll count that as a win."
How is it that we hear that so often? I think what happens ultimately is when we get our minds off of ourselves and we set our attention to what God is doing in the world, to show people his compassion, his care. When we partner with him in that work, we find it incredibly energizing and freeing and life giving.
That's what happens when we serve others, to forward the glory of God. And I want you to know, there's some great opportunities for us to do that here at Orchard Hill. Our ministry to Haiti through Eleos. Our Eleos ministry here locally, serving on mission trips. But this can also happen with each and every one of us in our everyday lives. Because the fact of the matter is, we may be doing the same exact activities, but when we do it with a heart to serve because God has served us in Jesus Christ? That absolutely transforms the meaning of what we do.
The heart to serve, that's the difference between being an employee who shows up saying, "I'm here to punch the clock and take care of myself," or being someone who looks at the people around you and says, "I'm here to invest in relationships. I notice the needs around me and I see what I can do to make a difference." It can be the difference, a heart to serve can be the difference between being a teacher who's jaded, saying, "I have had enough of these kids, they're no good," and showing up and saying, "You know what? I'm going to do what I can to believe the best, and make an investment in this kids' future."
A heart to serve can be the difference between saying, "If I've got to unload this stinking dishwasher one more time, I am out of here," or saying, "You know what? This is an opportunity for me to care for the people who I love so much, that God has put in my life." When we do the same exact activities with a heart to serve because God has served us in Jesus, it entirely transforms the meaning of what we do.
But we all know, sometimes serving is absolutely thankless. Sometimes, it's really hard. Sometimes we want to quit. But, we'll close with this, this passage also tells us we can have hope because God will sustain us in our efforts.
We look at verse 38, when Jesus sees this daunting task before him, this mission that he's set himself to. He says, "Father, glorify your name." And what's God's response? "Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it and I will glorify it again."
What I love about that is we don't sense much uncertainty from God there in that response, do we? It seems that he has made up his mind. God follows through on providing what we need to make his name known. He did that with Jesus as he faced the cross, he does that in our own lives. He fulfills his promise, he follows through in providing what we need to fulfill the work that he has called us to.
And guys, there is literally a world of opportunity before us to live out our mission as representatives of God's grace. And thankfully, we have the Holy Spirit on our side to live that mission out. He is our source of power. He is our guide. He is our counselor. He's with us in all that we experience. And he will sustain us to the very end.
So let me ask you, do you want to experience fulfillment, significance in your life that lasts for eternity? We can all have that, but the path is counter-intuitive. It takes setting ourselves aside and laying our lives down to follow Jesus. We can follow Jesus into serving the world around us for the glory of God. And that gives us so much meaning, so much purpose in everything we do.
So let's lean into the Holy Spirit as we seek to live that mission out for the glory of God. Let's pray together.
Father, we thank you for your word and the way that it speaks to each and every one of us. We thank you that you have made yourself clear. We thank you, God, that the world is about more than ourselves. So many times in our human nature, we can just get so focused on the things that we have going on, God, that we just lose sight of what's truly important. We lose sight of what lasts for eternity.
But we thank you that we have a hope that goes so far beyond just living for our own best life now. Father, we thank you for the hope that is in Jesus Christ. That when we do what's absolutely counter-intuitive, lay ourselves down and put our trust in you, we find hope and meaning that goes so far beyond what we've ever dreamed of, God.
And so, I pray that this week you would speak to our hearts. Would you give us faith to trust you? To follow you? Father, if there is anyone here who would do that for the first time, I pray that you would solidify that work in their heart by the Holy Spirit. And for each and every one of us, would we see that everyday we have meaning, we have purpose in living out our lives as representatives from you. Because in every moment, we have the opportunity to serve because you have served us.
We thank you for the way that that drives us and energizes us, God, with a passion that will last for all of our days, because we know that our hope is in you to sustain us by your Holy Spirit. And we ask this boldly in the name of Jesus, amen.
Well, guys, it has been great to be together. Tomorrow is Monday and you're not going back to work. Enjoy the long weekend. Bye-bye.