Show Us Jesus (March 18, 2018)
Show Us Jesus
We all like to show off every now and then, right? Maybe it’s by being the hostess with the mostest at a dinner party. Or maybe it’s having an almost perfect bracket for March Madness. No matter what it is, we always like to hold out our best. It was once noted that when you get together for a high school reunion, a work conference, or any other gathering of people you occasionally meet, we all like to hold out our best. There could be a number of things that aren’t going so well in our lives, but when asked, “How are you doing?” we always like to hold out our trophies! The brightest and best things we can find to highlight.
Imagine the disciples’ disappointment when a group of Greek believers approached them and asked, “We would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). Show us Jesus. And when the disciples relayed the request to Jesus, they instead got this rather depressing answer. A seed dying… hating your life… a troubled soul…judgment on this world? Jesus, where’s the miraculous signs? Where’s the profound teaching? Why so dark and ominous all of a sudden? Where’s the glory?
Well, we know why he is being so dark and ominous don’t we. This is the last Lent service before Holy Week and Palm Sunday. We now talk one last time about the approaching hour of Jesus’ death before the services we have in honor of it. Not only that, but this reading, in fact, occurs on the Tuesday of Holy Week, days before he would be crucified. And by laying out a timeline of all the events of Holy Week, we can even see that this is that last day that Jesus taught publicly before he died. These words that we read today are the last words that the vast majority would have heard from Jesus before he died on the cross.
So why these words? Why focus on the dismal and his death? Why not highlight the best parts of his ministry to rally even more to the glories of faith in Jesus when the people asked to see Jesus? Well, it all comes down to the real glory of Jesus’ work. Where is his glory?
First, his glory is in all that he has done in service to the Father. It was the Father’s will that he humble himself and be born in flesh. It was the Father’s will that he live a perfect, sinless life. It was that Father’s will that he conduct a ministry, teaching people how to live God’s law not just by their actions, but stemming from a heart of love. It was the Father’s will that he take some of his closest disciples through intensive training so that they could be sent out as eyewitnesses and pillars of the Church. And it was the Father’s will that he take our place in death.
So first, he is glorified in all that he does in service to the Father. Second, he is glorified in dying. Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed” (Jn 12:23-24). The glory of Jesus’ death is that by the sacrifice of one, many more are saved. By giving up his glory for a time, he gains many more, glorifying them and him in the process!
That is actually my last point. In his dying, by the dying of that one seed, many more seeds are produced, glorifying God. And for all believers who serve and follow Jesus, like Jesus they also will be glorified. That’s what he says, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (Jn 12:26).
So you see, we go about seeking glory in all the wrong ways. We human beings, prone to sin, tend to elevate our service for God and the things we do as our glory. But Jesus shows us just the opposite. Jesus did not seek to glorify himself by the things he was doing. He didn’t seek to glorify himself by giving charismatic speeches and dying a noble death. Rather, Jesus lived a life of service. He spoke the truth even when it would sound revolting to some. And he died the death of a sinner. He did it all without thinking of his own reputation or glory. He did it all so that you would be glorified.
It’s that same attitude that we have, then, as we live our lives in service to God. Not seeking glory or fame for ourselves, but speaking the gospel truths in love. Seeking to glorify God our Savior. And we do that, surprisingly, by highlighting his death. That’s why the symbol of Christianity is a cross. “Show us Jesus?” you ask. I’ll show you Jesus. He was the seed that died, to produce many more seeds. He was the Passover Lamb, who obeyed God’s will perfectly then gave up his life so that you could live. He is Lord of all yet became servant of all so that you could become his heirs. You ask to see Jesus and I’ll show you someone who cared so much about you, that he devoted his whole life to you – even going so far as to die for you. In our day and age we call those people heroes. People who are willing to give up their lives in service to others.
It sure does teach us something about wanting to always have our best on display while hiding our faults. Jesus didn’t consider our faults when he came to save. Despite all our blemishes and defects being known to him, he still considered you worth dying for. And in his death, he didn’t just hide or cover up your defects, he took them onto himself and did away with them completely! In fact, That’s the very reason he came – his mission!
We’ve seen that Jesus’ glory did not come from the things we typically consider glorious and honorable. Rather, it came from his service to others and his life-giving death. His mission, also, was accomplished in a way that no one would have expected.
We might expect a victory over a powerful adversary to come about by an impressive battle of might and strength. We might expect something more like what we read about in Revelation 12, “Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev 12:7-9). Now that’s an epic battle! That’s a battle worthy of our Savior Jesus! That all did happen. It’s a depiction of the first battle when Satan was thrown out of God’s presence for his rebellion. But then Satan led mankind astray and doomed all humanity to his same fate. And he continues to entice and drag down anyone he can get his hands on. So a second battle had to be fought; not one to cast Satan out of God’s presence, but one to rescue the world from his enslavement. You would think that this battle would go down much like the first, but in fact it all went down very differently. God told us exactly how it would happen when he declared to Satan, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen 3:15). Satan thought he had won when he struck Jesus’ heel and had him crucified. But in that same moment, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. The prince of this world was driven out and made powerless when the King of kings and Lord of lords was condemned and died in our place.
This changed the verdict for you. This removed any blame or charge that Satan could bring against you. Every charge against humanity was laid on Jesus at the cross. The eternal destiny of mankind was determined on the cross, and at that moment the devil lost all his power. What is the verdict then? Was Jesus successful in his mission? With the powerless devil looking on, God declares all people righteous because of what the Savior has done.
It wasn’t an easy mission to accomplish. Jesus was not a robot, heading for the scrap heap without feeling. To live in our place so that we could be declared righteous, Jesus himself had to become fully human. And along with that came all the things that we consider human: fear, pain, temptation, the possibility of failure. Despite also being fully God, he did not simply switch off all sorrow and suffering. He already felt the burden we associate with Gethsemane. His sufferings would be intense beyond measure. He opened his soul for us to look in. “Now my soul is troubled,” Jesus said, “and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me for this hour’?” Suffering and death is not a very tantalizing prospect for any human being. And we shy away from it time and time again. Despite all that God has done for us, we often fail to stand up for God and demonstrate our love for him despite any consequence. But Jesus’ love far surpasses our own and drove him to the cross. Jesus’ determination is unmatched as he went all the way to his death so that you could live. “It was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (Jn 12:27-28).
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (Jn 12:32). The prophecies are too detailed, his life too perfect, his death too innocent and with too much love for anyone to deny the truth. Anyone believing the prophecies, trusting the facts, and understanding the reason can’t confess anything other than “Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior” to the glory of God the Father. So in his death, Jesus draws all people to himself in faith. And by his death, God draws all people to himself as saints made righteous by the blood of the Lamb.
If you want to see Jesus, the true glory of Jesus, look to the cross. If you want to know his mission, why he came, look to the cross. Although it was used for a cruel death, and although it was meant to be his defeat, Jesus turned that apparent defeat into victory, and death into eternal life. Therefore, we take pride in the cross. We “lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim. Till all the world adore his sacred name.”