Some Greeks were among those who had come up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and made a request: “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew, and Andrew and Philip told Jesus.
23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me.
27 “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
29 The crowd standing there heard and said, “It’s thunder.” Others said, “An angel spoke to him.”
30 Jesus replied, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours. 31 Now is the time for judgment of this world. Now this world’s ruler will be thrown out. 32 When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (33 He said this to show how he was going to die.)
The Book of Psalms was what Israel turned to as it was preparing for worship and the act of worship. Psalms is especially powerful as it runs the gamut from Psalms of unbridled praise to the depths of lament. It is about being real in worship, bringing our whole selves before God. If I am happy and content, I need to shoe that to God. If I am struggling and weary, I need to share that with God. One of the themes of Psalms is that humanity is in need of cleansing – being made whole and holy. Hear Psalm 51:1-2; 11-12 - “Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love! Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion! 2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt; purify me from my sin! … Please don’t throw me out of your presence; please don’t take your holy spirit away from me. 12 Return the joy of your salvation to me …” Sin and the need for forgiveness has always been a part of life as a follower of God.
Sacrifice was in the DNA of God’s people. The periodic cycles of sacrifices at the Temple were a way of life. The various festival days in the year gave opportunity for God’s people to seek right relationship with God. The Passover was especially important as it reminded the people of the saving work of God. When they were still in Egypt, under slavery, God saved them through the symbol of a lamb’s blood. This repetitive cycle of sacrifice, reminded the people of their sin, and God’s call to “do better.” This dynamic was spoken of in the New Testament book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 10:3-4 it says “Instead, these sacrifices are a reminder of sin every year, 4 because it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. … We have been made holy by God’s will through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once for all.” The sacrifices detailed in Leviticus are no longer necessary because of what God had done in Jesus Christ.
God’s intention is to forgive. By Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven. The Greek word translated as forgiven means “released” – released from the bondage of guilt and shame. That is what gives the strong connection between forgiveness and being saved. 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “ This saying is reliable and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I’m the biggest sinner of all.” Paul knew well the power of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus. He was clothed in sacrifice and forgiveness.
Psalm 103:12 speaks of the extent of God’s forgiveness. ”As far as the east is from the west – that’s how far God has removed our sin from us.”
The Apostle’s Creed includes the phrase, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins…”. Jesus sacrifice was for a purpose – to free us from the rote repetition of sacrifices, and to place us under the mantle of his sacrifice.
Hear the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice (vv. 27-28). “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. 28 Father, glorify your name!” It was a choice freely taken, in order to take away the sins of the world. The image of being clothed has been the image I have chosen for Lent this year. To be clothed in sacrifice is to feel the warmth, comfort, and safety of being clothed – wrapped in God’s loving arms. There is no place more secure and loving than in God’s arms. Hebrews 10:10 says, “We have been made holy by God’s will through the offering of Christ’s body once for all.” Adam Hamilton, in our Lenten Study Creed, reminds us that “holy” in the Bible means “sacred to” God or “set apart for” God. We are made sacred and set apart for service for God through the sacrifice that Jesus made.
Jesus sacrifice is a pivotal point for humanity – a watershed kind of event – either we receive the gift of his sacrifice and flow toward Jesus, or we reject it and flow away from him. We are sacred to God because of what Jesus did. We are brought into right relationship with God.
Enter the voice from heaven. This is the third time we’ve heard Gods voice from heaven in the Gospels. The first was at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” Again at the transfiguration God says, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” And now, just days before his final Passover, we once again hear the voice of God. This one is to indicate that Jesus’ sacrifice is not a defeat, but a glorious gift. “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” This was spoken in response to Jesus saying, “Father, glorify your name.” It is especially important to note verse 30, “This voice wasn’t for my benefit but for yours.” It was spoken to the “crowds” not just the disciples. Note verse 34 it says the crowds responded – the crowds, that’s us! How do we respond to the amazing gift of Jesus’ sacrifice?
How specifically have I thanked God for the sacrifice of Jesus for me? This is a question worth pondering.
The words of thanks are important. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, my brother and I went to the doctor for a health check. One of the delightful things that the doctor’s office did was to give helium balloons to the children patients. On this one occasion, as we left the building, my balloon slipped away from my grip. I cried over the loss! Without missing a beat, my brother gave me his! I was satisfied, but showed it more as satisfaction hat I had a balloon. I cried later when I realized I never really thanked him. It was weeks after that images of what my brother had done kept filling my thoughts. I had taken him for granted. I finally shared my thanks. AS you can imagine, He hadn’t given it a thought. He was, however, pleased that I thought to thank him. How have we thanked God for our salvation through his sacrifice?
Beyond that, words must be accompanied by actions. Jesus spoke of the seed that must fall to the ground and die in order to produce much fruit in verse 24. This was spoken initially about himself - his immanent sacrifice and death, and the result of his gift. But I believe it reached beyond that. Immediately after, in verse 25 are sentences about losing and saving our life. We are to “let go” of life in order to take hold of real life. The seed of salvation planted in us is only for one until we lay down that redeemed life in service to God. In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one that to lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus laid down his life for us. We are to lay down our lives for others. We are to let go of selfish ambition, selfish concern, and look to God – serve God. Remember in Matthew the Great Commandment? We are to love God will all our heart, mind, soul and body and love our neighbor as ourselves. All this is to glorify God. Our sacrifice will never be as great as Jesus sacrifice for us, but it can be as simple as giving “ … a cup of cold water in [his] name … .” So, what have I sacrificed for the sake of faith in Jesus Christ? How have I served God for the glory of God?
To be “clothed in sacrifice” is to experience the depth of what Jesus did for us and then daily offer our lives as a tool to re-present (represent) Jesus to the world. Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman