Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 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. 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. 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 also will 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!”
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. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
What draws a crowd? Elite athletes in competition. Famous authors, musicians, movie starts, etc. Babies. But there is a particular subject which always manages to draw a crowd: tragedy and death. Nothing sells more papers and magazines, nothing gains more clicks, views, or shares online than tragedy and death. Whether it’s gawking in person as you drive by an accident on the road or through screen or print, tragedy and death draw a crowd.
It might be odd to think it, but this is this kind of scene Jesus says he uses to “…draw all people to myself.” But, Jesus’ intent isn’t to give people the chance to gawk at an ancient crucifixion. Jesus’ goal is to get us to see that only through the cross of Christ can we be drawn to God.
The events of our text most likely take place on Tuesday of Holy Week. Here we meet some Greeks who seem to have converted to Judaism. They could join in worship with the Jews, but they had to remain in the outer courtyard of the temple—the so-called “Court of the Gentiles.” By the way, that was the same courtyard Jesus had cleansed on Monday. Throwing out the money changers and the merchants with their sacrificial animals once again providing a quiet place for Gentiles to meditate and pray.
These Greeks were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and had certainly heard the news about Jesus. Maybe they even witnessed his cleansing of the temple the day before. They approach Philip and ask, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
Interestingly, we are never told whether or not Jesus granted their request. We might have expected to hear Jesus say something like, “Welcome, dear Greek converts! It’s so good to see you!” But that isn’t what happens at all. Jesus teaches everyone listening on the Temple mount that when it comes to seeing him, it really isn’t about what we want to see in Jesus, but what he wants us to see. And what Jesus wants us to see tonight is the immensity of his coming sacrifice.
Jesus saw why His Final Steps Led to Some Greeks. These Greeks were another sign that his path was leading him to Golgotha and that it was all part of God’s plan: “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. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Jesus didn’t want to be the only seed on the wheat plant of eternal life. Jesus wants to live with us and all people in his heavenly home. But in order for that to happen, he knew he would have to pay for our sins which separate us from our God and his eternal home. That’s why he said, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?”
Now as [Jesus] contemplates his approaching scourging, the mocking and the spitting, the false judgement, the nails, and the hours on the cross, his human soul is troubled. As he considers what it will be like there on the cross—to be exposed to all the worst in humanity and then worst of all, to be abandoned by the Father he so perfectly loved and served—it all overwhelms him. For him to say that he is troubled is no small thing…Jesus shows us his true humanity when he gives this small glimpse into his soul: He is troubled! (Paragraph from: On Giving Advice to God: Part 1, by Daniel Deutschlander, © NPH 2017, p.147)
And two days later in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the trouble weighing on Jesus in full force as sweat fell down from his head as though blood were pouring out of open wounds! “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt. 26:38,39). Yet moments later, rousing his disciples from their slumber, “Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mt. 26:45,46).
In all of this, Jesus never wavered. He never turned from the Father’s plan to save you! Jesus gave glory to his Father with a devotion that was 100% faithful and pure! And so we see Jesus’ divine nature, in a sense, overcome his anguish as boldness returns declaring, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
Everything in his life over the last 33 years has been leading to this one point. Everything he has done, he has done to prepare himself to do what couldn’t be done. To undo the damage Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. To undo the work of Satan throughout all the centuries since then. Therefore, his heavenly Father declares: “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
This is the third time the Father spoke from the clouds. Jesus’ baptism, his transfiguration, and now just before his death. Each time the Father spoke because he was delighted by his Son’s perfect devotion. Jesus’ 33 years of perfect obedience glorified the Father. Jesus’ 3 years of perfect public ministry glorified the Father. And now, Jesus’ final steps of crucifixion and resurrection would also glorify the Father.
In this moment of reflection, Jesus clearly saw the cross ahead of him. That’s why he said, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” When Jesus speaks of being “lifted up from the earth,” he is using the same figure of speech for crucifixion he used about three years earlier when Nicodemus came to him in the middle of the night to learn how to be saved (Jn. 3). Nicodemus learned we are only saved through a Savior who is “lifted up.” When our Lord hung on the cross, that was the time for “judgment on this world.” All sins of all people of all time hung there with Jesus! Your sins and mine! And in that same moment, the “prince of this world” was thrown out! The devil’s power over us was crushed, and the Father was glorified yet again!
And isn’t that amazing? We normally think of Jesus’ glory beginning with his resurrection, but Jesus sees it beginning with his suffering and death! His death was going to be like the planting of a seed that would produce many seeds. This was the way he would draw all people to himself.
It wasn’t a terrible accident. It was all planned out from eternity. A young man was quickly crucified on a cross by his gawking enemies in the hopes of silencing his life-giving Word. His heart stops, and life leaves his body. His enemies thought they had won. But out of the death of this young man comes life because he is the Resurrection and the Life! The man, Christ Jesus. He was lifted up so that the devil would be cast down off his earthly throne and into the eternal fires of hell. Jesus walked these final steps for your sake and mine that we would share in his heavenly glory. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ben Enstad
Copyright © 2023, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Green Bay, WI 54301
Bible text, NIV © Biblia, 2011