Faithlife Sermons

Seeing Jesus

Topical: Palm Sunday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In this message for Palm Sunday, we discuss the turning point in John's gospel where Jesus declares that the culminating purpose for which he came would soon take place and that it would manifest the glory of God. Secondly, we consider what it means to truly see (know) Jesus.


Seeing Jesus - John 12:20-26

(Like an octopus’s body and arms, we’re going to use vv. 20-26 of John 12 as our central text, but also refer to related things before and after this text as they connect to the primary emphasis we’re making today.)
I don’t know if you can picture this scene, but Jesus is now a full-on celebrity.
Illust. - I like to say I’m not that impressed by celebrity. My daughters say I’d feel differently if I had a chance to meet Steph Curry.
In the midst of all this, some men come saying…

“We Wish to See Jesus”

Greeks, probably meaning Gentile converts to Judaism, “God-fearers”—non-Jews who had determined to worship Israel’s God. - With so many people looking to be around Jesus (11:56 & 12:12), it probably wasn’t easy at this point to get an audience with Jesus.
They approached Philip, maybe because he was one of the only ones of Jesus’ close disciples with a Greek name, or because he was an approachable person. Philip, unsure at first what to do, checks in with Andrew. Together they go and tell Jesus.
Jesus’ response at first seems perplexing. He doesn’t say, “Sure, bring ‘em here.” Instead, he announces that “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

“The Hour Has Come”

- This statement marks a turning point in John’s Gospel and is significant in two ways.
The culminating purpose for Christ’s coming would soon take place.
Prior to this, Jesus would speak of not gaining too much public notoriety bc his “hour had not yet come” … and that the authorities were not able to get their hands on him earlier bc “the hour had not yet come.” Even the religious leaders, who wanted him dead, were avoiding this timeline around the Passover bc of their own concerns about causing a riot from his followers. But now, in God’s perfect timing, the hour had come for Jesus to be betrayed and arrested and crucified (not for any wrong he himself had actually committed, but for the sins of others). Which is why he allowed the crowds to hail his entrance... and rode on the foal of a donkey to fulfill the prophecy from Zech 9:9.
So we might still be wondering why Jesus doesn’t seem to grant the request of these Greeks to see him. Here’s one author’s suggestion:
Why won’t Jesus give the Greeks an audience at this time? Quite simply, because it is premature—it is not the time. It was “His time” to die on the cross of Calvary. It was not the time to begin proclaiming the gospel worldwide, with the result that many Gentiles would come to faith. That “time” is soon to come, and will be described in the Book of Acts. Right now, Jesus must not lose His focus nor be turned aside from His goal—to be glorified by dying on the cross of Calvary. (Bob Deffinbaugh)
“The hour has come… [here’s the rest of the statement] for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
The glory of God was manifest in the cross of Christ.
This can be a tough pill to swallow until you grasp its truth, and then it is precious and beautiful. It is both shocking and powerful.
- The path of Jesus innocently suffering to satisfy the just wrath of God against sin, demonstrating God’s perfect holiness and his perfect love, puts the majesty and splendor of the character and the ways of God on full display! [repeat?]
To see Jesus is to grasp the glory and the grace of God in the cross of Christ.
(Steve Cole) The cross reveals Jesus’ glory. Ask God to open your eyes to the glory of Christ and Him crucified! Meditate often on the cross. It will humble your pride, which is your biggest impediment to loving God and loving others. It will stir your heart with love and worship for the Savior, who gave Himself for you when you were a sinful rebel. It will give you compassion and hope for the lost, who can be saved by looking in faith to Jesus as the substitute for their sins. And […] seeing Jesus’ glory in the cross will transform you so that others will see Him through you.
The crowd wasn’t seeing Jesus. Well, I mean they physically saw Jesus with their eyes, but they didn’t perceive Jesus as he truly was nor comprehend his purpose. What they saw was a projection of the kind of Messiah they wanted Jesus to be. - This is proven not only by John’s description of their blindness (Jn 12:37-40), but that these same crowds were coaxed by the religious leaders, only days later, into switching their chant from “Save now!” (Hosanna) to “Crucify him!” - Again, here is John’s description of their blindness:
John 12:37–40 ESV
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
God allowed the Jews’ blindness to continue so that their rejection (with the Messiah right in their faces) would prove their need for such a Savior, and that the offer of salvation might go to all men. Here’s a supreme example of the depth of their blindness: Go back with me to John 11 where Caiaphas, the high priest, spoke better than he knew:
John 11:47–52 ESV
So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
So too as the people victoriously celebrate the Messiah’s coming at his entrance to Jerusalem, they are speaking better than they know, like Caiaphas. They actually misunderstand the kind of victory that Jesus is soon to embody. They misunderstand the kind of saving that they need MORE than physical/political liberty from Roman oppression. They need freedom from their slavery to sin and rescue from the wrath of God against that sin.
- Even the disciples didn’t truly see Jesus (perceive his person and purpose fully) until after his glorification through the cross and resurrection and ascension. (see Jn 12:16) Even Jesus’ closest followers can’t fathom his glorification taking place through the suffering of Calvary.
We, however, are on the other side of the cross and Jesus’ resurrection and have every opportunity to see Jesus rightly with the eyes of faith.
- (Even with all that’s going on in our current situation, making many of us think about our basic needs more than we are accustomed to do...) What do we need more than even all of our genuine earthly needs... and certainly more than any of our perceived needs and desires?
We need God to be what we cannot be and do what we cannot do! Enter Jesus.
We needed Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and we can hardly fathom his love and obedience to the Father that made him willing to innocently go to the cross. - That’s the glory of God manifest in the cross of Christ!
So Jesus continues to explain this coming hour of his glorification with a metaphor, that we needed him to die in order that we might have life. And that those who trust in him must follow his example of sacrifice for the good of others, that they too may know him.

The Dead & Buried Seed Produces Much Fruit

The point of Jesus’ illustration is this:
Illustration with my peach tree and peach seed…
Jesus must die to give life to many. (v. 24)
Jesus is saying: The only way these Greeks, or anyone, can see me (know me, who I truly am and what I have come to do for them) is through the cross.
We must die to self-reliance in order to gain spiritual life by trusting only in Jesus. (v. 25)
What does it mean to hate your life in this world? - Well, loving this world (or loving your life in this world) means living with only this life in view (or even primarily just this life in view). Not considering that there are more important things at stake, and for all eternity! - Loving your life in this world also means living for the same things worldly people life for. (pleasure, fame, comfort, power, and so on)
Here’s the thing: The sure way to lose your life (your soul) is love it in this world. A rich young man came to Jesus (Mk 10, Mt 19, Lk 18), asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. He told Jesus that he carefully kept the law, but Jesus knew the man loved the world bc he had many possessions (great wealth). So when Jesus said that the one thing he lacked was to sell everything and give it to the poor and come follow me… tragically, he went away sad.
If we are his, we die to self in order to follow Jesus and serve like he serves, so that others might truly see him. (v. 26a)
And that dying to self and serving him not only bears much fruit in this life but also results in us being with Jesus for eternity… and in being honored by the Father. (v. 26b)
-To make the sacrifices we are called to make, it helps to know that there’s a better reward awaiting us at the finish line.
John 14:3 ESV
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
-What could be better in this life than to know the pleasure of our Father… and to be told by him at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant. […] Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Mt 25:21)
Clara and I try to compliment our kids for what they’ve done well, so that they don’t only ever hear from us what they’ve done wrong and need to correct. (how exhausting that must be) I can just picture my kids faces when I tell one of them how proud of them I am for how their behavior was an example of the humility and kindness of Jesus. (the level of contentment—Daddy is pleased with me.)
I want to be motivated like that! I want to know that my Heavenly Father is saying not only “son I love you and I’m disciplining you because you need to learn to stop sinning in this way,” but also “son, I am so pleased and proud at the humble sacrifice you made today to love others better than yourself!”
What a joy to consider the delight of knowing God and living in a way that is pleasing to Him!

Seeing, Following, & Sharing Jesus

Wrong views of Jesus - Jews (vv. 55-56 in ch.11 and the so-called triumphal entry in 12) seeing Jesus as a means to their temporal, physical, political liberation - Religious leaders viewed him as a threat (to their leadership and to their well-being as a nation… the threat of Roman retaliation for something that might look like an uprising, political unrest) They would rather kill Lazarus (destroy the evidence) than believe Jesus was the Messiah. [blind and irrational] - Judas Iscariot saw Jesus as a means to line his own pockets, as a means to personal prominence.
By contrast…
Seeing Jesus means embracing the reality and necessity of his cross and resurrection.
It means understanding his purpose through the lens of his death and resurrection. (v. 16) It means understanding that this is why he came: to suffer and die in order to save us.
Seeing Jesus means he is an even greater and better King than what we want and think we need.
- MUCH better than we deserve. - In his first coming, Jesus came to inaugurate his unseen kingdom… (To Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jn 18:36)
Seeing Jesus means knowing the Father through him (Jn 12:45).
John 12:45 ESV
And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
(John 10:30 I and the Father are one.)
Following Jesus means comprehending a commitment to love and worship and follow him at the cost of everything else.
John 12:25 ESV
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Philippians 3:7–9 ESV
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
[repeat following Jesus line]
For others to see Jesus in us, we must not love our lives in this world.
(This is really a recap of our earlier discussion on v. 25, but look at also at Mk 8…)
Mark 8:34–38 ESV
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
It’s important to understand that taking up your cross doesn’t mean bearing up under some difficult burden for Jesus. No, carrying your cross means that you already know that your life is forfeit. You are ready and willing to follow Jesus, sacrificing everything for the good of others to the glory of God, because you know that he already did it for you. Your spiritual life, your restoration to God, came at the cost of his life.
For others to see Jesus in us, we sacrifice self and earthly glory to serve others.
(Bob Deffinbaugh) Jesus sets down an important principle: fruit bearing does not result from one’s efforts to save his life, but from one’s willing sacrifice of his life.
Jesus’ words for us are not, “Take up your crown and follow Me,” but “Take up your cross and follow Me.”
For others to see Jesus in us, it must be evident that we love him and worship him, follow him and serve him, as if nothing else in this life can possibly compare with knowing him.
PRAY: I pray Lord for your mercy toward those who are blind, that you will grant them faith in Jesus. I pray also for those who are blind leaders leading others astray. I pray that you will do whatever it takes to break them of their pride and turn their eyes off of themselves and on to you. I pray that we who have been given the privilege of seeing Jesus will not take it for granted, not put our eyes on our surroundings, but keep our gaze securely fixed on the one who bought us. Amen.
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