The Fifth Sunday in Lent

This is the sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent. The sermon text is: John 12:20-33. The sermon theme is: Are You Ready To See Jesus’ Glory?

“<23> Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. <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.” (John 12:23–24 NIV11-GK)
“<23> Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. <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.” (John 12:23–24 NIV11-GK)

Are You Ready To See Jesus’ Glory?


Are you ready for easter? Easter is the natural time when people get together. And so, right now, thousands of people across our land are thinking of what food they will make for the Easter dinner. They are thinking of who they will invite. And even children are preparing by getting their homework done before Easter break. But none of that is really the heart and core of what it is to get ready for Easter. Here, in these words in John’s gospel we see what it is to be ready for Easter. In John 12 we read: 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.” (John 12:20–22 NIV)


In these words we meet some Gentiles who want to see Jesus. Now, from the context we see that these aren’t unbelieving, Godless Gentiles. No, instead these are faithful, believing, God-fearing Gentiles. And they want to see Jesus. So they speak to Philip and tell him that they want to see Jesus. Then Philip and Andrew share this request with Jesus. And he responds to these Gentile believers with these words: 23 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, 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. 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:23–25 NIV)


In a very clear way he tells these Gentile believers that seeing Jesus’ glory means understanding his death. If they wanted to see Jesus—really, truly see Jesus—who he was and what he was there to do, then they needed to recognize that he was going to die and why he was going to die. And so he tells them a short story. If a kernel of wheat stays by itself, it does not grow. But if it dies it creates thousands of kernels of wheat.


And then, just when we think Jesus is about to explain his parable—just when we think he is going to explain to them more about his death, he changes the subject. He tells them: 25 The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:25–26 NIV)


These Gentiles thought they were ready to see Jesus’ glory. But in very clear and cutting words Jesus tells them that they are not. They were not ready to see Jesus because they were not willing to serve others. Notice the point that Jesus makes: If you love this world then what place do you have in heaven? If you hate serving others, then you’re really going to hate heaven because that’s what life will look like in heaven. We will be constantly serving our Lord by serving each other.


Jesus spoke these words so that they would sink home in these Gentile’s hearts. He wanted them to ask the question, “Are you ready to see Jesus’ glory?” And through them he asks the same question of us this morning. Each of us has this deep sinful need of serving ourselves and worshipping ourselves. Husbands, you see this in your own lives, don’t you? Christ calls on us to have this self-sacrificing love just as Jesus had for his church. But so often, we lazily throw our women under the bus for our own convenience. Wives, you see this in your own lives too, don’t you? There is this ever-living, real temptation to treat your husband as if he were some sort of fashion accessory rather than giving him respect as your husband. Parents, isn’t the same true for you? God gave you children so that you could spend time with them and teach them God’s word. And instead we say, “Enough! I need my me time.” And Children, instead of asking to help around the house and learning what it is to be a grown-up it’s ever-so-easy to act like you’re two years old even when you’re far closer to twelve.


You aren’t ready. You aren’t ready to see Jesus’ glory. Why would you want to be where Jesus is in heaven when you love this world so much? Why would you want to be in heaven where you will continually serve others when you only want to be served here? Jesus spoke these words to those Gentiles then and to us Gentiles today to move us to repent. We recognize that we love to worship ourselves. We love to be served by others. And in these words Jesus makes us ready to see his glory by showing us that he is the servant of the world. He was the only one who could bend his will to his Father’s burden. He was the only one who could perfectly and faithfully serve others. And because he did so perfectly all our sins of worshipping ourselves and serving ourselves are forgiven.


And so, Jesus asks you this morning if you are ready to see his glory. We prepare to see his glory by serving others. But we also prepare to see his glory in another way: 27 “Now my heart 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. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” (John 12:27–30 NIV)


Jesus came to earth to glorify his Father’s name. That was the point—that was the purpose that Jesus came to this earth for. And when he brought glory to his Father’s name, what would happen?: “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.” (John 12:31 NIV)


When Jesus brings glory to his Father’s name judgement will be passed against this world and the Devil, the Prince of this world will be thrown out. That is what will happen when he glorifies his Father’s name. But the next verse answers the question, how? How will Jesus bring glory to his Father’s name? “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”” (John 12:32 NIV)


Jesus would bring glory to his Father’s name by lifted up on a cross on Good Friday. And there is the glory and the irony. Jesus’ glory is found in his death. Jesus shame is our salvation. Satan is thrown out of our lives and out of this world by Jesus being thrown out of Jerusalem and out of heaven to suffer in hell in our place.


And so, we become ready to see Jesus’ glory both by letting our souls serve others and by letting Jesus be thrown out. And right there is where we see our sin. Our sin is jumping to Easter Sunday without walking through Good Friday. Our sin is concluding that because Jesus rose from the dead then he no longer works through weakness. But he still does, doesn’t he? He works through the weakness of the preached word. He works through the weakness of the jar of clay in the pulpit. He works through the shame of that cross that shines throughout all generations. And so, we want the best life now. We want all of our enemies to be put to shame now. We want to drag heaven down to earth instead of waiting till Christ takes us to heaven.


And so, let me ask you again, are you ready for Easter? Are you ready to see Jesus’ glory? Here again, we repent, don’t we? We repent of the times we didn’t let our Savior be thrown outside where his shame is our salvation. And we rejoice yet again that we have a gracious, caring, loving Savior. And he shows it in these words: 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:32–33 NIV) Jesus is thrown outside heaven to suffer in hell. The the result is plain and powerful. Because Jesus was thrown outside we can be sure that we are now inside God’s church and his heaven. And all our sins are forgiven. The sins we commit when we refuse to serve and the sins we commit when we refuse to see the shame and weakness of the cross—they are all forgiven.


Getting ready for Easter isn’t really preparing a meal-plan and cleaning your homes. It’s learning what these Gentiles learned. Christ has made us ready to see his glory by giving us joy to serve others because Jesus served us first. Christ has made us ready to see his glory by seeing that he was thrown out so that we would forever be included in. Amen.



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Midweek Lent 5

This is my sermon for our fifth midweek lent service. The sermon text is: Luke 23:36-43. The sermon theme is: Christ Calls the Penitent to Calvary

“<36> The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar <37> and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”” (Luke 23:36–37 NIV)
“<36> The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar <37> and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”” (Luke 23:36–37 NIV)

Christ Calls The Penitent To Calvary


All theological words are pictures. Take, for example, the word, forgiveness. That word means, “to send away.” God sends away our sins. No matter who you are or where you live or when you live you understand that word because you understand the picture behind that word. This evening we start with a different theological word. That word is depravity. Depravity is decay and corruption.1 And that’s a powerful picture, isn’t it? I remember when I was young there was the time that I went on a youth-group trip in my pastor’s car. A bunch of children piled into this monstrous car. And then, when the doors were shut, we smelled something horrible. Someone had spilt a bunch of milk in the car. Now the milk had rotted and made the entire car smell like vomit. I was never a tidy, clean child. But at that moment I wanted more than anything to stop and clean the inside of that car. That, my dear friends in Christ, is depravity. Ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin, all of creation is corrupted. And that rot and decay isn’t just out there to be seen and smelled in the world. No, it’s also in here. Sin has corrupted and brought rot to our hearts. And if we want to see what that corruption and decay looks like, all we have to do is look at what is going on here in these words as Jesus is dying on the cross: 36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”” (Luke 23:36–37 NIV)


Jesus calls the penitent to Calvary to show them their depravity. And here, in such detail we see what that depravity looks like. The Jews made fun of Jesus. And then the soldiers made fun of Jesus. We can see depravity in a willingness to be changed and corrupted by others. The soldiers got the idea of making fun of Jesus from the Jews around them. But the desire to make fun of him came from the rotten corruption inside of them. And the same is true for us. If we want proof that there is this corruption and decay in us all we have to do is look back at the many times in our lives we have enticed and taught to sin by others. And instead of saying, “no” we said “yes” and went along with them.


Depravity shows itself in a willingness to be affected by others. But it also shows itself in a willingness to compare ourselves to others: 38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”” (Luke 23:38–39 NIV)


The criminal says, “Save yourself, and us.” With those words we don’t just see this man’s willingness to be enticed to sin. We also see how willing he was to compare himself to others. This criminal can say to himself, “I may have been caught, and now I’m crucified, but at least I don’t have it as bad as that guy, Jesus.” Inside each and every one of is is this depraved bigotry that concludes that our sins aren’t as bad as the sins of other people. This man there on the cross probably murdered people. And it’s so easy to say he deserves crucifixion and hell because he was a murderer. But so are you. Jesus says, 21 You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21–22 NIV) Look at this criminal very closely. For in him you see yourself. See someone who is ever-so-willing to compare your sins with those of another and conclude that your sins are less and that other person’s sins are worse.


Christ calls the penitent to Calvary to show depravity. And that depravity is found in us. And as these words continue, we see that Jesus calls us to Calvary for another reason: 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”” (Luke 23:40–41 NIV)


So there was one criminal who heaped the insults on Jesus. And for a time the second criminal did the same. But there was a change in that second criminal. Throughout his life, all the way up to the cross and even when he was there dying on that cross he wallowed in his sin like a pig. But God caused a change in that man. Through his word, Jesus gave him repentance. And we see with such clarity what this repentance looked like. First, he had a fear of God. In english this word has changed from what it meant in the bible. In english the word, “fear” is the same as “terror.” But all throughout the bible it’s both terror and trust. This second criminal had what the first didn’t. He was fearful of God’s wrath and trusting that whatever God did, it was right! That’s what repentance looks like. It’s a true appreciation of what is right. But it is also a true hatred for what it evil. Look at the hatred in this second criminal’s heart. He saw this heavenly king and earthly man who was being crucified next to him even though he was guilty of no crime. And with hatred against the crime done against Jesus he lashes out against the other criminal. And even more so, with hatred at himself, his own sins that lead him all the way to this torturous cross, he hates himself.


That is what repentance looks like. It’s an appreciation of what is true and right and a hatred for what is evil out there in the world and especially inside of ourselves. And that is what God has given to us as a gift through his word. And if this hatred against our sin isn’t there then it’s proof that this sinful corruption of sin is taking over inside of us. If we lust, if we lie, if we hate, if we rebel and there is no hatred there in our hearts against that sin, then there is no repentance. And that’s why we gather together around God’s word once more tonight, so that we can feel the hurt caused by our sin and have hatred once again against our sin.


Christ calls the penitent to Calvary to reveal our depravity and to give us repentance. And tonight there is one last reason he calls us to Calvary: 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”” (Luke 23:42–43 NIV)


After the criminal lashes out in true repentance against the other criminal and against his own sin, he then turns to Jesus. And what he pleas for is a memory. He asks Jesus to just simply once remember him when he goes into his kingdom. Why doesn’t he ask for more? Why doesn’t he ask to be there with Jesus in his kingdom? He doesn’t deserve it. He may have stood up for Jesus once. But he spent a lifetime living for his sin. He might want a life with Jesus after he dies. But how can he pay for all the lives he took? For people weren’t crucified for stealing a loaf of bread. They were crucified for rebellion and murder.


This man pleas for a memory. But instead of a memory, Jesus gives him paradise. The man didn’t deserve anything but pain now and eternal pain in hell. But Jesus had every right to give him paradise because Jesus was the only one who as true God and true man could take away that criminal’s sin and punishment. And that’s exactly what he did.


And so, even though the man asked for a memory, Jesus promised him paradise. And that’s a beautiful word. Paradise is a word you’re not going to find very often. It means, “garden.” It’s a picture of Eden—before the fall—before it was rotten and corrupted by sin. That’s what Jesus promised him. On that very day he would be there with Jesus in paradise.


And just think of the strength that promise gave that man. That promise gave him the strength to hate his sin every minute until just several hours later he die. It gave him strength to look forward to the paradise that was his despite his life, despite his sin. It gave him strength to look forward to seeing Jesus again.


And that promise is what gives us strength still today. If Jesus delays in coming we might have years, not hours, to wait to see paradise. But that promise is what gives us strength. It gives us strength to confess our sin and our hatred of it every day. It gives us strength to rejoice that our sins are forgiven now—even those sins we commit when we are lead astray by others and compare ourselves to others—those sins are forgiven there on Calvary. It gives us strength to lift our eyes about this world and all its cares and worries to the paradise that awaits us. For Christ calls the penitent to Calvary. He does this to reveal our depravity, to to give us repentance and to speak to us the promise of paradise. Amen.



1 cf. 2 Pet. 2:19

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