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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The glory of the cross is good news for the whole world.
Text:John 12:23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Mission Work
 
Preached:2015-03-29
Added:2015-04-23
Updated:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation: NKJV

Hymn 29:1,2,3

Psalm 70:2

Psalm 47:1,2,3

Psalm 67:3

Hymn 55:1,2,3

 

Read:  John 12:12-36

Text:  John 12:23

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is it all about?  What is the meaning, what is the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ?  What are the consequences of what He did not just for you and me personally, but for the world?  What did it change?  And how does this change affect us, not just in our relationship with God but in what we do, in how we live this life?

At one level most of you will find these questions to be relatively simple to answer.  We all know why Christ died and why He rose again from the dead:  He died to take away our sin and He rose again so that in Him we might have a new life.  Or to say it in another way, by His death He took upon Himself the wrath of God against the sin of the world, paying for that sin so that now whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  It is through the death and resurrection of Christ, therefore, that we are brought from death to life and that we might have fellowship with God.

That is all true and not only is it true but it is the basic message of the gospel, a message that all need to know and believe.  But there is more to be said, and today I would like you to consider the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ more broadly by thinking about what Christ meant when He said in John 12:23,

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

Why did He say this?  What made Him say “The hour has come” as a response to Philip and Andrew telling him that a number of Greeks had come to them saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”?  What is the connection between these people from Greece (or if not from Greece itself, then at least non-Jews, Gentiles), what is the connection between these people wanting to see Jesus and Jesus announcing that the hour had come?  Further, why does the Lord Jesus call Himself “The Son of Man”?  Where does that name for Christ come from, and why would He use it here?  And finally, why does Christ say “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified?”  We can understand it if He was to say that the hour has come for the Son of Man to be crucified.  But why does He say that He should be glorified?

And so as we enter into the week in which we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us consider this through what we have read together from John 12.  I preach to you the gospel under the following theme:

The glory of the cross is good news for the whole world.

  1. Christ’s glory displayed.
  2. Christ’s glory declared.

1. Christ’s glory displayed.

There are a number of themes running through the gospel according to John.  One of those themes is the “hour” that is not yet and then the hour that from John 12:23 and onwards had finally come.  We see this first in John 2:4 at the time when Jesus turned the water into wine and He said His mother Mary,

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?  My hour has not yet come.”

We read this also, for example, in John 7:30 where it says that

“. . . they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.”

And John 8:20,

“These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.”

And so as we read through the gospel according to John, we see that his gospel is building up to something, to a climax, to a time when the Lord’s hour has come.

A second theme also that runs through the gospel according to John and is relevant to the text that we have before us this morning, and that is Christ’s focus on the world.  When the Lord Jesus came down to earth, He did not come only for the nation of Israel, but His coming had global significance, it was for the whole world, for all tribes, for all tongues, and for all people.  And so John the Baptist is quoted as saying in John 1:29,

“Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

And John 3:16,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

And in John 4:42, when Jesus spoke to the people of Samaria, the people said,

“Now we believe … for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

And in John 6:33 when Jesus is called the Bread of God it says,

“For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

And John 8:12,

“I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

And in John 11:52 it says that Jesus would die for the nation of Israel . . .

“and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”

And then there is a third theme running through the gospel according to John, the theme of glory and of beholding the glory of the Father and of the Son.  We were already introduced to this in John 1:14,

“. . . And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

And then John 2:11

“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

But John also writes that the Son would be glorified later.  John 7:39,

“But this He [Christ] spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

And John 12:16, following His entrance into Jerusalem riding on a donkey,

“His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.”

And this theme of glory spoken of even more in the last chapters of John.  For example John 13:31,

“So when he [Judas} had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.”

And John 14:13,

“And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

And John 17:1,

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You.”

And so throughout His ministry, the Lord Jesus was working towards these three things:  He was working towards the hour that was to come, the hour when “the Son of Man will be lifted up”, He was working towards the time when His Kingdom would not just be over Israel but over the whole world, and He was working towards the hour that He would be glorified.  And now in John 12:23 we see these three themes coming together.  So let’s turn back to John 12 to see how this came about.

  In John 11 the Lord Jesus had performed what might be considered His greatest miracle of all:  He called the dead man Lazarus out of the grave.  Many believed in Him, but many also rejected Him.  In fact after the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, the opposition of the chief priests and Pharisees became so severe that they decided that they would seek to kill him.  But then came Palm Sunday.  Then came the day that the Lord Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey.  And a great multitude were there and they took branches of palm trees and they went out to meet Him, and cried out,

“Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!  The King of Israel!”

And the Pharisees did not know what to do.  And so they said among themselves in John 12:19,

“You see that you are accomplishing nothing (that is, in trying to silence the Lord Jesus).  Look, the world has gone after Him!”

And it was some time shortly after this that “the world” did go after Him in the form of a certain number of Greeks.  John 12:20-22 –

“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast.  Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.”

Who these Greeks were and where they came from we don’t really know.  Some Bible commentators point out that they did not necessary come from Greece but from anywhere in the Greek speaking world of that time, perhaps even from a city close to Bethsaida in Galilee where Philip and Andrew came from.  But ultimately nobody can say for sure where these Greeks came from, and it does not really matter.  The matter of importance is that fact that these men were not Jews but Greeks.  They knew who God was and they had come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, but being Greeks they could not enter the temple but could only pray in the temple court of the Gentiles.  But now they had come to see Jesus.  It appears that when the Pharisees exclaimed in John 12:19 that “the world has gone after Him” there was more truth in this than they realized.  And it was this event, both the rejection of the Christ by the chief priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees, as well as the Greeks coming to see Him that caused the Lord Jesus to say,

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

The hour has come!  The time is now. 

The Bible does not tell us if these Greeks did in fact see Jesus and speak with Him because ultimately that is not really important for us to know.  In fact these Greeks could not see Jesus, that is they could not see Jesus for who He really is until they saw Him lifted up, until they saw Him crucified and then raised from the dead.  They would not see Jesus through the eyes of faith until He ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit was poured out on day of Pentecost.  But what is important is that this event, the Greeks coming to see Jesus was the time that Jesus said, “The hour has come.  Now is the time that the Son of Man should be glorified.”   For the world was ready, the stage had been set.  Within a few days the Son of Man would be lifted up, would be crucified and in that way would be glorified. 

It is striking that the Lord Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man here.  The “Son of Man” is a title for the Lord Jesus that goes back to Daniel 7:13,14.  It is a title that emphasizes not His humanity but His divinity.  And it is a title or a name for Christ that speaks about His dominion and His glory over all the earth.  Daniel 7:13,14 says,

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!  He came to the Ancient of Days (that’s a name for God the Father), and they brought Him near before Him.  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.”

What Daniel is saying here about this Son of Man is that He is the Son of God, yes, that He Himself is God.  And this Son of Man would be glorified.  He would be given dominion and glory and a kingdom that would extend over all the earth.  And His kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom, one that would not be destroyed. 

That is what the Lord Jesus Christ had come to do.  And when these Greeks came saying “We want to see Jesus” then the Lord Jesus declared that the hour had come, that He would be glorified and that He would be given dominion over all people, nations and languages.  The hour had come that the Greeks and indeed all peoples would see Him lifted up, would see and believe that this Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world!

But there is something else that is striking here, and that is this:  The Lord Jesus did not say that the hour had come for the Son of Man to be crucified but for the Son of Man to be glorified.  That is striking because it is His death, much more than His resurrection, that is in view here.  That becomes clear from John 12:24 and verse 32,33.  And that is something that we do not normally think about too much.  When we speak about Christ’s glory, we do not normally link this to His suffering and death on the cross but rather to His resurrection and ascension into heaven.  We normally speak about Christ’s suffering and death as His humiliation, which is then followed by His resurrection and ascension which we call His exaltation.  His glory, therefore, comes later, after His suffering.  And there are indeed times when the Bible speaks in this way, for example in 1 Peter 1:11 which speaks about “the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” 

But the Bible also teaches us that not only does glory comes after suffering, but it also comes through suffering.  And that is clearly the case with respect to our Lord Jesus Christ.  When the LORD had first promised a Saviour, the Seed of the Woman in Genesis 3, He said that this Saviour would suffer, that Satan would bruise his heel.  And now that Christ had come, all things were working to the culmination of His suffering, when He would die on the cross, forsaken not just by His closest disciples but by God the Father Himself.  But it would be through His suffering that Jesus would be revealed to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. 

  And so the gospel according to John is building up to the hour when the Lord Jesus is lifted up on the cross.  And it is when He is lifted up on the cross that He is seen to be enthroned in glory.  As Jesus Himself said in John 8:28,

“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He.”

The cross, therefore, reveals to us Who Jesus is and what He had come to do.  And that is why He could say, concerning His death, in John 12:23

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

For what is His glory, and what does it mean to be glorified?  Christ’s glory is the very nature of who He is and He is glorified when He is revealed for who He is: the Son of God and the Saviour of the world.  His glory is the wonder of who He is.  His glory is, one person wrote,

“the dazzling, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring showcase of God’s character to a world darkened by sin.  It is the explosive radiance produced by His holiness, love, mercy, justice, wisdom, and power – all of which come together in the most fitting way in the death of Christ.

  At the Cross, we see God’s justice through the judgment of sin, God’s love through the forgiveness of sinners, God’s power through his defeat of Satan, and God’s wisdom in His upholding of holiness yet making a way for sinners.”

And there we begin to understand why the Lord Jesus Christ would say in John 12:23,

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

 

2. Christ’s glory declared.

Although it is true that our Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by hanging on the cross, He now receives glory not just because He died but because of what His death accomplished.  And what He accomplished is a people for Himself, redeemed not just from Israel but from every tribe and tongue and nation.  John 12:24 says,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”

And Christ did die and His death did produce “much grain.”  For through His death He crushed the head of the Serpent, that is Satan, and now He gathers His people not just from one nation but from all the nations of all the earth.

But that is not all.  For now it is not just the Father who glorifies the Son or the Son who glorifies the Father, but we have been redeemed so that we might glorify Him.  For we who died with Christ have died to self and so we now live in Him and for Him.  And so the Lord went on to say in John 12:25,26

“He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.  If anyone serves Me, him My father will honor.”

No, we do not lay down our life in the same way that our Lord Jesus Christ did, but we do follow in His footsteps.  We who belong to Him must serve Him, and we too will bear much fruit.  And so our reason for living and our way of living has now changed.  We no longer live for ourselves and our own pleasures but we live for God and for the glory of Christ.  We live to work in His kingdom.  We live to see that His rule is extended from the east to the west and from sea to sea.  And so we not only live so that we might see Jesus, but we live and work and deny ourselves and our own pleasures and desires to that others might see Jesus and believe in His Name.  The glory of the Cross is good news for the whole world because Christ died so that the whole world, that is people from all tribes and languages and peoples, might see Him and believe and so have life in His Name.  

  And now Christ gives that work to us.  On the evening of the day that He rose from the dead, in John 20:21 Jesus said to His disciples,

“Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

And what did He send them to do?  He sent them – and us – to be His witnesses and to declare His glory to the nations.  When we die to self and are alive in Christ, we are changed people.  The things we think are the things that Christ wants us to think, the things we do are the things that Christ wants us to do and the things we say are the things that Christ wants us to say.  And so for us the world has changed.  The world is no longer the place “to make it big” or to become comfortable or to trample over others to get to where we want to be.  But for us the world is the place, the world is the people to whom the gospel must be preached.  For us the work of mission, the work of evangelism, that is the call to see the gospel go far and wide, for us this is not an option.  But for us is the call to declare Christ’s glory, that many more might see Jesus and seeing believe.  That’s what it is all about right now.  That is what we are called to be busy with in this time of the “new covenant”, this time between Pentecost and the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.  So that not only do we see Jesus, but that He might be declared to the world and that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, might be glorified.

It is not an easy road to travel when we follow the path that our Saviour took.  It means a dying to self, a dying to our own wants, our own desires, our own agendas, our own empires, our own glory, and it means a love to live for Christ and for His glory.  It is not easy since it goes against our natural, carnal desires.  But with this call comes a wonderful promise.  John 12:26,

“If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, thee My servant will be also.  If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.”

The Father has glorified the Son, but we who are in the Son, who are in Christ, who deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, it is we that the Father will honor!  As we will now sing,

“God is good and gracious;

he will richly bless us –

he, our God and King.

Let all peoples fear Him,

All the earth revere Him,

Of His glory sing.”

Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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