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Sunday, October 5, 2008
*What is involved in following Christ?*
John 12:20-36
/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.
-- 36 //Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”
/John 12:26 & 36 NIV
On the *last Sunday of February*, I started a *sermon series* from the book of *John*.
Some may *call my approach* to the book somewhat *unorthodox* since I *didn’t start at chapter 1* and aim for the *concluding chapter 21*.
Rather, I started with *chapter 17* where we found *Jesus expressing in prayer* His deep longings for *a lasting impact* of His ministry *on His disciples*.
My intention back in February for *jumping into the story of Jesus* on the night *before His crucifixion* was two-fold.
I wanted us to *have a clear picture* of where *John’s gospel was headed* and I wanted to *prepare this congregation* for a great celebration on *Easter Sunday* when our crucified Lord was *raised from the dead*.
Once we passed Easter Sunday, I then *dropped back to chapter 11* which gave us the powerful *story of Lazarus* being raised from the dead.
We then had *two resurrection stories* that pointed to both the *power of God* and the *love of God*.
As we moved *into chapter 12*, knowing full well that *our Lord would be crucified* and *raised from the dead*, we began to follow *John’s descriptions* of how God was *preparing His Son*, the Lamb of God, *for His sacrificial and redeeming death*, to be followed by the *ultimate glorification* in His *resurrection and ascension*.
Chapter 12 serves as *a bridge chapter* between all that has happened in *chapters 2-11* and all that will happen in *the remainder of the book*.
Chapter 12 *connects the two halves* of the book.
G. L. *Borchert*, in his *commentary* on the book of John, views “chapter 12 to be *a /singularly significant part of John/* that stands as *a strategic unit at the center of the Gospel* and serves as *a major focal text* for understanding the work.[1]
Thus, *if we can get a good handle on chapter 12,* it may well help us *understand the entire book*.
What we *will soon be focusing on* is the *center* of the *centerpiece* and it has the potential of *defining us* and *our relationship* with Christ.
John chapter 12 is particularly rich in *character studies*.
It presents a *cross section of humanity* as they *respond or react* to Jesus.
The first 11 verses introduce us to a group of *four 1. Very Grateful Followers* of Christ, which includes *Lazarus and Martha* who put on a dinner banquet in Simon’s home to *honor Jesus and say “thank You”* to Him for His *healing and reviving ministry* in their lives.
At that banquet, *Jesus is anointed by Mary* for His burial.
*In contrast* to these four grateful followers, we become sadly aware of *the 2. Criticizers and Complainers* who, most likely, are *filled with envy and jealousy* that will stir them to *anger, hatred* and even *murder*.
In the second set of 11 verses, John crafts *his version of Palm Sunday, *that is,* Christ’s entrance* into Jerusalem in the midst of *great crowds of people* and John lets us *see the reactions to His entrance*.
John highlights the reactions of *five distinct groups of people*.
First, there’s the *great crowd *who had come to Jerusalem for the* annual feast of Passover.*
Then, of course, there were *Christ’s disciples* who came with Jesus.
Then there was the *Bethany** crowd*, those who had just recently witnessed the *resurrection of Lazarus* by Jesus.
Finally, in Jerusalem on the day when Jesus made His final entry, there were the *Pharisees* and some *Greeks*.
Each of these groups *represents even larger groups*, groups that are present even in our world today.
They are defined by *the kind of relationship* they have with Jesus: *3.
The Great Crowd: The Misguided*, *4.
His Disciples: The Committed, but Confused*, *5.
The Bethany Crowd: The Committed*, *6.
The Pharisees: The Opposition* and *7.
Some Greeks: The Curious*.
These were *all gathered* for what would be *the most memorable of all Passover feasts*, when *Christ* offers Himself as *the Passover Lamb* who takes away the sin of the world.
This is chapter 12 and it marks *the turning point in the Gospel* of John.
More specifically, in verses 23-26, Jesus *announces Himself* as the *turning point in history*.
What John is making clear in this chapter is that *Jesus came to this world* to be the *turning point in our lives* and *in every life* on this earth.
Listen *how* *Jesus describes Himself* in those verses:
/23 //Jesus replied, “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.
*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./*/ /
In these *centerpiece verses*, Jesus declares that *He is the fork in the road* for every human being.
Not only has *His hour come* when He will *lay down His life* for all of us, but in doing so, *Jesus stations Himself right in the middle of our path and creates a crises for each of us*.
What we do with Jesus *will determine our eternal destiny*.
If our *love for our own life* overrides our *love for Christ*, we will *lose* our life.
But, if we *chose Christ over* our love for our own life, we will *keep our life* for an eternity with Christ.
By His own demonstration, Jesus shows us that *there is a death that leads to life*.
Gerald Borchert says: “Only by *understanding Jesus’ death and resurrection together* can one make sense out of what seems to be *the senseless waste of life*.[2] To *die with Christ* is to find eternal life.
Folks, this is *radical stuff*.
Jesus stands *at the fork in the road* and invites us to *follow Him into His death*.
*What happens to the seed* that does not die?
It remains *only a single seed*.
Now, at first read, that may *not sound all that bad*.
But if *verse 25 is a restatement of verse 24*, we had better *reconsider assigning value* to remaining a single seed.
v.24 When a seed *does not die*, it remains only a *single seed*.
The next *explanatory statement* comes in v.25 When a man *loves his life*, he will *lose it*.
I believe these are *parallel statements*.
Man is like a seed.
If he chooses *to love his life*, he is *refusing to let his kernel of wheat die*.
The *net result* is that he will *remain a single seed*, which Jesus says is *equivalent to losing his life*.
Remaining a *single seed* is to *lose* your life.
So, clearly, *Jesus is making an appeal to us* that we *act in faith* and *believe* that our lives will be *better off in the long run* if we will *choose to die with Him*.
But, *what does it mean to die* like a kernel of wheat?
*What does it mean to hate our life* in this world?
Well, Jesus *answers those two questions* in verse 26.
*/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./*/ /
Here we have *three parallel statements*.
This third statement in v.26 helps us understand that *dying like a seed* and *hating our lives* are descriptions of *being a servant who obeys* His master.
Like in dying, we give *up our rights to be in charge* of our lives.
They are *no longer under our control*.
As someone who is dead, we *don’t tell God how* to run our lives.
Rather, we say to Christ, “*we are Your servants*.
We will do *whatever You ask*.”
Our lives are *no longer under our control*.
They are under *Christ’s control*.
And notice, as Christ’s servants, *we follow Him* and we *go where He goes*.
Now, I’ve got to ask, *how do we define the Christian life*?
How do we describe *what it means to be a Christian*?
Do we view ourselves as *God’s servants* or do we more often view *God as our servant?*
Think about it.
Let’s *review our last ten prayers*.
What did we *say* in those prayers?
Those prayers will *answer the question* as to *who is whose servant?*
As we examine Jesus’ life, we see *servanthood** modeled*.
In just a few Sundays, we will hear Jesus say to us, *John 13:13-14 (NIV) */13 //“You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
14 //Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet./
Jesus is saying that *Christians are servants* in the likeness of their *Lord and Teacher*.
Christians have *died* to their *own will* and found *true and lasting life* in and through their *Savior Jesus Christ*.
Being a Christian is *not an add-on* to our lives.
It is *an exchange *of our sinful life for *a whole new life in Christ*.
So, here in chapter 12, *Jesus stands as a turning point*.
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