Summary: Christians Find Glory In Unlikely Places 1) Glory in death; 2) Glory in service
If you had to buy milk and eggs, would you go to a sports store? If you wanted to eat a big juicy hamburger, would you stop by a sushi restaurant? No. A sports store is an unlikely place to find groceries, and a sushi restaurant is an unlikely place to sink your teeth into a meaty hamburger. What about glory? Where would you go, what would you do to find glory? The world has many ideas and suggestions on where to find glory, but our text today teaches that glory is something Christians find in unlikely places. Real glory is found in death and in service.
Just days before the crucifixion, word came to Jesus that a group of God-fearing Greeks wanted to meet with him. Isn’t it interesting how unnamed gentiles sought Jesus at the beginning of his life (through the wisemen) and now again at the end of his life (through these Greeks)? Like they are we also eager to “see Jesus”? Or are we more keen on seeing the latest video clip making the rounds on the internet? Are we more eager to see the game on TV, or more excited to see our friends than we are to see Jesus? It’s my prayer that our text today will remind us again why we should be eager to see Jesus, and to meet with him often in his Word and Sacrament.
When Jesus heard that this group of Greeks wanted to meet with him it reminded him that his mission was soon drawing to a close. And so he said: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). How was it that Jesus would be glorified? Jesus would find glory in an unlikely way. Jesus explained: “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” (John 12:24). With an excellent illustration Jesus helps us see that he would find glory in death. Glory in death? Doesn’t death signal defeat? If we didn’t think death was such a bad thing, we would never bother going to the doctor when we got sick; we would never shed a tear at a funeral. How is that Jesus can say death is glorious?
We will begin to understand how Jesus’ death is glorious when we grasp the seed illustration Jesus used. Just as the purpose of a seed is to be buried in the ground where it can germinate and grow into something productive, Jesus wants us to know that the purpose of his coming to this world was to be buried. Jesus came to die to pay for our sins. But death would not be the end of Jesus. Just as a seed that is buried sprouts and grows into a fruit-bearing tree, so Jesus would come back to life and bear fruit, eternal life for all those who believe in him. Therefore Jesus’ death on the cross was not a defeat; it was an important step in accomplishing his mission.
When we understand the glorious nature of Jesus’ death, we begin to see how we too can find glory in our death and the death of every believer. The death of a believer, like the death of Jesus, is not the end. It’s the beginning of an eternal glory in God’s presence.
But not everyone who dies will find glory. Jesus made that clear when he went on to say: “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 12:25). If you want to find glory, don’t look where the world looks. The world thinks that money, fame, athletic skill, and good looks are glorious. These things, however, only produce a fading glory. This truth always comes alive for me when I hear about once-famous people trying to influence the world. Take Brigitte Bardot for example. Bardot is a French movie star once famous for her beauty. About twelve years ago she came to Canada to protest the seal hunt and, although at one time she was the toast of motion pictures, the beauty that made her famous has faded, and therefore her influence on politicians and the world in general has also faded.
Because this world can only give us fading glory, keep things in proper perspective. The life we have now is nothing more than a seed. It really isn’t that beautiful, nor is it the kind of glorious life God intended us to have forever. When we think this life is the only one we have, however, we start to run after things that don’t matter. We think that a better job, a bigger house, or driving the right kind of car will make our lives more glorious. But that’s like playing dress-up with Mr. Potato Head. You can dress up Mr. Potato Head in some pretty fancy clothes and accessories but it still doesn’t change the fact that underneath it all Mr. Potato Head is nothing more than a lowly spud. In the same way don’t waste your time dressing up this life at the expense of losing your hold on the next life. This life is only a seed for the next life. Die a believer in Jesus, and God will raise you to an eternal life gloriously free from sin and pain. Be like the Greeks of our sermon text and eagerly seek Jesus every day in his Word. And seek him here in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.