Iliff and Saltillo United Methodist
March 13, 2005
Fifth Sunday of Lent
“A Kernel of Wheat”
INTRODUCTION: At the time of this scripture Jesus was well on His way to the cross. His public ministry was coming to a close and a variety of things were unfolding. A crowd of people from many different places had gathered for the Passover Feast. The people in the crowd had many different opinions of Him. The Jews were upset because people were following Jesus. They were plotting how they might go about killing Him. They said, “Look, how the whole world has gone after Him.”
In the opening of today’s scripture some Greeks, Gentiles who had come to worship at the Passover, went to Philip and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” They were seekers who were sincere people but they only had limited access at the Feast. They probably approached Philip because he was from Bethsaida where there was a large settlement of Gentiles. Maybe they recognized Philip and Andrew as having Greek names who would be more receptive and less likely to snub them.
Jesus did not answer their request directly. Instead he said, “The HOUR has come for the Son of man to be glorified.” You will remember in another scripture Jesus said, Mine HOUR is not yet come” (John 2:4) Today’s scripture is the first time He has said, “the HOUR is come that the Son of man should be glorified.” He also says it again in John 17, “the HOUR is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee.”
What did he mean by this? Was it an hour like 9:00 in the morning or 1:00 in the afternoon? Why did Jesus answer this request by saying, “the HOUR has come for the son of man to be glorified when up until this point he would always say, My HOUR has not yet come?” The Greek word used here is hora which is “a point of time or a season when an appointed action is to begin” --Jesus was looking ahead to the cross--the event that all history had been building up to--the one main event that he had come to earth for in the first place--to be the Savior of humankind. It was now time for the EVENT to come to pass.
When these Greeks (Gentiles) came and requested to see Him, He was pleased about it because they were some of the first Gentiles who were being brought into the harvest. He considered them “firstfruits” of the great harvest of Gentiles that was to be brought into the kingdom of God. At that point Jesus explained what is about to happen at the crucifixion when He tells them, “except a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (vs. 24).
He is saying it won’t multiply--it won’t produce a crop for the future--it won’t be productive, but if it is planted it will grow and multiply and produce a great harvest. The message he was trying to get across to these people was that HE was the ONE KERNEL of wheat--He was on His way to the cross to die, be buried, and be resurrected to new life, and if He did this there would be a great harvest of souls--now and in future generations. It would be the opening of the Gospel for everyone--not just the Jews alone but for all people. He sees the Cross that was soon going to bring them in.
Application: Why is this important to us? Had He not been willing to go to the cross we would have been just like those Greeks--limited in our access to Him. We would have been on the OUTSIDE looking in.
1. HIS STRUGGLE--Pressures from the outside and from the inside:
Jesus saw that the HOUR or TIME had come. The hour that He came to earth for in the first place, but it did not come without a severe struggle to Him. We may think, “This was Jesus. It didn’t bother Him. This is why He came. He was strong. He just took it as a matter of course. Didn’t bother Him in the least.”
At this Lenten Season let us look at how he was taking this struggle and let it become more real to us what He actually did for us on the Cross.
In previous verses He prayed in the Garden, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” (Matthew 26:38)
“If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” --nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt.(Matthew 26:39).
Matthew 26:42 “If this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done
Once again in this scripture He is saying, “Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour?” (vs. 27).
Jesus had many pressures coming against him from the outside--the people who were plotting to kill him, and he had pressures and turmoil from inside--Could he go through with it. Could he take the load of the sins of the world upon his shoulders--could he bear God turning His back on him during the ordeal--could he?
QUOTE: It has been said that when you’re up to your neck in alligators, it is difficult to keep your mind on the fact that your primary objective is to drain the swamp.
2. OUR STRUGGLES--How many times do we go through times in our life when we feel the external pressures moving in on us? It could be any number of things that seek to tear us down and destroy us. It could be pressures from our jobs, from people, from within our families, from sickness, from sorrow and grief experiences. We think, “Nobody has seen the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows or understands what I’m going through.” And it seems when things happen in our lives, these things hit us in multiples one after another. One thing breaks down, and two or three other things break down. One bill comes in and then something else comes to drain the finances. One member of the family gets sick and just when he gets over it someone else gets sick.
STORY: Former heavy-weight boxer Quick Tillis, a cowboy from Oklahoma, fought out of Chicago in the early 1980’s. He still remembers his first day in the windy city after his arrival from Tulsa.
“I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under my arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears tower. I put my suitcases down and looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to conquer Chicago. When I looked down, the suitcases were gone!”
The accumulation of EXTERNAL pressures wears us down. Problems on the job drain us of our energy. Criticism and snide remarks--external pressures could be any kind and come at us from all directions. They could be big things or little things.
Here are some things taken from the diary of John Wesley...
Sunday, a.m. May 5 Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, p.m. May 5 Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said, “Get out and stay out.”
Sunday, a.m. May 12 Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.
Sunday, a.m. May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.
Sunday, p.m. May 19 Preached on the street. Got kicked off the street
Sunday, a.m. May 26 Preached in a meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during the service
Sunday, p.m. June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. 10,000 people came out to hear me....
When our struggles and pressures seem as if they could get no worse, then we see the build up of INTERNAL struggles that seek to tear us down as well. We may feel like what’s the use? I feel like giving up. I feel depressed. People say, “I just feel devastated.” Others say, “I can’t take the pressures. I’m so depressed.”
STORY: In 1835 a man visited a doctor in Florence, Italy. He was filled with anxiety and exhausted from lack of sleep. He couldn’t eat, and he avoided his friends. The doctor said that he was in good physical condition. He thought that his patient needed to have a good time and told him about a circuis in town and about its star performer, a clown named Grimaldi. Night after night he had the people rolling in the aisles.
“You’ve got to go see him,” the doctor advised.”Grimaldi is the world’s funniest clown.” “He’ll cure your sadness and make you laugh.”
“No,” replied the despairing man. “He can’t help me. You see I’m Grimaldi!”
Sometimes when a crisis situation hits people the first thing they think of doing is quit church. Give up on being a Christian. Give up on the Lord. It’s too hard. Sometimes families break up as the pressures press in from the outside. Many people turn to alcohol or drugs.
STORY: It has been said that Many Christians today live their lives in a fog. They allow a cupful of troubles to cloud their vision and dampen their spirit. Anxiety, turmoil and defeat strangle their thoughts.
No matter what our struggles, remember that Jesus went through them also as the Cross was weighing heavily on his mind. Would he say, “It’s too great a sacrifice. I think this is as far as I’m going?” What did he say?
3. How Jesus Resolved the Conflict: In the midst of the struggles within and without He said, “Father, glorify your name!”
He is saying, “It’s OK--go ahead with the plan--I’m ready to go. Glorify--bring honor to, magnify, lift up Your Name.”
There is one thing that reconciled him to the cross and that is found in John 4:34 when Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to FINISH his work.”
David in the Psalms also said this same thing. “I desire to do your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
Sometimes when we pray, our problems and struggles are not automatically lifted when we pray--things do not change overnight. We see how that Jesus continued toward the Cross. David had struggles throughout his life, but he continued to do God’s will. Although we are a Christian, we may have pressures from the outside and struggles on the inside. We can look ahead just as any of these people of long ago and say, “Glorify your name in my life--I desire to do your will--and then keep on going. Look at the big picture.
STORY: David Livingston the missionary to Africa walked over 29,000 miles, his wife died early in their ministry and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethern. He ministered half blind. Words in his diary read:
Send me anywhere, only go with me
Lay any burden on me, only sustain me.
Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to Your service
and to your heart.
What was God’s response to Jesus?
A voice came from heaven and said, “I have glorified it and I will do it again.” The first time was at Jesus’ baptism when he said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)
The second time was at the transfiguration when the voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I love. With him I am well pleased. Listen to him.” ( Mark 9:7)
The crowd of people heard the Voice but many people who were on the fringe and not used to getting any revelations said, “It thundered.” They didn’t have the slightest idea of what was happening. Others said, “Oh, it’s an angel.” They could not understand anything beyond that.
When God speaks to you, do you recognize His voice and understand? Are you looking for him to speak in a certain way? Are you looking for a big booming voice? Or the small whisper? Most of the time do we only hear the thunder?
STORY: A small mountain church is located by a frequently traveled road. Sometimes during the services, the church PA system picks up CB broadcasts, from passing motorists. The CB’ers are unaware that their voices are being heard in the service. Once the pastor began to pray, “O Lord, we beseech you to meet our various needs...”
Suddenly the prayer was interrupted by a loud voice that crackled over the PA, “I’ll be right on down!”
Jesus said, “This voice is for your benefit, not mine.” vs. 30. It was to show the hearers that this was really of God. And then he said, “When I am lifted up (on the Cross) I will draw all men to myself.’
Jesus had RESOLVED the inner struggle and worked through the external pressure all because he wanted most of all to “do the will of the Father and to finish the work.”
What about our pressures and inner struggles. Have we become committed Christians that want to above all “do the will of the Father” for our own lives? Have we decided to FOLLOW Jesus inspite of setbacks and obstacles? Even though it looks as if we can’t make it at times? Had Jesus not been looking to the end RESULTS of the cross--multiplying the one kernel of wheat and the effectiveness of the Far Reaching Gospel message, He might have easily stopped somewhere along the way.
Have you resolved to Follow Jesus inspite of how you feel or how many struggles you have? Do we say we want to do His will but then when the going gets tough we back down? Sometimes I think we do.
STORY: John Wesley said, “I want the whole Christ for my Savior, the whole Bible for my book, the whole Church for my fellowship, and the whole world for my mission field.”
I don’t know what happened the the Greeks at the beginning of the scripture who wanted to see Jesus. Did they ever become followers of His? Scripture seems to indicate that they did. One reference is made to devout Greeks in the early church in Acts 11:20.
Many people believed and many people would not believe and they lost their opportunity. What does this say to us? I think it shows us three things:
1. As Christians when we make it our PRIORITY to “do the will of the Father,” He will see us through to the end of our journey no matter how He does it. Whether he immediately lifts the external pressures and the inner struggles or takes us right on through them.
STORY: It is often in our darkest times that God makes His presence known most clearly. He uses our sufferings and our troubles to show us that He is our only source of strength.
2. This scripture also shows us that the choice is ours to make whether we follow or choose not to follow--whether we are a peripheral fringe Christian or a devout Christian. But he says in this scripture, “Whosoever serves me must follow me.”
3. It warns us not to trifle with our opportunity. Let in the light of the gospel while you can. Walk while you have the light and trust in the light, vs. 35, 36. Allow your life to multiply its effectiveness in a dark and sinful world.
Can we do that this week?
Let us Pray