Summary: We see in this passage that the kingdom of God is available to all, that it was achieved through the Cross and that it is costly.
Story: 26 Christians were crucified at Nizhizaka Hill in Nagasaki, Japan on 15 February 1597.
Amongst them was a young seventeen year old boy, Thomas Kosaki, who had been sentenced to die for his Christian witness - along with his father.
He wrote a letter to his mother the evening before his crucifixion.
Let me read a translation of it to you
"Mother, we are supposed to be crucified tomorrow in Nagaski. Please do not worry about anything because we will be waiting for you to come to heaven.
Everything in the world vanishes like a dream. Be sure that you never lose the happiness of heaven. Be patient and show love to many people.
Most of all, about my little brothers Mansho and Philipo, please see to it that they are not delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Mother, I commit you to the Lord.”
Following Christ is not easy – it can be very costly.
Our own Church was founded on the blood of martyrs such as Latimer, Ridley and Cramner who were all burnt at the stake in Oxford 450 years ago.
Our Gospel reading this morning has been described by the Bible Commentator Bruce Milne as
“one of the profoundest and most demanding sections of the entire Gospel. There are depth here which defy all sounding.” (Milne: The Message of John p.184)
And so I would like to focus on two verses this morning from our Gospel reading, where Jesus says:
32But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.
I would like to explore three points from these verses
1. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AVAILABLE TO ALL MEN
2. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS ACHIEVED THROUGH THE
3. THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS COSTLY
Let us look at the first point.
1. The Kingdom of God is available to all men
The Kingdom of God is a very much a New Testament concept.
The actual term “the Kingdom of God” does not (expressis verbis) appear in any of the canonical books of the Old Testament, though it is mentioned in the apocryphal book of Wisdom (10:10).
However despite the term not literally appearing in the Old Testament, for the Jews of Jesus’ day, it was a term that they knew. For they saw God’s kingdom in terms of an earthly kingdom (Israel) where God would come and punish their enemies and reward the just (i.e. Israel)
But Jesus has a different interpretation in mind.
The Kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom at all.
Rather it is “God’s sovereign and dynamic rule”(Milne: The Message of John p. 184)
But in John’s Gospel, we see that Jesus developing the concept of the Kingdom of God further.
For in John we see a strong correlation between the Kingdom of God and eternal life.
Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in Jn 3 – where Jesus
"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. (Jn 3:3)
followed in the same discourse with Nicodemus by Jesus’comment:
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the deset, so the Son of man must be lifted up –that everyone who believe in him may have eternal life" (Jn 3:15)
In our Gospel reading this morning we see the development of Jesus’ mission here from the Jews
– “the lost sheep of Israel” of Mt 15:24
– to the “all men” of Jn 12:32.
But the mission to all men will be after his death on the Cross and Resurrection.
In Jn 12, we see the two groups of people coming to Jesus – the Jew and the Greek seek Jesus out
I like the way Bruce Milne puts it in his commentary – which I would like to paraphase a little.
“The Jews come to Jesus seeking to establish the Kingdom of God by religious piety and moral effort.
The Greeks on the other hand seek God through the human intellect unaided by divine revelation” (based on Milne- The Message of John p.186)
Jesus offers a third way – a way described by St Paul as a “stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks” ( 1 Co 1:23).
Which brings me to my second point.
2. The Kingdom of God is achieved by way of the Cross
The Kingdom will be established by Jesus being “lifted up”
One obvious thought is that Jesus is referring to his impending death.
As you know the Cross would have been laid horizontally on the ground while the victim was attached to it. It would then be “lifted up” when it was set vertically in a hole in the ground.