Summary: Turning to Christ involves repenting of sins, rejecting selfish living and all that is unjust, renouncing Satan and all evil. It’s living every day as a disciple of Christ, loving God with our whole heart, and our neighbour as our self, until life's end.
Sermon by Rev George Hemmings
‘1, 2, 4, 7, 9, Here we come.’ That’s how my sons, Micah and Joshua, like to count down when we play hide and seek. There’s usually not much time to get ready! Actually every time they count down differently. One moment they’re counting, the next they’re seeking. There’s no warning when the change will come, when the turning point will be. Life’s a little like that isn’t it? Sometimes big changes come, moments that turn our world around.
Did you notice that today’s passage is a turning point in John’s gospel? If you think back through the passages we’ve looked at, if you read back through John, you’ll see that everything has been building up to this point. He’s performed all sorts of miraculous signs, which have led to crowds flocking to see him. He’s fed those crowds with a poor boy’s packed lunch. He’s given sight to a man born blind, he’s raised Lazarus from the dead. Then, as we saw last week, he was anointed by Mary and given a king’s welcome as he rode into Jerusalem. But then, all of a sudden, everything changes. In verse 36 Jesus goes into hiding. In fact, today’s passage is the last time Jesus appears in public, at least until his arrest and crucifixion.
What’s brought this on? Why this sudden change? It looks like just another day in the office for Jesus. Some people come wanting to see him. There’s no surprise there. People have been trying to see Jesus for a long time. If you remember from last week, in verse 18, the great crowd that’d gathered to celebrate the Passover, rushed out to meet Jesus as he rode into the city. Now a small group of them want to see him. They come to Philip and request an interview. There’s nothing unusual in this. But what’s unusual is who these people are. John tells us they’re not Jews, they’re Greeks! [Perhaps that’s why they went to Philip. He and Andrew are the only disciples with Greek names.] Now even the Gentiles, now even those outside of Israel, are seeking Jesus. It’s a fulfilment of the Pharisees’ words from verse 19. “You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!” By all accounts, this should be the high point of Jesus’ ministry. He’s no longer just a Jewish figure, now he’s a worldwide name. He’s like a musician who’s been working hard, playing in pubs and clubs, who finally gets picked up, who’s songs are on the radio, and in everybody’s head.
We see that Jesus knows this is a decisive moment. When he hears of the request from Andrew and Philip what does he say? 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” This is the real turning point in this passage, and in John’s gospel. Up till now, it’s been a case of the hour is not yet here. Think back to the very first sign, the turning of water into wine at the wedding at Canna. What did Jesus say to Mary? 4“My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4). Again, when he was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus twice said, “The hour is coming.” It’s there again in chapter 5 when Jesus says the hour is coming when the dead will hear his voice and live. Then in chapters 7 & 8, the authorities aren’t able to arrest Jesus, because his hour had not yet come. It’s like children asking ‘Are we there yet?’ The answer is not yet, not yet, not yet. But now, after all these not yets, the hour is finally here. Now Jesus says, “The hour has come.”
Now he says, now is the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified. But what does this look like? Jesus makes it clear that it’s not what we might think. 24“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The glorification of the Son of Man isn’t his name in lights, a private jet, or his own TV show. It isn’t fame and fortune. It’s not the retaking of Jerusalem, the trouncing of the Romans, culminating in a restored triumphant Israel, as the crowds might’ve expected. No, the glorification of the Son of Man is in his death. His hour, his moment, involves being lifted up. It’s true that after his death and resurrection, Jesus was lifted up from the earth, at the Ascension, where he returned to heaven. But that’s not what he’s talking about here. John makes that clear when he offers that little editorial aside. 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die. When Jesus talks about being lifted up he’s primarily talking about being lifted up on the cross. It’s clear the crowds understand Jesus this way, because they begin to wonder what he’s on about. What kind of victory is it? What kind of glory is there in a gory death? Something’s not right here. So, 34The crowds answered him, “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?”