Notes from a sermon preached at an Evensong service in St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney almost 20 years ago. (A significant sermon in my memory as a Cathedral choir member told me later that as he heard the sermon he gave his life to Jesus. The ‘hour had come’ for him to get right with God!)
“The hour has come.”
For many it has meant that the day had arrived to do the final examinations. Or the day of their wedding had arrived. Or a new job would begin on this day. Or it was a day to face a whole new challenge. In those situations there can be a sense of mixed feelings as those days come upon us. A sense of anticipation as we face the future. A sense of apprehension as we wonder whether we can meet the expectations of those around us.
For Jesus there must have been early in His ministry a sense of foreboding as He knew he was soon to die a cruel death. But there was also a sense of anticipation that He was soon to finish the work He came to do in bringing salvation to a world in need. The writer to the Hebrews wrote of Jesus, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb 12:2.
- There would be suffering eventually but there was the joy that He would make salvation available to the people of God in every generation.
- Every new day Jesus faced brought with it the challenge that this new day was a day closer to a special day. It would be that coming day when there would come a sign that would signify that the end was near and He would soon have to suffer and die.
1). JESUS WAITED FOR A SIGN
There were occasions when things happened when Jesus said (or John wrote of Him) that His hour had not yet come for this final stage of His life.
i). Early on His ministry. Mary His mother at the wedding in Cana of Galilee asked him to do something about the shortage of wine at the feast. (John 2:4) And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” In other words Jesus had to do things according to His Heavenly Father’s timetable and not his human mother’s.
ii). On another occasion at a feast Jesus was teaching in the Temple. But there were those who took exception to His teaching and tried to arrest Him. However we read that (John 7:30) “… no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.”
iii). Later as he taught in the Treasury there were those planning to arrest Him. (John 8:20) “He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come”. They made another attempt to arrest Him but the guards came back empty handed. When they were asked why they hadn’t arrested Him and brought Him back to them the guards replied, 8:46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”
It seems that God’s protection surrounded Jesus until the time was ready for Him to go to the cross. But what would be the sign?
The sign came clearly to Jesus as we read in our reading tonight, “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.” John 12:20-24.
- Jesus’ Ministry was primarily to His own people, the Jewish people.
- The sign would be the coming of those who were not of Jewish background who wanted to see Jesus.
- It would mean that Jesus’ message was about to go out into the whole world, for He had come to save the peoples of the world.
2). THE SIGN WAS GIVEN TO JESUS
The sign of Gentiles wanting to see him. These Greeks had come to see Jesus, no doubt in their hunger for spiritual reality. When He knew that the Gentiles were seeking Him He said immediately , “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
To “be glorified” in John’s gospel is another way of saying that Jesus would bring glory to God through His death, which would be followed by His victorious resurrection. Jesus expressed that as He added, “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.” 12:24.
The benefit of His death for His disciples.
He had to die to make His life available to His people.
While Jesus ministered among them He could be in only one place at a time. But His death would mean that His life would soon be released into the lives of all His people as they received the gift of His Spirit.
He dedicated Himself to His Father in Jn 17 in words that show that His purpose in dying was indeed to share His life with His disciples. He recognised that the time had come. (John 17:1) “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2) since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3) And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Later in the same prayer He prayed for the protection of all those who would come to follow Him, (John 17:20) “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21) that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22) The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23) I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” AND (John 17:26) “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Christianity would be based on the message of Jesus. It would be about people hearing about Jesus, putting their faith in Him and receiving His life within them.
- Jesus’ death for His people meant that the Christian message would not simply be coming through His lips alone but through His disciples’ lips.
- His life would be seen not only through His life 2000 years ago, but would be seen in and through the lives of his followers throughout every generation in the body of Christ. The church would be made up of people who had trusted Him and were indwelt by Him by His Spirit.
That’s why Jesus had to die in that 2 fold sense.
- To take away the sin of the world so that people might be forgiven.
- To make His life, eternal life available to all who would receive that life in Him.
No wonder the early message of the Christian church had that 2 fold emphasis of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 2:38) ‘Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”’
(Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, 20 so that times of refreshing ( a reference to the Holy Spirit) may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus.”
Acts 5:31 “God exalted Jesus at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The gifts of repentance, forgiveness and the Holy Spirit.
3). OUR RESPONSE TO THE JESUS WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US.
Jesus had spoken as to how death can lead to life. His death would make His life available to people who trusted in Him.
Now He called His disciples to die. To die to their old lives and to live for God. Jesus said, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” John 12:25-26.
Jesus knew that there could be no real meaning or purpose in a life that was self-centred. Humans are meant to live for others not just for themselves.
As Paul was later to write, Phil 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others”. He gave the great example of such humility as seen in Jesus. Phil 2:5, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.”
God honoured Jesus by exalting Him to the highest place in glory, “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11.
- Jesus said of those who would live for God and thus live for others, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.” Jn 12:26
- To die to self and to come alive to God and to Jesus ensures that we can experience His presence and His blessing.
“The hour has come” said Jesus. He responded to the challenge those words represented and God’s blessings have flowed through all that He did from that point onwards. He went to the cross. He rose again. He ascended to heaven and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He poured out the gift of the Spirit on the church on the day of Pentecost. As a result you and I can be forgiven and know the experience of eternal life, Christ living His life in us by His Spirit.
“The hour has come”. It may have come for us in the sense that God is calling us now to turn from living for ourselves that we might live for Him. Paul said of Jesus, “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” 2 Cor 5:15.
You see there is only one life you and I can live in this world. We can live it so that we are Number 1 and others barely get a thought.
Or we can live for God and for others by saying to the Risen Jesus, “Lord, I want to live for You, not for myself. I want to please You, not just myself. I want to do what You want me to do, not just what I want to do. I want to die to self and let You live Your life in me for the rest of my life. Please come into my life today. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”
The hour has come and if we make the right choice to die to self we will be able to say with St Paul, ”I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:19-20.
The time has come to make a choice. May you do so for your eternal benefit and to His glory.
Blog No.269. posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Friday 9th March 2018