"Father, glorify...whose name?"
March 28, 2021
I. Turn to John 12:20-30. John 12:20-30. While you turn, I’ll set up the context of this passage. Imagine with me that we are able to jump into a time machine and travel back 1,988-ish years ago—give or take 12-18 months—and land in Jerusalem a week before the Passover feast. You may want to bring some sunblock with you or, if you’re as hairy…ahem… as me, you may want to bring a hat. As we step out of the time machine, we notice people are running out to see some commotion outside of Jerusalem’s gates and, let’s be honest, we slow down to see why the emergency vehicle lights are flashing so we’re not going to miss whatever is going on outside of Jerusalem. As we get closer, the noise gets louder. People are shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Palm branches are being waved around or thrown on the ground along with people’s cloaks. A man is riding on a donkey in the midst of the crowd and heading into Jerusalem. He has no form or majesty that we would look at him and—as in, he wouldn’t be a Hollywood movie star today—and so, we’re left to wonder as we observe this spectacle, what’s going on? What’s so special about this guy? But then something clicks—this is Jesus! And in the back of our heads, we have a chilling thought: we are witness to his triumphal entry and this event marks the beginning of Jesus’ passion week. Within days, he will be betrayed, tortured, and crucified.
II. Let’s come back to the future . All four Gospels detail the events of Jesus’ last week on earth with the event we just “witnessed” at the start. In this week’s From Pulpit and Paper, you’ll see a chronological listing of Scripture passages for you to use for your devotion time this week. This should help guide you to really delve into the events that happened starting with Christ’s triumphal entry and ending in his resurrection. Today, we are going to focus on one of those events. In this event, the apostle John signifies a change in Christ’s tone. What lead to this change?
III. John 12:20-30. Follow along as I read the first few verses, “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
IV. In these first few verses of this passage, we see some people coming to see Jesus. John introduces us to this group simply by calling them “the Greeks.” They were not curious visitors or one-time investigators, these Greeks were most likely God-fearers since they are described as being among those who went up to worship at the feast. Their interest in Jesus was probably kindled when Jesus cleansed the temple. The only place that allowed the buying and selling of sacrifice animals and exchanging of money was the court of the Gentiles—that is, the place where these Greeks were allowed to worship. These Greeks could have been in the crowd watching Jesus cleanse the temple. But, why’d they come to Philip instead of Jesus himself?
V. Most likely, they went to Philip because he—and Andrew—are the only two Greek-named disciples of the 12 and both are from the town of Bethsaida—a town associated, at the time, with the Greeks. Curiously, Philip and Andrew were among the first to receive a call to discipleship from Jesus. Their presence here establishes a connection between the call of the first Jewish disciples and the arrival of, possibly, the first Gentile disciples.
VI. These two disciples come to Jesus and tell him some Greeks are here to see him. I find it curious how Jesus responds. The disciples, and we, might have expected Jesus to say, “I am not seeing the Greeks now” or “I would be glad to see them” or even “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be crucified.” But Jesus voiced none of these. In fact, we don’t know that he ever addressed the Greeks! Instead, he looks upon the coming of the Greeks as a sign that the climax of his mission has at last arrived. He looked past the cross to the glory that would follow. Look at what verse 23 says, “And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.’” This is significant because, up until this point in the Gospel of John, all references to the arrival of this hour were in the future tense. At the wedding in Cana, for example, when Jesus mother tells him that the wine was gone, Jesus responds by saying, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” He says this again in John chapters 7 and 8. But now, after his triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, and the arrival of the Greeks, his hour to be glorified has arrived. But, how will he be glorified?
VII. Look at verse 24 with me. It says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus connects his glorification with death—HIS death—a death that will produce fruit. This is important for us to understand. Christ is not glorified despite the cross, but in and through the cross. God kills to make alive. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die that it may produce fruit. The contrast to falling into the earth, in this parable, is that the grain of wheat won’t die and will thus remain alone. If you’re like me, you may have thought that the alternative to producing fruit would be that the seed would rot away. However, the parable Jesus shares isn’t concerned with the fate of the grain but with its productivity. This seed either remains barren or bears fruit.
VIII. For Christ, we see through this verse that eternal life for the many comes through the sacrifice of the One. Unless he dies, there would be no fruit, no salvation for any sinner. Mankind would be lost in their sin, doomed to an eternal death in hell. But, if Jesus did die, which, THANKS BE TO GOD HE DID(!), then many would be saved. It is only the crucified Christ dying in the place of sinners who saves. This is the glory of Christ—that he died and rose again—and it is in this above all else that he should be honored.
IX. For those who believe in Christ and are committed to following him, we too must apply this parable to our lives. We must die to self to produce fruit for Christ. That’s our first point today. We must die to self to produce fruit for Christ. We are like seeds. On our own, we are small and insignificant. But through Christ, we have life. However, this life cannot be fulfilled unless we yield ourselves to God to be planted. I’m sure that if a seed could talk, it would no doubt complain about being put into the cold, dark earth. It may want, as we often do, better surroundings, better status, or better things. But the only way it can produce fruit is by being planted. We must die to self to produce fruit for Christ.
X. Jesus explains this in greater detail in the next verse. Verse 25 says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” What gets lost in this verse is that fact that Jesus is talking about two separate concepts of live. The first life—the life that we love and thus lose because of our love for it—is from the Greek word “psyche.” It refers to the life of the mind, our desires, and wants. It means the human personality that thinks, plans for the future, works for desired goals. Jesus is saying that this is what must die. In other words, the independent will of man must die, so that the follower of Christ can actively submit his will to God. The other word for life in this verse—the life that will be kept for eternity—is “zoe” which refers to our fulfilled eternal life. We must lose our self-desired life—in the Greek, we must DESTROY this type of life—to gain an eternal life.
XI. Now, why would we do this? Why would we charge into an unsafe country to present the Gospel? Why step into an uncomfortable situation to tell others of Jesus? Why knock on our neighbor’s door? Why do anything we’ve rationalized as reckless? Well, we’d do it for two reasons. First, the one who spoke these words did exactly what he said. Jesus gave up his life, yet in such a way that we would not call him reckless or thoughtless. Second, by giving up his life, he was extraordinarily successful. He gained both his own life and the lives of his people. Through his temporary suffering and death, Jesus gained an eternal inheritance. Friends, like Jesus we must pursue the eternal over the temporary. That’s our second point today. We must pursue the eternal over the temporary.
XII. This means, you must be willing to do anything for Christ as he directs it. This goes against our very nature. We’d like to make excuse after excuse to convince ourselves or others that it’s okay to keep my life exactly as I want it. And yet, when we look to Jesus’ example, every excuse falls through. Jesus spoke these words and in days went to a torturous death. Any reason for our unwillingness to lose our life to gain an eternal one with God pales in comparison to Christ’s sacrifice. Do not let the temporary afflictions distract you from eternity. Follow Christ in pursuing the eternal over the temporary.
XIII. Now, some may think, “If I’m ever put into that position where I must choose between life and Christ, I would be able to choose Christ.” And they assure of themselves through this hypothetical situation that they are living out this passage. But Jesus confronts this false assurance in the very next verse. He says in verse 26, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” This verse says that the Father honors those who humble themselves to be servants or, better translated, slaves to Christ. And a servant or a slave is a humble position—one that denies our own rights in the present and personal justice in the present and seeks to glorify Christ… in the present. We must seek humility above honor today. That’s our third point today. Seek humility above honor today. We should do this for two reasons. First, Christ promised that he would be with anyone who followed him; second, he promised that God would himself honor them. Seek to serve Christ and be willing to lay down your life for Him. That is the emphasis in these verses.
XIV. So, if we would really serve Christ and really be willing to lay down our life for Him in the future—if we truly want to live out our hypothetical devotion, then we should be doing that now. We should be serving him now. We should not delay our courage or faithfulness to him until a future date, when everything aligns as we think it should align, we should be serving him now, laying down our life now, producing fruit now. Serve him now, and whoever serves him, the Father will honor.
XV. But realize that the Father’s honor is different from the world’s honor. The world’s honor is a better status, newer things, and more money. God’s honor may very well be persecution and death—as it was for Christ. And so, we must ask ourselves, “would we rather live in the best of circumstances without Jesus? Or to be with Jesus even if that means being with him in persecution or suffering?” Is Jesus worth whatever the circumstance or whatever the cost? The real issue is an issue of our prideful will. Are you willing to do whatever Christ calls you to do? Are you willing to surrender your leisure time? Are you willing to surrender a cherished hobby, sin, or pastime? Are you willing to surrender your life? I don’t know what you must give up—but God does… and you do…or will. Will you obey him? Will you serve Christ by following him in self-denial?
XVI. This is a hard teaching. To give up ourselves—our very lives, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of Christ; it is very troubling. To possibly, someday, even be asked to give up my wife and children… it’s hard to fathom. How do we even approach such a thought? We can take solace and learn, dear friends, from Jesus. He himself was troubled by this teaching. Read with me starting with verse 27, “‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.’”
XVII. The coming of the Greeks a few verses earlier launched a train of thought in Christ’s mind that led to thoughts on his coming crucifixion and that he’d soon bear the sins of the world. The immediate prospect of the horrors of evil that awaited him throws the soul of Jesus for a moment into turmoil. He was tempted to pray that God would save him from the hour that had come. This contemplation takes up only few lines in our Bibles, but in combination with the other Gospels, we should understand that this temptation was real and that he was deeply distressed. The word “troubled” in verse 27 signifies agitation, horror, convulsion, and shock of spirit in the Greek. There is strong inner turmoil going in Jesus as he contemplates avoiding the painful experience before him.
XVIII. This statement appears at first to be completely different from what Jesus was just talking about. He displays extraordinary courage and bravery by exhorting his disciples not only to suffer death, but to willingly desire it whenever necessary. And now, it seems like he shrinks from this exhortation. Jesus knew that he was facing suffering and death, and his humanity responded to this ordeal. His soul was troubled, not because he was questioning the Father’s will, but because he was fully conscious of all that the cross involved. Note that Jesus did not say, “What shall I do?” because He knew what He was ordained to do. He said, “What shall I say?” In the hour of suffering and surrender, there are only two prayers we can pray—either, “Father, save me!” or “Father, glorify your name!”
XIX. And this is what Jesus does. He doesn’t shrink from what he just taught or from the hour of his glorification. His resolve is immediate. He prays, “Father, glorify your name!” How is the Father glorified here? By Christ humbly submitting to His will. So, we must ask ourselves, how do we glorify God? As we saw in these verses culminating into Jesus’ rallying cry to the cross, God is glorified when we lay down our life to produce fruit for Christ, pursuing the temporary over the eternal, seeking humility above honor, and resolving to glorify God. This leads to the BIG IDEA of this passage. Be humbled for God’s glory. Be humbled for God’s glory.
XX. This is hard work and it is difficult to do with consistency. To be willing to give up our desires and life and seek humility is easier said than done. Is it wrong to struggle with this? Friends, realize from this passage and Jesus’ very example that being tempted to preserve one’s life is not a sin. The temptation is not sin. Nor is it a sin to express doubts. Jesus, who is fully God, paused in his resolve for a moment here and He is without sin. Christ found strength from God in his human weakness. We can do the same. When tempted, it is not a sin to express doubts. But end your doubts with resolve to glorify the Father’s name. That is our FOURTH point for today. What?! Jesse had a fourth point?! What’s going on? Surprise! The fourth point today is when tempted, it is not a sin to express doubts. But end your doubts with resolve to glorify the Father’s name.
XXI. What a prayer this truly is, “Father, glorify your name.” We read that Christ’s soul was troubled. Is our soul ever troubled? Is it likely to be troubled in the days ahead? What are we to do in such circumstances? What are we to do when relatives die? When sickness strikes? When we lose our job? When enemies abuse us and friends fail to understand? What should we do? We want to pray, “Father, glorify my name.” We want God glorified, but not at our expense or in a way that is not what we would choose personally. We want to pray that things get fixed for us, that we be vindicated, that everything works out so that we are raised above our circumstance and held in honor. But we must learn from the Master, when his soul was troubled, to pray, “Father, glorify your name.” In other words, if I must lose my health, glorify your name by my sickness. If I must lose my wealth, glorify your name by my poverty. If I must lose my good name, glorify your name by my humiliation. If I must lose my life, glorify your name by my death and send the resurrection. There is power in this prayer.
XXII. And there is danger in it. Jesus prays, “Father glorify your name,” and the answer to his prayer extracted the torture and death of Jesus. God answers Jesus in this passage saying “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” This is a prayer that God will answer with reassurance immediately. The answer will always be a yes to this prayer. The answer will always be a yes to this glorifying his name. The crowd was confused by the answer God gave—they didn’t know if it was thunder, or an angel. But no matter their confusion, Jesus tells them—"this was for your sake, not mine.” Whether it was thunder or an angel, the timing wasn’t a coincidence. Jesus prays and he is immediately answered. When we resolve to glorify God’s name, we are reassured that God will glorify it again and again. And we are reassured that those who serve Christ will be honored by the Father.
I. Our call this morning is to be humbled for God’s glory. We must die to self to produce fruit for Christ, pursue the eternal over the temporary, and seek humility above honor. Each of Christ’s followers are planted by God. We are planted in our neighborhoods. That’s right, we don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to produce fruit, we should be looking into our backyard, to our neighbors. We are planted in our work places. You have coworkers, hired hands, friends that you interact with daily. You are planted in Pierre. We interact with gas station attendants, drive thru workers, waitresses, coffee baristas, and more. We are planted in our families. We are planted in this church. Students, you are planted in your schools and extra-curricular activities. Instead of wishing for a better house in a different neighborhood, a different job, a different school, a different… fill in the blank, realize that God has placed you where you are at, right now, for a reason. Didn’t Christ say in Matthew 25, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me?” He was talking about those who fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and those in prison. The opportunities are all around you. Open your eyes, and serve Christ in any one of them. If fruit is going to be produced where we are, we must be humble for God’s glory. You can either be humbled for God’s glory and produce fruit for Christ. Or you can live for self, and remain unproductive and unhonored by the Father.
XXIII. And if you’re wondering how to engage your neighbors, here’s a few simple tools to be equipped with. First, pray for them. Use the BlessEveryHome tool to find out their names if you don’t know them, and pray for them. Daily. Next, knock on their door, or for co-workers, reach out and simply invite them to a meal. There doesn’t have to be a major outreach initiative and you do not have to be Billy Graham. Simply engage. Pray, “Father, glorify your name,” and engage. Don’t ignore your neighbors but instead, reach out to them. Help them shovel, help them weed. Don’t rationalize yourself out of your comfort zone. When tempted, it is not a sin to express doubts. But end your doubts with a resolve to glorify the Father’s name. Pray, “Father, glorify your name,” and charge ahead. And at any time, my door is open for you to come by and seek advice. To come by and say, “my coworker has cancer and is really angry at God. What do I do?” I’ll say, “come in, let’s talk about this.” The harvest is plenty in South Dakota. Be one of the workers.